Tracks

Pauline Puyat Character Analysis

Pauline Puyat is a mixed-blood woman who is the other narrator of the book. She has also lost all of her family except her father. She rejects her father’s commitment to Native ways, and so she moves to Argus to live with her Aunt Regina and cousin Russell and work in the butcher shop with Fleur. Pauline watches Fleur from afar, curious about how she is able to win so consistently at the poker game, and then bearing witness to the men who attack Fleur for this success. The events of this night haunt her. After leaving the butcher shop, Pauline moves in with Bernadette Morrissey, learning how to prepare the dead for the afterlife. She begins attending Catholic mass and allows Napoleon Morrissey to seduce her, but feels no romance toward him. Instead, she envies the companionship between Fleur and Eli, and visits the medicine doctor to procure a love medicine to coax Eli into having an affair with Sophie, Bernadette’s young daughter. Pauline then discovers she is pregnant with Napoleon’s baby and attempts to abort the child, but Bernadette convinces her to keep it. Pauline keeps the pregnancy a secret and gives the baby, Marie, to Bernadette, so that she can join a nearby convent. At the convent, Pauline denies her Native heritage, believing herself to be fully white and committing herself to suffering in Christ’s name. She attempts to convert Fleur’s family, but they mock Pauline for these efforts. Pauline reveals that she is responsible for the men who died in the storm, having locked them in their freezer. She kills Napoleon for impregnating her, but this death is also blamed on Fleur. By the end of the book Pauline has changed her name to Sister Leopolda and has left to teach in a Catholic school. Pauline is the clearest example of the rejection of Native ways. She is known as a liar, and her sections of the story are to be read as possibly unreliable, either as a result of her dishonesty or because what she claims to be religious visions might instead be evidence of mental instability.

Pauline Puyat Quotes in Tracks

The Tracks quotes below are all either spoken by Pauline Puyat or refer to Pauline Puyat. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Tradition, Assimilation, and Religion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Harper Perennial edition of Tracks published in 2011.
Chapter 2 Quotes

But he scorned me when I would not bead, when I refused to prick my fingers with quills, or hid rather than rub brains on the stiff skins of animals. “I was made for better,” I told him. “Send me down to your sister.”

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Regina Puyat
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
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It wasn't that Fleur won that hooked them in so, because she lost hands, too. It was rather that she never had a freak deal or even anything above a straight. She only took on her low cards, which didn’t sit right. By chance, Fleur should have gotten a full or a flush by now. The irritating thing was she beat with pairs and never bluffed, because she couldn’t, and still she ended each night with exactly one dollar. Lily couldn’t believe, first of all, that a woman could be smart enough to play cards, but even if she was, that she would then be stupid enough to cheat for a dollar a night.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Lily Vedder
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:
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That spring, I went to help out in her cabin when she bore the child, whose green eyes and skin the color of an old penny have made more talk, as no one can decide if the child is mixed blood or what, fathered in a smokehouse, or by a man with brass scales, or by the lake. The girl is bold, smiling in her sleep, as if she knows what people wonder, as if she hears the old men talk, turning the story over. It comes up different every time, and has no ending, no beginning. They get the middle wrong too. They only know they don’t know anything.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Lulu Nanapush
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 3 Quotes

I am a man so I don’t know exactly what happened when the bear came into the birth house, but they talk among themselves, the women, and sometimes they forget I’m listening. So I know that when Fleur saw the bear in the house she was filled with such fear and power that she raised herself on the mound of blankets and gave birth. Then Pauline took down the gun and shot point-blank, filling the bear’s heart. She says so anyway. But she says that the lead only gave the bear strength, and I’ll support that. For I heard the gun go off and then saw the creature whirl and roar from the house. It barreled past me, crashed through the brush into the woods, and was not seen after. It left no trail either, so it could have been a spirit bear. I don’t know.

Related Characters: Nanapush (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Pauline Puyat
Related Symbols: Bears, Tracks/Trails
Page Number: 60
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 4 Quotes

In the morning, before they washed in Matchimanito, they smelled like animals, wild and heady, and sometimes in the dusk their fingers left tracks like snails, glistening and wet. They made my head hurt. A heaviness spread between my legs and ached. The tips of my breasts chafed and wore themselves to points and a yawning eagerness gripped me.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Eli Kashpaw
Related Symbols: Matchimanito, Tracks/Trails
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Virgin stared down. Her brow was clear, Her cheeks bone-pale, Her lips urgently forming a secret syllable, all of a sudden trembled. That’s when I saw the first tear. There were more. Although Her expression never changed, She wept a hail of rain from Her wide brown eyes. Her tears froze to hard drops, stuck invisibly in the corners of Her mouth, formed a transparent glaze along her column throat, rolled down the stiff folds of Her gown and struck the poised snake.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Sophie Morrissey Lazarre
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 6 Quotes

After that we made a plan together to hide the fact of my condition. We were both clever with materials and scissors, and between us we devised a concealing dress that would allow me to accompany Bernadette until I became too advanced. Once that happened, I would not venture off the farm. She would deliver me, having knowledge in her hands of birth as well as death.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Bernadette Morrissey
Page Number: 132
Explanation and Analysis:
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“Accept this,” I asked Him when night after night the cold gripped me in tight claws and I shook so hard I could not sleep. “And this,” every time I sat to eat and halved my bread. When my stomach pinched, “This also, my Lord.” When the blood rushed back into my frozen hands after taking the sheets off the line, “This too. This. And this.”

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker)
Page Number: 136
Explanation and Analysis:
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As a young man, he had guided a buffalo expedition for whites. He said the animals understood what was happening, how they were dwindling. He said that when the smoke cleared and hulks lay scattered everywhere, a day’s worth of shooting for only the tongues and the hides, the beasts that survived grew strange and unusual. They lost their minds. They bucked, screamed and stamped, tossed the carcasses and grazed on flesh. They tried their best to cripple one another, to fall or die. They tried suicide. They tried to do away with their young. They knew they were going, saw their end.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Nanapush
Page Number: 139
Explanation and Analysis:
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He also wanted to see my hairshirt, insisted on it no matter how many times I denied I wore one. But at last, in a distracted moment, I confessed that I had made a set of underwear from potato sacks, and when I wore it the chafing reminded me of Christ’s sacrifice. This delighted him, encouraged him. He was curious to know how the undergarments were sewed, if I had to take them off to perform the low functions. He suggested after mock-serious thought that I might secretly enjoy the scratch of the rough material against my thighs.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Nanapush
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
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Then Fleur washed me, but I warned myself not to experience any pleasure. I sat down in the water, felts its heat as a sharp danger, but then I forgot. The child soaped my back with a slick plant, and scrubbed the agonizing itch of rough twine and harsh woolens. I gave her my hand. She washed each finger, then each toe. Fleur pared the overgrown nails with a knife. The girl rinsed away the sting of nettles, aggravation of hooked burrs. She dislodged the invisible strands of screwgrass that had woven into my skin. Fleur poured a pitcher of warm water over me and then began to shampoo my head and hair. It was so terrible, so pleasant, that I abandoned my Lord and all His rules and special requirements.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Fleur Pillager, Lulu Nanapush
Page Number: 154
Explanation and Analysis:
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Chapter 8 Quotes

What I told them to do, then, they accomplished. My fingers closed like hasps of iron, locked on the strong rosary chain, wrenched and twisted the beads close about his neck until his face darkened and he lunged away. I hung on while he bucked and gagged and finally fell, his long tongue dragging down my thighs. I kicked and kicked away the husk, drove it before me with the blows of my feet. A light began to open in the sky and the thing grew a human shape, one that I recognized in gradual stages. Eventually, it took on the physical form of Napoleon Morrissey.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Napoleon Morrissey
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
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For Christ’s purpose is not for us to fathom. His love is a hook sunk deep into our flesh, a question mark that pulls with every breath. Some can dull themselves to the barb’s presence. I cannot. I answer with the ring of fidelity, with the veil. I will pray while my hair is chopped from my head with a pair of shears. I will pray as I put on my camphor-smelling robes, and thereafter I’ll answer to the name I drew from Superior’s hand.

Related Characters: Pauline Puyat (speaker), Sister Saint Anne
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:
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Pauline Puyat Character Timeline in Tracks

The timeline below shows where the character Pauline Puyat appears in Tracks. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2: Summer 1913, Miskomini-geezis, Raspberry Sun
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Pauline, a second narrator, tells of the first time Fleur drowned as a child. She is... (full context)
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...by Pete Kozka. Her coworkers are three men: Lily Veddar, Tor Grunewald, and Dutch James. Pauline’s Aunt Regina has remarried to Dutch James, though he hasn’t adopted her son Russell. (full context)
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Pauline reveals that she asked her father to be sent south to live in the town... (full context)
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Pauline recognizes that Russell is industrious, while she herself falls into daydreams of what her life... (full context)
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Pauline admires Fleur, who refuses to tell Pauline about what happened in the time of the... (full context)
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...sits down to play with them, and Lily’s dog snaps at Fleur, but immediately recoils. Pauline and Russell hide to watch what will happen, but Fleur knows the children are there... (full context)
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Fleur plays steadily, but the men know she can’t bluff. Pauline goes to sleep on a mound of sawdust, and when she wakes up, the men... (full context)
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Pauline becomes Fleur’s shadow, copying her every move. In August, Pete and Fritzie head north to... (full context)
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When the men leave the table, Pauline drags Russell with her to follow them. Lily follows Fleur into the hog pen, trapping... (full context)
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...what happened to Fleur, and goes outside to brood. Stepping outside to call Russell indoors, Pauline can see that a tornado is gathering. When she steps back inside, the men have... (full context)
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...the wreckage, eventually uncovering the meat locker, which was locked from the outside. Pete, Fritzie, Pauline, and Russell enter to find the men, dead, huddled around a card game. When the... (full context)
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Pauline leaves Argus. Fleur has moved back to Matchimanito. Pauline says she is the only one... (full context)
Chapter 3: Fall 1913-Spring 2014, Onaubin-geezis, Crust on the Snow Sun
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...invites her to catch up in his cabin, but Fleur just smiles and walks on. Pauline returns to the reservation soon after, as well. The people on the reservation know something... (full context)
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...that she shouldn’t have left the reservation. They play cards together and Nanapush mentions that Pauline has also returned home with a story. Fleur counters with the comment that Puyat people... (full context)
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Nanapush explains to Lulu that Pauline was always unclassifiable as a person and uncomfortable to be around, so they tried to... (full context)
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...her own in her house, keeping the table well set until finally, in the winter, Pauline shows up while Nanapush is visiting. Pauline tells Margaret all that happened in Argus, though... (full context)
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Pauline has recently become Bernadette’s assistant in preparing the dead for burial, and sometimes Pauline also... (full context)
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Pauline seems relieved to have finally shared her story. Margaret is happy to study all of... (full context)
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Fleur’s labor begins. Pauline runs to fetch Margaret, as she might be the grandmother. Nanapush paddles Margaret across the... (full context)
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...its hind legs and Fleur, filled with fear and power at the sight, gives birth. Pauline takes the gun down off the wall and shoots the bear point blank, but the... (full context)
Chapter 4: Winter 1914-Summer 1917, Meen-geezis, Blueberry Sun
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Pauline reveals that she left Argus because the men haunt her dreams. Dutch James, the only... (full context)
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...of crops and animals. Sophie is the older of Bernadette’s daughters, and Philomena the younger. Pauline tells Bernadette that her Aunt Regina and Dutch had beaten her when she lived with... (full context)
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Pauline at first feels lighter since telling the story of what happened in Argus to Margaret,... (full context)
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When Mary Pepewas dies in Pauline’s company, Pauline is finally able to rest again. Pauline goes with Bernadette to Mary’s house,... (full context)
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After this night, Pauline feels as though she has become holy, learning how to prepare the dead and, instead... (full context)
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Pauline can feel the electricity between Eli and Fleur, and it spurs a jealous lust in... (full context)
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When Pauline and Napoleon wake at the morning light, they try to have sex again. Gossip about... (full context)
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A year passes as Pauline continues to assist Bernadette, sometimes going out on her own to attend to the dead,... (full context)
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One night Pauline dreams of Eli, and awakes next to Sophie, noticing how beautiful she is. She comes... (full context)
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One day Bernadette stumbles on Napoleon cornering Pauline behind the barn. Pauline escapes, changing the subject to suggest that they hire another man... (full context)
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Two days later, Eli shows up at the Morrisseys’ to work. Pauline has acquired a sack of medicine powder from Moses, who forces Pauline to tell him... (full context)
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...kitchen with a water jug, a loaf of doctored bread, and a block of butter. Pauline sneaks out to watch, imagining herself into Sophie’s body and controlling the girl’s actions. Sophie... (full context)
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Pauline then reveals herself and tells Sophie to go home or she’ll be punished, but Sophie... (full context)
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Pauline worries she has gone too far and that Eli might know she had something to... (full context)
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Sophie kneels, as if possessed, outside Fleur’s cabin. Pauline arrives and tries to break Sophie’s trance. Fleur tells her there’s no need to do... (full context)
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...leaves and returns to the woods when he realizes that Fleur knows what he’s done. Pauline returns to the Morrisseys’. Clarence slips out and Napoleon approaches Pauline, reaching into her blouse... (full context)
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...are unable to move Sophie, no matter how hard they try. The men leave, and Pauline stays to assess that Sophie has not changed since she left Fleur’s cabin, aside from... (full context)
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A vision then appears to Pauline and Sophie, of the Virgin crying, but Pauline refuses to reveal what she saw to... (full context)
Chapter 6: Spring 1918-Winter 1919, Payaetonookaedaed-geeziz, Wood Louse Sun
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Pauline realizes she is pregnant, but doesn’t know when she might be due. Pauline has already... (full context)
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Pauline and Bernadette plan to hide the pregnancy as long as Pauline promises not to try... (full context)
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Bernadette also insists that Napoleon not show his face to Pauline, and makes him stay in the barn. Pauline watches him eat from her window and... (full context)
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...comes, and the men gather the last of the wheat. The armistice bells clang, keeping Pauline awake. She goes into labor, Bernadette coaching her through, but Pauline realizes that she doesn’t... (full context)
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Pauline tells Bernadette that she wants herself and the child to die so that the baby... (full context)
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At the convent, Pauline rises earlier than all the others to begin her chores. She is hungry and cold,... (full context)
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Many people die that winter, and Pauline tends to them. God tells Pauline that she must make room for him in the... (full context)
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Pauline tells Sister Saint Anne that God visits her in the dark and talks to her,... (full context)
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Pauline relays a story from Nanapush about guiding a group of white men to hunt buffalo.... (full context)
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Pauline goes to Fleur’s cabin with the goal of converting those inside. Fleur opens the door... (full context)
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Fleur brings up Marie, and Pauline claims to know nothing about her, but Fleur identifies that this can’t be true—because Pauline... (full context)
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...who spends much of his time at the Pillager cabin and is there now, mocks Pauline, asking to see her hairshirt. She reveals that she has made herself underwear of scratchy... (full context)
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Pauline continues to visit Fleur’s cabin, and Nanapush notices that she wears her shoes on the... (full context)
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Nanapush, though, has not given up on teasing Pauline. On a day when Pauline needs badly to use the outhouse, Nanapush brews some sugary... (full context)
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...condom with the tea, and says that the child was made of nothing but water. Pauline is in agony, and the condom bursts, spilling tea everywhere. Pauline runs from the room,... (full context)
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Back at the convent, Pauline imposes new limits on her life. She won’t allow herself to move at night while... (full context)
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Fleur offers to wash Pauline’s clothes so that she can come inside. Fleur tells Lulu to gather snow to melt... (full context)
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Pauline then notices that Fleur is bleeding, and Fleur asks Pauline to retrieve some alder for... (full context)
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...then goes to the lean-to to gather more roots and powders, aware and angry that Pauline boiled the wrong thing. She boils a new mixture and drinks it down. She tries... (full context)
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Pauline is surprised at all the Indians she sees on this path with them. She sees... (full context)
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The men look at Pauline, and she is no longer invisible. She can tell they know it was her who... (full context)
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Pauline sees herself out, saying she’ll send Father Damien and Bernadette. Margaret, holding a knife, spits... (full context)
Chapter 7: Winter 1918-Spring 1919, Paguk Beboon, Skeleton Winter
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News comes from town. Pauline has taken her vows. Sophie and Clarence Morrissey have married their cousins, the Lazarres. Sophie’s... (full context)
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...family so that he might survive his grief. As they prepare the fire and stew, Pauline approaches the tent they’ve built, and Fleur and Margaret arrive, too. (full context)
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...meat from the boiling pot with his hands and gives it to Fleur to eat. Pauline approaches the pot, and Margaret tries to quietly nudge her out of the tent so... (full context)
Chapter 8: Spring 1919, Baubaukunaetae-geezis, Patches of Earth Sun
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Pauline sees her burned arms as a sign that Christ is weak in comparison to the... (full context)
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Sister Saint Anne pinches Pauline’s nose to get her to open her mouth for the soup, and Pauline resolves to... (full context)
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Pauline goes out, her body newly fleshy from having been force-fed in the convent, leaving strange... (full context)
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...Damien launches a canoe onto the water, but the water carries him back to shore. Pauline sees the Morrisseys approach, including Napoleon and young Marie. The Kashpaws and Pillagers retreat, but... (full context)
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Pauline looks for a sign, and finally sees Fleur standing on the shore. Pauline calls to... (full context)
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Night falls, and Pauline tries to bail out the boat. The numbers on shore dwindle. Pauline reveals that she... (full context)
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Pauline stands in the boat and strips off her clothes, clutching only her rosary. The boat... (full context)
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Pauline convinces herself that what she has done is no sin, because there was no way... (full context)
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Pauline shares that she is now recovered and about to be initiated by the bishop, taking... (full context)