He was a pink little man, anyway, the Reverend Archibald Crane, and why, in the inscrutability of its wisdom, the Church had sent him out to influence strong, grim men, the Church in its inscrutable wisdom only knows. He wore at the moment a cambric English boating-hat to protect his bald head from the draught, a full clerical costume as far as the trousers, which were of lavender, and a pair of beaded moccasins faced with red. His weak little face was pink, and two tufts of side-whiskers were nearly so. A heavy gold-headed cane stood at his hand. When he heard the door open he exclaimed, before raising his head, “My, these first flies of the season do bother me so!” and then looked startled.
“Good-evening,” greeted Ned Trent, stopping squarely in the centre of the room.
The clergyman spread his arms along the desk’s edge in embarrassment.
“Good-evening,” he returned, reluctantly. “Is there anything I can do for you?” The visitor puzzled him, but was dressed as a voyageur. The Reverend Archibald immediately resolved to treat him as such.
“I wish to introduce myself as Ned Trent,” went on the Free Trader with composure, “and I have broken in on your privacy this evening only because I need your ministrations cruelly.”
“I am rejoiced that in your difficulties you turn to the consolations of the Church,” replied the other in the cordial tones of the man who is always ready. “Pray be seated. He whose soul thirsteth need offer no apology to the keeper of the spiritual fountains.”
“Quite so,” replied the stranger dryly, seating himself as suggested, “only in this case my wants are temporal rather than spiritual. They, however, seem to me fully within the province of the Church.^
“The Church attempts within limits to aid those who are materially in want,” assured Crane, with official dignity. “Our resources are small, but to the truly deserving we are always ready to give in the spirit of true giving.”
“I am rejoiced to hear it,” returned the young man, grimly; “you will then have no difficulty in getting me so small a matter as a rifle and about forty or fifty rounds of ammunition.”
A pause of astonishment ensued.
“Why, really,” ejaculated Crane, “I fail to see how that falls within my jurisdiction in the slightest. You should see our Trader, Mr. McDonald, in regard to all such things. Your request addressed to me becomes extraordinary.”
“Not so much so when you know who I am. I told you my name is Ned Trent, but I neglected to inform you further that I am a captured Free Trader, condemned to la Longue Traverse, and that I have in vain tried to procure elsewhere the means of escape.”
Then the clergyman understood. The full significance of the intruder’s presence flashed over his little pink face in a trouble of uneasiness. The probable consequences of such a bit of charity as his visitor proposed almost turned him sick with excitement.