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Chapter 13

The riot in Hingston's Mill, after the failure of Dylks to appear personally and work the promised miracle, left the question of his divinity where it had been. With no evident change in their numbers on either side, the believers assented, the unbelievers denied. The faithful held that the miracle had been wrought and the seamless raiment torn to pieces by the mob; some declared that they had seen the garments, and tried to keep them from the sacrilege but had been overpowered. The unfaithful laughed at the pretense, and defied the faithful to show any scrap of the cloth having the form of clothing. The pieces remained with the poor woman who had brought the cloth for the miracle; she carried them weeping home, and she and her husband remained like the rest, believing and unbelieving as before; but at every chance she scanned the dishonored fragments in secret, and pieced them together, trying to follow the lines of imaginary garments in them.

Throughout the week the excitement raged, silently for the most part, in the breasts of the two parties, but sometimes breaking out in furious affirmation and denial at such points of common meeting as the store, the tavern, and the postoffice. There the unbelievers outnumbered the believers, who met for mutual support and comfort at one another's houses, but appeared nowhere in force until the Sunday night following; then they came three to one of the enemy, and filled the Temple to overflowing. Dylks was expected to meet them from the concealment or the absence in which he had passed the days; the unbelievers said that he was hiding in fear and shame; the believers that he was preaching to the heathen in other neighborhoods, and would come in power and glory with a great multitude of the converted following him. But the meeting in the Temple was opened by Enraghty, who, in front of the pulpit, rose saying, "The Good Old Man will not be here, to-night, but I will fill his place." A thrill of exultation and disappointment ran through the congregation according as they believed or denied, but they all waited patiently.

Among the many families which had come in internecine enmity, Gillespie and his daughter strained in the unlove which was like hate up to the door of the Temple. He had taunted her with Dylks's failure to work the miracle and with his absence during the week. "If I could get my hands on him, I would pull him out of his hole, and make him face the people he's deceived. I would show him whether he was God or not."

"If you touched him, your hands would be withered," she said in an ecstasy of faith. "If you will bring me a single hair of his head I will deny him."

"I'll remember that," he threatened bitterly, and in the loss of all the dignity of their relation as parent and child he cast a look of contemptuous triumph on her when Enraghty rose and said that he would take the place of Dylks for the night.

"Bring me one hair of his head," she said again.

The people of both sides had supposed that Dylks was sitting behind the pulpit, as his habit was, with his head out of sight bowed in meditation. But when Enraghty, after a few words, sat down to await the coming of the Spirit, suddenly the minister whose turn to preach would have come that night, sprang to his full height in the pulpit and denounced Enraghty's pretense. The believers rose shouting to their feet, and crying, "He is my God!" stormed out of the Temple in the night, where their voices were heard repeating, "He is my God!" till they swelled together in the hymn which was their confession of Dylks. A few of the unbelievers remained in the Temple, amazed, but the greater part followed the believers into the night.

They had the courage of their triumph through Dylks's failure to work the miracle he had promised, and then his failure to show himself in the Temple; but they pushed on with no definite purpose except perhaps to break up some meeting of his followers, when one of the Hounds, yelping and baying in acceptance of their nickname, broke upon them from the woods they were passing with word that they had found Dylks in Enraghty's house, where the believers were already gathering.

"We've treed him," he said, "The whole pack's round the place, and there's no limb in reach for him to jump to. I reckon it'll be the best coon hunt we've ever had in Leatherwood, yit."

Redfield put himself in touch rather than in sight amidst the darkness which the disembodied voices broke upon. "Enraghty's house? Then we've got him. Come on!"

The women of the unbelievers had fallen behind and finally gone home, but all the believers, the women as well as the men, had followed their apostle, and now their voices, in praying and singing, came from the house still hidden by a strip of woodland. In the bewilderment which had fallen upon David Gillespie amid the tumultuous rush from the Temple, he had been parted from his daughter; now he fumbled forward on the feet of an old man, and found himself beside Redfield. "I want you to let me at him first, Jim. I just want one hair of his head."

"Why, don't you know it's death to touch him?" Redfield jeered.

"I know that," Gillespie assented in the same mood. "But I'll risk dying for that one hair."

"What do you want with one hair? I'll get you a handful," Redfield said.

"One'll do to work the miracle I'm after."

"What miracle? None o' your seamless raiment, is it?"

"It's bringing a crazy girl to her senses. She's said if I fetched her a single hair of his she'd renounce him."

"Oh!" Redfield said with respectful understanding. Then he added, "I'll get you the hair."

The unbelievers crowded to the house in the light from the uncurtained windows. One of them stood tiptoe peering in while the others waited. "It's chuck full," he reported. "No room for sinners, I reckon."

"Oh, if Dylks is in there he'll work one of his miracles and make room," another of the Hounds answered. Redfield stood trying the door. "Locked? Hammer on it! Break it in! Here! Give him a shoulder!"

The mob surged forward, laughing and shouting, and crushed Redfield against the door. The panel cracked and groaned; Redfield called to the crowd to hold back, but suddenly the door opened, and the fanatical face of Enraghty showed itself above Redfield's back.

"What do you want?" he demanded. "This is the Lord's house."

"Then it's as much ourn as what it is yourn," some one shouted back.

"We want to see the Lord," another called. "Just one look, just one lick."

The old schoolmaster lost his self-control. "There are some of you out there that I've licked before now for your mischief."

"Yes, we know that," came back. "You didn't lick us enough. We'd like to have you give us some more."

The hindmost of the Hounds surged against those in front, and the whole mob fell forward upon Redfield; he staggered over the threshold to save himself, and struck Enraghty backward in his helpless plunge.

"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.

William Dean Howells

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