Page:Hopkinson Smith--armchair at the inn.djvu/184

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not, to my surprise, very dark once we got in. The ruby light in the big altar lamp helped, and so did what was left of a single candle placed on a side altar by some poor soul as part penance for unforgiven sins.

“And it did not take long once we got to work. First a coat of oil to keep the wax from sticking to the marble; then a patting and forcing of the soft stuff with thumbs, fingers, and a wooden tool into the crevices and grooves of the stone, and then a gentle pull.

“Just here my courage failed and my conscience gave a little jump like the toothache. It might have been the quick flare of the lone candle on the side altar—I had not used my own, there being light enough to see to work—or it might have been my heated imagination, but I distinctly saw on the oil-smeared face of the blessed mother an expression of such intense humiliation that I pulled out my handkerchief, and although the ragged man was calling me to hurry, and I myself heard the noise of approaching footsteps, I kept on wiping off the oil until I saw her smile once more.

“The time lost caused our undoing—or rather mine. The ragged man with the precious mould