A PENITENTIAL JOURNEY
“... Certain London parishes
still receive L12 per annum
for fagots to burn heretics.”—JOHN RICHARD GREEN.
The Boy slept that night in the Kachime beside a very moody, restless host. Yagorsha dispensed with the formality of going to bed, and seemed bent on doing what he could to keep other people awake. He sat monologuing under the seal lamp till the Boy longed to throw the dish of smouldering oil at his head. But strangely enough, when, through sheer fatigue, his voice failed and his chin fell on his broad chest, a lad of fourteen or so, who had also had difficulty to keep awake, would jog Yagorsha’s arm, repeating interrogatively the last phrase used, whereon the old Story-Teller would rouse himself and begin afresh, with an iteration of the previous statement. If the lad failed to keep him going, one or other of the natives would stir uneasily, lift a head from under his deerskin, and remonstrate. Yagorsha, opening his eyes with a guilty start, would go on with the yarn. When morning came, and the others waked, Yagorsha and the lad slept.
Nicholas and all the rest who shared the bench at night, and the fire in the morning, seemed desperately depressed and glum. A heavy cloud hung over Pymeut, for Pymeut was in disgrace.
About sunset the women came in with the kantaks and the lard-cans. Yagorsha sat up and rubbed his eyes. He listened eagerly, while the others questioned the women. The old Chief wasn’t dead at all. No, he was much better. Brother Paul had been about to all the house-bound sick people, and given everybody medicine, and flour, and a terrible scolding. Oh yes, he was angrier than anybody had ever been before. Some natives from the school at Holy Cross were coming for him tomorrow, and they were all going down river and across the southern portage to the branch mission at Kuskoquim.
“Down river? Sure?”
Yes, sure. Brother Paul had not waited to come with those others, being so anxious to bring medicine and things to Ol’ Chief quick; and this was how he was welcomed back to the scene of his labours. A Devil’s Dance was going on! That was what he called it.
“You savvy?” said Nicholas to his guest. “Brother Paul go plenty soon. You wait.”
I’ll have company back to camp, was the Boy’s first thought, and then—would there be any fun in that after all? It was plain Brother Paul was no such genial companion as Father Wills.
And so it was that he did not desert Nicholas, although Brother Paul’s companions failed to put in an appearance on the following morning. However, on the third day after the incident of the Shaman (who seemed to have vanished into thin air), Brother Paul shook the snow of Pymeut from his feet, and with three Indians from the Holy Cross school and a dog-team, he disappeared from the scene. Not till he had been gone some time did Nicholas venture to return to the parental roof.