“Ah yes, but we are more accustomed to—it’s hardly fair to burden a neighbour. No, we’ll be getting on.”
“If those fellers up there make a row about your bringing in a youngster”—he thrust out his jaw—“they can settle the account with me. I’ve got to do something for that cough before the kid goes on.”
“Well,” said the priest; and so wily are these Jesuits that he never once mentioned that he was himself a qualified doctor in full and regular practice. He kept his eyes on the finished stockade and the great chimney, wearing majestically its floating plume of smoke.
“Hi!” Mac called between his hands to the Indians, who had gone some distance ahead. “Hi!” He motioned them back up the hill trail.
O’Flynn had come out of the Little Cabin, and seemed to be laboriously trundling something along the footpath. He got so excited when he heard the noise and saw the party that, inadvertently, he let his burden slide down the icy slope, bumping and bouncing clumsily from one impediment to another.
“Faith, look at ’im! Sure, that fossle can’t resthrain his j’y at seein’ ye back. Mac, it’s yer elephunt. I was takin’ him in to the sate of honour be the foir. We thought it ’ud be a pleasant surprise fur ye. Sure, ye’r more surprised to see ‘im leppin’ down the hill to meet ye, like a rale Irish tarrier.”
Mac was angry, and didn’t conceal the fact. As he ran to stop the thing before it should be dashed to pieces, the priest happened to glance back, and saw coming slowly along the river trail a solitary figure that seemed to make its way with difficulty.
“It looks as though you’d have more than you bargained for at the House-Warming,” he said.
O’Flynn came down the hill babbling like a brook.
“Good-day to ye, Father. The blessin’s o’ Heaven on ye fur not kapin’ us starvin’ anny longer. There’s Potts been swearin’, be this and be that, that yourself and the little divvle wudn’t be at the Blow-Out at ahl, at ahl.”
“You mean the Boy hasn’t come back?” called out Mac. He leaned Elephas primigenius against a tuft of willow banked round with snow, and turned gloomily as if to go back down the river again.
“Who’s this?” They all stood and watched the limping traveller.
“Why it’s—of course. I didn’t know him with that thing tied over his cap”; and Mac went to meet him.
The Boy bettered his pace.
“How did I miss you?” demanded Mac.
“Well,” said the Boy, looking rather mischievous, “I can’t think how it happened on the way down, unless you passed when I ’d gone uphill a piece after some tracks. I was lyin’ under the Muff a few miles down when you came back, and you—well, I kind o’ thought you seemed to have your hands full.” Mac looked rigid and don’t-you-try-to-chaff-me-sir. “Besides,” the Boy went on, “I couldn’t cover the ground like you and Father Wills.”