He sat for a moment lost in the vision.
“So it was all as you had planned?”
“Mon ami, it was not I, but Joan herself, to whom all honor belongs. There was a moment—Captain Capriata had taken absinthe with his morning popoi, and was unsteady. He stumbled. I called to him to breathe a prayer to his patron saint—he is of Ajaccio in Corsica—and to call upon Joan for aid. He straightened up at once, after one fall, and bore the white banner of the Maid in good style from the mission to the deserted inn by the leper-house.
“We had three superb feasts, one on each day of the fete. We had speeches and songs, three masses a day to accommodate all, four first communicants, and two marriages. I will tell you, though it may be denied by the commercial missionaries, that five protestants attended and recanted.”
Pere Simeon’s eyes flashed as he recalled those memorable days. He fell into a reverie, scratching his legs after the nonos and letting his cigarette go out.
I arose to depart. He must go to Huapu with the chief, who was again at the door,
“And did the fete help the parish?” I asked with that bromidic zeal to please that so often discloses the fly just when the ointment’s smell is sweetest.
“Alas!” he replied, with a sorrowful shake of his beard. “Even the girl who had worn the white armor leaped from the mast of a ship to escape infamy and was drowned. Yet there was grandeur of sacrifice in that. But for the others, they die fast, too. Some day the priest will be alone here without a flock.”
He picked up a garment or two, placed the Holy Sacrament with pious care in his breast, and we walked together through the mournful and decaying village, passing a few melancholy natives.
I said to Pere Simeon as he stepped into the canoe, “You are like a shepherd who pursues his sheep wherever they may wander, to gather them into the fold at last.”
“C’est vrai,” he smiled sadly. “The bishop himself had to go to Hiva-oa from here, because there were really not enough people left alive for the seat of his bishopric. At least, there will be some here when I die, for I am old. Ah, thirty years ago, when I came here, there were souls to be saved! Thousands of them. But I love the last one. There are still a hundred left on Huapu. There is work yet, for the devil grows more active yearly.”
America’s claim to the Marquesas; adventures of Captain Porter in 1812; war between Haapa and Tai-o-hae, and the conquest of Typee valley.