“Really!” returned the priest; “they didn’t tell me.”
“I haven’t told them yet.”
“Oh, all right.”
“Why is he called that heathen name?”
“Kaviak? Oh, it’s the name of his tribe. His people belong to that branch of the Innuits known as Kaviaks.”
“Humph! Then he’s only Kaviak as I’m MacCann. I suppose you’ve christened him?”
“Well, not yet—no. What shall we call him? What’s your boy’s name?” “Robert Bruce.” They went on in silence till Mac said, “It’s on account of my boy I came up here.”
“It didn’t use to matter if a man was poor and self-taught, but in these days of competition it’s different. A boy must have chances if he’s going to fight the battle on equal terms. Of course, some boys ain’t worth botherin’ about. But my boy—well, he seems to have something in him.”
The priest listened silently, but with that look of brotherliness on his face that made it so easy to talk to him.
“It doesn’t really matter to those other fellows.” Mac jerked his hand towards the camp. “It’s never so important to men—who stand alone—but I’ve got to strike it rich over yonder.” He lifted his head, and frowned defiantly in the general direction of the Klondyke, thirteen hundred miles away. “It’s my one chance,” he added half to himself. “It means everything to Bob and me. Education, scientific education, costs like thunder.”
“In the United States?”
“Oh, I mean to send my boy to the old country. I want Bob to be thorough.”
The priest smiled, but almost imperceptibly.
“How old is he?”
“Oh, ’bout as old as this youngster.” Mac spoke with calculated indifference.
“Six or thereabouts?”
“No; four and a half. But he’s bigger—”
“And you can see already—he’s got a lot in him.”
Father Wills nodded with a conviction that brought Mac nearer confession than he had ever been in his life.
“You see,” he said quite low, and as if the words were dragged out with pincers, “the fact is—my married life—didn’t pan out very well. And I—ran away from home as a little chap—after a lickin’—and never went back. But there’s one thing I mean to make a success of—that’s my boy.”
“Well, I believe you will, if you feel like that.”
“Why, they’ve gone clean past the camp trail,” said Mac sharply, “all but Nicholas—and what in thunder?—he’s put the kid back on the sled—”
“Yes, I told my men we’d be getting on. But they were told to leave you the venison—”
“What! You goin’ straight on? Nonsense!” Mac interrupted, and began to shout to the Indians.
“No; I meant to stop; just tell your friends so,” said the unsuspecting Father; “but with a sick child—”
“What can you do for him that we can’t? And to break the journey may make a big difference. We’ve got some condensed milk left—and—”