At the farther end of the room two figures knelt and moved before the white altar, the soft light of flickering candles playing fitfully upon them and glinting from the altar ornaments, while before a rough coffin, which rested upon two pedestals, stood a third, whose rich, sonorous Latin filled the chapel with impressive sadness. “Give eternal rest to them, O Lord,”—the words seeming to become a part of the room. The ineffably sad, haunting melody of the mass whispered back from the room between the assaults of the enraged wind, while from the altar came the responses in a low, Gregorian chant, and through it all the clinking of the censer chains added intermittent notes. Aloft streamed the vapor of the incense, wavering with the air currents, now lost in the deep twilight of the sanctuary, and now faintly revealed by the glow of the candles, perfuming the air with its aromatic odor.
As the last deep-toned words died away the celebrant moved slowly around the coffin, swinging the censer over it and then, sprinkling the body and making the sign of the cross above its head, solemnly withdrew.
From the shadows along the side walls other figures silently emerged and grouped around the coffin. Raising it they turned it slowly around and carried it down the dim aisle in measured tread, moving silently as ghosts.
“He is with God, Who will punish according to his sins,” said a low voice, and Hopalong started, for he had forgotten the presence of the guide. “God be with you, and may you die as he died—repentant and in peace.”
Buck chafed impatiently before the chapel door leading to a small, well-kept graveyard, wondering what it was that kept quiet for so long a time his two most assertive men, when he had momentarily expected to hear more or less turmoil and confusion.
C-r-e-a-k! He glanced up, gun in hand and raised as the door swung slowly open. His hand dropped suddenly and he took a short step forward; six black-robed figures shouldering a long box stepped slowly past him, and his nostrils were assailed by the pungent odor of the incense. Behind them came his fighting punchers, humble, awed, reverent, their sombreros in their hands, and their heads bowed.
“What in blazes!” exclaimed Buck, wonder and surprise struggling for the mastery as the others cantered up.
“He’s cashed,” Red replied, putting on his sombrero and nodding toward the procession.
Buck turned like a flash and spoke sharply: “Skinny! Lanky! Follow that glory-outfit, an’ see what’s in that box!”
Billy Williams grinned at Red. “Yo’re shore pious, Red.”
“Shut up!” snapped Red, anger glinting in his eyes, and Billy subsided.
Lanky and Skinny soon returned from accompanying the procession.
“I had to look twice to be shore it was him. His face was plumb happy, like a baby. But he’s gone, all right,” Lanky reported.