Read CHAPTER III of Saint Patrick 1887 , free online book, by Heman White Chaplin, on

One afternoon at about this time you might have seen Mr. Cole, the missionary of the Day-Star, — a small, lithe man, with a red beard, — making his way up town.  He walked rapidly, as he always did, for he was a busy man.

He was an exceedingly busy man.  During the past year, as was shown by his printed report, he had made 2,014 calls, or five and one-half calls a day; he had read the Scriptures in families 792 times; he had distributed 931,456 pages of religious literature; he had conversed on religious topics with 3,918 persons, or ten and seven-tenths persons per day, Sabbaths included.  It was perhaps because he was so busy that there was complaint sometimes that he mixed matters and took things upon his shoulders which belonged to others.

Mr. Cole’s rapid pace soon brought him to a broad and pleasant cross-street; he went up the high steps of one of the houses, rang the bell, and was admitted.

Rev. Mr. Martin was in his study, and the missionary was shown up.  Precisely what the conversation was has not been reported; but certain it is that the next day after Mr. Cole’s call, Mr. Martin began to prepare himself for an address upon the life of Saint Patrick.  It was an entirely new topic to him; but he soon found himself in the full current of the stream, considering — First, did such a man really exist, or is Saint Patrick a mere myth, floating in the imagination of the Irish people?  Second, what was his nationality?  Third, where was he born, and, herein, how are we to reconcile his escape from captivity in 493, with his visit to his kinsman, Saint Martin of Tours, after his escape from captivity, in 490?  Fourth, to what age did he live?  Fifth, — and so forth.

Mr. Martin had begun his labors by taking down his encyclopaedia and such books of reference as he had thought could help him, and had succeeded so far as to get an outline of the saint’s life, and to find mention of several works which treated of this topic.  There were Montalembert’s “Monks of the West,” and Dr. O’Donovan’s “Annals of the Four Masters,” the works of Monseigneur Moran and Father Colgan, the Tripartite Life, and a certain “magnificent quarto” by Miss Cusack.  All these and many more he had hoped to find in the different libraries of the city.  But great had been his surprise, on visiting the libraries, to find that the books he wanted were invariably out.  It was a little startling, at first, to come upon this footprint in the sand; but a little reflection set the feeling at rest.  The subject was an odd one to him, to be sure, but there were thousands of people in the city who might very naturally be concerned in it, particularly at this time, when Saint Patrick’s Day was approaching.  None the less the fact remained that the books he wanted — scattered through two or three libraries — were always out.

As he stepped out from the Free Library into the street, it occurred to him to go to a Catholic bookstore near at hand to look for what he wanted.

It was a large, showy shop, with Virgins and crucifixes and altar candelabra’s in the windows, and pictures of bleeding hearts.  He went in and stood at the counter.  A rosy-faced servant-girl, with a shy, pleased expression, was making choice of a rosary.  A young priest, a few steps away, was looking at an image of Saint Joseph.

The salesman left the servant-girl to her hesitating choice, and turned to Mr. Martin.

“What have you,” asked Mr. Martin, with a slightly conscious tone, “upon the life of Saint Patrick?”

The priest turned and looked; but the salesman, with an unmoved countenance, went to the shelves and selected two volumes and laid them in silence on the counter.  One was the “Life and Legends of Saint Patrick” with a picture in gilt of Brian Boru on the cover.  The other was “Saint Patrick, the Apostle of Ireland,” by William Bullen Morris, Priest of the Oratory.  They were both green-covered.

Early in the evening Mr. Martin settled down by his study fire to his new purchases.  First he took up the “Life and Legends.”  He read the saint’s own Confession, and the Letter to Co-roticus, and looked through the translation of the Tripartite Life, with its queer mixture of Latin and English:  “Prima feria venit Patricius ad Talleriam, where the regal assembly was, to Cairpre, the son of Niall.”  “Interrogat autem Patricius qua causa venit Conall, and Conall related the reason to Patrick.”

He glanced over the miracles and wonders of which this book was full.  But before very long he laid it aside and took up the Life by William Bullen Morris, Priest of the Oratory, and decided that he must depend upon that for his preparation.

It was late at night.  It was full time to stop reading; but it laid strong hold of his imagination, — this strange, intense, and humorous figure, looming up all new to him from the mists of the past.  He read the book to the end; he read how the good Saint Bridget foretold the apostle’s death; how two provinces contended for his remains, and how a light shone over his burial-place after he was laid to rest.

It was very late when Mr. Martin finished the book and laid it down.

Thus it happens that the Rev. Dr. Parsons and the Rev. Mr. Martin are both preparing themselves at the same time on the life of Saint Patrick, from this one brief book by William Bullen Morris, Priest of the Oratory.