It was the relentless cawing of crows that woke me. It was not the sunlight streaking in through the window. It was not the rising and departure of the Padre and my Granddad, seeing that I was now alone in the cabin. And it was not the noise created by blue-eyed Squire as he chawed and chawed on a bone. No, it was those noisy crows. I almost forgot that I had spent the night perched in an upper bunk, but I caught myself before I fell. I hopped off the buunk and landed with enough thud on the cabin floor to startle Squire to his feet. "Hey, boy. Where'd everybody go?"
I went to the window to see if I might locate the two old men, but instead I found the cawing crows, landing one after another on the snow. It appeared that some unknown benefactor had left a feast of bread crumbs and scraps.
I am not sure what it was about those noisy crows, but I was fascinated by them. The more I watched them, the more they seemed like people. Some of the crows seemed to have been old friends, chatting away while eating their share; while some of the crows you could tell were competitors with each other, complaining and pecking for more than their share, And there were a few who seemed to have chosen a solitary course, looking here and there in between and among the others, for merely for what they needed to continue being themselves. As the scraps gave out, the crows took off, one by one, just as they came. It appeared the greedy ones were the last to leave.
I finally lost interest and returned to the realm of the Padre's cabin. Squire was still gnawing his bone, rather deftly I must say. He had a way of maneuvering the bone against his front paws, almost spinning it in some well-practiced pattern of chewing down a bone, evenly.
The three candles on the table had melted down into wax free form sculptures upon the cast iron candle stands. Our lanterns were where they had been left the night before, but they looked more like plain, old farm lanterns than had before. They seemed lifeless, worn out, dusty and rusted, like lanterns you might find in any aging barn, anywhere, everywhere.
Only my boots remained, of course. Their beds made as much as old men make their beds; mine looked like a bed an early morning lad might leave. Outside the cabin not looking nearly as enchanted now in the light of day, it appeared as I had first discovered it ... including that black and brown locker.
Hmm. That back and brown locker. It had enticed me the night before; now it enticed me even more.
"Should I?" After a peek out the front door, I decided that I would, though I never answered my own question about the should of opening it.
It opened smoothly, no squeak, no resistance.
Inside was a surprisingly large but well-ordered stash of Padre's things. Several small black notebooks, a bundle of letters bound with a leather lace, a small Bible in fine, soft leather, and Missal with an unknown symbol imprinted on its front cover, like three W's interlocking midst a wreath of ivy. I reached for the little black book that devout Catholics seem to carry. I lifted it. It felt quite light to the touch. It was thinner that I first thought. The spine of the cover had lost its edge, the leather worn away in most places. The pages were edged in gold, though the gold had grown dark with time. A scarlet ribbon marked a certain place within the missal. The page it marked had the words "The Feast of Saint Anselm" written in that intricate Old English typeface across the top.
Before I read on, I sensed that I was treading into some sacred ground so I returned to the little black book to its place. Beside it a deep blue felt bag rested, a blue that was deeper and richer than royal blue. My hand felt the bag and I could tell it held something of hard substance. I loosened the black drawstring that allowed the blue cloth to fall. A simple, pewter cup, a chalice maybe of modest heritage. And engraved upon it that same symbol, those three W's and ivy wreath. The cup was old, I could tell, yet it was still perfect and polished, something to had always been held reverently by someone who understood its reverence.
The guilt of my having invaded this holy of holy of private places soon became too much to resist. I returned it all to where I had found it and closed the lid.
And then I did no more than wait.