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Chapter 20

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."

William Dean Howells

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