His finger twisted involuntarily into the bullet-hole in the pelt, and he paused a moment.
“Keep us from getting lost, O Bon Jesu.”
Again there was a pause, his eyes opened wide, and he said:
“Do you think mother’s lost, father?”
A heavy broken breath came from the father, and he replied haltingly: “Mebbe—mebbe so.”
Dominique’s eyes closed again. “I’ll make up some,” he said slowly: “And if mother’s lost, O Bon Jesu, bring her back again to us, for everything’s going wrong.”
Again he paused, then went on with the prayer as it had been taught him.
“Teach us to hear Thee whenever Thou callest, and to see Thee when Thou visitest us, and let the blessed Mary and all the saints speak often to Thee for us. O Christ, hear us. Lord have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Amen.”
Making the sign of the cross, he lay back, and said: “I’ll go to sleep now, I guess.”
The man sat for a long time looking at the pale, shining face, at the blue veins showing painfully dark on the temples and forehead, at the firm little white hand, which was as brown as a butternut a few weeks before. The longer he sat, the deeper did his misery sink into his soul. His wife had gone he knew not where, his child was wasting to death, and he had for his sorrows no inner consolation. He had ever had that touch of mystical imagination inseparable from the far north, yet he had none of that religious belief which swallowed up natural awe and turned it to the refining of life, and to the advantage of a man’s soul. Now it was forced in upon him that his child was wiser than himself; wiser and safer. His life had been spent in the wastes, with rough deeds and rugged habits, and a youth of hardship, danger, and almost savage endurance had given him a half-barbarian temperament, which could strike an angry blow at one moment and fondle to death at the next.
When he married sweet Lucette Barbond his religion reached little farther than a belief in the Scarlet Hunter of the Kimash Hills and those voices that could be heard calling in the night, till their time of sleep be past and they should rise and reconquer the north.
Not even Father Corraine, whose ways were like those of his Master, could ever bring him to a more definite faith. His wife had at first striven with him, mourning yet loving. Sometimes the savage in him had broken out over the little creature, merely because barbaric tyranny was in him—torture followed by the passionate kiss. But how was she philosopher enough to understand the cause!