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I had run into St. Bartholomew's Church; and when I came to--I fear I cut a pitiful figure, but I have to tell the truth--I was crying. I don't think the pain of my head and face had anything to do with it, I think it was rage and humiliation; my sense of outrage, that I, who had helped to win a war, should have been made to run from a gang of cowardly rowdies. Anyhow, here I was, sunk down in a pew of the church, sobbing as if my heart was broken.
At last I raised my head, and holding on to the pew in front, looked about me. The church was apparently deserted. There were dark vistas; and directly in front of me a gleaming altar, and high over it a stained glass window, with the afternoon sun shining through. You know, of course, the sort of figures they have in those windows; a man in long robes, white, with purple and gold; with a brown beard, and a gentle, sad face, and a halo of light about the head. I was staring at the figure, and at the same time choking with rage and pain, but clenching my hands, and making up my mind to go out and follow those brutes, and get that big one alone and pound his face to a jelly. And here begins the strange part of my adventure; suddenly that shining figure stretched out its two arms to me, as if imploring me not to think those vengeful thoughts!
I knew, of course, what it meant; I had just seen a play about delirium, and had got a whack on the head, and now I was delirious myself. I thought I must be badly hurt; I bowed my reeling head in my arms, and began to sob like a kid, out loud, and without shame. But somehow I forgot about the big brute, and his face that I wanted to pound; instead, I was ashamed and bewildered, a queer hysterical state with a half dozen emotions mixed up. The Caligari story was in it, and the lunatic asylum; I've got a cracked skull, I thought, and my mind will never get right again! I sat, huddled and shuddering; until suddenly I felt a quiet hand on my shoulder, and heard a gentle voice saying: "Don't be afraid. It is I."
Now, I shall waste no time telling you how amazed I was. It was a long time before I could believe what was happening to me; I thought I was clean off my head. I lifted my eyes, and there, in the aisle of the most decorous church of St. Bartholomew, standing with his hand on my head, was the figure out of the stained glass window! I looked at him twice, and then I looked at the window. Where the figure had been was a great big hole with the sun shining through!
We know the power of suggestion, and especially when one taps the deeps of the unconscious, where our childhood memories are buried. I had been brought up in a religious family, and so it seemed quite natural to me that while that hand lay on my head, the throbbing and whirling should cease, and likewise the fear. I became perfectly quiet, and content to sit under the friendly spell. "Why were you crying?" asked the voice, at last.
I answered, hesitatingly, "I think it was humiliation."
"Is it something you have done?"
"No. Something that was done to me."
"But how can a man be humiliated by the act of another?"
I saw what he meant; and I was not humiliated any more.
The stranger spoke again. "A mob," he said, "is a blind thing, worse than madness. It is the beast in man running away with his master."
I thought to myself: how can he know what has happened to me? But then I reflected, perhaps he saw them drive me into the church! I found myself with a sudden, queer impulse to apologize for those soldier boys. "We had some terrible fighting," I cried. "And you know what wars do--to the minds of the people, I mean."
"Yes," said the stranger, "I know, only too well."
I had meant to explain this mob; but somehow, I decided that I could not. How could I make him understand moving picture shows, and German competition, and ex-service men out of jobs? There was a pause, and he asked, "Can you stand up?"
I tried and found that I could. I felt the side of my jaw, and it hurt, but somehow the pain seemed apart from myself. I could see clearly and steadily; there were only two things wrong that I could find--first, this stranger standing by my side, and second, that hole in the window, where I had seen him standing so many Sunday mornings!
"Are you going out now?" he asked. As I hesitated, he added, tactfully, "Perhaps you would let me go with you?"
Here was indeed a startling proposition! His costume, his long hair--there were many things about him not adapted to Broadway at five o'clock in the afternoon! But what could I say? It would be rude to call attention to his peculiarities. All I could manage was to stammer: "I thought you belonged in the church."
"Do I?" he replied, with a puzzled look. "I'm not sure. I have been wondering--am I really needed here? And am I not more needed in the world?"
"Well," said I, "there's one thing certain." I pointed up to the window. "That hole is conspicuous."
"Yes, that is true."
"And if it should rain, the altar would be ruined. The Reverend Dr. Lettuce-Spray would be dreadfully distressed. That altar cloth was left to the church in the will of Mrs. Elvina de Wiggs, and God knows how many thousands of dollars it cost."
"I suppose that wouldn't do," said the stranger. "Let us see if we can't find something to put there."
He started up the aisle, and through the chancel. I followed, and we came into the vestry-room, and there on the wall I noticed a full length, life-sized portrait of old Algernon de Wiggs, president of the Empire National Bank, and of the Western City Chamber of Commerce. "Let us see if he would fill the place," said the stranger; and to my amazement he drew up a chair, and took down the huge picture, and carried it, seemingly without effort, into the church.
He stepped upon the altar, and lifted the portrait in front of the window. How he got it to stay there I am not sure--I was too much taken aback by the procedure to notice such details. There the picture was; it seemed to fit the window exactly, and the effect was simply colossal. You'd have to know old de Wiggs to appreciate it--those round, puffy cheeks, with the afternoon sun behind them, making them shine like two enormous Jonathan apples! Our leading banker was clad in decorous black, as always on Sunday mornings, but in one place the sun penetrated his form--at one side of his chest. My curiosity got the better of me; I could not restrain the question, "What is that golden light?"
Said the stranger: "I think that is his heart."
"But that can't be!" I argued. "The light is on his right side; and it seems to have an oblong shape--exactly as if it were his wallet."
Said the other: "Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also."
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