A Tale of a Lonely Parish Part 43

"Do you remember how angry I was once, when you told me to go and talk to Nellie?" said John. "It was just here, too--"

Mary Juxon laughed happily and brushed the tears from her eyes. So it was all settled.

Once more the Reverend Augustin Ambrose united two loving hearts before the altar of Saint Mary's. He was well stricken in years, and his hair and beard were very white. Mrs. Ambrose also grew more imposing with each succeeding season, but her face was softer than of old, and her voice more gentle. For the sorrow and suffering of a few days had drawn together the hearts of all those good people with strong bands, and a deep affection had sprung up between them all. The good old lady felt as though Mary Juxon were her daughter--Mary Juxon, by whom she had stood in the moment of direst trial and terror, whom she had tended in illness and cheered in recovery. And the younger woman's heart had gone out towards her, feeling how good a thing it is to find a friend in need, and learning to value in her happiness the wealth of human kindness she had found in her adversity.

They are like one family, now, having a common past, a common present, and a common future, and there is no dissension among them. Honest and loyal men and women may meet day after day, and join hands and exchange greetings, without becoming firm friends, for the very reason that they have no need of each other. But if the storm of a great sorrow breaks among them and they call out to each other for help, and bear the brunt of the weather hand in hand, the seed of a deeper affection is brought into their midst; and when the tempest is past the sweet flower of friendship springs up in the moistened furrows of their lives.

So those good people in the lonely parish of Billingsfield gathered round Mary G.o.ddard, as they called her then, and round poor little Nellie, and did their best to protect the mother and the child from harm and undeserved suffering; and afterwards, when it was all over, and there was nothing more to be feared in the future, they looked into each other's faces and felt that they were become as brothers and sisters, and that so long as they should live--may it be long indeed!--there was a bond between them which could never be broken. So it was that Mrs. Ambrose's face softened and her voice was less severe than it had been.

Mary Juxon is the happiest of women; happy in her husband, in her eldest daughter, in John Short and in the little children with bright faces and ringing voices who nestle at her knee or climb over the st.u.r.dy sailor-squire, and pull his great beard and make him laugh. They will never know, any more than Nellie knew, all that their mother suffered; and as she looks upon them and strokes their long fair hair and listens to their laughter, she says to herself that it was perhaps almost worth while to have been dragged down towards the depths of shame for the sake of at last enjoying such pride and glory of happy motherhood.

THE END.

THE COMPLETE WORKS OF F. MARION CRAWFORD

I. Mr. Isaacs II. Doctor Claudius III. To Leeward IV. A Roman Singer V. An American Politician VI. Marzio's Crucifix Zoroaster VII. A Tale of a Lonely Parish VIII. Paul Patoff IX. Love in Idleness: A Tale of Bar Harbor Marion Darche X. Saracinesca XI. Sant' Ilario XII. Don Orsino XIII. Corleone: A Sicilian Story XIV. With the Immortals XV. Greifenstein XVI. A Cigarette-Maker's Romance Khaled XVII. The Witch of Prague XVIII. The Three Fates XIX. Taquisara XX. The Children of the King XXI. Pietro Ghisleri XXII. Katharine Lauderdale XXIII. The Ralstons XXIV. Casa Braccio (Part I) XXV. Casa Braccio (Part II) XXVI. Adam Johnstone's Son A Rose of Yesterday XXVII. Via Crucia XXVIII. In the Palace of the King XXIX. Marietta: A Maid of Venice x.x.x. Cecilia: A Story of Modern Rome x.x.xI. The Heart of Rome x.x.xII. Whosoever Shall Offend

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