Summary and Analysis
It takes a month to build Vaillant's wagon. Latour believes this will be his final parting with his good friend. Vaillant believes Divine Providence brought him back to Santa Fe just in time for him to receive orders to Denver, but Latour confesses he brought Vaillant back because he was lonely for his company. Vaillant realizes how difficult it is for Latour to make friends.
When Vaillant tells Latour that he is taking Contento with him to Denver, Latour tells him to take Angelica as well, because the mules will not understand why they must be separated. His friend's consideration for the animals' relationship causes Vaillant to cry, dropping a tear on the letter he is writing.
Vaillant leaves the next day with Sabino and his oldest son. Latour rides part of the way with him, bids him goodbye, and rides back alone with his thoughts of solitude. But he is filled with a presence when he enters his study that brings him peace. He believes the presence to be Mary, the Queen of Heaven. The people of Santa Fe make elaborate jewelry and clothing for a wooden figure of Mary. Latour realizes that the Mexicans display their devotion through art, much like people of other cultures and civilizations. Even before the birth of Christ, pagan artists tried to "achieve the image of a goddess who should yet be a woman." The Italian Renaissance artists Titian and Raphael did likewise.
Vaillant never returns to work in New Mexico. He comes back to recover from illnesses, to see Latour, but he works in the mountain mining camps from Colorado to Utah. Twice his carriage rolls into a gorge; the second time this happens, Vaillant breaks his thigh bone, which makes him lame for the remainder of his life.
Vaillant visits with Latour one last time. He tells his friend, "to fulfill the dreams of one's youth; that is the best that can happen to a man." Latour says Vaillant has been a better servant of God than he@ — that he deserves a constellation in his crown. They bless each other and say goodbye.
The two priests separate. They remain close friends, but Latour, arguably the more emotionally dependent of the two, is able to cope with the separation when he is touched by the presence of the Holy Spirit, enabling him to find comfort and companionship in his faith and vocation as a priest. The last meeting of the two men is touching for the high esteem in which they regard each other.
diadems a crown, or an ornamental headband worn as a crown.
singletrees wooden bars swung at the center from a hitch on a plow, wagon, and so on, and hooked at either end to the traces of a horse's harness.