Rough Scan
~XVII~
 
HOTEL, FLORENCE
April 190-
 
DEAR CHRISTINA, - You will have heard folks say "Miracles will never cease," meanin' that there's never been any since Scriptural times, and that they are no' very likely to happen now. Well, I am in a poseetion to bear witness to the performance of a miracle in this very town, having been, this very day, to see the place where it happened.
It was in the via del Orto - a poor-like street near the San Frediano gate. Three orphan lassies used to bide in No. 10 (the number is on the door yet-so folks can say what they like). They worked for their living at sewing and knitting, and kept themselves respectable. But bad times came: the merchants that bought their goods failed, and they could get nobody else to give them work. So the poor helpless lassies began to sell their bits of things, and even the very flower on the windy-sole, to get food. At last there came a morning (it was the 1st of May) when not a crust was left in the chest where they aye kept the bread. It was a queer place to keep it, but mebbe they had sold the crock. There was only one thing left to sell, and that was a large Crucifix hangin' on the wall. I dinna approve of them mysel'; they're ower like graven images for me; but Catholic folk are brought up different. The orphans minded that when they were wee bairns, their father used to hold them up to kiss the feet of Jesus, and they couldna think to sell the image they had worshipped many a time. So down they went upon their knees in front of it, and the eldest sister put her arms about the two younger ones, and prayed the Lord to send them bread. It wasna a printed prayer, I'll warrant, and Miss Jean says she doesna think there's one ready-made in the book; any way the lassie stated the case plain and clear.
Exackly as they rose from their knees a rap came at the door below the window: one of them looked out. (Mind you, we saw the very window!) There stood a weary dusty-foot, with a pale douce-like face, and he begged for a bit of bread.
"Alas, we have none," said the girl, "or we would gladly give it to you: our chest is empty, and we have just been praying to the good God to send us food, for we are starving."
"Look again, kind maid," pleaded the poor stranger, and just to please him, the girl went to the chest and lifted the lid. Lo and behold, it was cram-full of new bread! no' a yesterday's loaf among that batch, I'll warrant.
With a cry of joy and wonder the lassie ran to the window with a loaf in her hand for the beggar; but he was away from the door. Down the stair she ran, and lookit east the road and west the road, but nobody was to be seen. Some folk say it was an angel, and some say it was the Lord Himself; my Aunty Mary used to say "God's help is nearer than the fair e'en," and it would ill set us to believe less than foreign Italians.
The Crucifix has been well guarded, and it is exheebited to the public in a Church they call the Carmine, in this very town of Florence, every Mayday. And that's no' all, for on the same day every year, there's a Feastable held in the room where the miracle happened; and outside the house there's a nick in the wall, with a kind o' copy of the Crucifix, and of the chest that the loaves were kept in. A lamp aye burns before it night and day. Mind you, it will use a deal of oil, and Miss Jean has been tellin' me that's it the poor women round about that buys it. It's real good of them, though what call they have to think that saints and angels are parteeclarly set on lamps and candles, I'm sure I dinna ken. So, you see, you needna say that miracles will never cease after that.
Miss Jean has been readin' a book called Roadside Songs of Tuscany, and what do you think she has found in it? The very hymn I used to make her and Miss Celandine say when they went to their beds, viz.:
 
==Now I lay me down to sleep.
===I pray the Lord my soul to keep;
==If I should die before I wake,
===I pray the Lord my soul to take.
 
I canna mind where I learnt it mysel', but little did I think that I was nourishing up the innocent lambs on Popish doctrines. Miss Celandine says it was a daft-like prayer to teach her, for she aye thought she would mebbe die in the night, and she's never done it once, nor Miss Jean either. It's as well to be on the safe side, though.
You and Merran can stick to the Psalms of David. -Your old friend,
 
MARGET POW.