"As One Having Authority"
"AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY."
THE ramshackle little train of three cars was joggling slowly on as only a Southern railroad train can joggle, its whole frame shaking and jarring and rattling in an agony of exertion, utterly out of proportion to the progress it was making. It put me in mind, somehow, of the way a very aged negro saws wood when he sees charitable gentlefolk coming along the road.
In the seat beside me Mr. John McMarsters fidgeted—fidgeted for New York, for the New York papers, for news of the races, for somebody to talk horse with, for a game of cards, or pool, or billiards, or anything that could be called a game. These were the things that made life sweet to Handsome Jack, and these things being denied him for the time being, he fidgeted. He tugged at his great fair mustaches, shifted about his seat, twisted and untwisted his long legs; his face twitched and grimaced, and from time to time he swore under his breath in a futile and scattering way.
Then his light-blue boyish eyes began to wander over the car in a blank, searching stare, and I knew he was looking for "a real live sport." Yes, I knew he would gladly have exchanged my society for that of the humblest jockey from a Kentucky stable, and that our twenty years of friendship would count as naught in the balance. Yet I did not repine. It is the way of the world. I turned to my book and took a walk with Mr. John Evelyn to see King Charles go by.
Suddenly I felt Jack grasp my arm.
"Say!" he said, "look there! What kind of a boss parson do you call that?"
He pointed to a magnificent old man in the dress of the church, who sat facing us at the other end of the car.
"How's that?" said Jack, who had been graduated of the Bowery and dropped by Columbia College. "Get on to the physique! Why, that man has no business to be a dominie. He was built to fight. Say! he must have been right in his good time when Heenan and Morrissey were on deck. He must have been a beautiful man. How do you suppose they ever got him to take a religious job?"
"John," said I, laying down my book, "I know that your life is practically circumscribed by the race-track, and that you are a bigoted and intolerant sport. But will you tell me how an old New Yorker like you, and an old Ninth-Warder, can get to your age without knowing Bishop Waldegrave, by sight at least."
"Well," said Jack, flushing a little, "I suppose he keeps off my beat; and I don't worry his very much. But I'll tell you one thing, my friend. I don't know much about bishops, but I do know something about men, and I pick this man out of this car—see? And I'm going to make his acquaintance."
"What do you mean?" I cried, aghast.
"Mean?" repeated Jack. "I mean I'm going to introduce myself to him. He looks as if he'd like to have a little talk with a white man. Who's that fellow with him—that sour little prune?
"That's his nephew, Frederick Dillington," said I.
"Is it?" said Jack. "Well, I bet he's just waiting for the old man's wealth. I'll bet it on his face. Say! what wages does a bishop get? He's got big money, hasn't he? Thought so. Look at that English valet in the seat behind him. That's the correctest thing I ever saw, and the correct thing comes high. Too correct for me. I'm glad my man isn't like that. I wouldn't come home to that man at three o'clock in the morning for five hundred dollars. Why, it would be just an act of holy charity to go over and brighten that bishop up a bit. Come along!"
I talked my best to Jack. I tried my best to make him understand who and what Bishop Waldegrave was, or rather had been. I told him that the Bishop had been in his time the greatest man in his Church, and that he was famous the world over for his scholarship, his philanthropy, his vast abilities, and his splendid oratory, and his power over the hearts and minds of men. I told him that he had long ago retired from active life, and that it was more than suspected that his great mind was failing with his advancing years. I tried to explain to the honest soul that our company might not be acceptable to such a man. Then I made a hopeless blunder.
"Why, Jack," I said, "think of his age! That man may have baptized your father, and perhaps mine, for all I know."
"That does it," said Jack, rising promptly. "It's a long shot, but I take the chances. I'm going to ask him." And he sped down the aisle.
Three minutes later, I looked over the top of my Evelyn, and saw the Bishop and Jack holding the friendliest of converse, while Mr. Dillington glared at them in an unpleasant way, and the English valet took the strange scene in without anything in his face that could remotely suggest an expression. It is one peculiar thing about human nature that there is always a great deal to learn about it.
But now I began to feel uneasy on my own account. I felt sure that Jack, in the simple hospitality of his spirit, would take me into his new friendship; and I felt that much might be pardoned to Jack that might not be pardoned to me. I went back into the smoking-car, which was in the rear of the train—it was one of those trains that travel down the road with one end foremost, and up with the other end in front.
I had smoked two cigars, and was wondering how long I could hold out, when my astonished eyes saw Jack McMarsters appear in the doorway, with the Bishop leaning on his arm.
"All right, now, Bishop," I heard him say, as he and his tall charge got safely within the car, "free before the wind!"
With athletic skill, yet with a gentleness that was pretty to see, he guided the old man to the seat which I rose to give him. Then, as we settled ourselves opposite, he presented me to Bishop Waldegrave, in his own easy fashion.
"I knew you'd want to know the Bishop," he remarked to me, airily, after the brief ceremony was over. "He did baptize my father, and he thinks he baptized yours. Can you give him any pointers on your old man?"
I looked at the Bishop. He did not smile. He had accepted Jack just as all Jack's friends had accepted him. The old man's broad charity, and the profound knowledge of the world which he had possessed in his days of active service, had opened the way to his heart for all sorts and conditions of men, who bore the passport of genuineness. That passport being undoubtedly in Jack's possession, it made no difference to the Bishop that he spoke a peculiar dialect of the English language.
Moreover, we had not talked a quarter of an hour before I discovered that Jack's interpretation of the expression that the old man's face had worn was absolutely right. His kind and happy spirit was yearning for good fellowship. There was that in him which craved better companionship than his cold and soulless caretakers could give him. The dignified, thoughtful lines of his face softened as he talked to us in an eager, pleased way, rambling on of old times and old houses, and the good men and the dear women whom he had wed and buried. He seemed to grow younger as he talked.
But in a very short time he showed that he was tired, and, lying back in his seat, he fell into that curious light slumber of old age that is not all sleep, but is partly a dim revery.
Jack watched him carefully until he was "off"—as Jack expressed it—and then he whispered softly to me.
"Great, ain't he? Wish you could have seen the fun when I started to take him in here. Nephew tried to make him believe he didn't want to come. Old man wouldn't have it. Said he thought a cigar would do him good. Nephew tried it again—I couldn't hear what he said. Then the old man got right up on his choker. His voice was just as sweet and mild as a May morning, but when he put the emphatics on, it sounded like a chunk of ice falling off a five-story building. 'Fred-er-ick,' says he, 'I am GOING into the SMOKING-CAR to have a little CONVEKSATION with the grandson of my old FRIEND, Judge McMarsters. I will see you, Frederick, on my RETURN.' Frederick turned pale green, and sat down. He just muttered something about sending the valet with him in case he wanted anything. I waited until the Bishop had a move on him, and then I slipped back and tapped Nephew Fred on the shoulder. 'Look here,' says I, 'your man stays just where he is. You may not have had a father yourself, but I have.' You don't think I said too much, do you?"
"Oh, no, not at all," said I, "not in the least. He would have been quite justified in throwing you out of the car, that's all."
"That fellow?" said Jack, disdainfully; "why, he couldn't lift one side of me." And I gave it up.
"Now, you said," continued Jack, nodding toward the dozing Bishop, "that his head was going. 'Tisn't, though. It's nothing but old age. When a man gets to be as old as that, he talks a while and then he kind of loses his grip, just for a minute—see? All he needs is a little help. My old father was like that for the last six years of his life, and I learned how to manage him. When I saw he was likely to go to pieces, I just put my hand on him—so—quiet, but firm; and I whispered to him very low: 'Steady down. Governor, steady down—don't break! Then he pulled himself right together; and if he thought nobody had noticed him he'd be just as straight as you or I. That's the way to handle them!"
I was wondering if this was the way he had "handled" Bishop Waldegrave, when the train began to slow down by a little variation on the series of jerks and bumps, and the negro brakeman put his head in the doorway and shouted:
"Ashe River Ferry!"
The Bishop still dozed—in fact, he was fast asleep now—too sound asleep to be awakened by the bump with which we finally stopped. Jack and I went to the door and looked out. We saw a forlorn place at the forlornest hour of a forlorn day. Even in full summer, Ashe River Ferry could not have been an attractive town. Seen in the dim light of a late spring evening, it was a singularly depressing specimen of the shiftless and poverty-stricken little settlements that dot the waste spaces of the South—towns, if towns they may be called, that come into existence solely to supply the special needs of some little group of railroad operatives. A dozen hideously ugly frame houses, forty or fifty negro shanties, a few acres of wretched farm-land, sparsely bristled with dead corn-stalks, one to a hill; blackened stumps spotting great stretches of half-cleared land; thin, sickly pine-woods hemming in the horizon on three sides; on the fourth a broad, muddy, dreary river, swollen and turbulent from the spring freshets, with the same poor pine-woods on the other side, scratches of black against the one pale-yellow line that cleft the dull gray sky to the eastward If one lived a hundred years at Ashe River Ferry, he could make no more of it than this.
Looking out on this unengaging prospect, I was surprised to see Jack's face suddenly light up with mirth, and to hear him break into a low, happy laugh. Then he touched my shoulder and pointed down the track.
"How's that for a joke on the nephew?" he said.
I looked down toward the river at the little ferry-slip, with its crazy piles and rusty chains. The ferry-boat, which was likewise crazy and rusty, could carry but one car at a time, and it had just started on its first trip with car No. 1 of our train. On the rear platform stood two figures—the impassive English valet and Mr. Frederick Dillington, who was anything but impassive. We were too far away to hear what he was saying to the stolid deck-hands below him, but there was not the slightest need of words to explain the situation, or to make us understand that Mr. Dillington was executing every variation in his power on the simple theme of "stop the boat!"—and that his solo was receiving choral responses of "it can't be done."
And it was not done. The ferry-boat puffed and wheezed on her way as well as she was able—and, indeed, nothing but the strange stupidity of selfishness could have blinded Mr. Dillington to the fact that, in such wild and rough water, the clumsy craft could ill afford to go one foot further than was absolutely needful.
Jack leaned forward with his hands on his knees, his face fairly wrinkled with merriment, and he crowed and chuckled with glee.
"Oh, I'd have given a hundred dollars for this!" he said. "And if that boat gets stuck on the other side, I make it five hundred."
"John," I said, "is not this one of the occasions when you are an idiot? What should we do if we were left with that old gentleman on our hands?"
"Why," said Jack, heartily and simply, "bless your soul, I'd take care of him! I'd give him a better time than he's had in twenty years, too; and don't you make a mistake."
That day, for sure, the gods were with Mr. John McMarsters. The ferry-boat did not get stuck on the other side, to his deep disappointment, but she fulfilled his desire by a different method of procedure—she fixed things, as he remarked, in her own blooming, pig-headed way.
For, on her return trip, as she approached the shore, she ran well up the river to avoid being carried past her slip by the furious current, and, miscalculating her direction, came against the trembling old spiles with a force that wrecked nearly half one side of the slip, and smashed her own wheel-box into a tangle of kindling wood and twisted iron.
"Great Cæsar's Ghost!" shouted Jack, pounding his knees with delight, "she's done it, she's done it! Say! who do I pay that five hundred to? Do the niggers get it, or do I blow it in on the Bishop?"
I tried to point out some of the serious aspects of the case to Jack, but he would have none of my remonstrances.
"It's an elegant, gilt-edged lark," he said. "I'm game for it, and so are you, when you get through with your preaching. Eloping with a bishop! Holy Moses! Wait till I get back to New York and tell the boys!"
"But," said I, "it may be possible to get a boat across the river. I will go and inquire."
The veteran sport withered me with superior scorn.
"You may inquire, if you like," he said, "till your inquirer breaks, but I don't want any man to tell me he can get a boat across that river. Why, I wouldn't take a ship's yawl out there. Man, it's half a flood!"
I did inquire, however, and was scorned and despised by every native to whom I addressed my inquiry; so we went back to the car to break the news to the Bishop, who was awake by this time.
At first he took it quite hard. He seemed to be distressed and apprehensive, and said "Oh, dear, oh, dear!" over and over again, in a gentle, dismayed way.
Then Jack took it upon himself to address a brief philosophical discourse to the Bishop.
"Everything goes, Bishop," he said; "see? We've got to take things as they come, and if they come mixed, why we've got to take them that way. One day you play in luck; the next you ain't in it, but it all goes—see? If you're all right, that goes. If you get it in the neck, that goes too. That's the way I look at it. I don't know if I know, but that's the way I look at it. Everything goes. Is that right?"
"Unquestionably you are right, Mr. McMarsters," replied the Bishop, "and you do well to remind me of the transitoriness of the annoyances which humanity is too apt to exaggerate into afflictions. But you will pardon an old man's grumbling. Old men," he said, smiling, "are allowed to grumble a little. And I am sure I should be very thankful to have fallen into such good hands."
Then, as he rose from his seat and rested his hand on Jack's arm, he cast a wistful glance at one and the other of our faces, and said, with a gentle dignity that honored us both:
"I am afraid, gentlemen, I may have to ask your indulgence for the infirmities of a very old man—a very old man."
We made the Bishop fairly comfortable in the station, and I stayed with him while Jack went in search of a suitable lodging. It seemed a hopeless task, and I began to feel the weight of the responsibility that rested upon our shoulders. But within half an hour Jack was back, smiling cheerfully.
"Did you find a hotel?" I asked, eagerly.
"Hotel!" said Jack, contemptuously. "What place do you think this is, Paris or Saratoga? There ain't a hotel within ten miles. But there's a friend of mine keeps a little sporting place down by the river——"
"A friend of yours!" I exclaimed. "In this place?"
"Well, I just met him," Jack exclaimed, calmly, "about fifteen minutes ago. But he knows me—that is, he knew all about me. He lost two hundred once on a horse I owned. He's a first-rate fellow—see? and he'll take us all in and do for us in elegant shape."
"Heavens, Jack! " said I, "we can't take the Bishop to a place like that."
"Yes, we can," said Jack; "it's a first-rate place. Clean as a new pin. Regular old-fashioned sporting place. Nice old colored prints all round. Picture of Hiram Woodruff on one side of the door, and Budd Doble driving Flora Temple on the other. My friend and his wife will turn out and give the Bishop their room, and you and I sleep behind the bar. If any of the boys drop in, he'll see that they're quiet, and there won't be any game to-night—see? Oh, you needn't think I don't know the right thing for a religious swell."
I had my misgivings, but it turned out that Jack had really done very well for us. "Magonigle's" was an absurd little old two-story box on the very edge of the river, evidently a house-of-call for boating and driving men. The whole building was scarcely more than twenty feet square, but the interior was neat and cosey, and the little room up-stairs in which we installed the Bishop was simply a delightful little cabin, clean and sweet, and smelling of castile-soap and fresh linen. Magonigle himself was a hearty, kindly little Irishman, and Mrs. Magonigle a motherly, fresh-faced little body, as small for a woman as her husband was for a man. The supper she cooked was, as Jack said, a great deal too good for the Prince of Wales. It was certainly quite good enough for the Bishop. It was broiled spring chicken, fried potatoes, and hot bread, and I shall remember it while I have a palate. Nor shall I forget the India pale ale.
After supper Jack put his usual question to Magonigle:
"Say!" he demanded, "what is there to do in this town to-night? Now, don't give me any story about there being nothing. You know me. There's got to be something."
But Magonigle was firm in his assurances that there were absolutely no enjoyments to relieve the monotony of life in Ashe Biver Ferry.
"It's a dead place it is, sir. If we could get over the river I could show you, gentlemen, axing his riverence's pardon, maybe a bit of a cock-fight, but on this side of the water there's nothing to see at all, and every man in the place will be at work the night long, mending the ferry-boat. 'Tis different in the summer, sir; but in the winter time it's just dead this town is."
"Magonigle," said Jack, imperatively, "turn up something!"
Magonigle looked doubtfully at Jack, then at the Bishop, then at me; and it was to me that he addressed himself.
"Well, sir," he said, "there's something what they call a revival meeting going on out in the woods. There do be some people takes an interest in such things. They're too sickly like for me, sir, with the women screaming, and having fits, like it might be, on the ground; but if ye'd like to see it I'd be proud to hitch up the old mare, and it's an easy ride for this part of the country, where the roads is the devil, if I may speak without disrespect for his riverence."
"Niggers?" inquired Jack.
"No, sir," replied Magonigle. "White folks, such as they are. I don't rightly remember what religion they call themselves; for it's no church they have here, only meetings like this three or four times in the twelvemonth, maybe."
Jack and I looked at each other. There were limits to even Jack's audacity. We both started as the Bishop's full, deep voice joined in the conversation.
"Gentlemen," said he, "I do not in the least wish to obtrude my society upon you. I feel that I have already given you much trouble; but, if it does not conflict with your arrangements for this evening I should very much like to be one of your party. It has never been my fortune to be present at one of these gathering's, and it would deeply interest me to look on as a spectator. I do not feel that there can be any impropriety—and it is a form of worship of which I have heard much, and which I should like to see with my own eyes. But, of course, if your plans——" And he stopped.
"Why, Bishop," said Jack, "we'd sooner stay here than leave you out. Magonigle, hitch up that mare!"
It was eight o'clock when we climbed into what Magonigle called the carriage—a vehicle that was neither an express wagon nor a rockaway, but partook of the nature of both. On a road so rough that to our Northern understanding it was no road at all, we plunged into the shadowy, dreary depths of the pine-wood. The night was clearing, and through the ragged evergreens we could catch glimpses of a pale, wind-swept sky. The hot, moist, sickly smell of the pines and firs half choked us, the rough bumping of the wagon tired us and set our nerves on edge, and even Jack McMarsters had no stomach for talk.
We were all but dazed with weariness of mind and body, and with the smell of the resin-laden air, when suddenly a weird flicker of flaring torches played before our eyes, dancing slashes of yellow-orange slitting the deep gloom ahead of us, and dazzling our sleepy eyes.
Faintly there came to us across the wind, that whistled and wailed through the trees, the long-drawn-out notes of a mournful, old-fashioned hymn, a dismal tune that I knew in my boyhood. It was one of those sad, stern, denunciatory old hymns that to my memory still hold the very spirit of the dead New England Sabbath in the cheerless, hopeless melody. The singing ceased for an instant only; then there uprose a far greater volume of voices, tumbling over each other in a mad, rattling, jingling strain, a popular dance-hall air, shamelessly and grotesquely twisted into the form of a hymn. It was a harmless jigging tune enough, but linked to the words which we could now hear in the lulls of the wind, it sounded like a profane travesty.
"He's the Lily of the Valley, the bright and morning star,
He's the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.
The Bishop turned to me with a look of troubled surprise.
"Did I catch the meaning of those words?" he asked; "or did my ears deceive me? I certainly thought——"
I tried to explain to the Bishop that camp-meeting folk allowed themselves a certain freedom and familiarity in dealing with sacred subjects, which might be in bad taste, but certainly was not ill meant. But he checked me with a touch on my arm.
"Nay, nay," he said, in his old-fashioned manner, "do not misapprehend me. I had not meant to be uncharitable."
"Any tune goes with these people—see?" said Jack, "so long as it is snappy. That's 'The Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane.’"
"Is it, indeed?" said the Bishop.
Magonigle led the way, and we followed him into the circle of wavering, smoking kerosene torches. At first the light dazzled our eyes, but after a few moments we could take note of the picture of gaunt, uncouth poverty around us.
We were in a little clearing of the woods where the stumps had been roughly levelled to serve as supports for heavy, rough-hewn planks, which were the seats. The straggly pines made a black belt around this rude amphitheatre. At the further end was a low platform of rough timber, where the leaders of the meeting sat. Here the smoky lamps were thickest, and they cast a yellow glare on a little patch of smooth ground that we could see had been trodden bare by many feet. Here stood one bench, separate from all the rest, which might have held a dozen people, but nobody sat there as we first saw it. Between two and three hundred people were scattered round among the other benches. They were all "poor whites," children of the wilderness, a class apart by themselves; and poverty, ignorance, and loneliness stared out of every sallow face. They all turned to look at us as we entered, but it was with a vacant, self-absorbed look, and then their eyes went back to the platform and the man who stood on it, or rather walked and leaped and staggered on it.
He was a man between forty and fifty years of age, with a straggling beard and long hair; tall, haggard, and hungry-looking, like the rest; but with a light of intelligence in his face and a consciousness of power in his bearing that set him above his auditors. He was accustomed to public speaking; his voice was harsh and unpleasant, but strong and clear, and in spite of its disagreeable quality it had certain curiously caressing and persuasive tones in it. We did not need to study the dumb, brute-like interest of the faces of his hearers to know that this man had laid a spell upon their dull spirits, and that he spoke to each one as if they stood hand-in-hand.
"Oh, my brethren," he cried, raising his long arms high in air, and throwing his lank frame forward in convulsive excitement; "oh, my sisters, the hour is nigh at hand—the hour of grace—the hour of deliverance! For three days have we labored here, for three days have we sought and struggled and prayed for the blessing to come, and no answer has come. But now it's coming, it's coming, it's coming, sinners; I know it's coming! I feel it right here in my heart! Oh, glory, hallelujah! Call with me, all of you, for it's nigh at hand! Salvation's right over you, right by your side! It's touching you right now! Call with me! Oh, Glory! Glory! Glory!"
A few weak cries came up from the outer edges of the throng.
"That won't do," shouted the revivalist, waving his arms in the air and beating the platform with his feet, "that won't do! I want you all to shout with me! I want you to shout so that the Lord hears you! Now once more! Glory! Glory!"
"Glory!" thundered Jack McMarsters, next to me.
"Be quiet, you devil," I whispered, grasping him by the arm.
"Got to help them out," said Jack. "Glory! Glory!"
And as his big voice rang out upon the air the whole crowd followed him as if a sudden madness had seized them, and the torches flickered as one wild, deafening shout of "Glory! Glory! Glory!" rose up to the bleak sky. The sweat poured down the preacher's face as he joined in the shout, quivering from head to foot.
"That's it!" he fairly yelled. "I knew it was coming! I knew it had to come! Now, who is the first to come forward? Who is the first to come to this bench? Who is the first to come to this throne of glory and be born again? Oh, don't wait, don't linger an instant, or the moment may be forever lost! Hell eternal or eternal life! Who is the first? Who is the first to save a soul from eternal hell?"
He stretched his arms out as if he were feeling for something in space. Suddenly the long fore-finger of his right hand pointed directly at a sickly looking woman on a near-by bench.
"Oh, my sister!" he cried out, "do you feel it? has it come to you? Are you the first on whom the Lord has descended? Come forward, come forward! Come to the seat of those who wait for the Lord—come!"
The woman arose, and slowly and feebly, her eyes fixed on the face of the preacher, she came forward as one who had no power to resist.
"I knew it, I knew it!" the revivalist shouted. "Come forward, my sister, and when you have touched that blessed bench grace will come to you as your soul wrestles in agony. I can see it working. I can see the hand of the Lord upon you!"
The woman reached the bench as he spoke, and touched it with her thin, quivering hand, and a hysterical shriek, horrible to hear, burst from her. Every figure in the crowd behind her bent forward, and cries of "Glory! Glory!" rent the air. But none came from Jack this time, for the woman was lying on her back across the bench, her poor, thin form writhing and twisting, clasping and unclasping her hands until her nails tore the worn flesh.
I looked on with a shuddering sickness. My brain whirled. I could not make myself believe that it was real, that it was true, that I saw this thing going on before my eyes. Then I became conscious of a sensation of acute physical pain, and, looking down, I saw that the Bishop had grasped my wrist, and that his strong fingers had closed on it in a grip that seemed to drive the flesh into the bone. I understood what that grasp meant when I looked at his face. He was pale as death, and the features were fixed in a sternness that struck cold to my heart.
And all this time the revivalist shouted to the sobbing, swaying crowd.
"Come," he cried, "come, all who would be saved from hell! Here is one who has the grace. Who will join her? Who will save his soul to-night? This is the only way, and this may be the only moment! Who comes forward for salvation?"
The Bishop was breathing heavily, with long, trembling breaths, but I noticed that his expression had changed. It was no longer stern. It was strange and sad, and his look was fixed on something far away—far beyond the blackness of the black woods behind the madman who shrieked upon the platform. I felt a sudden fear, and turned toward Jack.
He was not by my side. I looked round and saw him at the rail that enclosed the clearing. He was placing a white-faced child in a woman's arms, and I saw by his gestures that he was forcing her to leave that place of horror. In a moment he was back, and, with one glance at me, he sat down on the other side of the Bishop and laid his steady hand on the old man's arm.
"Come!" screamed the man on the platform. "Come and choose between the Lord and hell! Every soul here is hanging over the fires of hell eternal. Come and be saved!"
But already, on the bench, under it, and on all sides of it lay a score of struggling, agonized human beings, beating the ground, tearing their very flesh in the exaltation of fear and frenzy, choking, gasping; and through it all, shrieking mad and awful appeals to the Most High; while the crowd around them, all on their feet, shouted and yelled in incoherent delirium.
"Come! come!" the voice on the platform rose above the din. "Be saved while there is yet time."
My heart stood still. The Bishop had risen to his feet, and his gigantic figure towered up as he spread out his hands above the crowd; and, as his deep tones rang out clear and dominant in that hideous Babel, a sudden silence fell upon them all.
"——The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who desireth not the death of a sinner, but rather that he may turn from his wickedness and live, hath given power, and commandment, to his ministers, to declare and pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardoneth and absolveth all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe his holy Gospel."
The madness had gone—utterly gone—out of that stricken throng. The struggling figures around the bench ceased to struggle. They raised their heads as they lay upon the ground, and every face in the clearing was turned toward the Bishop, wearing a look of eager wonderment which I shall never forget. The Bishop, his eyes still far away, his hands stretched out over the people, went on:
"——Wherefore let us beseech him to grant us true repentance, and his Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do at this present; and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure and holy; so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord."
And the people answered, "Amen."
When he had finished he steadied himself by my shoulder, at first with a nervous pressure; but in a moment I felt the tension of his muscles relax. Then, in a voice that was almost feeble, so tender had it grown, he turned toward the East, and, in that abiding silence, he pronounced the Benediction.
For a moment, until they began to disperse softly and silently the Bishop stood erect, then he sank back into his seat, with one arm around my neck and one around Jack's.