"And now I have to recount another experience of mine, quite unique and altogether inexplicable. It appears that in this remarkable abode--I would call it 'The Saint's Rest' were it not for the presence of others than saints, and for the additional fact that there is little rest for the saint who makes her dwelling here--in this abode there prevails the quaint custom of watching the death of the old year and the birth of the new. It is made the occasion of religious and heart-searching rite. As the solemn hour of midnight draws on, a silence falls upon the family, all of whom, with the exception of the newest infant, are present. It is the family festival of the year.
"'And what will they be doing at your home, Mr. Craven?' inquires the minister. The contrast that rose before my mind was vivid enough, for having received my invitation to a big dance, I knew my sweet sisters would be having a jolly wild time about that moment. My answer, given I feel in a somewhat flippant tone, appears to shock my shinny captain of the angelic face, who casts a honor- stricken glance at his mother, and waits for the word of reproof that he thinks is due from the padre's lips.
"But before it falls the mother interposes with 'They will miss you greatly this evening.' It was rather neatly done, and I think I appreciated it.
"The rite proceeds. The initial ceremony is the repeating of a verse of Scripture all round, and to save my life nothing comes to my mind but the words, 'Remember Lot's wife.' As I cannot see the appropriateness of the quotation, I pass.
"Five minutes before the stroke of twelve, they sing the Scottish paraphrase beginning, 'O God of Bethel.' I do not suppose you ever heard it, but it is a beautiful hymn, and singularly appropriate to the hour. In this I lend assistance with my violin, the tune being the very familiar one of 'Auld Lang Syne,' associated in my mind, however, with occasions somewhat widely diverse from this. I assure you I am thankful that my part is instrumental, for the whole business is getting onto my emotions in a disturbing manner, and especially when I allow my eyes to linger for a moment or two on the face of the lady, the center of the circle, who is deliberately throwing away her fine culture and her altogether beautiful soul upon the Anakim here, and with a beautiful unconsciousness of anything like sacrifice, is now thanking God for the privilege of doing so. I have some moments of rare emotional luxury, those moments that are next to tears.
"Then the padre offers one of those heart-racking prayers of his that, whether they reach anything outside or not, somehow get down into one's vitals, and stir up remorses, and self-condemnings, and longings unutterable. Then they all kiss the mother and wish her a Happy New-Year.
"My boy, my dear boy, I have never known deeper moments than those. And when I went to shake hands with her, she seemed so like a queen receiving homage, that without seeming to feel I was making a fool of myself, I did the Queen Victoria act, and saluted her hand. It is wonderful how great moments discover the lady to you. She must have known how I was feeling, for with a very beautiful grace, she said, 'Let me be your mother for to-night,' and by Jove, she kissed me. I have been kissed before, and have kissed some women in my time, but that is the only kiss I can remember, and s'help me Bob, I'll never kiss another till I kiss my wife.
"And then and there, Maitland, I swore by all that I knew of God, and by everything sacred in life, that I'd quit the past and be worthy of her trust; for the mischief of it is, she will persist in trusting you, puts you on your honor noblesse oblige business, and all that. I think I told you that I might end in being a saint. That dream I have surrendered, but, by the grace of heaven, I'm going to try to be a man. And I am going to play shinny with those boys, and if I can help them to win that match, and the big game of life, I will do it.