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I know what you 'was just.' Poor little Armor, you just pat him like a little boy and he'll feel better.

That was his thinking, and he was about to throw himself on his knees and bawl like a baby and beg forgiveness. He would've done it, too, except that when she saw the look on his face, all twisted up with shame and rage, she didn't know that he was angry at himself, she just knew that he was hurting her, and so she did what come natural to a woman who grew up like she did. She moved her fingers to make a fending, and whispered a word to hold him back.

How could you save him?

She stepped back, surprised. "I was just--"

Trying to save your brother's life. He's no doubt dead by now.

I do believe you, it just ain't like Pa--

No ma'am, it's like the devil himself, that's what it's like The spirit of evil

Seeing her falling, even before she hit the floor, he felt such a shame go through him, even worse than when her father threw him in the snow. A strong man makes me feel weak, so I go home and shove around my wife, what a big man that makes me. Here I been a Christian who never hit or hurt a man or woman, and I knock my own wife, flesh of my flesh, right down on the floor.

She stepped back, surprised. "I was just--"

I do believe you, it just ain't like Pa--

He was shamed afore his own wife, cause sooner or later she'd hear the tale from one of those children. Soon enough the tale would be all up and down the Wobbish. How Armor-of-God Weaver, storekeeper for the western country, future governor, got throwed right off a porch into the snow by his old father-in-law. They'd be laughing behind their hands, all right. They'd laugh him up and down. Never to his face, of course, cause there was hardly a soul between Lake Canada and the Noisy River who didn't owe him money or need his maps to prove their claims. Come the time when the Wobbish country was made a state, they'd tell that story at every polling place. They might like a man they laughed at, but they wouldn't respect him, and they wouldn't vote for him.

How could you save him?

It could not be that Satan was stronger than the Lord. The only possible explanation was that Thrower himself was too weak. It was his own faith that faltered.

It was the death of his plans he was facing, and his wife just had too much of that Miller family look about her. She was pretty enough, for a frontier woman, but he didn't care about pretty right now. He didn't care about sweet nights and gentle mornings. He didn't care about her working alongside him in the store. All he cared about was shame and rage.

No ma'am, it's like the devil himself, that's what it's like The spirit of evil

I do believe you, it just ain't like Pa--

You got to get that wet shirt off. How'd you get snow clear down your shirt?

How could you save him?

It was cold. He had no coat, not even his waistcoat. His shirt was already wet, and now it clung to him and froze him to the bone. He had to get indoors, but he couldn't bear to knock on anybody's door. There was only one place he could go. Up the hill to the church. Thrower had firewood there, so he'd be warm. And in the church he could pray and try to understand why the Lord didn't help him. Haven't I served you, Lord?

I do believe you, it just ain't like Pa--

Thrower knelt at the altar and cried out the name of the Lord. "Forgive thou my unbelief" He recited a litany of self-excoriation, he rehearsed all his failures of the day, until at last he was exhausted.

Only then, with his eyes sore from crying, his voice feeble and hoarse, did he realize the moment when his faith was undermined. It was when he stood in Alvin's room, asking the boy to confess his faith, and the boy scoffed at the mysteries of God. "How can he be on top of something that ain't got no top?" Even though Thrower had rejected the question as the result of ignorance and evil, the question had nevertheless pierced his heart and penetrated to the core of his belief. Certainties that had sustained him most of his life were suddenly split through by the questions of an ignorant boy. "He stole my faith," said Thrower. "I went into his room a man of God, and came out as a doubter."

Maybe she didn't mean to sound so contemptuous. It didn't matter. He knew what she meant. That him having no hidden power, there wasn't a thing he could do to help anybody. After years of being married, she still put her faith in witchery, just like her kin. He hadn't changed her a bit. "You're just the same," he said. "Evil's in you so deep that I can't pray it out of you, and I can't preach it out of you, and I can't love it out of you, and I can't yell it out of you" When he said "pray," he shoved her a little, just to make his point. When he said "preach," he shoved her harder, and she stumbled back. When he said "love," he took her by the shoulders and gave her such a shake her hair broke right out of the bun she'd made of it, and fluttered around her head. When he said "yell," he knocked her back so far she stumbled down on the floor.

Tell that to your pa

He couldn't fall on his knees before her. He couldn't take one step toward her. He couldn't even think of taking a step toward her. Her fending was so strong he staggered back, he headed for the door, he opened it and ran outside in just his shirt. Everything he'd been afraid of came true today. He probably lost his future in politics, but that was nothing compared to this: his own wife did witchery in his own home, and she did it against him, and he had no defense against it. She was a witch. She was a witch. And his house was unclean.

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