54 OCCULT JAPAN. In their order the others followed, each crossing with as much indifference as if the bed were mother-earth. When all had gone over, all went over again. It was now the turn of the laymen. The passing of the priests had been a pageant, dignified and slow ; the procession of the common folk was its burlesque. The priests had seemed superior to the situation ; their lay brethren often fell ludicrously below it. Any one who would was invited to try his foot at it ; not, I may add, in the spirit of somewhat similar secular invitation at the circus. No deception whatever lay hidden behind the permit. For the pure are sure to cross in safety, and to him who crosses with impunity, substantial benefits accrue. Many bystanders availed themselves of the privilege. Indeed, not a few had come there for the purpose. Some did so on the pious understanding that the fire could not longer burn ; others apparently upon a more skep- tical footing. One firm believer incurred no little odium for the extreme character of his convictions. So persuaded was he of the now harmless state of the charcoal that he sauntered solemnly across, rapt in revery,
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