Very different was the general attitude when Father Adam led the victor away. Hard faces were a-grin. The tongues that cursed the defeated camp boss hurled jubilant laudations at the unresponsive youth, who towered even amongst these great creatures. But for the presence of Father Adam, who seemed to exercise a miraculous restraining influence, these lumber-jacks would have crowded in and forcibly borne their champion to the suttler’s store for those copious libations, which, in their estimate, was the only fitting conclusion to the scene they had witnessed. As it was they made way. They stood aside in spontaneous and real respect, and the two men passed on in silence leaving the crowd to disperse to its labours.
The hush of the forest was profound. For all the proximity of the busy lumber camp its calm was unbroken.
It was a break in the endless canopy of foliage, a narrow rift in the dark breadth of the shadowed woods.
It was one of those infinitesimal veins through which flows the life-blood of the forest.
A tiny streamlet trickled its way over a bed of decayed vegetation often meandering through a dense growth of wiry reeds in a channel set well below the general level. Banks of attenuated grass and rank foliage lined its course, and the welcome sunlight poured down upon its water in sharp contrast with the twilight of the forest.
Clear of the crowding trees a rough shanty stood out in the sunlight. It was a crazy affair constructed of logs laterally laid and held in place by uprights, with walls that looked to be just able to hold together while suffering under the constant threat of collapse. The place was roofed with a thatch of reeds taken from the adjacent stream-bed, and its doorway was protected by a sheet of tattered sacking. There was also a window covered with cotton, and a length of iron stove-pipe protruding through the thatch of the roof seemed to threaten the whole place with fire at its first use.
Inside there was no attempt to better the impression. There was no furnishing. A spread of blankets on a waterproof sheet laid on a bed of reeds formed the bed of its owner, with a canvas kit-bag stuffed with his limited wardrobe serving as a pillow. There were several upturned boxes to be used as seats, and a larger box served the purpose of a table and supported a tiny oil lamp. There was not even the usual wood stove connected up to the protruding stove-pipe. A smouldering fire was burning between two large sandstone blocks, which, in turn, supported a cooking pot. An uncultured Indian of the forests would have demanded greater comfort for his resting moments.
But Father Adam had no concern for comfort of body. He needed his blankets and his fire solely to support life against the bitterness of the night air. For the rest the barest, hardest food kept the fire of life burning in his lean body.