The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse
metaphorical terms? Had the dry thin consecrated Host turned into a thick mouthful of raw, tender, bloody, sweet-tasting meat in the mouths of the sisters? And the wine to vital blood? And were they all full, as Agnes felt, satisfied and calm? They finished the Mass and stumbled back, holding one another by turns, all except for the black-eyed child, who abruptly left, quite alone, prompting Agnes to ask the nun nearest for the name of this striking person.
    “She’s a Puyat,” said the sister. “Her name is Pauline. She is here every morning, most devout, but . . .” She paused as if to say something more, but only shrugged as though, after all, she was too weak to explain.
    Once alone, Agnes went dizzy with questions.
    Had Christ’s real presence entered them? Certainly, now, they were saved from the place of skulls, from the bones of death. Were they fed with the fat of the wheat and honey out of the rock? Was this just part of the ritual or was it miraculous?
    That night, she composed Father Damien’s first letter.
March 1912
     
Gracious Leader of the Faith,
I write in humble fearfulness and wonder. To whom else might I turn? I beg you to indulge me, Your Holiness. Please forgive my attempt to explain, though it be insufficient. It is just that to reconstruct, to go back, to establish the scene requires at present a spiritual energy I cannot summon. I am reeling. I have such questions.
To wit: Have you or your holy minions knowledge of a case in which the transubstantiated body and blood of Christ has in actuality (and I mean physically, not only in a spiritual sense) nourished the flock?
In other words, did the wafer turn into visible meat, the wine to actual blood?
And also, to your understanding, would it be wrong for a cleric to request a visit by the devil, just to make certain of his physical shape?
I await your reply.
     
    SISTER HILDEGARDE’S VIEWS
     
    The Superior, Sister Hildegarde Anne, was a woman of German resourcefulness. Short, boxy, impenetrable, she had saved her sisters, as well as many others, early on that winter by ordering the church horse butchered while it still had flesh, and distributing its store of oats and grain. She had a toughness of expression unusual in a nun, and spoke bluntly. Also, she was effortlessly cheerful in a way that often outraged or frightened other people. Now, for instance, as she spoke to Father Damien in the intimacy of the kitchen, she shaved the last of that poor beast’s hooves into a pot of boiling soup water. As she worked, she hummed and then sang out, trimming the great rocky chunk of chitin with a sharp filet knife. Beside the soup pot, half a precious potato soaked in salted water. The sparsity didn’t seem to bother her. Someone had left six other potatoes and a rind of bacon, held now under lock and key. All of this would keep the religious band alive today, and today, she said, was as far as she ever went in her prayers.
    Although Agnes felt what she felt, believed what she believed, about what had happened during the Eucharist, the two exchanged no more than a significant sentence. Agnes was to find that Sister Hildegarde was of such deeply skeptical stock that she did not entirely accept her own experience as true. Hildegarde’s concerns were down-to-earth. Since she was on the reservation to be useful, she lost no time in telling Father Damien how he could make himself useful too.
    “Father,” said Hildegarde, “you must go visiting with the sacrament. The poor Indians are dying out. Now is a good time to convert them! They live like wretches anyway, and then the sweating fever takes them. Some are gone in only hours once the illness sets in, so you must be quick. Some wait for death to walk down the road. They just sit patiently, singing, drumming, and prepare to get sick. You could easily baptize them while they’re tranced.”
    “What cures this fever? Who is our doctor?” Agnes ignored the nun’s avidity regarding souls. Yes, she

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