ANOTHER UNEXPECTED MEETING

Coming to the cathedral, where it stands on the corner of Fiftieth
Street and Fifth Avenue, we stopped to observe its proportions, at once
noble and graceful, its white marble façade and tall spires being one of
the ornaments of the Empire City. Entering the edifice, we knelt a while
in prayer before we began to examine all its beauties in detail. The
rich glow of the beautiful stained windows was a revelation to the
child, and the stories which they tell of saints and martyrs appealed to
her strongly. She watched their varied tints falling upon the marble
altars with a visible delight.

“I must write a letter about this to Father Owen,” she said as we came
out again upon the dignified bustle of Fifth Avenue, so unlike the
activity of Broadway, but still noticeable after the quiet of the great
temple. “It is all so grand in there!” she said–“grand as our own
mountains and beautiful as the Dargle. It reminded me of heaven. Perhaps
heaven is something like that.”

I smiled and did not contradict her; for the calm and repose of a great
cathedral is very far removed indeed from earth.

“Of course there are several other churches I want you to see,” I
observed; “but perhaps that one will do now. As we had breakfast late,
and are not in a particular hurry for our luncheon, I think we will take
a trip in an elevated car first.”

Winifred, of course, consented eagerly; and, having procured the child
a cup of hot bouillon at a druggist’s as a preventive against hunger, we
climbed up the great iron stairs of the elevated station at Fourteenth
Street and Sixth Avenue, and were soon seated in the car.

It seemed very wonderful to Winifred that we should be flying through
the air at such a rate of speed; but she was delighted with the swift
motion and had no thought of fear. She kept looking in with eager
curiosity at the houses or the shops as we passed by their second- or
third-story windows, and down at the pigmy-like people on the sidewalk,
making continual exclamations of wonder or interest.

We got out at the Battery; and before taking the East Side car up town I
let Winifred take a run in Battery Park, so that she might have a
glimpse of the bay and the huge ferry-boats landing their loads of
passengers, and the funnels of the steamers or the masts of tall vessels
in the offing.

“Across all that water,” she cried, stretching out her arms with a
pretty and graceful gesture, “is my home–my dear hills, the Dargle, and
the people that I love!”

She sniffed the salt air as though it were wine; and ran about in the
alleys, gazing longingly at the green grass, while I sat upon a bench
and waited. At last I reminded her that time was flying, and that she
would be a very hungry little girl by the time we made our trip up the
East Side of the city and got down again to luncheon.

We were soon seated in a Third Avenue elevated car and passed up Chatham
Square and the Bowery–that great thoroughfare, where such curious
people congregate; where the very shops have a different air, and the
oyster-saloons and other places of refreshment seem to revel in strange
sign-boards and queerly-worded advertisements. The Jews are there in
large numbers, as also Syrians, Chinese, and other Orientals, so that it
has a strange and foreign air.

It all amused and interested Winifred, and she called my attention every
now and again to some grotesque figure on the sign-boards or to some
poster on the wall. I pointed out to the child Stuyvesant Park and Union
Square Park as a rest to the eyes tired with so much sight-seeing. Then
we jogged up the uninteresting and uninviting Third Avenue till finally
we were in the vicinity of Harlem Bridge and away up in the open
country, past Harlem and Mott Haven, and well up toward High Bridge
itself.

At last I called a halt, and we alighted and began the descent again. I
resolved to take the little girl to luncheon at the Waldorf as a special
treat, so that she might see modern luxury, so far as hotels are
concerned, at its height. We sat in the Empire dining-room, with the
imperial eagle of the great Napoleon on our chair-backs and a large
bunch of fragrant pink roses on the table before us. Our soup was
brought in small silver bowls, which reminded Winifred of Niall’s
treasures. She much enjoyed the very choice and daintily served luncheon
which I ordered for her, particularly the sweet course and the dessert.
An orchestra was playing all the time of luncheon, changing briskly from
grave to gay; and its strains helped to make the whole scene dreamlike
and unreal to the child of Nature, accustomed only to the glory of the
hills.

Other wonders awaited her: the _café_, with its ever-blossoming trees,
and the goldfish swimming in its ponds; the onyx stairway, and the Louis
Quinze salon, with its inlaid cabinets, its brocaded furniture, and
above all its gilt piano. This last object seemed to cap the climax of
splendor in Winifred’s eyes. I think, indeed, that very modern hotel
seemed to her a page from the Arabian Nights–some Aladdin’s palace
which the genii had built up. She was very pleased, too, with the
private dining-room upstairs, where the turning on of the electric light
showed such a display of china of all sorts.

When we were tired of exploring, and had, in fact, seen all that was
really worth the trouble or that was open to the public, I sat down at a
table in the Turkish parlor to write a note, bidding Winifred rest a
while. She coiled herself up in one of the great armchairs, keeping so
still that I almost thought she had gone to sleep.

The rugs in that room are very soft and the draperies ample, and sound
is very much deadened, so that I did not perceive any one coming in.
Looking up suddenly from my writing, I was surprised to see Roderick
O’Byrne. I grew pale and red by turns; my heart sank within me and I
could not meet his glance. I thought of Niall, his anger, his threats,
my own promises. Yet what was I to do in such a situation? Unconscious,
of course, of the tumult he had raised in my mind, Roderick came
directly toward me, making a few indifferent remarks on the weather, the
last political event, the hotel. Finally he asked, abruptly:

“By the way, do I remember aright, that you said you were in Wicklow
during your recent trip to Ireland?”

“Yes–no!” I cried, confused. “Oh, yes, of course I was there!”

He looked at me in some surprise; then he asked again:

“Of course you saw the Sugar Loaf Mountains, as the Sassenach call them,
but which we Celts loved to name the Gilt Spurs?”

“Of course,” I assented, more uneasily than ever; for I heard a movement
in the chair.

“The Dargle goes without saying,” he continued.

Another rustle in the chair.

“But I am not going to put you through a catechism on Irish local
scenery,” Roderick said, with a laugh; “I am almost sure you told me
that you knew Father Owen Farley.”

“Oh, my dear, dear Father Owen!” cried Winifred from the depth of her
chair. The mention of that beloved name had aroused her from the spell
of shyness, or some other cause, which had hitherto kept her silent.

Roderick turned quickly, and at the same moment Winifred stood up and
faced him. There they were together, father and daughter, as any one
could see at a glance.

“Do you know Father Owen, sir?” the child asked; and at her voice
Roderick started. He did not answer her question, but, gazing at her
intently, asked instead:

“Who are you, child?”

Something in the question abashed or offended Winifred; for she drew her
little figure to its highest and replied not a word.

Roderick smiled involuntarily at the movement; and I, stepping forward,
interposed myself between the father and daughter and drew the child
away.

“Come!” I said: “we are in a hurry.” And, with a bow and a few muttered
words of farewell, I hastened out of the room; and, rushing from the
hotel as if a plague had suddenly broken out there, I almost ran with
the wondering Winifred to Broadway, where we took a cable car as the
safest and speediest means of leaving that vicinity behind us. I had
left the note which I was writing on the table; but, fortunately, I had
sealed and stamped it, intending to put it in the mail-box in the hall.
I was sure it would be posted, and gave myself no further concern about
it.




I knew Roderick would come to me sooner or later for an explanation of
that strange scene–the presence there of the child and my own singular
conduct. His impetuous nature would give him no rest till he had cleared
up that mystery. But at least the child should be safe back in the
convent before I saw him; and I could then refuse to answer any
questions, or take any course I thought proper, without fear of
interference on the part of Winifred.

“We shall go on up to the Park,” I said to the child; for I had some
fear that Roderick might come straight to my hotel.

Winifred made no answer, and we took the car to Fifty-ninth Street,
where we got out and were soon strolling through the broad alleys,
thronged with carriages; or the quieter footpaths of that splendid
Central Park, justly the pride of New Yorkers.

“Why are you afraid of that gentleman?” Winifred asked me in her abrupt
fashion as I led her by a secluded path to show her a statue of Auld
Lang Syne which had always appealed to me.

“I am not afraid of him, dear.”

“But why are you trembling, and why did you run away?” she asked again.

“Because it was time for us to go. I still have much to show you.”

“I like that gentleman,” she said.

“Do you?” I cried impulsively. “I am so glad! Go on liking him just as
much as ever you can.”

She did not seem so much surprised at this statement and at my apparent
inconsistency as a grown person would have been; but she went on:

“Only I thought it was rather rude of him to question me like that.”

“He did not mean it for rudeness.”

“No, I suppose not,” the child said slowly. “I’m sorry you took me away
so quickly. I would like to have talked to him. He reminded me of
Niall.”

“Of Niall!” I repeated in amazement.

“Yes,” she answered. “Of course he hasn’t gray hair and he doesn’t wear
the same kind of clothes that Niall does, but it’s his face.”

I remembered how the same thought had on one occasion occurred to me.

“Then I think he knew my dear Father Owen,” the child continued. “I
wonder how he knew him? Father Owen never came to America.”

“Perhaps he heard of him,” I suggested; for I was not anxious that her
curiosity in the subject should be too keenly aroused. I tried to divert
her mind by showing her various monuments and busts of celebrated people
as we went, and at last we stood before the stone group of Auld Lang
Syne. It is so natural, so easy, so lifelike that one would think it
represented three old men, boon companions, whom we had known. The very
buttons on their surtouts, the smile upon their faces, are to the life.
Winifred stood by, smiling responsively, while I recited to her the
familiar lines of that homely ballad which has found an echo in every
land.

We could not see everything in the Park that day, especially as we began
to feel tired. So, leaving the rest for a future occasion, we returned
home again and had a rest before dinner. The gaily-lighted dining-room,
the well-dressed guests, were a new source of pleasure to Winifred; but
every once in a while her thoughts reverted to the dark gentleman. I was
haunted by a fear that he would come that very evening for an
explanation, and I did not linger either in the hotel parlors or the
corridor. But the evening wore away and there was no sign of him. I took
Winifred out to show her a little of New York by gaslight, and to lay in
a stock of chocolates and other sweets for her to take back with her on
the morrow.

Next day, faithful to promise, I brought her back to school, where I
left her somewhat depressed and despondent, as the returning pupil is
apt to be for a day or two. Then I set myself to await Roderick’s visit
with what heart I might.