Garst tried to recall some suitable prayer from a funeral service; so did Neal. Both failed.
But here upon Katahdin’s side, where, in the large forces of storm and slide, in forest and granite, through every wind-swept bush, waving blade, and tinted lichen, breathed a whisper from God, it seemed no unnatural thing for a man or a boy to speak to his Father.
“Can’t one of you fellers say a prayer?” asked Herb again.
Then the river of feeling in Cyrus broke the dam of reserve, and flowed over his lips in a prayer such as he had never before uttered.
It was the prayer of a son who was for the minute absorbed in his Father.
It left the five, those who were camping here and one who had gone to unseen camping-grounds, with son-like trust to the Father’s dealings.
Herb and the Farrars responded to it with heart-eager “Amens!” the fervor of which was new to their lips.
“I thank you as if he were my own brother, boys,” said the woodsman, while he filled in the grave, and planted Neal’s cross at its head. “Sho! when it comes to a time like we’ve been through to-day, a man, if he has anything but a gizzard in him, must feel as how we’re all brothers,—every man-jack of us,—white men, red men, half-and-half men, whatever we are or wherever we sprung.”
“A fellow is always hearing that sort of thing,” said Neal Farrar to Cyrus. “But I’m blessed if I ever felt it stick in me before! that we’re all of the one stuff, you know—we and that poor beggar. Some of us seem to get such precious long odds over the others.”
“All the more reason why we should do our level best to pull the backward ones up to us,” answered the American.
The words struck into the ears of Dol—that youngster listening with a soberness of attention seldom seen in his flash-light eyes.
A few years afterwards, when Neal Farrar was a newly blown lieutenant in his Queen’s Twelfth Lancers, as full of heroic impulses and enthusiasms as a modern young officer may be,—while his half-fledged ambitions were hanging on the chances of active service, and the golden, remote possibility of his one day being a V.C.,—there was a peaceful honor which clung to him unsought.
During his first year of army life, he became the paragon of every poor private and raw recruit struggling with the miseries of goose-step, with whom he came even into momentary contact. For sometimes through a word or act, sometimes through a flash of the eye, or a look about the mouth, during the brief interchange of a military salute, these “backward ones” saw that the progressive young officer looked on them, not as men-machines, but as brothers, as important in the great schemes of the nation and the world as he was himself; that he was proud to serve with them, and would be prouder still to help them if he could.
It was an understanding which inspired many a tempted or newly joined fellow to drill himself morally as his sergeant drilled him physically, with a determination to become as fine a soldier and forward a man as his paragon.