Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

A Sanctuary Of The Plains
by [?]

Father Corraine stood with his chin in his hand and one arm supporting the other, thinking deeply. His eyes were fixed on the northern horizon, along which the sun was casting oblique rays; for it was the beginning of the winter season.

Where the prairie touched the sun it was responsive and radiant; but on either side of this red and golden tapestry there was a tawny glow and then a duskiness which, curving round to the north and east, became blue and cold–an impalpable but perceptible barrier rising from the earth, and shutting in Father Corraine like a prison wall. And this shadow crept stealthily on and invaded the whole circle, until, where the radiance had been, there was one continuous wall of gloom, rising are upon are to invasion of the zenith, and pierced only by some intrusive wandering stars.

And still the priest stood there looking, until the darkness closed down on him with an almost tangible consistency. Then he appeared to remember himself, and turned away with a gentle remonstrance of his head, and entered the hut behind him. He lighted a lamp, looked at it doubtfully, blew it out, set it aside, and lighted a candle. This he set in the one window of the room which faced the north and west.

He went to a door opening into the only other room in the hut, and with his hand on the latch looked thoughtfully and sorrowfully at something in the corner of the room where he stood. He was evidently debating upon some matter,–probably the removal of what was in the corner to the other room. If so, he finally decided to abandon the intention. He sat down in a chair, faced the candle, again dropped his chin upon his hand, and kept his eyes musingly on the light. He was silent and motionless a long time, then his lips moved, and he seemed to repeat something to himself in whispers.

Presently he took a well-worn book from his pocket, and read aloud from it softly what seemed to be an office of his Church. His voice grew slightly louder as he continued, until, suddenly, there ran through the words a deep sigh which did not come from himself. He raised his head quickly, started to his feet, and turning round, looked at that something in the corner. It took the form of a human figure, which raised itself on an elbow and said: “Water–water–for the love of God!”

Father Corraine stood painfully staring at the figure for a moment, and then the words broke from him “Not dead–not dead–wonderful!” Then he stepped quickly to a table, took therefrom a pannikin of water, and kneeling, held it to the lips of the gasping figure of a woman, throwing his arm round the shoulder, and supporting the head on his breast. Again he spoke “Alive–alive! Blessed be Heaven!”

The hands of the woman seized the hand of the priest, which held the pannikin, and kissed it, saying faintly: “You are good to me…. But I must sleep–I must sleep–I am so tired; and I’ve–very far–to go–across the world.”

This was said very slowly, then the head thick with brown curls dropped again on the priest’s breast, heavy with sleep. Father Corraine, flushing slightly at first, became now slightly pale, and his brow was a place of war between thankfulness and perplexity. But he said something prayerfully, then closed his lips firmly, and gently laid the figure down, where it was immediately clothed about with slumber. Then he rose, and standing with his eyes bent upon the sleeper and his fingers clasping each other tightly before him, said: “Poor girl! So, she is alive. And now what will come of it?”

He shook his grey head in doubt, and immediately began to prepare some simple food and refreshment for the sufferer when she should awake. In the midst of doing so he paused and repeated the words, “And what will come of it?” Then he added: “There was no sign of pulse nor heart-beat when I found her. But life hides itself where man cannot reach it.”