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- The Right of Way, Volume 2. - 13/13 -

"Sacristan, acolyte, player, or preacher, Each to his office, but who holds the key? Death, only Death, thou, the ultimate teacher, Wilt show it to me!"

He was suddenly startled from his reverie, through which the procession was moving--a cloud of witnesses. It was the voice of Louis Trudel, sharp and piercing:

"Don't you believe in God and the Son of God?"

"God knows!" answered Charley slowly in reply--an involuntary exclamation of helplessness, an automatic phrase deflected from its first significance to meet a casual need of the mind. Yet it seemed like satire, like a sardonic, even vulgar, humour. So it struck Louis Trudel, who snatched up a hot iron from the fire and rushed forward with a snarl. So astounded was Charley that he did not stir. He was not prepared for the sudden onslaught. He did not put up his hand even, but stared at the tailor, who, within a foot of him, stopped short with the iron poised.

Louis Trudel repented in time. With the cunning of the monomaniac he realised that an attack now might frustrate his great stroke. It would bring the village to his shop door, precipitate the crisis upon the wrong incident.

As it chanced, only one person in Chaudiere saw the act. That was Rosalie Evanturel across the way. She saw the iron raised, and looked for M'sieu' to knock the tailor down; but, instead, she beheld the tailor go back and put the iron on the fire again. She saw also that M'sieu' was speaking, though she could hear no words.

Charley's words were simple enough. "I beg your pardon, Monsieur," he said across the room to old Louis; "I meant no offence at all. I was trying to think it out in a human sort of way. I suppose I wanted a sign from Heaven--wanted too much, no doubt."

The tailor's lips twitched, and his hand convulsively clutched the shears at his side.

"It is no matter now," he answered shortly. "I have had signs from Heaven; perhaps you will have one too!"

"It would be worth while," rejoined Charley musingly. Charley wondered bitterly if he had made an irreparable error in saying those ill-chosen words. This might mean a breach between them, and so make his position in the parish untenable. He had no wish to go elsewhere--where could he go? It mattered little what he was, tinker or tailor. He had now only to work his way back to the mind of the peasant; to be an animal with intelligence; to get close to mother earth, and move down the declivity of life with what natural wisdom were possible. It was his duty to adapt himself to the mind of such as this tailor; to acquire what the tailor and his like had found--an intolerant belief and an inexpensive security, to be got through yielding his nature to the great religious dream. And what perfect tranquillity, what smooth travelling found therein.

Gazing across the street towards the little post-office, he saw Rosalie Evanturel at the window. He fell to thinking about her. Rosalie, on her part, kept wondering what old Louis' violence meant.

Presently she saw a half-dozen men come quickly down the street, and, before they reached the tailorshop, stand in a group talking excitedly. Afterwards one came forward from the others quickly--Filion Lacasse the saddler. He stopped short at the tailor's door. Looking at Charley, he exclaimed roughly:

"If you don't hand out the cross you stole from the church door, we'll tar and feather you, M'sieu'." Charley looked up, surprised. It had never occurred to him that they could associate him with the theft. "I know nothing of the cross," he said quietly. "You're the only heretic in the place. You've done it. Who are you? What are you doing here in Chaudiere?"

"Working at my trade," was Charley's quiet answer. He looked towards Louis Trudel, as though to see how he took this ugly charge.

Old Louis responded at once. "Get away with you, Filion Lacasse," he croaked. "Don't come here with your twaddle. M'sieu' hasn't stole the cross. What does he want with a cross? He's not a Catholic."

"If he didn't steal the cross, why, he didn't," answered the saddler; "but if he did, what'll you say for yourself, Louis? You call yourself a good Catholic--bah!--when you've got a heretic living with you."

"What's that to you?" growled the tailor, and reached out a nervous hand towards the iron. "I served at the altar before you were born. Sacre! I'll make your grave-clothes yet, and be a good Catholic when you're in the churchyard. Be off with you. Ach," he sharply added, when Filion did not move, "I'll cut your hair for you!" He scrambled off the bench with his shears.

Filion Lacasse disappeared with his friends, and the old man settled back on his bench.

Charley, looking up quietly from his work, said "Thank you, Monsieur."

He did not notice what an evil look was in Louis Trudel's face as it turned towards him, but Rosalie Evanturel, standing outside, saw it; and she stole back to the post-office ill at ease and wondering.

All that day she watched the tailor's shop, and even when the door was shut in the evening, her eyes were fastened on the windows.


Is the habit of good living mere habit and mere acting Suspicion, the bane of sick old age


The Right of Way, Volume 2. - 13/13

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