The Lane That Had No Turning, Volume 4

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It was soon after the Rebellion, and there was little food to be hadand less money, and winter was at hand. Pontiac, ever most loyal to oldFrance, though obedient to the English, had herself sent few recruits tobe shot down by Colborne; but she had emptied her pockets in sending tothe front the fulness of her barns and the best cattle of her fields.She gave her all; she was frank in giving, hid nothing; and when her owntrouble came there was no voice calling on her behalf. And Pontiac wouldrather starve than beg. So, as the winter went on, she starved insilence, and no one had more than sour milk and bread and a potato nowand then. The Cure, the Avocat, and the Little Chemist fared no betterthan the habitants; for they gave all they had right and left, andthemselves often went hungry to bed. And the truth is that few outsidePontiac knew of her suffering; she kept the secret of it close.It seemed at last, however, to the Cure that he must, after all, writeto the world outside for help. That was when he saw the faces of thechildren get pale and drawn. There never was a time when there were sofew fish in the river and so little game in the woods. At last, from thealtar steps one Sunday, the Cure, with a calm, sad voice, told the peoplethat, for "the dear children's sake," they must sink their pride and askhelp from without. He would write first to the Bishop of Quebec; "for,"said he, "Mother Church will help us; she will give us food, and money tobuy seed in the spring; and, please God, we will pay all back in a yearor two!" He paused a minute, then continued: "Some one must go, to speakplainly and wisely of our trouble, that there be no mistake--we are notbeggars, we are only borrowers. Who will go? I may not myself, for whowould give the Blessed Sacrament, and speak to the sick, or say Mass andcomfort you?"There was silence in the church for a moment, and many faces meanwhileturned instinctively to M. Garon the Avocat, and some to the LittleChemist."Who will go?" asked the Cure again. "It is a bitter journey, but ourpride must not be our shame in the end. Who will go?"Every one expected that the Avocat or the Little Chemist would rise; butwhile they looked at each other, waiting and sorrowful, and the Avocat'sfingers fluttered to the seat in front of him, to draw himself up, avoice came from the corner opposite, saying: "M'sieu' le Cure, I willgo."A strange, painful silence fell on the people for a moment, and then wentround an almost incredulous whisper: "Parpon the dwarf!"Parpon's deep eyes were fixed on the Cure, his hunched body leaning onthe railing in front of him, his long, strong arms stretched out as if hewere begging for some good thing. The murmur among the people increased,but the Cure raised his hand to command silence, and his eyes gazedsteadily at the dwarf. It might seem that he was noting the huge head,the shaggy hair, the overhanging brows, the weird face of this distortionof a thing made in God's own image. But he was thinking instead of howthe angel and the devil may live side by side in a man, and neither beentirely driven out--and the angel conquer in great times and seasons.He beckoned to Parpon to come over, and the dwarf trotted with a sidelongmotion to the chancel steps. Every face in the congregation was eager,and some were mystified, even anxious. They all knew the singular powerof the little man--his knowledge, his deep wit, his judgment, hisoccasional fierceness, his infrequent malice; but he was kind to childrenand the sick, and the Cure and the Avocat and their little coterierespected him. Once everybody had worshipped him: that was when he hadsung in the Mass, the day of the funeral of the wife of Farette themiller, for whom he worked. It had been rumoured that in his hut by theRock of Red Pigeons, up at Dalgrothe Mountain, a voice of most wonderfulpower and sweetness had been heard
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