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Chapter 18

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.

William Dean Howells

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