They found Muckluck subdued but smiling, and the old man astonishingly better. It looked almost as if he had turned the corner, and was getting well.
There was certainly something very like magic in such a recovery, but it was quickly apparent that this aspect of the case was not what occupied Nicholas, as he sat regarding his parent with a keen and speculative eye. He asked him some question, and they discussed the point volubly, Muckluck following the argument with close attention. Presently it seemed that father and son were taking the guest into consideration. Muckluck also turned to him now and then, and by-and-by she said: “I think he go.”
“Holy Cross,” said the old man eagerly.
“Brother Paul,” Nicholas explained. “He go down river. We get Holy Cross—more quick.”
“I see. Before he can get back. But why do you want to go?”
“See Father Brachet.”
“Sister Winifred say: ’Always tell Father Brachet; then everything all right,’” contributed Muckluck.
“You tell Pymeut belly solly,” the old Chief said.
“Nicholas know he not able tell all like white man,” Muckluck continued. “Nicholas say you good—hey? you good?”
“Well—a—pretty tollable, thank you.”
“You go with Nicholas; you make Father Brachet unnerstan’—forgive. Tell Sister Winifred—” She stopped, perplexed, vaguely distrustful at the Boy’s chuckling.
“You think we can explain it all away, hey?” He made a gesture of happy clearance. “Shaman and everything, hey?”
“Me no can,” returned Nicholas, with engaging modesty. “You—” He conveyed a limitless confidence.
“Well, I’ll be jiggered if I don’t try. How far is it?”
“Go slow—one sleep.”
“Well, we won’t go slow. We’ve got to do penance. When shall we start?”
“Too late now. Tomalla,” said the Ol’ Chief.
* * * * *
They got up very early—it seemed to the Boy like the middle of the night—stole out of the dark Kachime, and hurried over the hard crust that had formed on the last fall of snow, down the bleak, dim slope to the Ol’ Chief’s, where they were to breakfast.
Not only Muckluck was up and doing, but the Ol’ Chief seemed galvanised into unwonted activity. He was doddering about between his bed and the fire, laying out the most imposing parkis and fox-skins, fur blankets, and a pair of seal-skin mittens, all of which, apparently, he had had secreted under his bed, or between it and the wall.
They made a sumptuous breakfast of tea, the last of the bacon the Boy had brought, and slapjacks.
The Boy kept looking from time to time at the display of furs. Father Wills was right; he ought to buy a parki with a hood, but he had meant to have the priest’s advice, or Mac’s, at least, before investing. Ol’ Chief watching him surreptitiously, and seeing he was no nearer making an offer, felt he should have some encouragement. He picked up the seal-skin mittens and held them out.