But Cyrus, while he watched the guide making preparations for the mountain burial, pictured the poor weakling tramping for hundreds of miles through rugged forest-land, doubtless with aching knee-joints and feet, that he might make upon his own skin justice for the skins which he had stolen, and so, in the only way he knew, square things with his wronged chum. And the city man thought, with a tear of pity, that even that poor drink-fuddled mind must have been lit by some ray of longing for goodness.
It was a strange funeral.
The guide chose a spot where the earth had been much softened by the recent rain; and, with the ingenuity of a man accustomed to wilderness shifts, he broke up the drenched ground with the axe which he took from his shoulders.
That axe, which had so often made camp, had never before made a grave; the Farrars doubted that it ever would. But Herb worked away upon his knees, moisture dripping from his skin, putting sorrow for years of anger into every blow of his arms. Then, stopping a while, he went off down the mountain to the nearest belt of trees, and cut a limb from one, out of which, with his hunting-knife, he fashioned a rude wooden implement, a cross between a spade and shovel.
With this he scooped out the broken earth until a grave appeared over three feet deep. He lined it with fragrant spruce-boughs from the wind-beaten tangle below.
These Cyrus and Dol had busied themselves in cutting. Neal thought of other work for his fingers. Getting hold of Herb’s axe when the owner was not using it, he felled one of the dwarf white birches. Out of its light, delicate wood, with the help of his big pocket-knife and a ball of twine that was hidden somewhere about him, he made a very presentable cross, to point out to future hunters on Katahdin the otherwise unmarked grave.
He was a bit of a genius at wood-carving, and surveyed his work with satisfaction when he considered it finished, having neatly cut upon it the name, “Chris Kemp,” with the date, “October 20th, 1891.”
“Couldn’t you add a text or motto of some kind?” suggested Dol, glancing over his shoulder. “Twould make it more like the things one sees in cemeteries. You’re such a dab at that sort of work.”
“Can’t think of anything,” answered the elder brother.
Then, with a sudden lighting of his face, he seized the knife again, and worked in, in fine lettering, the frightened prayer he had heard on the half-breed’s lips:—
“God, I am weak; pity me!”
Herb and Cyrus lowered the body into its resting-place, and covered it with the green spruces.
The four campers knelt bare-headed by the grave.
“Couldn’t one of you boys say a bit of a prayer?” asked Herb in a thick voice. “I ain’t used to spouting.”
All former help had been easily given. This was a harder matter, yet not so difficult as it would have been amid a city congregation.