Only a Blade of Palm
One of the young men who acted on Horace Greeley's suggestion
and went west to seek his fortune, was Leonard Williams. Born
of poor parents, Williams had to quit school at an early age.
To aid his family in the struggle for existence, he labored for
years in the coal mines of Pennsylvania when other boys of his
age were free from care. Being naturally studious and
ambitious, the coal mine became both high school and university
for young Williams. For by the time the family had become self
supporting, he had mastered the science of geology and become a
practical mining engineer. About that time the gold-fever of
the Forty-niners had disappeared, and vague rumors of rich ore
deposits in Colorado had been in circulation throughout the
eastern states. Young Williams traced several of these rumors
to their source, carefully sifted the information obtained, and
finally decided to set out for the Pike's Peak region. After
prospecting for a while, he finally staked his claim in a
convenient locality, and began operations with the meager
resources at his disposal. The result verified the correctness
of his judgment, for in due time Mr. Williams struck a rich
deposit of gold and silver ore. Instead of drinking and
gambling to celebrate the dawn of prosperity, however, he persevered in the practice of his religion and redoubled his efforts to increase the output of his mine. And before many years had rolled by, Mr. Williams began to make regular trips to the Pueblo smelters with trainloads of precious ore.
On one of these trips an incident occurred that was destined by
Providence to influence Mr. Williams' entire life. It had been
his practice to arrange his trips to Pueblo so as to give him
the opportunity of celebrating the principal feasts of the
Church in town. This year Williams arrived during Passion week
with the intention of remaining for the Easter celebration. On
Palm Sunday he heard Mass in St. Ignatius Church. Being a
stranger he naturally waited until most of the parishioners had
received the blessed palm before approaching the altar railing.
The members of the choir immediately preceded him.
As Mr. Williams approached, he observed a vacant space next to
the organist and crowded into it. Perhaps he felt more awkward
in this position than in the cramped quarters of his mine.
Perhaps the organist paid more attention to the handsome man at
her side than to the distribution of the palms. At any rate, as
the celebrant approached with the long blades of palm for the
faithful, Williams caught hold of one end of a blade, while the
organist grasped the other. When both bowed reverently to kiss
the blessed palm, their cheeks touched. To this day neither
knows whether the celebrant observed their confusion, as he
calmly proceeded with the distribution, but Mr. Williams
is certain that he carried off the palm that day. After the
services Mr. Williams lingered near the church door to offer
his apologies to the young lady and to beg her pardon for the
embarrassment his awkwardness had caused her. By the time the
organist had collected the music and closed the organ, the
faithful had already departed. "I wish to apologize for my
stupidity and to offer you the palm I took from you," began Mr.
Williams sheepishly. "It was all my own fault," protested the
organist with a roguish smile. "Will you accompany me to the
post-office? I expect a letter from my mother."
Instead of a brief apology, their meeting was thus protracted
into a visit to an ice cream parlor and later to a dinner at
the hotel. The young lady was Miss Cullorton of Missouri, who
had come to Pueblo in the hope of saving some property her
mother owned. Through the influence of friends she had secured
a position as teacher in the city schools and devoted her
talents on Sunday morning to enhance the divine services.
Though married many years now, both Mr. and Mrs. Williams still
treasure the piece of blessed palm they devoutly kissed at
their first meeting in St. Ignatius' church.