The day was done.
High Festival, begun before the dawn,
Continued without break throughout the day,
Had ended with a rapturous Hymn of Praise.
The holy fane was closed. Now all was still,
Save that reverberations ghostly faint
Yet rolled about the columns and afresh
Echoed above high alter ; And the sun,
Fast setting, cast a golden halo o'er
The figure of the Christ upon the cross.
The Priest was now alone
Within his quiet study, on his knees
Reciting his accustomed Office, when
A knock, gentle and hesitating, roused
The saintly man, who rose and cried " Come in."
But no one came, and yet a second time
A knock was heard, and answered as before.
And still no one appeared. On the third knock
The Priest threw open wide the door, and there
Stood shivering, timidly, two tiny girls,
Clad humbly, but with wondrous luminous eyes.
He quickly noted their soul-eagerness,
That one had golden locks and large blue eyes,
The other hazel eyes and raven hair.
One spoke, the other echoing her words :
" O Holy Man, we beg you, come at once,
Come at once.
Our Father lies a-dying, and alone ;---
Quite alone ;
No one to help him in his hour of death.
Their pleading touched the Priest's full-laden heart ;
He learned exactly how to find the home,
And promised readily to go at once :
" Most gladly will I come, my little maid's ;
I'll follow you, and ere you reach your home
I will be there ; and may the grace of God---
Which sometimes is vouchsafed through mortal man---
Be yours ; and all the help that I can give."
He found the dying man, in dire distress
And quite alone, no fellow creature near.
Tending at once his spiritual needs,
The Priest made no inquiry. Nature's Nurse
Now soothed the sufferer in her soft caress,
And all was silent ; save a noisy clock
Which drummed out every second dolefully.
The man awoke, and the good Priest inquired
Why he had not been sent for earlier.
" Because I am alone, yes, quite alone,
Or would indeed have sent a messenger."
" I did not come by chance," the Priest replied ;
" It was your children bade me come to you."
The poor man raised his withered hands and gazed
With glazed eyes upwards, Sad and prayerfully :
" I have no children here to plead for me.
My daughters left me full five years ago :
Death claimed them both the self same night to join
Their mother in the rest of Paradise."
And sinking low upon his wretched bed,
Heart-breaking sobs came passionately, fast.
The Priest minutely sketched the children's forms :
One with the golden locks and large blue eyes,
The other's hazel eyes and raven hair ;
And heavenly smiles passed o'er the sufferers face.
He nearly raised himself in effort now
To reach a treasure near him, opened clasp,
And showed the portraits of his " darling babes " :
Undoubtedly the same two tiny girls
Who summoned to their father the good Priest.
The penitent could only will his praise,
And asked the Priest to thank the God of Love
For such uncommon favour shown to him.
The grace bestowed he could but trace to this :
That, (souls departed may have need of us,)---
He always had remembered them in prayer.
W. H. Robinson
Born in 1847, W. H. Robinson founded the Walsall Literary Institute in 1884 and acted as Secretary for twenty six years.
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