“It seems only yesterday—or so?”
“Yes, only yesterday—or so.”
Kent’s face lit up with the whimsical smile that long ago had reached the little missioner’s heart. “Well, that’s the way I’m looking at it, Father. There is only a yesterday, a today, and a tomorrow in the longest of our lives. Looking back from seventy years isn’t much different from looking back from thirty-six when you’re looking back and not ahead. Do you think what I have just said will free Sandy McTrigger?”
“There is no doubt. Your statements have been accepted as a death-bed confession.”
The little missioner, instead of Kent, was betraying a bit of nervousness.
“There are matters, my son—some few matters—which you will want attended to. Shall we not talk about them?”
“Your people, first. I remember that once you told me there was no one. But surely there is some one somewhere.”
Kent shook his head. “There is no one now. For ten years those forests out there have been father, mother, and home to me.”
“But there must be personal affairs, affairs which you would like to entrust, perhaps, to me?”
Kent’s face brightened, and for an instant a flash of humor leaped into his eyes. “It is funny,” he chuckled. “Since you remind me of it, Father, it is quite in form to make my will. I’ve bought a few little pieces of land here. Now that the railroad has almost reached us from Edmonton, they’ve jumped up from the seven or eight hundred dollars I gave for them to about ten thousand. I want you to sell the lots and use the money in your work. Put as much of it on the Indians as you can. They’ve always been good brothers to me. And I wouldn’t waste much time in getting my signature on some sort of paper to that effect.”
Father Layonne’s eyes shone softly. “God will bless you for that, Jimmy,” he said, using the intimate name by which he had known him. “And I think He is going to pardon you for something else, if you have the courage to ask Him.”
“I am pardoned,” replied Kent, looking out through the window. “I feel it. I know it, Father.”
In his soul the little missioner was praying. He knew that Kent’s religion was not his religion, and he did not press the service which he would otherwise have rendered. After a moment he rose to his feet, and it was the old Kent who looked up into his face, the clean-faced, gray-eyed, unafraid Kent, smiling in the old way.
“I have one big favor to ask of you, Father,” he said. “If I’ve got a day to live, I don’t want every one forcing the fact on me that I’m dying. If I’ve any friends left, I want them to come in and see me, and talk, and crack jokes. I want to smoke my pipe. I’ll appreciate a box of cigars if you’ll send ’em up. Cardigan can’t object now. Will you arrange these things for me? They’ll listen to you—and please shove my cot a little nearer the window before you go.”