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There had been some wonderful conversions during the meetings; hard-swearing, hard-drinking men had abandoned their evil ways and were apparently as willing and anxious as any one else to be informed as to how to conform their lives to the professions which they had made. All the other churches sympathized with the efforts which Dr. Guide's flock had been making, for they themselves had been affected to their visible benefit.
Dr. Guide himself became one of the humblest of the humble. Always a man of irreproachable life and warm heart, it never had occurred to him that anything could be lacking in his church methods. But he also was a man of quick perceptions : so, as the meetings went on, and he realized that their impetus was due not at all to anything he had said or done, but solely to the personal example of Sam Kimper, he fell into deep thought and retrospection. He resolutely waived all compliments which his clerical brethren of other denominations offered him on what they were pleased to call the results of his ministrations, and honestly insisted that the good work was begun by the example set by Sam Kimper, the ex-convict.
Dr. Guide was an honest believer in the “ church universal,” but he had been trained to regard the Church of Rome as the "scarlet woman" of Revelation, and whenever he met Father Black in the streets he recognized him only with a dignified bow. The day before the closing meeting, however, he encountered the priest at the turning of a corner,—too suddenly for a change of manner.
“My dear brother!" exclaimed Father Black, extending both hands and grasping Dr. Guide's hands warmly, “God bless you for the good work you have been doing !"
“My dear sir," said the pastor, rallying all his powers to withstand the surprise, “I am very glad that you are pleased to regard the work as good.”
“How can I help it ?” said the priest, impetuously. which your
church efforts have awakened has spread throughout the town and affected everybody. There are men—and some women of my flock whom I've been trying in vain for years to bring to confession, so as to start them on a new life. I've coaxed them, threatened them, prayed for them with tears of agony, for what soul is not dear to our Saviour? The worse the soul, the more the Saviour yearns to reclaim it. You'remember the parable of the ninety-and-nine ?"
“Who can forget it ?" said the reverend doctor, tears springing to
“No one, my dear brother,—no one,” replied the priest. “Well, my lost sheep have all come back. The invisible Church has helped the visible, and
“Is my Church, then, invisible ?" asked Dr. Guide, with a quick relapse into his old-time manner.
" My dear brother,” exclaimed the priest, “which is the greater ? Which exists only for the other ?”
"I beg your pardon,” said Dr. Guide, his face thawing in an instant.
“ Again I thank you from the depths of my heart," said the old priest, and—”
« The spirit
“Father Black,” interrupted the pastor," the more you thank me the more uncomfortable I feel. Whatever credit is awarded, except to Heaven, for the great and unexpected experiences which have been made manifest at my church, belongs entirely to a man who, being the lowest of the low, has set forth an example of perfect obedience.
“ That poor cobbler? You are right, I verily believe, and I shall go at once to pour out my heart to him."
“Let me go with you, Father-Brother Black. I_” here Dr. Guide's face broke into a confidential smile,-"I want to go to confession myself, for the first time in my life, if you will allow the cobbler to be my priest. I want a reputable witness, too.”
Then the two clergymen, arm in arm, proceeded to Sam Kimper's shop, to the great astonishment of all the villagers who saw them.
That night, at the closing meeting of the revival series, Dr. Guide delivered a short but pointed talk from the text, “Verily I say unto you, the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom before you.
“My friends," said he, “these words were spoken by Jesus one day when the chief priests and elders, who were the types of the clergymen and formal religious people of our day, questioned Him about His works and His authority. They had a mass of tradition and doctrine by which they were justified in their own eyes, and the presence, the works, the teachings, and the daily life of Jesus were a thorn in their flesh. It annoyed them so that they crucified Him in order to be rid of His purer influence. We, who know more of Him than they, have been continually crucifying our Lord afresh by paying too much attention to the letter and ignoring the spirit. These things should ye have done, and not left the others undone.' I sayot
these words not by way of blame, but of warning. Heaven forbid that I ever shall need to
repeat them !”
As the congregation looked about at one and another whom the cap might fit, everybody chanced to see Deacon Quickset arise.
My friends,” said the deacon, “ I'm one of the very kind of people Jesus meant when He said the words that our pastor took for his text to-night; and, for fear that some one mayn't know it, I arise to own up to it myself. Nobody's stood up for the letter of the law and the plan of salvation stronger than I, and nobody has taken more pains to dodge the spirit of it. The scales have fallen from my eyes lately, but I suppose all of you have been seeing me as I am for a long, long time, and you've known me for the hypocrite that I now can see I've always been. I've done a good many things that I oughtn't to have done. I've told half-truths that were worse than lies. I've devoured widows' houses, and for a pretence made long prayers,' as the gospel says. But the worst thing I've done, and the thing I feel most sinful about, is that when an unfortunate fellow-citizen of ours came back to this town and tried to live a right life I did all I could to discourage him and make him just like myself. I want right here, encompassed about by a mighty cloud of witnesses, to confess that I've done that man an awful wrong, and I'm sorry for it. I've prayed to God to forgive me; but I'm not going to stop at that. Right here before you all I want to ask that man himself to forgive me, as I've asked him in
private. I'm not going to stop at that, either. That man's life has opened my eyes, in spite of myself, to all the faults of my own; and I want to show my sincerity by promising, before you all, that I am that man's brother from this time forth until I die, and that whatever is mine is his whenever and however he wants it.”
The deacon sat down. There was an instant of silence, and then a sensation, as every one began to look about for the ex-convict.
“If Brother Kimper feels inclined to make any remarks,” said Dr. Guide, “I am sure every one present would be glad to listen to him.”
People were slowly arising and looking towards one portion of the church. Dr. Guide left the pulpit and walked down one of the aisles towards the point where all eyes were centred. In a seat in the back of the church he saw the ex-convict, with one arm around his wife and the other around his daughter Jane : Sam looked smaller and more insignificant than ever, for his chin was resting on his breast and tears were chasing one another down his pale cheeks. Dr. Guide hurried back to the altar-rail, and exclaimed, in his loudest and most impressive voice,
'Praise God, from whom all blessings flow!'”
THE NEW TROUBADOURS AT AVIGNON.
NHERE was nothing at all ancient about my hotel at Avignon.
Nor was there about the principal street, that led up past it from the railway-station to the Place de l'Hôtel-de-Ville. The hotel was still in process of construction. I chose it on the recommendation of my guide-book,—to my cost and regret; for in Avignon of all places one should have something medieval and uncommon even about his hotel. On the other hand, there is something extremely satisfactory, from the purely modern point of view, about the fine, bustling Rue de la République, the main street above mentioned. The principal shop is established in a really palatial edifice, with garden, which was once
It has adapted itself to this situation without finding it necessary to tear out the pleasant windows or indulge in the usual splurge of placards and signs. It looks so attractive that almost any one would enter to see what was within; and there he would find the goods becomingly displayed. There is an idea in this. It is a pity it could not be followed so as to give a redeeming grace to American business thoroughfares.
When I went to present my letter to Roumanville, I was in luck. in finding not only that sturdy pioneer and Nestor of the Félibres, the new troubadours of Provence, but a whole group of the most distinguished leaders of this original literary movement. I did not enter his house at once, but only verified its location in the Rue Saint-Agricol. It is a bookseller's shop; for, like the lamented Aubanel and some others, he has joined the function of poet and story-teller, in the oldfashioned way, to the kindred pursuits of bookseller and publisher. I allowed myself to be attracted on beyond it to the ancient church of Saint-Agricol close by. This church, with much sculptured, time-eaten front, in drab, or mud-colored, sandstone, packed in among close-encircling houses, is a typical monument of the place. Before it is a small terrace reached by a broad staircase from the side, the whole making one of those arrangements which scene-painters love to give us as setting for the action of romantic operas and dramas. From there I went on and spent a long preliminary afternoon among the storied scenes of Avignon. I may confess that I have done the same thing before. One understands his new acquaintances better after having seen something of the circumstances amid which they live; and there is a certain feeling of helplessness in relation to them without that. They are even more satisfactory as guides when you have tasted the first charm and novelty quite apart from all personal considerations.
You may be sure I sought very soon the famous bridge of Avignon, the one on which somebody or something danced in the old days,-I believe it is not clearly known who or when,--so as to give rise to the catch popular in the French department of every well-regulated American boarding-school for young girls. It could hardly have been quadrilles they danced there, or anything of that sort, for the bridge is surprisingly narrow, a bridge over which vehicles were never meant to pass; and indeed in its time vehicles and wagon-roads as we comprehend them did not exist. The top is paved with small cobble-stones, among which grass is growing. Only three or four of its once numerous arches remain. A portion of it is bordered with light iron railings, but the final portion remains entirely open, a high, abrupt, dizzy termination above the formidable Rhone. The river is very wide at this place. Who would have suspected the Rhone, a river of sunny, poetic Provence, so far from its Alpine origin, of being so turbid, mad, headstrong, unnavigable, and utterly uncontrollable? One would have expected to see it thoroughly tamed by all these centuries that have passed over it, all the generations of men, civilized and uncivilized, that have held their abodes about it and their sway over it, in this old, old country. But all this occupation has left no trace upon its fierceness; it would make nothing of sweeping away its bridges, as it has often done before. Beside the battlements of Avignon, venerable with history, the most striking fact, the keenest commentary upon the ephemeralness of the works of men, is this unruly, lonesome river, corresponding rather to the ideal which European writers are fond of framing for themselves of some flood in the virgin wilds of America.
Probably it was the farandole they danced on the bridge. I hear they dance it still, the peasants standing up before each other in couples and footing it merrily, at the fêtes given at each of the seven gates of Avignon in turn. The ramparts, carefully restored under the direction of Viollet-le-Duc, one of the most accomplished and learned of architects, all survive; but somehow they did not appear to me at all overawing. They are low and built chiefly on the level : it seemed as if almost anybody could take a ladder and, with a little assurance, climb up over the top of them. I found afterwards that in making the encompassing boulevard a deep moat had been filled in, which, existing, would have added greatly to their height.
Across the long modern—very modern-bridge, next, to the lesser city on the other side of the stream. There is a solid support upon the low and virgin-looking island of Barthelasse, in the centre, while two suspension bridges from this span the two arms of the powerful cur
Battalion after battalion of soldiers, in coarse linen undress, who had been out to practise target-shooting in the country, were returning swiftly across it. The way was glaring and Villeneuve-les-Avignon remote, but the town presented a most attractive mediæval appearance, and the effort was well repaid. The old castle-fortress of Saint-André is almost wholly preserved in the exterior outline, while within it is thoroughly ruined. Nowhere else have I seen a grander ruin of its sort. This, like the Palace of the Popes, over there at Avignon again, is on so vast a scale as to dwarf everything around it. A shepherd, with his flock and sheep-dog near him, rose from his reclining position upon the slope below the great towers to come and serve as guide. Through an arched gap in the ramparts, big enough to drive an oxwain through, I looked down into the town full of sculptured façades and portals that show the feudal luxury of which it was once the abode, but now utterly abandoned to poverty and squalor. Avignon, over