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Peter, the Parson
by [?]

In November, 1850, a little mining settlement stood forlornly on the shore of Lake Superior. A log dock ran out into the dark water; a roughly-built furnace threw a glare against the dark sky; several stamping mills kept up their monotonous tramping day and night; and evil-minded saloons beset the steps on all sides. Back into the pine forest ran the white sand road leading to the mine, and on the right were clustered the houses, which were scarcely better than shanties, although adorned with sidling porches and sham-windowed fronts. Winter begins early in these high latitudes. Navigation was still open, for a scow with patched sails was coming slowly up the bay, but the air was cold, and the light snow of the preceding night clung unmelted on the north side of the trees. The pine forest had been burned away to make room for the village; blackened stumps rose everywhere in the weedy streets, and, on the outskirts of the clearing, grew into tall skeletons, bleached white without, but black and charred within–a desolate framing for a desolate picture. Everything was bare, jagged and unfinished; each poor house showed hasty makeshifts–no doors latched, no windows fitted. Pigs were the principal pedestrians. At four o’clock this cold November afternoon, the saloons, with their pine fires and red curtains, were by far the most cheerful spots in the landscape, and their ruddy invitations to perdition were not counter-balanced by a single opposing gleam, until the Reverend Herman Peters prepared his chapel for vespers.

Herman Warriner Peters was a slender little man, whose blue eyes, fair hair and unbearded face misled the observer into the idea of extreme youth. There was a boyishness in his air, or, rather, lack of air, and a nervous timidity in his manner, which stamped him as a person of no importance–one of those men who, not of sufficient consequence to be disliked, are simply ignored by a well-bred world, which pardons anything rather than insignificance. And if ignored by a well-bred world, what by an ill-bred? Society at Algonquin was worse than ill-bred, inasmuch as it had never been bred at all. Like all mining settlements, it esteemed physical strength the highest good, and next to that an undaunted demeanor and flowing vocabulary, designated admiringly as “powerful sassy.” Accordingly it made unlimited fun of the Reverend Herman Warriner Peters, and derived much enjoyment from calling him “Peter,” pretending to think it was his real name, and solemnly persisting in the mistake in spite of all the painstaking corrections of the unsuspecting little man.

The Reverend Herman wrapped himself in his thin old cloak and twisted a comforter around his little throat, as the clock warned him of the hour. He was not leaving much comfort behind him; the room was dreary and bare, without carpet, fire, or easy chair. A cot-bed, which sagged hopelessly, a wash-bowl set on a dry-goods box, flanked by a piece of bar-soap and a crash towel, a few pegs on the cracked wall, one wooden chair and his own little trunk completed the furniture. The Reverend Herman boarded with Mrs. Malone, and ate her streaked biscuit and fried meat without complaint. The woman could rise to yeast and a gridiron when the surveyors visited Algonquin, or when the directors of the iron company came up in the summer; but the streaked biscuit and fried steak were “good enough for the little parson, bless him!”

There were some things in the room, however, other than furniture, namely, a shelf full of religious books, a large and appalling picture of the crucifixion, and a cross six feet in height, roughly made of pine saplings, and fixed to the floor in a wooden block. There was also a small colored picture, with the words “Santa Margarita” inscribed beneath. The picture stood on a bracket fashioned of shingles, and below it hung a poor little vase filled with the last colored leaves.

“Ye only want the Howly Vargin now, to be all right, yer riverence,” said Mrs. Malone, who was, in name at least, a Roman Catholic.

“All honor and affection are, no doubt, due to the Holy Mary,” answered the Reverend Herman, nervously; “but the Anglican Church does not–at present–allow her claim to–to adoration.” And he sighed.