O’Flynn was not deeply concerned about religious questions, but “there were limits.” The problem was how to rouse the Lord without rousing O’Flynn—a piece of negotiation so delicate, calling for a skill in pious invective so infinitely absorbing to Mac’s particular cast of mind, that he was quickly stone-blind and deaf to all things else.
“Not all the heathen are sunk in iniquity; but they are weak, tempted, and they weary, Lord!”
“Amen,” said the Boy, discreetly. “How long?” groaned Mac—“Oh Lord, how long?” But it was much longer than he realised. The Boy saw the visitors shifting from one knee to another, and feared the worst. But he sympathised deeply with their predicament. To ease his own legs, he changed his position, and dragged a corner of the sailcloth down off the little pile of provisions, and doubled it under his knees.
The movement revealed the bag of dried apples within arm’s length. Nicholas was surreptitiously reaching for his coat. No doubt about it, he had come to the conclusion that this was the fitting moment to depart. A look over his shoulder showed Mac absorbed, and taking fresh breath at “Sixthly, Oh Lord.” The Boy put out a hand, and dragged the apple-bag slowly, softly towards him. The Prince dropped the sleeve of his coat, and fixed his one eye on his friend. The Boy undid the neck of the sack, thrust in his hand, and brought out a fistfull. Another look at Mac—still hard at it, trying to spare O’Flynn’s feelings without mincing matters with the Almighty.
The Boy winked at Nicholas, made a gesture, “Catch!” and fired a bit of dried apple at him, at the same time putting a piece in his own mouth to show him it was all right.
Nicholas followed suit, and seemed pleased with the result. He showed all his strong, white teeth, and ecstatically winked his one eye back at the Boy, who threw him another bit and then a piece to each of the others.
The Colonel had “caught on,” and was making horrible frowns at the Boy. Potts and O’Flynn looked up, and in dumbshow demanded a share. No? Very well, they’d tell Mac. So the Boy had to feed them, too, to keep them quiet. And still Mac prayed the Lord to catch up this slip he had made here on the Yukon with reference to the natives. In the midst of a powerful peroration, he happened to open his eyes a little, and they fell on the magnificent great sable collar of Prince Nicholas’s coat.
Without any of the usual slowing down, without the accustomed warning of a gradual descent from the high themes of heaven to the things of common earth, Mac came down out of the clouds with a bump, and the sudden, business-like “Amen” startled all the apple-chewing congregation.
Mac stood up, and says he to Nicholas:
“Where did you get that coat?”
Nicholas, still on his knees, stared, and seemed in doubt if this were a part of the service.
“Where did you get that coat?” repeated Mac.