"Oh, look out there," the nearest of the mob called back. "Your're hurtin' Mr. Enraghty!"
"Well, we don't want to hurt old Saint Paul!" a mocker returned; but they pressed on wilfully, helplessly; they pushed those in front, who might have held back, and filled the entry-way and the rooms beyond. In a circle of his worshipers, kneeling at his feet, stood Dylks, while they hailed him as their God and entreated his mercy. At the scramble behind them, they sprang up and stood dazed, confronting their enemies.
"We want Dylks! We want the Good Old Man! We want the Lion of Judah! Out of the way, Little Flock!" came in many voices; but when the worshipers yielded, Dylks had vanished.
A moment of awe spread to their adversaries, but in another moment the riot began again. The unbelievers caught the spirit of the worse among them and stormed through the house, searching it everywhere, from the cellar to the garret. A yell rose from them when they found Dylks half way up the chimney of the kitchen. His captors pulled him forward into the light, and held him cowering under the cries of "Kill him!" "Tie him to a tree and whip him!" "Tar and feather him!" "Ride him on a rail!"
"No, don't hurt him!" Redfield commanded. "Take him to a justice of the peace and try him."
"Yes," the leader of the Hounds assented. "Take him to Squire Braile. He'll settle with him."
The Little Flock rallied to the rescue, and some of the herd joined them. As an independent neutral, Abel Reverdy, whom his wife stirred to action, caught up a stool and joined the defenders.
"Why, you fool," a leader of the Hounds derided him amiably, "what you want to do with that stool? If the Almighty can't help himself, you think you're goin' to help him?"
Abel was daunted by the reasoning, and even Sally stayed her war cries.
"Well, I guess there's sumpin' in that," Abel assented, and he lowered his weapon.
The incident distracted his captors and Dylks broke from them, and ran into the yard before the house. He was covered with soot and dust and his clothes were torn; his coat was stripped in tatters, and his long hair hung loose over it.
His prophecies of doom to those who should lay hands upon him had been falsified, but to the literal sense of David Gillespie he had not yet been sufficiently proved an impostor: till he should bring his daughter a strand of the hair which Dylks had proclaimed it death to touch, she would believe in him, and David followed in the crowd straining forward to reach Redfield, who with one of his friends had Dylks under his protection. The old man threw himself upon Dylks and caught a thick strand of his hair, dragging him backward by it. Redfield looked round. He said, "You want that, do you? Well, I promised." He tore it from the scalp, and gave it into David's hand, and David walked back with it into the house where his daughter remained with the wailing and sobbing women-worshipers of the desecrated idol.
He flung the lock at her feet. "There's the hair that it was death to touch." She did not speak; she only looked at it with horror.
"Don't you believe it's his?" her father roared.
"Yes, yes! I know it's his; and now let's go home and pray for him, and for you, father. We've both got the same God, now."
A bitter retort came to the old man's lips, but the abhorrent look of his daughter stayed his words, and they went into the night together, while the noise of the mob stormed back to them through the darkness, farther and farther away.
The captors of Dylks chose the Temple as the best place for keeping him till morning, when they could take him for trial to Matthew Braile; but they had probably no sense of the place where he had insolently triumphed so often as the fittest scene of his humiliation. They stumbled in a loose mob behind and before and beside him through the dim night, and tried to pass Redfield's guard to strike him with their hands or the sticks which they tore from the wayside bushes. At a little distance, a straggling troop of the believers followed, men and women, wailing and sobbing, and adoring and comforting their idol with promises of fealty, in terms of pathetic grotesqueness. A well-known voice called to him, "Don't you be afraid, God Almighty! They can't hurt a hair of your head," and the burst of savage mirth which followed Sally Reverdy's words, drowned the retort of a scoffer, "Why, there ain't hardly any left to hurt, Sally."
The noise of the talking and laughing and the formless progress of the mob hushed the nearer night voices of the fields and woods; but from a distance the shuddering cry of a screech-owl could be heard; and the melancholy call of a killdee in a pasture beside the creek. The people, friends and foes together, made their way unlighted except by the tin lantern which some one had caught from where it stood on Enraghty's gate-post.
With this one of the unbelievers took his stand at the door of the Temple after Redfield had passed in with his prisoner, and lifted it successively to the faces of those trying to enter. He allowed some and refused others, according as they were of those who denied or confessed Dylks, and a Hound at his elbow explained, "Don't want any but goats in here, to-night."
The common parlance was saturated with scriptural phrase, and the gross mockery would have been taken seriously if the speaker had not been so notoriously irreverent. As it was the words won him applause which Redfield and his friends were not able to quell. The joke was caught up and tossed back and forth; the Little Flock outside raised their hymn, the scoffers within joined in derision, and carried the hymn through to the end.
Dylks sat shrunken on the bench below the pulpit, his head fallen forward and his face hidden. Redfield and one of his friends sat on either side, and others tried to save him from those who from time to time pushed forward to strike him. They could not save him from the insults which broke again and again upon the silence; when Redfield rose and appealed to the people to leave the man to the law, they came back at him with shrieks and yells.
"Did the law keep my family from bein' broke up by this devil? My wife left me and my own brother won't speak to me because I wouldn't say he was my Savior and my God."
"I'm an old woman, and I lived with my son, but my son has quit me to starve, for all he cares, because I believe in the God of Jacob and he believes in this snorting, two-legged horse."
"My sister won't live with me, because I won't fall down and worship her Golden Calf."
"He's spread death and destruction in my family. My daughters won't look at me, and my two sons fought till they were all blood, about him."
The accusings and upbraidings thickened upon him, but Dylks sat silent, except for a low groan of what might have seemed remorse. He put his hand to the place on his head where the hair had been torn away, and looked at the blood on his fingers.
A woman stole under the guard of his keepers, and struck him a savage blow on the cheeks, first one and then the other. "Now you can see how it feels to have your own husband slap you because you won't say you believe in such a God as you are, you heathen pest!"
The guards struggled with her, and a man stooped over Dylks and voided a mouthful of tobacco juice in his face; another lashed him on the head with a switch of leatherwood: all in a squalid travesty of the supreme tragedy of the race. As if a consciousness of the semblance touched the gospel-read actors in the drama, they shrank in turn from what they had done, and lost themselves in the crowd.
The night wore away and when the red sunrise began to pierce the dusk of the Temple, where some had fallen asleep, and others drowsed as they walked to and fro to keep themselves awake, Redfield conferred with his lieutenants. Then they pulled their captive to his feet, not roughly, and moved with him down the aisle and out of the door. They left some of the slumberers still sleeping; of the others not all followed them on their way to Matthew Braile's, up through the woods and past the cornfields and tobacco patches; but with those of the Little Flock who had hung night-long about the Temple, singing and praying to their idol, they arrived, some before and some after the prisoner, at the log cabin of the magistrate. He was sitting after his habit in his splint-bottomed chair tilted against the porch wall, waiting for the breakfast which his wife was getting within. As the crowd straggled up to the porch, he tilted his chair down, and came forward with a frown of puzzle. "What's this?" he demanded; then, catching sight of a woman's eager face among the foremost, his frown relaxed and he said, "Don't all speak at once, Sally."
"'Deed and 'deed, I'm not agoun' to speak at all, Squire Braile; but if you want to know you can see for yourself that they've got the Good Old Man here, and from the tell I've hearn they want you to try him; they've been hittun' him over the face and head all night." She looked defiantly round on the unbelievers who so far joined in the Squire's grin as to burst into a general laugh, and a cry of "Good for you, Sally. You're about right."
Braile referred himself to Redfield, who mounted to the porch with the other guards, and the tattered and bedraggled Dylks in their midst. "What are you doing with this man, Jim?"
"We've brought him to you to find out, Squire Braile. You know who he is, and all the mischief he's been making in this settlement. We don't need to go into that."
"Wish you'd step in there," the Squire said, nodding toward the room opposite the kitchen, "and bring me out the Laws of Ohio. You know where it is."
His recognition of Redfield as a law-student pleased the Herd of the Lost, and one of the guards said, "All right, Jim. We'll hold him."
As Redfield disappeared within, the Squire called after him, "Bring out my table, too, will you. We'll have the trial here."
"That's all right as fer as it goes, Squire," one of the crowd before the cabin called out, "but there ain't room enough for us up there."
"Well," the Squire answered, "you've got the whole State of Ohio down there. I reckon you can find room in it, if you stand close."
He turned the joke on the crowd; which acquiesced with cheers. When Redfield returned with the large book and the small table he had been sent for, the Squire drew up to them and proclaimed silence in the Court. Then, "Who complains against this man? You, James Redfield?"
"I arrested him, but I don't complain of him more than the rest. You know what he's been doing in Leatherwood, as well as other places, for the last month or six weeks. We want his mischief stopped; we want to see what the law can do about it. We could have lynched him, but that ain't the right way, and so we all feel."
"Well, we've got to make a start, somewhere," the justice returned. "What's he accused of? What do you accuse him of?"
"Well, for one thing," Redfield said, rather reluctantly, "he professes to be Almighty God."
"And he is God, the Most High Jehovah, Maker of Heaven and Earth," came in a varying cry, from the believers who had gathered increasingly on the skirts of their enemies.
Their voices seemed to put life and courage into the prisoner, who for the first time lifted his fallen face and looked at the justice with a light of hope in his dulled eyes.
"You hear that," the old squire addressed him. "Is that your name? Are you God?"
"Thou sayest," the prisoner answered, with a sudden effrontery.
"That will do!" the old man shouted. He might have been willing to burlesque the case from his own disbelief, but he could not suffer the desecration of the hallowed words; and Dylks shrank from his eyes of fierce rebuke. "Stand away from him," he added to the guards. "Now, then, have you folks got any other charge against him? Has he stolen anything? Like a mule, for instance? Has he robbed a hen-roost? Has he assaulted anybody, or set a tobacco-shed on fire? Some one must make a charge; I don't much care what it is."
The old man scowled round on the people nearest him and down on the crowd below. The believers waited in anxious silence; the unbelievers applauded his humor with friendly laughter, and a kindlier spirit spread through them; they were beginning to see Dylks as a joke.
"Redfield,"—the Squire turned to the young man—"let's have a look at the Laws of Ohio, in such case made and provided." He opened the book which Redfield put on the table before him, and went carefully through the index; then he closed it. "There don't seem," he said, "to be any charge against the prisoner except claiming to be the Almighty; he pleads guilty to that, and he could be fined and imprisoned if there was any law against a man's being God. But there isn't, unless it's some law of the Bible, which isn't in force through reenactment in Ohio. He hasn't offended against any of our statutes, neither he nor his followers. In this State every man has a right to worship what God he pleases, under his own vine and fig-tree, none daring to molest him or make him afraid. With religious fanaticism our laws have nothing to do, unless it be pushed so far as to violate some public ordinance. This I find the prisoner has not done. Therefore, he stands acquitted."
A roar of protest, a shout of joy went up from the crowd according to their belief and unbelief. After his first plea Dylks had remained silent in becoming meekness and self-respect; now he looked wildly round in fear and hope; but he did not speak.
"Clear the way, you!" the Squire called to the people about him and below him, and he got slowly to his feet. He took the arm of the prisoner at one side, and said, "Here, Jim Redfield, you take this fellow's other arm," and as the young man helplessly obeyed, "Now!" he commanded, and with Dylks between them, they left the porch and passed through the severing crowd of friends and foes before the cabin. While they hesitated in doubt of his purpose, Braile led the way with the prisoner, acquitted, but still in custody, toward the turnpike road where the country lane passing the cabin joined it a little way off.
The crowd straggled after in patient doubt, but when the Squire halted with his captive and bade Redfield move back, the suspicions of the unbelievers began to stir.
"Now, put!" the Squire said in a low voice and loosed his hold. Dylks lifted his head alertly as he was accustomed to do when he gave his equine snort, but now he made no sound. He leaped forward and ran with vast bounds up the smooth turnpike toward the wall of woodland, where the whiteness of the highway ceased in the shadow of the trees. He far outdistanced the foremost of his pursuers, who stopped to gather the broken stone heaped along the roadside, and under the rain of these and the storm of curses that they sent after him, he escaped into the forest.
"Well, Abel," the Squire said to Reverdy, whom he found, not unexpectedly, at his elbow when he looked round, "he may not be much of a god, but he's a good deal of a racehorse, even if he didn't give his snort."
"Look here, Squire Braile," Redfield broke out in the first realization of his defeat, "I'm not sure your decision was just right."
"Well, you can appeal the case to the Supreme Court, Jim," the old man returned. "It's my breakfast time," and he stamped stiffly away down the pike and up the road to his cabin, followed by the blessings of the Little Flock.
The Little Flock had remained in stupefaction at the junction of the country road and the turnpike, helplessly watching the flight of their idol from the Herd of the Lost. When Dylks vanished in the dusk of the forest, and the last of those who had followed him came lagging breathless back, and dropped from their hands the broken stone which they had unconsciously brought with them, the Little Flock involuntarily raised their hymn, as if it had been a song of triumph; an inglorious triumph, but an omen of final victory, and of the descent of the New Jerusalem in Leatherwood.
"Never mind!" one of the Herd panted. "We'll have him out of that gulf of dark despair, yit!"
"The Lord will put forth His might," one of the Flock defied him. "But if you fellows want to feel the arm of flesh, here and now, come on!"
The Squire put himself between the forces. "I want you to keep the peace; I command the peace," he said with magisterial dignity.
"Oh, all right, Squire," a Hound applauded him. "We know you're on our side."
"Brother Braile is on the side of righteousness," the champion of the Flock answered.
The Squire turned a frowning face upon him. "If the law could have held your god, he'd have been on his way to the county jail by this time. Now, you fellows, both sides, go home, and look after your corn and tobacco; and you women, you go and get breakfast for them, and wash up your children and leave the Kingdom of Heaven alone for a while."
The weight of condemnation was for the Little Flock, but there remained discomfort for the Herd of the Lost. "And you," the Squire turned to them, "you let these folks worship any stock or stone they're a mind to; and you find out the true God if you can, and stick to Him, and don't bother the idolaters. I reckon He can take care of Himself. I command you all to disperse. Go home! Get out! Put!"
The saints and the sinners felt alike the mystical force of the law in his words and began to move away, not without threats and defiances, more or less straggling, and not altogether ceasing even after they had lost sight of one another in their parting ways.
Redfield stayed to walk home with the old man. "Of course, Squire Braile," he said, "this ain't the last of Dylks, and it ain't the last of us. It's a sin and a shame to have the thing going on among us. You know that as well as I do. It's got to be stopped. If he'd got his just dues from you—"
"You young fool," the Squire retorted, kindly, "haven't you gone far enough yet in your Blackstone to know that justice is one thing and law is another? I gave Dylks his legal deserts."
"Blackstone says the law is the perfection of reason."
"Well, you think it don't seem to be so in the State of Ohio. But I reckon it is, and so long as we look after our own souls, we can't do better than let others look after theirs in their own way. Come in and have some breakfast!" He paused before his cabin with the young man.
"No, not this morning, Squire Braile," Redfield lingered a moment, and then he said, askingly, "I didn't see old Mr. Gillespie anywhere this morning."
"I didn't notice. Where it comes to a division in public, he doesn't usually take sides against his daughter."
"He won't have to, after this."
"What do you mean?"
"Didn't you know she told him once that if he would bring her a hair of Dylks's head she would deny him? I helped him to a whole lock of it."
"Oh, you did that?" There was condemnation in the Squire's tone, and as if he had been going to express a more explicit displeasure, he hesitated. Then he said, "Well, I must be going in," and turned his back upon Redfield, who turned again into the turnpike road and took his way homeward past the long and deep stretch of woods where Dylks had found refuge.
In the middle of the forest there was a dense thicket of lower growths on a piece of dry land lifted above the waters of a swamp. The place was the lair of such small wild things as still survived in the wilderness once the haunt of the wolf and the wild cat, and the resort of the bear allured by the profusion of the huckleberries which grew there. But, except in the early fall when the annual squirrel-hunt swept over the whole country side and the summer drought had made the swamp easily passable to the gunners, the place was unmolested. Even the country boy who seeks the bounty of nature wherever she offers it, and makes the outlying property of man his prey where nature has been dispossessed, did not penetrate the thicket in his search for hazelnuts or chinquapins; it was proofed against his venture by its repute of rattlesnakes and copperheads and the rumor of ghosts and witches. Few, of men or boys, knew the approach to the interior by the narrow ridge of dry land lifted above the marsh, and Dylks did not stop in his flight till he reached the thicket and saw in it his hope of securer refuge. He walked round it through the pools which the frog and turtle haunted, twice before he found this path, overhung by a tangle of grapevines. There his foot by the instinct which the foot has where the eye fails of a path, divined the scarcely trodden way, and he found himself in a central opening among the thickly growing bushes. It was warm there, without the close heat of the woodland, and dry except for the spring of clear water that bubbled up in the heart of it, and trickled out over green mosses into the outer waters of the swamp.
The man stooped over and drank his fill, and then made his greedy breakfast on the berries that grew abundantly round, and nodded hospitably to his hand. All the time he wept, and moaned to himself in the self-pity of a hunted, fearful wretch. Then he drank again from the spring, and without rising from his knees pushed himself back a little from it, and fell over in an instant sleep.
He slept through the whole day, and at night, falling early in the shadows of the forest which thickened over his retreat, he supped, as he had breakfasted, on the wild berries and spring water, but with protesting from a stomach habitually flattered by the luxury of fried chicken and ham, and corn-pone and shortened biscuit, and hot coffee, which his adorers put before him when he laid aside his divinity and descended to the gratification of his carnal greed. He was a gross feeder, and in the midst of his fear and the joy of his escape, he thought of these things and lusted for them with a sort of thankless resentment.
He looked about for something he might kill, and he found a wounded pigeon which had fluttered into his refuge from the shot of some gunner. But he could not bring himself to eat it raw, and if he could have kindled a fire to cook it, he reflected, it would have betrayed him to his pursuers who must now be searching the woods for him. He wrung the pigeon's neck and flung it into the bushes, and then fell down and wept with his face in the grass. He had slept so long that now he could not sleep, and when his tears would come no more, he sat up and watched the night through till the dawn grayed the blue-black sky. The noises of the noiseless woods made themselves heard: the cry of a night hawk, the hooting of an owl, the whirring note of the whip-poor-will; the long, plunging down-rush of a dead branch breaking the boughs below it; even the snapping of twigs as if under the pressure of stealthy feet. These sounds, the most delicate of the sounds he heard, shook him most with fear and hope, and then with despair. The feet could be the feet of his enemies seeking him out, or of his friends coming to succor and save him; then they resolved themselves into the light pressure from little paws, the paws of the wildcat, or the coon, and there was nothing to be feared or hoped from them. The constellations wheeled over him in the clear sky, and the planets blazed. He made out the North Star from the lower lines of the Dipper; the glowing and fading of the August meteors that flitted across the heavens seemed to leave a black trace on his straining eyes. Texts of Scripture declaring how the splendors of the day and night showed forth the glory of the Being whose name he had usurped to the deceit and shame of those who trusted him, glowed and faded in his mind like those shooting stars in the sky. At one time he thought he had cried aloud for destruction in the sin which could not be forgiven, but it was only a dull, inarticulate moan bursting from his tortured breast.
The place where the hair had been torn from his head burned like fire; it burned like the wound of a man whom he had once heard tell how it felt to be scalped by an Indian; the man had recovered, but the wound had always hurt; and Dylks pitied himself that it should be so with him, and cursed himself for his unguarded boast that any one who touched a hair of his head should perish. He promised that if God would show him a little mercy, and send a raven with something for him to eat, something warm, or send him a cup of coffee, somehow, or even a raw egg, he would go forth before the people; he would get up in the Temple amidst his believers and declare himself a false prophet and a false god. He would not care what they did to him if only he had something cooked to eat, something hot to drink.
Towards morning he slept, and then for days and nights, how many he did not know, it seemed to him that he did not wake but dreamed through a changing time when he was dimly aware of contending voices: voices of his believers, the Little Flock, and voices of his unbelievers, the Herd of the Lost, pleading and threatening in the forest round his place of refuge. His followers were trying to bring him food and raiment, and his enemies were preventing them and boasting that they would keep guard over his refuge till they starved him out. Then all again was a blur, a texture of conscious and unconscious misery till a night came when the woof broke and trailed away from him, and he lifted himself on his elbow and after he had drunk a long draft from the spring, found tremulous strength to get to his feet. He tried some steps in the open space, where the light of the full moon fell, and found that he could walk. He reached the tangled entrance to his covert, and stealthily put the vines aside. He peered out into the shadows striped with moonshine and could see no one, and he was going to venture farther, when he stopped stone still at the figure of a man crouched in the middle of the causeway. The man's head was fallen forward and his gun lay across his lap; he must be one of the guards that his enemies had set on his refuge to keep him there and starve him out; and he must be asleep. Dylks stooped and peered into his face and knew the man for one of the Hounds who had often disturbed his meetings, and now he looked about in the rage that surged up through his penitence and self-pity for a stone or a club to strike him senseless, or dead if need be. But there was no such weapon that he could see, and the risk of a struggle was greater than the risk of trying to pass the man without waking him. After long doubt he tried with one foot and then another and the man did not wake; then he crept slowly by, and then with softly dragging steps he got farther from the sleeper and pushed on through the woods in the direction of the turnpike, as he imagined it. But he came out in a clearing where a new log cabin showed clear in the open under the moon.
In the single room of the house a woman lay sleeping with a little child in its cradle beside her bed. She rose up and put out her hand instinctively to still the child, but it was sleeping quietly, and then she started up awake, and listened for the voice which she had dreamt was calling her. There was no voice, and then there was a voice calling hoarsely, weakly, "Nancy! Nancy!"
In her dream she had thought it was the voice of her husband stealing back to her in the night, and it was in the terror of her dream that she now sprang from her bed, with her heart aching for pity of him, to forbid him and rebuke him for breaking his promise, and to scold him away. But as she stood listening, and the voice came again she knew it was not the voice of Laban. She ran to the ladder which led to the cabin loft, and called up through the open trapdoor, "Jane! Jane! Come down here to the baby, will you? I've got to leave her a minute."
"What for?" the girl answered sleepily. Then, "Oh, I'll come. She ain't sick, is she, Aunt Nancy? Oh, I do hope she ain't sick!"
"No. She ain't sick," Nancy said, as she put her hands up to help the girl place her feet aright on the rungs of the ladder. "But—listen!" she whispered as the voice outside called again. "It's that miser'ble wretch! It's Joseph Dylks! I've got to go to him! Don't you say a word, Jane Gillespie! He's Joey's father, and he must be at death's door, or he wouldn't come to mine."
She left the girl standing dazed, and ran out and round the cabin. In the shadow that it cast in the moon, Dylks crouched close in the angle made by the chimney.
"Oh, Nancy!" he implored her, "do give me something to eat! Something warm. Coffee, if you've got it. I've been sick, and I'm starving."
She knew without seeing it in the shadow how he was stretching out pleading hands to her, and she had mercy upon him. But she said stonily, "Wait a minute. Don't be a cry-baby," and ran back to the door, and called to the girl within, "Rake open the fire, Jane, and set the kittle on." Then she ran back to Dylks and stood over him. "Where you been? Don't you know they'll kill you if they ketch you?"
"Yes, I know it, Nancy. But I knew this would be the last place they would come for me. Will the coffee be ready soon? Oh, I'm so faint! I reckon I'm going to die, Nancy,"
"I reckon you ain't goin' to die before you get your coffee. It'll be ready as soon as the kittle boils."
She stood looking grimly down at him, while he brokenly told, so far as he knew it, the story of the days he had passed in hiding.
"I reckon," she said, with bitter scorn, "that I could have fetched you out. I'd 'a' brought you some hot coffee to the door of your den, and you'd 'a' come when you smelt it."
"Yes, that's true," he owned in meek acceptance of her scorn.
The child cried, and she went in, but she had no need to comfort it except with a word. Jane had come to the little one, and was stooping above it, and cooing to it motherwise, and cuddling it to her body while it drowsed away to silence.
"You mind her, Jane," the mother said, and she lifted the pot of coffee from the bed of coals, sending a dim glow into the room to meet the dawn at the open door. She put some sugar into the bowl she got from its shelf, and covered it with a piece of cold corn-pone, and then went out to Dylks who had remained on his knees, and now stretched out his trembling hands toward her.
She did not speak, but poured the bowl full of the steaming coffee, and watched him while he gulped half of it down. Then he reached eagerly for the bread. "Is it hot?" he asked.
"No, it ain't," the woman said. "You can eat cold pone, I reckon, can't you?"
"Oh, yes; oh, yes, and glad to get it. Only I thought—" He stopped and washed down the mouthful he had torn from the cake with a draft of the coffee which emptied the bowl. She filled it mechanically from the pot in her hand, and he drank again more slowly, and devoured the pone as he drank.
"Now," he said, "I should be all right if it wasn't for my head where they tore out my hair. It burns like fire."
She bent over him and looked at the wound unflinchingly. "I can't see very good in this light; if I only had some goose-grease—but I reckon hog's lard will do. Hold on till I can wash it."
"Oh, Nancy," he moaned gratefully.
She was gone rather long and there was talk within and the cooing and babble of the child. When she came out with a basin of warm water and some lard in a broken saucer in her hands, and a towel caught under her arm, he suggested, "I heard you talking with some one, Nancy."
"And I suppose it scared you," she answered unsparingly. "Well, you may thank your stars it wasn't Laban. I do believe he'd kill you, meek as he is."
Dylks drew a quivering breath. "Yes, I reckon he would. I suppose you must have told him about me."
"Of course, I did. Here! Hold still!" She had begun to wash his wound, very gently, though she spoke so roughly, while he murmured with the pain and with the comfort of the pain. "If you want to know," she continued, "it's Jane. She's been with me ever since that night they caught you. You made her ashamed before her father, and between her shame and his pride her and him don't speak, or hain't, since then. She stays with me and Joey stays with him."
"Our Joey?" he asked plaintively.
"My Joey!" she returned, and she involuntarily twitched at the hair she was smoothing.
"Oh!" he cried from the pain, but she did not mind his pain.
"There!" she said, beginning to put on the lard. Then she bound over the wound the soft pledget of old linen she had brought, and tied round his head a cotton rag to hold the dressing in place. She said, "There!" again, "I reckon that will do."
He moaned gratefully. "It's the first time I've been out of pain for I don't know how many days and nights. Nancy!" he burst out in all recognition of her goodness, "I oughtn't to have left you."
She had been kneeling before him in dressing his hurt, and then in critically regarding her handiwork, she got to her feet. "I know you oughtn't," she retorted, "but I'm glad you done it. And I'm thankful every breath I draw. And now I want you to go. And don't you think I done what I done out of love for you, Joseph Dylks. I'd 'a' done it for any hurt or hungry dog."
Dylks got to his feet too, with little moans for the stiffness in his joints. "I know you would, Nancy," he said humbly, "but all the same I won't forget it. If there was anything I could do to show—"
"There's something you could do besides drownin' yourself in the creek, which I don't ask you: in the first place because I don't want your death on my hands, and in the next place because you're the un-fittin'est man to die that I can think of; but there's something else, and you know it without my tellin' you, and that is to stop all this, now and forever. Don't you pretend you don't know what I mean!"
"I know what you mean, Nancy, and the good Lord knows I would be glad enough to do it if I could. But I wouldn't know how to begin."
"Begin," she said with a scornful glance at the long tangle of his hair, "begin by cuttin' off that horse's tail of yours, and then stop snortin' like a horse."
He shook his head hopelessly. "It wouldn't do, Nancy. They wouldn't let me draw back now. They would kill me."
"The—the—Little Flock," he answered shamefacedly.
"The Herd of the Lost will kill you if you don't." She said it not in mocking, but in realization of the hopeless case, and not without pity. But at his next words, she hardened her heart again.
"I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. I have nowhere to lay my head."
"Don't you use them holy words, you wicked wretch! And if you're hintin' at hidin' in my house, you can't do it—not with Jane here—she would kill you, I believe—and not without her."
"No, Nancy. I can see that. But where can I go? Even that place in the woods, they're watching that, and they would have me if I tried to go back."
From an impulse as of indifference rather than consideration she said, "Go to Squire Braile. He let you off; let him take care of you."
"Nancy!" he exclaimed. "I thought of that."
She gathered up the basin and the towel she brought, and without looking at him again she said, "Well, go, then," and turned and left him where he stood.
Matthew Braile was sitting in his wonted place, with his chair tilted against his porch wall, smoking. Dylks faltered a moment at the bars of the lane from the field of tall corn where he had been finding his way unseen from Nancy's cabin. He lowered two of the middle bars and when he had put them up on the other side he stood looking toward the old man. His long hair hung tangled on his shoulders; the white bandage, which Nancy had bound about his head, crossed it diagonally above one eye and gave this the effect of a knowing wink, which his drawn face, unshaven for a week, seemed to deprecate.
Braile stared hard at him. Then he tilted his chair down and came to the edge of his porch, and called in cruel mockery, "Why, God, is that you?"
"Don't, Squire Braile!" Dylks implored in a hoarse undertone. "They're after me, and if anybody heard you—"
"Well, come up here," the Squire bade him. Dylks hobbled slowly forward, and painfully mounted the log steps to the porch, where Braile surveyed him in detail, frowning and twitching his long feathery eyebrows.
"I know I don't look fit to be seen," Dylks began "but—"
"Well," the Squire allowed after further pause, "you don't look as if you had just come 'down from the shining courts above in joyful haste'! Had any breakfast?"
"Nancy—Nancy Billings—gave me some coffee, and some cold pone—"
"Well, you can have some hot pone pretty soon. Laban there?"
"No, he's away at work still. But, Squire Braile—"
"Oh, I understand. I know all about Nancy, and her first husband and how he left her, and she thought he was dead, and married a good man, and when that worthless devil came back she thought she was living in sin with that good man—in sin!—and drove him away. But she's as white as any of the saints you lie about. It was like you to go to her the first one in your trouble. Well, what did she say?" "She said—" Dylks stopped, his mouth too dry to speak; he wetted his lips and whispered—"She said to come to you; that you would know what it was best for me to do; to—" He stopped again and asked, "Do you suppose any one will see me here?"
"Oh, like as not. It's getting time for honest folks to be up and going to work. But I don't want any trouble about you this morning; I had enough that other morning. Come in here!" He set open the door of one of the rooms giving on the porch, and at Dylks's fearful glance he laughed, not altogether unkindly. "Mis' Braile's in the kitchen, getting breakfast for you, though she don't know it yet. Now, then!" he commanded when he sat down within, and pushed a chair to Dylks. "Tell me all about it, since I saw you going up the pike."
In the broken story which Dylks told, Braile had the air of mentally checking off the successive facts, and he permitted the man a measure of self-pity, though he caught him up at the close. "Well, you've got a part of what you deserve, but as usually happens with us rascals, you've got too much, at the same time. And what did Nancy advise?"
"She told me to come to you—"
"What did Nancy advise?" the Squire repeated savagely.
"She advised me to stop all this"—he waved his hands outward, and the Squire nodded intelligently—"to tell them it wasn't true; and I was sorry; and to go away—"
He stopped, and Braile demanded, "Well, and are you going to do it?"
"I want to do it, and—I can't."
"You can't? What's to hinder you?"
"I'm afraid to do it."
"They would kill me, if I did."
"They? Who? The Herd of the Lost?"
"The Little Flock."
The men were both silent, and then after a long breath, the Squire said, "I begin to see—"
"No, no! You don't begin to see, Squire Braile." Dylks burst out sobbing, and uttering what he said between his sobs. "Nobody can understand it that hasn't been through it! How you are tempted on, step by step, all so easy, till you can't go back, you can't stop. You're tempted by what's the best thing in you, by the hunger and thirst to know what's going to be after you die; to get near to the God that you've always heard about and read about; near Him in the flesh, and see Him and hear Him and touch Him. That's what does it with them, and that's what does it in you. It's something, a kind of longing, that's always been in the world, and you know it's in others because you know it's in you, in your own heart, your own soul. When you begin to try for it, to give out that you're a prophet, an apostle, you don't have to argue, to persuade anybody, or convince anybody. They're only too glad to believe what you say from the first word; and if you tell them you're Christ, didn't He always say He would come back, and how do they know but what it's now and you?"
"Yes, yes," the Squire said. "Go on."
"When I said I was God, they hadn't a doubt about it. But it was then that the trouble began."
"I had to make some of them saints. I had to make Enraghty Saint Paul, and I had to make Hingston Saint Peter. You think I had to lie to them, to deceive them, to bewitch them. I didn't have to do anything of the kind. They did the lying and deceiving and bewitching themselves, and when they done it, they and all the rest of the believers, they had me fast, faster than I had them."
"I could imagine the schoolmaster hanging on to his share of the glory, tooth and nail," the Squire said with a grim laugh. "But old Hingston, good old soul, he ought to have let go, if you wanted him to."
"Oh, you don't know half of it," Dylks said, with a fresh burst of sobbing. "The worst of it is, and the dreadfulest is, that you begin to believe it yourself."
"What's that?" the Squire demanded sharply.
"Their faith puts faith into you. If they believe what you say, you say to yourself that there must be some truth in it. If you keep telling them you're Jesus Christ, there's nothing to prove you ain't, and if you tell them you're God, who ever saw God, and who can deny it? You can't deny it yourself—"
"Hold on!" the old man said. He had risen, and he began to walk up and down, swaying his figure and tilting his head from side to side, and frowning his shaggy eyebrows together in a tangled hedge. Suddenly, he stopped before Dylks. "Why, you poor devil, you're not in any unusual fix. It must have been so with all the impostors in the world, from Mahomet up and down! Why, there isn't a false prophet in the Old Testament that couldn't match experiences with you! That's the way it's always gone: first the liar tells his lie, and some of the fools believe it, and proselyte the other fools, and when there are enough of them, their faith begins to work on the liar's own unbelief, till he takes his lie for the truth. Was that the way, you miserable skunk?"
"It was exactly the way, Squire Braile, and you can't tell how it gains on you, step by step. You see all those educated people like Mr. Enraghty, and all those good men like Mr. Hingston taking it for gospel, and you can't deny it yourself. They convince you of it."
"Exactly! And then, when the Little Flock gathers in all the mentally lame, halt and blind in the settlement, you couldn't get out of it if you had the whole Herd of the Lost to back you, with the Hounds yelping round to keep your courage up; you've got to stay just where you put yourself, heigh?"
"There wouldn't," Dylks said, drying his eyes on a tatter of his coat sleeve, "be so much trouble if it wasn't for the miracles."
"Yes," Braile replied to the thoughtful mood which he had fallen into, rather than to Dylks, "the ignorant are sure to want a sign, though the wise could get along without it. And you have to promise them a sign; you have to be fool enough to do that, though you know well enough you can't work the miracle."
"You ain't sure you can't. You think, maybe—"
"Then, why," the Squire shouted at him, "why in the devil's name, didn't you work the miracle at Hingston's mill that night? Why didn't you turn that poor fool woman's bolt of linsey-woolsey into seamless raiment?"
Dylks did not answer.
"Why didn't you do it? Heigh?"
"I thought maybe—I didn't know but I did do it."
"What do you mean?"
"When I came up outside and told them that the miracle had been worked and the seamless raiment was inside the bolt, I thought it must be there."
"Why, in the name of—"
"I had prayed so hard for help to do it that I thought it must be."
"You prayed? To whom?"
Dylks was silent again in the silence of a self-convicted criminal. He did not move.
Braile had been walking up and down again in his excitement, in his enjoyment of the psychological predicament, and again he stopped before Dylks. "Why, you poor bag of shorts!" he said. "I could almost feel sorry for you, in spite of the mischief you've made. Why, you oughtn't to be sent to the penitentiary, or even lynched. You ought to be put amongst the county idiots in the poorhouse, and—"
There came a soft plapping as of bare feet on the puncheon floor of the porch; hesitating about and then pausing at the door of the opposite room. Then there came with the increased smell of cooking, the talking of women. Presently the talking stopped and the plapping of the bare feet approached the door of the room shutting the two men in. The Squire set it slightly ajar, in spite of Dylks's involuntary, "Oh, don't!" and faced some one close to the opening.
"That you, Sally? You haven't come to borrow anything at this hour of the night?"
"Well, I reckon if you was up as early as Mis' Braile, you'd know it was broad day. No, I hain't come to borry anything exactly, but I was just tellin' her that if she'd lend me a fryun' of bacon, I'd do as much for her some day. She ast me to tell you your breakfast was ready and not to wait till your comp'ny was gone, but bring anybody you got with you."
Sally peered curiously in at the opening of the door, and Braile abruptly set it wide. "Perhaps you'd like to see who it is."
Sally started back at sight of the figure within. When she could get her breath she gasped, "Well, for mercy's sakes! If it ain't the Good Old Man, himself!" But she made no motion of revering or any offer of saluting her late deity.
"Well, now, if you've got some bacon for Abel's breakfast you better stop and have yours with us," the Squire suggested.
"No, I reckon not," Sally answered. "I ain't exactly sure Abel would like it. He ain't ever been one of the Flock, although at the same time he ain't ever been one of the Herd: just betwixt and between, like." As she spoke she edged away backward. "Well, I must be goun', Squire. Much obleeged to you all the same."
The Squire followed her backward steps with his voice. "If you should happen to see Jim Redfield on his way to his tobacco patch, I wish you'd tell him to come here; I'd like to see him."
He went in again to Dylks.
"What are you going to do with me, Squire Braile?" he entreated. "You're not going to give me up?"
"I know my duty to my Maker," the old man answered. "I'll take care of you, Jehovah Dylks. But now you better come in to breakfast—get some hot pone. I'll bring you a basin of water to wash up in."
He reopened the door in the face of Sally Reverdy, who gasped out before she plapped over to the steps and dropped away, "I just seen Jim Redfield, and I tole him you wanted him, and he said he would be here in half an hour, or as soon as he could see that the men had begun on his tubbacco. I didn't tell him who you had here, and I won't tell anybody else; don't you be afraid."
"Well, that's a good girl, Sally. Abel couldn't have done better himself," the Squire called after her, and then he turned to Dylks. "Come along now, and get your hot pone. Jim Redfield won't hurt you; I'll go bail for him, and I'll see that nobody else gets at you. I've got a loft over this room where you'll be safe from everything but a pet coon that your Joey gave my little boy; and I reckon the coon won't bite you. I wouldn't, in his place."
Redfield came rather later than he had promised, excusing himself for his delay. "I was afraid the frost had caught my tobacco, last night; but it seems to be all right, as far as I can see; I stayed till the sun was well up before I decided."
"It was a pretty sharp night, but I don't believe there was any frost," the Squire said. "At least Dylks didn't complain of it."
"Dylks?" Redfield returned.
"Yes. Didn't you know he was out again?"
"No, I didn't. If I had that fellow by the scruff of the neck!"
The Squire knew he meant the sleeping sentinel at the thicket where Dylks had been hidden, and not Dylks. But he said nothing, and again Redfield spoke.
"Look here, Squire Braile, I think you did a bad piece of business letting that fellow go."
"I know you do, Jim, but I expect you'll think different when you've seen him."
"Seen him? You mean you know where he is?"
"Well, all I've got to say is that if I can lay hands on that fellow he won't give me the slip again."
"Well, suppose we try," the Squire said, and he opened the door into the room where Dylks was cowering, and remarked with a sort of casualness, as if the fact would perhaps interest them both, "Here's one of the Lost, Dylks. I thought you might like to see him. Now, sit down, both of you and let's talk this thing over."
He took a place on the side of the bed and the enemies each faltered to their chairs in mutual amaze.
"Oh, sit down, sit down!" the Squire insisted. "You might as well take it comfortably. Nobody's going to kill either of you."
"I don't want to do anybody any harm," Dylks began.
"You'd better not!" Redfield said between his set teeth; his hands had knotted themselves into fists at his side.
"I'm all weak yet from the fever I had there, with nothing but water and berries," Dylks resumed in his self-pity. "I did think some of my friends might have come—"
"I took good care of that," Redfield said. "They did come, at first, with something to eat, but they knew blame well we'd have wrung their necks if we'd 'a' caught 'em. We meant to starve you out, that's what, and we did it, and if it hadn't been for that good-for-nothing whelp sleeping over his gun you wouldn't have got out alive."
"Well, that's all right now, Jim, and you'd better forgive and forget, both of you," the Squire interposed. "Dylks has reformed, he tells me; he's sorry for having been a god, and he's going to try to be a man, or as much of a man as he can. He's going to tell the Little Flock so, and then he's going to get out of Leatherwood right off—"
Dylks cleared his throat to ask tremulously, "Did I say that, Squire Braile?"
"Yes, you did, my friend, and what's more you're going to keep your word, painful as it may be to you. I'll let you manage it your own way, but some way you're going to do it; and in the meantime I'm going to put you under the protection of Jim Redfield, here—"
"My protection?" Redfield protested.
"Yes, I've sworn you in as special constable, or I will have as soon as I can make out the oath, and have you sign it. And Dylks will get out of the county as soon as he can—he tells me it won't be so easy as we would think; and when he does, it will be much more to the purpose than riding on a rail in a coat of tar and feathers. Why!" he broke off, with a stare at Dylks as if he saw his raggedness for the first time, "you'll want a coat of some kind to show yourself to the Little Flock in; the Herd of the Lost won't mind; they don't want to be so proud of you. I must look up something for you; or perhaps send to Brother Hingston; he's about your size. But that don't matter, now! What I want is your promise, Jim Redfield, and I know you'll do what you say, that you won't tell anybody that the Supreme Being is hiding in my loft, here, till I say so, and when I do, that you'll see no harm comes to him from mortals—from Hounds, and such like, or even the Herd of the Lost. Do you promise?"
Redfield hesitated. "If he'll leave the county, yes."
"And you, 'Jehovah, Jove or Lord'?"
"I will, as quick as I can, Squire Braile; I will, indeed."
The Squire rose from the edge of the bed. "Then this court stands adjourned," he said formally.
Redfield went out with him, leaving Dylks trembling behind. He said, "I ain't sure you ain't making a fool of me, Squire Braile."
"Well, I am," the Squire retorted. "And don't you make one of yourself, and then there won't be any."
Redfield still hesitated. "I'd just like to had another pull at that horse-tail of his," he said wistfully.
"Well, I knew old man Gillespie hadn't quite the strength. But I thought maybe Hughey Blake helped pull—"
"Hughey Blake," Redfield returned scornfully, "had nothing to do with it."
"Well, anyway, I hear it's converted Jane Gillespie, and she was worth it, though it was rather too much like scalping a live Indian."
"She's worth more than all the other girls in this settlement put together," Redfield said, without comment on the phase of the act which had interested the Squire, and went down the cabin steps into the lane.
Braile turned back and opened the door of the room where Dylks was lurking.
"Better come out, now," he said, not ungently, "and get into a safe place before folks begin to be about much. Or wait—I'll put the ladder up first." He brought the ladder from the kitchen where he exchanged a fleeting joke with his wife, still at her work of clearing the breakfast things away, and set it against the wall under the trapdoor of the loft. "Now, then!" he called and Dylks came anxiously out.
"Ain't you afraid—" he began.
"No, but you are, and that'll do for both of us. There's nobody round, and if you'll hurry, nobody'll see you. Push the lid to one side, and get in, and you'll be perfectly safe," he said as Dylks tremulously mounted the ladder. "I don't say you'll be very comfortable. There's a little window at one end, but it don't give much air, and this August sun is apt to get a little warm on the clapboards. And I don't suppose it smells very well in there; but the coon can't help that; it's the way nature scented him; she hadn't any sweet brier handy at the time. And be careful not to step on him. He's not very good-tempered, but I reckon he won't bite you if you don't bite him."
The kitchen door opened and Mrs. Braile put her head out. She saw the ladder and the two men. Then she came out into the porch. "Well, Matthew Braile, I might have knowed from the sound of your voice that you was up to some mischief. Was you goin' to send that poor man up into that hot loft? Well, I can tell you you're not." She went into the room they had left, and they heard her stirring vigorously about beyond its closed door, with a noise of rapid steps and hard and soft thumpings. She came out again and said, "Go in there, now, Mr. Dylks, and try to get some rest. I've made up the bed for you, and I'll see that nobody disturbs you. Matthew Braile, you send and tell Mr. Hingston,—or go, if you can't ketch anybody goin' past,—and tell him he's here, and bring some decent clothes; he ain't fit to be seen."
"Well, he don't want to be," the Squire said in the attempt to brave her onset. "But I reckon you're right, mother. I should probably have thought of it myself—in time. I'll send Sally or Abel, if they go past—and they nearly always do—or some of the hands from the tobacco patches. Or, as you say, I may go myself, towards evening. He won't want to be troubled before then."
At the first meeting in the Temple after the open return of Dylks to his dispensation, the Little Flock had apparently suffered no loss in number. Some of his followers had left him, but his disciples had been busily preaching him during his abeyance, and the defection of old converts was more than made up by the number of proselytes. The room actually left by the Flock was filled by the Herd of the Lost who occupied all the seats on one side of the Temple, with Matthew Braile and his wife in a foremost place, the lower sort of them worsening into the Hounds who filled the doorway, and hung about the outside of the Temple.
The whole assembly was orderly. Those of the Little Flock who conducted the services had a quelled air, which might have been imparted to them by the behavior of Dylks; he sat bowed and humble on the bench below the pulpit, while Enraghty preached above him. It was rumored that at the house-meetings the worship of Dylks had been renewed with the earlier ardor; there had been genuflections and prostrations before him, with prayers for pardon and hymns of praise, especially from the proselytes. Dylks was said to have accepted their adoration with a certain passivity but to have done nothing to prevent it; there was not the more scandalous groveling at his feet which had stirred up the community to his arrest. There was as much decorum as could consist with the sacrilegious rites which were still practised with his apparent connivance.
He now sat without apparent restiveness under the eyes of the two men who had the greatest right to exact the fulfilment of his promise, to forbid this idolatry, to end the infamy of its continuance, and to go out from among the people whose instincts and conventions his presence outraged. Near Redfield sat David Gillespie with his eyes fixed on Dylks in a stare of hungry hate, and with him sat his daughter, who testified by her removal from the Little Flock her renunciation of her faith in him. Redfield showed greater patience than Gillespie, and at times his eyes wandered to the face of the girl who did not seem to feel them on her, but sat gazing at her forsaken idol in what might have seemed puzzle for him and wonder at herself. Others who had rejected him merely kept away; but she came as if she would face down the shame of her faith in him before the eyes of her little world. Sometimes Dylks involuntarily put his hand to the black silken cap which replaced the bandage Nancy Billings had tied over the place where the hair had been torn out. When he did this, the girl moved a little; her face hardened, and she stole a glance at Redfield.
The schoolmaster went on and on, preaching Dylks insistently, but not with the former defiance. He did not spare to speak of the cruel sufferings inflicted upon their Savior and their God, who had borne it with the meekness of the Son and the mercy of the Father. The divine being who had come to sojourn among them at Leatherwood in the flesh, for the purposes of his inscrutable wisdom might have blasted his enemies with a touch, a word, but he had spared them; he had borne insult and injury, but in the Last Day he would do justice, he the judge of all the earth. Till then, let the Little Flock have patience; let them have faith sustained by the daily, hourly miracles which he had wrought among them since his return to their midst, and rest secure in the strong arms which he folded about them.
Dylks sat motionless. "Well, mother," Matthew Braile hoarsely whispered to his wife, "I reckon you'd better have let me put him up with the coon. The heat might have tried the mischief out of him. He hasn't kept his word."
"No, Matthew, he hasn't," she whispered back, "and I think his lying to you so is almost the worst thing he's done. The next time you may put him with the coon. Only, the coon's too good for him. But I reckon Jim Redfield will look out for him."
"Jim'll have to let him alone. We can't have any more mobbing, and there's no law that can touch Dylks in the State of Ohio. We settled that the first time."
Enraghty abruptly closed his discourse with a demand for prayer, and addressed his supplication to the Savior and the Judge incarnate there among them. The Little Flock sang the hymn which always opened and closed its devotions, and at the end, Hingston, who sat by Dylks on the bench below the pulpit, made a movement as if to rise. But Dylks put out his hand and stayed him. He welcomed Enraghty to the place which he left beside Hingston, and slowly, with the step of one in a dream, mounted the stairs of the pulpit, amidst the silent amaze of the people. He began without preamble in the blend of scriptural text and crude every-day parlance which he ordinarily used.
"Ye have heard it said aforetime that the New Jerusalem would come down here in Leatherwood, but I say unto you that all that has passed away, that the words which were spoken by the prophet might be fulfilled, 'Many are called but few are chosen.' Verily, verily, I said unto you, that heaven and earth shall pass away, but the words I speak now shall not pass away. If the works which have been done in Leatherwood had been done in Tyre and Sidon, the New Jerusalem would have come down in both places, for they did not stone the prophets as the Herd of the Lost did in Leatherwood."
"He means that morning when he took up the pike and the fellows chased him into the tall timber," Braile whispered to his wife; "but I can't tell what he's driving at"
"Be still!" she said.
Many of the Little Flock groaned and cried aloud; the Herd of the Lost, except for one shrill note of bitter laughter, were silent, and only those who sat near perceived that it was Jane Gillespie who had laughed.
Redfield looked round at her, unconscious of his look.
"I go a long way off," Dylks proceeded, "and some of my beloved, even my Little Flock, cannot follow me; but though they cannot follow me, even the lame, halt, and blind shall be with me in the spirit, and shall behold the New Jerusalem where I will bring it down."
Many of the Little Flock at this cried out, "Where will it be, Lord?" "Where will the New Jerusalem come down?" "How shall we see it?"
"With the eyes of faith, even as ye have seen the miracles I have wrought among ye, which were shown to babes and sucklings and were hidden from the wise of this world. But now I go from you, and my feet shall be upon the mountains and shall descend upon the other side and there I will bring down the New Jerusalem, and there ye shall be, in the flesh or in the spirit, to behold the wonder of it."
Some of the Little Flock cried out again. "Oh, don't leave us, Father!" "Take us all with you in the flesh!" "We want to be taken up with you!" and then some of them entreated, "Tell us about it; tell us what it will be like."
Dylks lifted his eyes as if in the rapture of the vision. "'Its light shall eclipse the splendor of the sun. The temples thereof, and the residences of the faithful will be built of diamonds excelling the twinkling beauty of the stars. Its walls will be of solid gold, and its gates silver. The streets will be covered with green velvet, richer in luster and fabric than mortal eye ever beheld. The gardens thereof will be filled with all manner of pleasant fruits, precious to the sight, and pleasant to the taste. The faithful shall ride in chariots of crimson, drawn by jet-black horses that need no drivers; and their joys shall go on increasing forever. The air of the city shall be scented with the smell of shrubs and flowers, and ten thousand different instruments all tuned to the songs of heaven shall fill the courts, and the streets and the temples, and the residences, and the gardens with music like ear hath not heard, swelling the soul of the saved with perpetual delight.'"
Sighs and groans of ecstasy went up from the Flock at each of the studied pauses which Dylks made in recounting the wonders of the heavenly city, fancied one after another at the impulse of their expectation. At the end they swarmed forward to the altar place and flung themselves on the ground, and heaped the pulpit steps with their bodies. "Take us with you, Lord!" they entreated. "Take us all with you in the flesh!" "Don't leave us here to perish among the heathen and the ungodly when you go." Then some began to ask, as if he had already consented, "But what shall we eat, and what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed on that far journey?"
Dylks leaned forward against the pulpit desk and showed a few coins drawn from the pocket of Hingston's pantaloons which he was wearing. "These shall be enough, for out of these three rusty old coppers I can make millions of gold and silver dollars."
The frenzy mounted, and the Herd of the Lost who began to tire of the sight, left the temple. Redfield followed out behind Matthew Braile and his wife. "That settles it," he said. "I'll see to Mr. Dylks in the morning."
"Now, I look at it differently. He's going, like he said he would, and we've got to let him go in his own way, and bring down the New Jerusalem Over-the-Mountains, or anywhere else he pleases, so he don't bring it down in Leatherwood."
"I say so, too, Matthew. He's keeping his word the best he can, poor lying soul. They wouldn't let him back out now."
"I don't want you to trouble him, Jim Redfield, till you have a warrant from me," Braile resumed, braced by his wife's support. "And I want you to keep the Hounds away, and give Dylks a fair start. You know the law won't let you touch him. Now do you hear?"
"I hear," Redfield said sullenly, with the consent which Braile read in his words. "But if there's any more such goings on as we've had here to-night, I won't answer for the rest of his scalp."
He hurried forward from the elderly couple and overtook the Gillespies walking rapidly. Hughey Blake had just fallen away from them and stood disconsolately looking after them.
"Is that you, James Redfield?" David Gillespie asked, peering at him in the night's dimness. "This is the man that helped me to get you a lock of that scoundrel's hair," he said to his daughter.
She answered nothing in acknowledgment of the introduction, but Redfield said, coming round to her side and suiting his step to hers, "I would like to go home with you till my road passes yours."
"Well," she said, "if you ain't ashamed to be seen with such a fool. Nobody can see you to-night," she added, bitterly, including him in her self-scorn.
"You needn't imply that I like it to be in the dark. I would like to walk with you in broad day past all the houses in Leatherwood. But I don't suppose you'd let me." She did not say anything, and he added, "I'm going to ask you to the first chance." Still she did not say anything, though her father had fallen behind and left the talk wholly to them.
Nancy sat at her door in the warm September evening when the twilight was beginning to come earlier than in the August days, and her boy rushed round the corner of the cabin in a boy's habitual breathlessness from running.
"Oh, mother, mother!" he called to her, as if he were a great way off. "Guess what!" He did not wait for her to guess. "The Good Old Man is goin' to leave Leatherwood and go Over the Mountains with the Little Flock, and he says he's goin' to bring down the New Jerusalem at Philadelphy, and all that wants to go up with him kin go. Mr. Hingston's goin' with him, and he's goin' to let Benny. Benny don't know whether he can get to go up in the New Jerusalem or not, but he's goin' to coax his father the hardest kind."
He stopped panting at his mother's knees where she sat on the cabin threshold nearly as high as he stood. She put up her hand and pushed the wet hair from his forehead. "How you do sweat, Joey! Go round and wash your face at the bench. Maybe Jane will give you a drink of the milk, while it's warm yet, before she lets it down in the well. She's just through milkin'."
The boy tore himself away with a shout of "Oh, goody!" and his mother heard him at the well. "Wait a minute, Jane! Mother said I could have a drink before you let it down," and then she heard him, between gulps, recounting to the girl's silence the rumors she had already heard from him. He came running back, with a white circle of milk round his lips. "Mother," he began, "have you ever been Over-the-Mountains?"
"No, I've never been anywhere but just here in the country, and where you was born, back where we moved from."
"Well, mother, how old am I now?"
"You're goin' on twelve, Joey dear."
"Yes, that's what I thought. Benny ain't on'y ten. And he ain't as big for his age as what I am. He's been to the circus, though; his father took him to it at Wheeling that time when he went on the steamboat. I wisht I could go to a circus."
"Well, maybe you kin when you grow up. Circuses ain't everything."
"No," the boy relucted. "Benny says the New Jerusalem will be a good deal like the circus. That's the reason he coaxed his father to let him go. Is Philadelphy as far as Wheeling?"
"A good deal further, from what I've heard tell," his mother said; she smiled at his innocently sinuous approach to his desire.
He broke out with it. "Mother, what's the reason I can't go with Benny, and Mr. Hingston, and the Little Flock? They'd take good care of me, and I wouldn't make Mr. Hingston any trouble. Me 'n' Benny could sleep together. And the Good Old Man he's always been very pleasant to me. Patted my head oncet, and ast me what my name was."
"Did you tell him it was Billings?" his mother asked uneasily.
"No, just Joseph; and he said, well, that was his name, too. Don't you think the Good Old Man is good?"
"We're none of us as good as we ought to be, Joey. No, he ain't a good man, I'm afraid."
"My!" the boy said, and then after a moment: "I don't want to go, Mother, unless you want to let me go."
His mother did not speak for a while, and it seemed as if she were not going to speak at all, so that the boy said, with a little sigh of renunciation, "I didn't expect you would. But I'd be as careful! And even if the Good Old Man ain't so very good, Mr. Hingston is, and he wouldn't let anything happen to me."
The woman put her hand under the boy's chin, and looked into his eager eyes which had not ceased their pleading. At last she said, "You can go, Joey!"
"Mother!" He jumped to his feet from his crouching at hers. "Oh, glory to God!"
"Hush, Joey, you mustn't say things like that. It's like swearing, dear."
"I know it is, and I didn't mean to. Of course it's right, in meetin', and it kind of slipped out when I wasn't thinkin'. But I won't say any bad things, you needn't be afraid. Oh, I'll be as good! But look a'here, mother! Why can't you come, too?"
"And leave your little sister?" She smiled sadly.
"I didn't think of that. But couldn't Jane take care of her? She's always carryin' her around. And Uncle David could come here, and live with them. He wouldn't want to stay there without me, or no one."
"It wouldn't do, Joey dear."
"No," the boy assented.
"You can go and tell Benny I said you might go, if his father will have you."
"Oh, he will; he said so; Benny's ast him! And he said he'd take good care of us both."
"I'm not afraid. You know how to take care of yourself. And, Joey—"
She stopped, and the boy prompted her, "What, mom?"
"When I said the Good Old Man wasn't a good man, I didn't want to set you against him. I want you to be good to him."
"Yes, mother," the boy assented in a puzzle. "But if he ain't good—"
"He ain't, Joey. He's a wicked man. Sometimes I think he's the wickedest man in the world. But I want you to watch out, and if ever you can help him, or do anything for him, remember that I wanted you to do it: a boy can often help a man."
"I will, mother. But I don't see the reason, if he's so very wicked, why—"
"That's the very reason, Joey dear. And go and tell Benny now that I let you go. And—don't tell him what I said about the Good Old Man."
"Oh, I woon't, I woon't, mom! Oh, glory—Oh, I didn't mean to say it, and I didn't, really, did I? But I'm so glad, and Benny'll be, too! Can I tell him now? To-night?"
"Yes. Run along."
He hesitated; then he leaped into the air with a joyful yell and vanished round the corner of the cabin into the dusk.
His mother did not leave her place on the threshold, but sat with her face bowed in her hands. By and by Jane Gillespie came to the door from within, and then Nancy lifted her head and made room for her to sit beside her. She told her what had passed, and Jane said, "If I was a man I would —Well, I know what I would do!"
She did not sit down, but stood behind Nancy and talked down over her shoulder. "Yes," Nancy said, "that's what I used to say when I was a girl. But now I'm glad I ain't a man, for I wouldn't know what to do."
"Well, I wouldn't 'a' left a hair in his head. I'd 'a'—I'd 'a' half killed him! Oh, when I think what a fool that man made of me!"
"Don't let Jim Redfield make a fool of you, then."
"Who said I'm letting him?" the girl demanded fiercely.
"Nobody. But don't."
"Aunt Nancy! If it was anybody but you said such a thing! But I know! It's because you're so set on Hughey Blake. Hughey Blake!" she ended scornfully, and went back into the cabin.
Nancy rose from her place with a sigh. "Oh, I 'spose you're right about my lettin' Joey go. I don't know why I let him."
The meetings of the Little Flock had continued ever since the reappearance of Dylks, and in the earlier spirit. But the spring was broken, and since he had said that the New Jerusalem would not come down at Leatherwood, many had lost not faith but hope. Few could have the hope of following him as far as far-off Philadelphia, and sharing the glories which he promised them there. For a pioneer community the people were none of them poor; some were accounted rich, and among the richest were many followers of Dylks. But most of the Flock were hardworking farmers who could not spare the time or the money for that long journey Over-the-Mountains, even with the prospect of the heavenly city at the end. Yet certain of the poorest set their houses in order, and mortgaged their lands, and went with the richest, when on a morning after the last great meeting in the Temple, the Little Flock assembled for parting, some to go and some to stay.
Nancy did not come with her boy for the farewell. They had kissed each other at the cabin door, and then he had run light-heartedly away, full of wild expectation, to find Benny Hingston at the Cross Roads and then race with him to join the crowd before the Temple, where the Little Flock stood listening to the last words which the Good Old Man should speak to them in Leatherwood. Many wept; Dylks himself was crying. The enemies of their faith did not molest them except for a yelp of derision now and then, and a long-drawn howl from the Hounds, kept well back by the Herd of the Lost, under the command of Redfield. He stood in the chief place among these, and at his right hand Matthew Braile leaned on his stick.
When the last prayer had been said, and they who were going had kissed or shaken hands with those who were staying, and friends and foes had both scattered, Braile said to the young man whom he now faced, "Well, that's the last of him."
Redfield's jaw was still set from the effort of seeing the affair through in as much decency as he had been able to enforce. "It ain't the last of them. But I reckon, now he's gone, they'll behave themselves. None of the saints that are left will make trouble."
"No, with Enraghty out of the way and that kind old fool Hingston, with his example of mistaken righteousness, we can get along fairly enough with the old dispensation. Well, Abel," he called to Reverdy, who was lounging about in the empty space which the crowd had left, unwilling to leave the scene of so much excitement for the dull labors of the field, "you thought you wouldn't go to see the New Jerusalem come down, after all. How's the Good Old Man goin' to work it without you?"
"He's had to work things 'thout me for a good while now, Squire," Abel returned, not with perfect satisfaction in the part assigned him by the irony of the Squire. "Ever sence that night at Mr. Enraghty's, I been putty much done with him. A god that couldn't help hisself in a little trouble like that, he ain't no god for me."
"Oh, I remember. But what about Sally? She didn't go with the Little Flock, either?"
"I reckon me 'n' Sally thinks putty much alike about the Little Flock," Abel said with as much hauteur as a man in his bare feet could command. "We hain't either of us got any use for Little Flocks, any more."
"Well, I'm glad of it. But I thought she might have come to see them off."
Abel relented. "Sally ain't very well, this mornin'. Up all night with the toothache." Redfield had turned from them, and Abel now remarked, "I was wonderin' whether I couldn't borry a little coffee from Mis' Braile for breakfast; I been so took up 'ith all these goun's on that I hain't had no time to go to the store."
"Why, certainly," the Squire replied, "and you'd better come and have breakfast with us on the way home. I came down without mine so as to see the Ancient of Days off, and make sure of his going."
"Pshaw, Squire, it don't seem quite right to have you usin' them old Bible sayun's so common like."
"Well, Abel, perhaps it isn't quite the thing. But you must make allowance for my being in such high spirits. I haven't breathed so free in a coon's age. I would like to have stowed Dylks for a little while in the loft with ours! But Mis' Braile wouldn't hear of it. Well, we've seen the last of him, I hope. And now we're hearing the last of him." He halted Abel in their walk, at a rise in the ground where they caught the sound of the hymn which the Little Flock, following Dylks for a certain way, were singing. "'Sounds weel at a distance,' as the Scotchman said of the bagpipes. And the farther the better. I don't believe I should care if I never heard that tune again." They reached Braile's cabin, and he said, "Well, now come in and have something to stay your stomach while you're waiting for Sally to make the coffee you're going to borrow."
"No, I reckon not, Squire," Abel loyally held out.
"Well, then, come in and get the coffee, anyhow."
"I reckon that's a good idea, Squire," Abel assented with a laugh for the joke at his cost. As they mounted the steps, Braile stopped him at the sound of voices in the kitchen.
A prevalent voice was the voice of Sally. "Well, just one sup more, Mis' Braile. You do make the best coffee! I believe in my heart that it's took my toothache all away a'ready, and I suppose poor Abel'll be goun' up home with some of that miser'ble stuff he gits at the store, and expectun' to find me there in bed yit. I thought I'd jest slip down, and borry a little o' your'n to surprise him with, but when I smelt it, I jest couldn't hold out. I don't suppose but what he stayed to see the Little Flock off, anyway, and you say Squire Braile went. Well, I reckon he had to, justice o' the peace, that way. I'm thankful the Good Old Man's gone, for one, and I don't never want to see hide or hair of him ag'in in Leatherwood. There's such a thing as gittun' enough of a thing, and I've got enough of strange gods for one while."
Murmurs of reply came from Mrs. Braile at times, but Sally mainly kept the word.
"Well, and what do you think of Nancy Billun's lettun' her Joey go off with the Little Flock, her talkun' the way she always done about 'em? Of course he's safe with Mr. Hingston and Benny, and they'll bring him back all right, but don't you think she'd be afeared that he might be took up in the New Jerusalem when it riz ag'in?"
"Abel," the Squire said, "I don't like this. We seem to be listening. I don't believe Sally will like our overhearing her; and we ought to warn her. It's no use your stamping your bare feet, for they wouldn't make any noise. I'll rap my stick on the floor." He also called out, "Hello, the house!" and Sally herself came to the kitchen door. She burst into her large laugh. "Well, I declare to goodness, if it ain't Abel and the Squire! Well, if this ain't the best joke on me! Did you see Dylks off, Squire Braile? And a good riddance to bad rubbage, I say."
Hughey Blake, long-haired, barefooted and freckled, hung about the door of Nancy's cabin, where she sat with her little girl playing in the weedy turf at her foot. The late October weather was sometimes hot at noon, but the evenings were cool and the evening air was sweet with the scent of the ripened corn, and the faint odor of the fallen leaves. The grasshoppers still hissed; at moments the crickets within and without the cabin creaked plaintively.
"I just come," Hughey said, "to see if you thought she wouldn't go to the Temple with me, to-night. The Flock lets us have our turn reg'lar now, and we're goin' to have Thursday evenin' meetin' like we used to." In a discouraging silence from Nancy, he went on, "I'm just on my way home, now, and I'll git my shoes there; and I don't expect to wear this hickory shirt, and no coat—"
"Yes, I know, Hughey, but I don't believe it'll be any use. You can try; but I don't believe it will. I reckon you'd find out that she's goin' with Jim Redfield, if anybody. She's been off with him 'most the whole afternoon, gatherin' pawpaws—he knows the best places; I should think they could have got all the pawpaws in Leatherwood by this time. You know I've always liked you, Hughey, and so has her father, and you've played together ever since you was babies, and you've always been her beau from childern up. There ain't a person in Leatherwood that don't respect you and feel to think that any girl might be glad to get you; but I'm afraid it's just your cleverness, and bein' so gentle like—"
"Do you 'spose, Nancy," the young man faltered disconsolately, "it's had anything to do with my not gettin' her that hair? I could 'a' done it as easy as Jim Redfield; but to tear it right out of his head, that way, I couldn't; it went ag'in my stommick."
"I don't believe it's that, Hughey. If you must know, I believe it's just Jim Redfield himself. He's bewitched her and she's got to be bewitched by somebody; if it ain't one it's another; it was him then, and it's Jim, now."
"I see," the young man assented sadly.
"She ain't good enough for you, that's the truth, Hughey, though I say it, her own kith and kin. I can't make you understand, I know; but she's got to have somebody that she can feel the power of."
"I'd do anything for her, Nancy."
"That's just it! She don't want that kind of lovin', as you may call it. I don't believe my brother's a very easy man to turn, but Jane has always done as she pleased with him; he's been like clay in the hands of the potter with her. Many another girl would have been broken into bits before now; but she's just as tough as so much hickory. I don't say but what she's a good girl; there ain't a better in Leatherwood, or anywheres. She's as true as a die, and tender as anything in sickness, and'd lay down and die where she saw her duty, and'd work till she dropped if need be; but, no, she ain't one that wants softness in her friends. Well, she won't git any too much of it in Jim Redfield. They're of a piece, and she may find out that she's made a mistake, after all."
"Has she—she hain't promised to marry him yit?"
"No, I don't say that. But ever since that night at the Temple he's been round after her. He's been here, and he's been at her father's, and she can't go down to the Corners for anything but what he comes home helpin' her to bring it. You seen yourself, how he always gets her to come home from meetin'."
"Yes," Hughey assented forlornly. "I'm always too late at the door; he's with her before a body can git the words out."
"Well, that's it. I don't say she ain't a good girl, one of the very best, but she's hard, hard, hard; and I don't see what's ever to break her."
The girl's voice came from round the cabin, calling, "Honey, honey, honey!" and the little one started from her play at her mother's feet, and ran toward the voice, which Jane now brought with her at the corner, and chuckling, and jug-jugging, birdlike, for joy, threw herself at Jane's knees.
"See what I brought you, honey. It's good and ripe, but it ain't half as good as my honey, honey, honey!" She put the pawpaw into the child's hands and mumbled her, with kisses of her eyes, cheeks, hair, and neck. "Oh, I could eat you, eat you!"
She must have seen the young fellow waiting for her notice, but Nancy had to say, "Here's Hughey, Jane," before she spoke to him.
"Oh! Hughey," she said, not unkindly, but as if he did not matter.
He stood awkward and Nancy judged it best for all the reasons to add, "Hughey wants you to go to the Temple with him to-night," and the young fellow smiled gratefully if not hopefully at her.
The girl stiffened herself to her full height from the child she was stooping over. She haughtily mounted the steps beside Nancy, and without other recognition of Hughey in the matter she said, "I've got company," and disappeared into the cabin.
"Well, Hughey?" Nancy pityingly questioned.
"No, no, Nancy," he replied with a manful struggle for manfulness, "I—I —It's meant, I reckon," and slunk away from the girl's brutality as if it were his own shame.
Nancy picked up her little one, and followed indoors.
"Don't you talk to me, Aunt Nancy!" the girl cried at her. "What does he keep askin' me for?"
"He won't ask you any more, Jane," the woman quietly returned.
They joined in putting the little one to bed. Then, without more words, Jane kissed the child, and came back to kiss her again when she had got to the door. "Aunt Nancy, I hate you," she said as she went out and left the woman alone.
Ever since Joey went away with the believers to see the New Jerusalem come down in Philadelphia, Jane had been sleeping at her father's cabin in resentful duty to his years and solitude. She got him his breakfast and left it for him before she went to take her own with Nancy, and she had his dinner and supper ready for his return from the field, but she did not eat with him, and he was abed before she came home at night.
Joey had been gone nearly a month, and no word had come back from any of the Little Flock who went with Dylks. It was not the day of letters by mail; if some of the pilgrims had sent messages by the wagoners returning from their trips Over the Mountains, they had not reached the families left behind, and no angel-borne tidings came to testify of the wonder at Philadelphia. Those left behind waited in patience rather than anxiety; where life was often hard, people did not borrow trouble and add that needless debt to their load of daily cares. Nancy said to others that she did not know what to think, and others said the same to her, and they got what comfort they could out of that.
Now she did not light the little rag-lamp which she and Jane sometimes sat by with their belated sewing or darning if they had not kept the hearth-fire burning. She went to bed in the dark, and slept with the work-weariness which keeps the heart-heavy from waking.
She had work in her tobacco patch to do, as well as in the house, where Jane helped her; she would not let the girl help her get the logs and brush together on the clearing which Laban had begun burning to enrich the soil for the planting of the next year's crop with the ashes.
She must have slept long hours when she heard the sound of a cry from the dark without.
"Mother! Mother! Oh, mother!" it came nearer and nearer, till it beat with the sound of a fist on the cabin door. In the piecing out of the instant dream which she started from, she thought as that night when Dylks called her, that it must be Laban; he sometimes called her mother after the baby came, and now she called back, "Laban! Laban!" but the voice came again, "It ain't father; it's me, mother; it's Joey!"
"Oh, dear heart!" she joyfully lamented, and flung herself from her bed, and reeled still drunk with slumber, and pulled up the latch, and flung open the door, and caught her boy to her breast.
"Oh, mother!" he said, laughing and crying. "I'm so hungry!"
"To be sure you're hungry, child; and I'll have you your supper in half a minute, as soon as I can rake the fire open. Lay down on mother's bed there, and rest while I'm gettin' ready for you. The baby won't wake, and I don't care if she does."
"I s'pose she's grown a good deal. But I am tired," the boy said, stretching himself out. "Me 'n' Benny run all the way as soon as we come in sight of the crick, and him 'n' Mis' Hingston wanted me to stay all night, but I wouldn't. I wanted to see you so much, mother."
"Did Mr. Hingston come back with you? Or, don't tell me anything; don't speak, till you've had something to eat."
"I woon't, mother," the boy promised, and then he said, "But you ought to see Philadelphy, mother. It's twenty times as big as Wheeling, Benny says, and all red brick houses and white marble steps." He was sitting up, and talking now; his mother flew about in the lank linsey-woolsey dress she had thrown over her nightgown in some unrealized interval of her labors and had got the skillet of bacon hissing over the coals.
"And to think," she bleated in self-reproach, "that I'll have to give you rye coffee! You know, Joey dear, there hain't very much cash about this house, and the store won't take truck for coffee. But with good cream in it, the rye tastes 'most as good. Set up to the table, now," she bade him, when she had put the rye coffee with the bacon and some warmed-up pone on the leaf lifted from the wall.
She let the boy silently glut himself till he glanced round between mouthfuls and said, "It all looks so funny and little, in here, after Philadelphy."
Then she said, "But you don't say anything about the New Jerusalem. Didn't it come down, after all?" She smiled, but sadly rather than gladly in her skepticism.
"No, mother," the boy answered solemnly. Then after a moment he said, "I got something to tell you, mother. But I don't know whether I hadn't better wait till morning."
"It's most morning, now, Joey, I reckon, if it ain't already. That's the twilight comin' in at the door. If you wouldn't rather get your sleep first—"
"No, I can't sleep till I tell you, now. It's about the Good Old Man."
"Did he—did he go up?" she asked fearfully.
"No, mother, he didn't. Some of them say he was took up, but, mother, I believe he was drownded!"
"Drownded?" the boy's mother echoed. "What do you mean, Joey? What makes you believe he was drownded?"
"I seen him."
"In the water. We was all walkin' along the river bank, and some o' the Flock got to complainin' because he hadn't fetched the New Jerusalem down yit, and wantin' to know when he was goin' to do it, and sayin' this was Philadelphy, and why didn't he; and Mr. Hingston he was tryin' to pacify 'em, and Mr. Enraghty he scolded 'em, and told 'em to hesh up, or they'd be in danger of hell-fire; but they didn't, and the Good Old Man he begun to cry. It was awful, mother."
"Go on, Joey. Don't stop."
"Well, he'd been prayin' a good deal, off and on, and actin' like he wasn't in his right senses, sometimes, talkin' to hisself, and singin' his hymn—that one, you know—"
"Never mind, Joey dear," his mother said, "keep on."
"And all at once, he up and says, 'If I want to, I can turn this river into a river of gold,' and one o' the Flock, about the worst one, he hollers back, 'Well, why don't you do it, then?' and Mr. Enraghty—well, they call him Saint Paul, you know—he told him to shut his mouth; and they got to jawin', and I heard a rattlin' of gravel, like it was slippin' down the bank, and then there was the Good Old Man in the water, hollerin' for help, and his hat off, floatin' down stream, and his hair all over his shoulders. And before I knowed what to think, he sunk, and when he come up, I was there in the water puttin' out for him."