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Part 3 The Threshing-floor

    Then said I, Woe is me! for I amundone; because I am a man of uncleanlips, and dwell in the midst of apeople of unclean lips; for mine eyeshave seen the king, the Lord of hosts.

  Then I buckled up my shoes,And I startedHe knew, without knowing how it had happened, that he lay on the floor, in the dusty space beforethe altar which he and Elisha had cleaned; and knew that above him burned the yellow light whichhe had himself switched on. Dust was in his nostrils, sharp and terrible, and the feet of saints,shaking the floor beneath him, raised small clouds of dust that filmed his mouth. He heard theircries, so far, so high above him–he could never rise that far. He was like a rock, a dead man’sbody, a dying bird, fallen from an awful height; something that had no power of itself, any more,to turn.

  And something moved in John’s body which was not John. He was invaded, set at naught,possessed. This power had struck John, in the head or in the heart; and, in a moment, wholly,filling him with an anguish that he could never in his life have imagined, that he surely could notendure, that even now he could not believe, had opened him up; had cracked him open, as woodbeneath the axe cracks down the middle, as rocks break up; had ripped him and felled him in amoment, so that John had not felt the wound, but only the agony, had not felt the fall, but only thefear; and lay here, now, helpless, screaming, at the very bottom of darkness.

  He wanted to rise—a malicious, ironic voice insisted that he rise—and, at once, to leave histemple and go out into the world.

  He wanted to obey the voice, which was the only voice that spoke to him; he tried to assurethe voice that he would do his best to rise; he would only lie here a moment, after his dreadful fall,and catch his breath. It was at this moment, precisely, that he found he could not rise; something had happened to his arms, his legs, his feet—ah, something had happened to John! and he began toscream again in his great, bewildered terror, and felt himself, indeed, begin to move—not upward,toward the light, but down again, a sickness in his bowels, a tightening in his loin-strings; he felthimself turning, again and again, across the dusty floor, as though God’s toe had touched himlightly. And the dust made him cough and retch; in his turning the centre of the whole earthshifted, making of space a sheer void and a mockery of order, and balance, and time. Nothingremained: all was swallowed up in chaos. And: Is this it? John’s terrified soul inquired—What isit?—to no purpose, receiving no answer. Only the ironic voice insisted yet once more that he risefrom the filthy floor if he did not want to become like all the other niggers.

  Then he anguish subsided for a moment, as water withdraws briefly to dash itself oncemore against the rocks: he knew that it subsided only to return. And he coughed and sobbed in thedusty space before the altar, lying on his face. And still he was going down, farther and fartherfrom the joy, the singing, and the light above him.

  He tried, but in such despair!—the utter darkness does not present any point of departure,contains no beginning, and no end—to rediscover, and, as it were, to trap and hold tightly in thepalm of his hand, the moment preceding his fall, his change. But that moment was also locked indarkness, was wordless, and should not come forth. He remembered only the cross: he had turnedagain to kneel at the altar, and had faced the golden cross. And the Holy Ghost was speaking—seeming to say, as John spelled out the so abruptly present and gigantic legend adorning the cross:

  Jesus Saves. He had stared to this, an awful bitterness in his heart, wanting to curse—and the Spiritspoke, and spoke in him. Yes: there was Elisha, speaking from the floor, and his father, silent, athis back. In his heart there was a sudden yearning tenderness for holy Elisha; desire, sharp andawful as a reflecting knife, to usurp the body of Elisha, and lie where Elisha lay; to speak intongues, as Elisha spoke, and, with that authority, to confound his father. Yet this had not been themoment; it was as far back as he could go, but the secret, the turning, the abysmal drop was fartherback, in darkness. As he cursed his father, as he loved Elisha, he had, even then, been weeping; hehad already passed his moment, was already under the power, had been struck, and was goingdownAh, down!—and to what purpose, where? To the bottom of the sea, the bowels of the earth,to the heart of the fiery furnace? Into a dungeon deeper than Hell, into a madness louder than thegrave? What trumpet sound would awaken him, what hand would lift him up? For he knew, as hewas struck again, and screamed again, his throat like burning ashes, and as he turned again, hisbody hanging from him like a useless weight, a heavy, rotting carcass, that if he were not lifted hewould never rise.

  His father, his mother, his aunt, Elisha—all were far above him, waiting, watching historment in the pit. They hung over the golden barrier, singing behind them, light around theirheads, weeping, perhaps, for John, struck down so early. And, no, they could not help him anymore—nothing could help him any more. He struggled, struggle to rise up, and meet them—hewanted wings to fly upward and meet them in that morning, that morning where they were. But hisstruggles only thrust him downward, his cries did not go upward, but rang in his own skull.

  Yet, though he scarcely saw their faces, he knew that they were there. He felt them move,every movement causing a trembling, an astonishment, a horror in the heart of darkness where he lay. He could not know if they wished him to come to them as passionately as he wished to rise.

  Perhaps they did not help him because they did not care—because they did not love him.

  Then his father returned to him, in John’s changed and low condition; and John thought,but for a moment only, that his father had come to help him. In the silence, then, that filled thevoid, John looked on his father. His father’s face was black—like a sad, eternal night, yet in hisfather’s face there burned a fire—a fire eternal in an eternal night. John trembled where he lay,feeling no warmth from him from this fire, tremble, and could not take his eyes away. A wind blewover him, saying: ‘Whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.’ Only: ‘Whosoever loveth and maketh alie.’ And he knew that he had been thrust out of the holy, the joyful, the blood-washed community,that his father had thrust him out. His father’s will was stronger than John’s own. His power wasgreater because he belonged to God. Now, John felt no hatred, nothing, only a bitter, unbelievingdespair: all prophecies were true, salvation was finished, damnation was real!

  Then Death is real, John’s soul said, and Death will have his moment.

  ‘Set thine house in order,’ said his father, ‘for thou shalt die and not live.’

  And then the ironic voice spoke again, saying: ‘Get up, John. Get up, boy. Don’t let himkeep you here. You got everything your daddy got.’

  John tried to laugh—John thought that he was laughing—but found, instead, that his mouthwas filled with salt, his ears were full of burning water. Whatever was happening in his distantbody now, he could not change or stop; his cheat heaved, his laugher rose and bubbled at hismouth, like blood.

  And his father looked on him. His father’s eyes looked down on him, and John began toscream. His father’s eyes stripped him naked, and hated what they saw. And as he turned,screaming, in the dust again, trying to escape his father’s eyes, those eyes, that face, and all theirfaces, and the far-off yellow light, all departed from his vision as though he had gone blind. Hewas going down again. There is, his soul cried out again, no bottom to the darkness!

  He did not where he was. There was silence everywhere—only a perpetual, distant, fainttrembling far beneath him—the roaring perhaps, of the fires of Hell, over which he was suspended,or the echo, persistent, invincible still, of the moving feet of the saints. He thought of themountain-top, where he longed to be, where the sun would cover him like a cloth of gold, wouldcover his head like a crown of fire, and in his hands he would hold a living rod. But this was nomountain where John lay, here, no robe, no crown. And the living rod was uplifted in other hands.

  ‘I’m going to beat sin out of him. I’m going to beat it out.’

  Yes, he had sinned, and his father was looking for him. Now, John did not make a sound,and did not move at all, hoping that his father would pass him by.

  ‘Leave him be. Leave him alone. Let him pray to the Lord.’

  ‘Yes, Mama. I’m going to try to love the Lord.’

  ‘He done run off somewhere. I’m going to find him. I’m going to beat it out.’

  Yes, he had sinned: one morning, alone, in the dirty bathroom, in the square, dirt-graycupboard room that was filled with the stink of his father. Sometimes, leaning over the cracked, ‘tattle-tale gray’ bath-tub, he scrubbed his father’s back; and looked, as the accursed son of Noahhad looked, on his father’s hideous nakedness. It was secret, like sin, and slimy, like the serpent,and heavy, like the rod. Then he hated his father, and longed for the power to cut his father down.

  Was this why he lay here, thrust out from all human or heavenly help to-night? This, andnot the other, his deadly sin, having looked on his father’s nakedness and mocked and cursed himin his heart? Ah, that son of Noah’s had been cursed, down to the present groaning generation: Aservant of servants shall be unto his brethren.

  Then the ironic voice, terrified, it seemed, of no depth, no darkness, demanded of John,scornfully, if he believed that he was cursed. All niggers had been cursed, the ironic voicereminded him, all niggers had come from this most undutiful of Noah’s sons. How could John becursed for having seen in a bath-tub what another man—if that other man had ever lived—had seenten thousand years ago, lying in an open tent? Could a curse come down so many ages? Did it livein time, or in the moment? But John found no answer for this voice, for he was in the moment, andout of time.

  And his father approached. ‘I’m going to beat sin out of him. I’m going to beat it out.’ Allthe darkness rocked and wailed as his father’s feet came closer; feet whose tread resounded likeGod’s tread in the garden of Eden, searching the covered Adam and Eve. Then his father stood justabove him, looking down. Then John knew that a curse was renewed from moment to moment,from father to son. Time was indifferent, like snow and ice; but the heart, crazed wanderer in thedriving waste, carried the curse for ever.

  ‘John,’ said his father, ‘come with me.’

  Then they were in a straight street, a narrow, narrow way. They had been walking for manydays. The street stretched before them, long, and silent, going down, and whiter than the snow.

  There was no one on the street, and John was frightened. The buildings on this street, so near thatJohn could touch them on either side, were narrow, also, rising like spears into the sky, and theywere made of beaten gold and silver. John knew that these buildings were not for him—not to-day—no, nor to-morrow, either! Then, coming up this straight and silent street, he saw a woman, veryold and black, coming toward them, staggering on the crooked stones. She was drunk, and dirty,and very old, and her mouth was bigger than his mother’s mouth, or his own; her mouth was looseand wet, and he had never seen anyone so black. His father was astonished to see her, and besidehimself with anger; but John was glad. He clapped his hands, and cried:

  ‘See! She’s uglier than Mama! She’s uglier than me!’

  ‘You mighty proud, ain’t you,’ his father said, ‘to be the Devil’s son?’

  But John did no listen to his father. He turned to watch the woman pass. His father grabbedhis arm.

  “You see that? That’s sin. That’s what the Devil’s son runs after.’

  ‘Whose son are you?’ John asked.

  His father slapped him. John laughed, and moved a little away.

  ‘I seen it. I seen it. I ain’t the Devil’s son for nothing.’

   His father reached for him, but John was faster. He moved backward down the shiningstreet, looking at his father—his father who moved toward him, one hand outstretched in fury.

  ‘And I heard you—all the night-time long. I know what you do in the dark, black man,when you think the Devil’s son’s asleep. I heard you, spitting, and groaning, and choking—and Iseen you, riding up and down, and going in and out. I ain’t the Devil’s son for nothing.’

  The listening buildings, rising upward yet, leaned, closing out the sky. John’s feet began toslip; tears and sweat were in his eyes; still moving backward before his father, he looked about himfor deliverance; but there was no deliverance in this street for him.

  ‘And I hate you. I hate you. I don’t care about your golden crown. I don’t care about yourlong white robe. I seen you under the robe, I seen you!’

  Then his father was upon him; at his touch there was singing, and fire. John lay on his backin the narrow street, looking up at his father, that burning face beneath the burning towers.

  ‘I’m going to beat it out of you. I’m going to beat it out.’

  His father raised his hand. The knife came down. John rolled away, down the white,descending street, screaming:

  Father! Father!

  These were the first words he uttered. In a moment there was silence, and his father wasgone. Again, he felt the saints above him—and dust in his mouth. There was singing somewhere;faraway,abovehim;singingslowandmourn(was) ful. He lay silent, racked beyondendurance, salt drying on his face, with nothing in him any more, no lust, no fear, no shame, nohope. And yet he knew that it would come again—the darkness was full of demons crouching,waiting to worry him with their teeth again.

  Then I looked in the grave and I wondered.

  Ah, down!—what was he searching here, all alone in darkness? But now he knew, for ironyhad left him, that he was searching something, hidden in the darkness, that must be found. Hewould die if it was not found; or, he was dead already, and would never again be joined to theliving, if it was not found.

  And the grave looked so sad and lonesome.

  In the grave where he now wandered—he knew it was the grave, it was so cold and silent,and he moved in icy mist—he found his mother and his father, his mother dressed in scarlet, hisfather dressed in white. They did not see him: they looked backward, over their shoulders, at acloud of witnesses. And there was his Aunt Florence, gold and silver flashing on her fingers,brazen ear-rings dangling from her ears; and there was another woman, whom he took to be thatwife of his father’s, called Deborah—who had, as he had once believed, so much to tell him. Butshe, alone, of all that company, looked at him and signified that there was no speech in the grave.

  He was a stranger there—they did not see him pass, they did not know what he was looking for,they could not help him search. He wanted to find Elisha, who knew, perhaps, who would help him—but Elisha was not there. There was Roy: Roy also might have helped him, but he had beenstabbed with a knife, and lay now, brown and silent, at his father’s feet.

   Then there began to flood John’s soul the waters of despair. Love is as strong as death, asdeep as the grave. But love, which had, perhaps, like a benevolent monarch, swelled thepopulation of his neighboring kingdom, Death, had not himself descended: they owed him noallegiance here. Here there was no speech or language, and there was no love; no one to say: Youare beautiful, John; no one to forgive him, no matter what his sin; no one to heal him, and lift himup. No one: father and mother looked backward, Roy was bloody, Elisha was not here.

  Then the darkness began to murmur—a terrible sound—and John’s ears trembled. In thismurmur that filled the grave, like a thousand wings beating on the air, he recognized a sound thathe had always heard. He began, for terror, to weep and moan—and this sound was swallowed up,and yet was magnified by the echoes that filled the darkness.

  This sound had filled John’s life, so it now seemed, from the moment he had first drawnbreath. He had heard it everywhere, in prayer and in daily speech, and wherever the saints weregathered, and in the unbelieving streets. It was in his father’s anger, and in his mother’s calminsistence, and in the vehement mockery of his aunt; it had rung, so oddly, in Roy’s voice thisafternoon, and when Elisha played the piano it was there; it was in the beat and jangle of SisterMcCandless’s tambourine, it was in the very cadence of her testimony, and invested that testimonywith a matchless, unimpeachable authority. Yes, he had heard it all his life, but it was only nowthat his ears were open to this sound that came from darkness, that could only come from darkness,that yet bore such sure witness to the glory of the light. And now in this moaning, and so far fromany help, he heard it in himself—it rose from his bleeding, his cracked open heart. It was a soundof rage and weeping which filled the grave, rage and weeping from time set free, but bound now ineternity; rage that had no language, weeping with no voice—which yet spoke now, to John’sstartled soul, of boundless melancholy, of the bitterest patience, and the longest night; of thedeepest water, the strongest chains, the most cruel lash; of humility most wretched, the dungeonmost absolute, of love’s bed defiled, and birth dishonored, and most bloody, unspeakable, suddendeath. Yes, the darkness hummed with murder: the body in the water, the body in the fire, the bodyon the tree. John looked down the line of these armies of darkness, army upon army, and his soulwhispered: Who are these? Who are they? And wondered: Where shall I go?

  There was no answer. There was no help or healing in the grave, no answer in the darkness,no speech from all that company. They looked backward. And John looked back, seeing nodeliverance.

  I, John saw the future, way up in the middle of the air.

  Were the lash, the dungeon, and the night for him? And the sea for him? And the grave forhim?

  I, John saw a number, way in the middle of the air.

  And he struggled to flee—out of this darkness, out of this company—into the land of theliving, so high, so far away. Fear was upon him, a more deadly fear than he had ever known, as heturned and turned in the darkness, as he moaned, and stumbled, and crawled through darkness,finding no hand, no voice, finding no door. Who are these? Who are they? They were the despisedand rejected, the wretched and the spat upon, the earth’s offscouring; and he was in their company,and they would swallow up his soul. The stripes they had endured would scar his back, their punishment would be his, their portion his, his their humiliation, anguish, chains, their dungeonhis, their death his. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, anight and a day I have been in the deep.

  And their dread testimony would be his!

  In journeying often, in perils of waters, inn perils of robbers, in perils by mine owncountrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils inthe sea, in perils among false brethren.

  And their desolation, his:

  In weariness and painfulness, in watching often, in hunger and thirst, in fasting often, incold and nakedness.

  And he began to shout for help, seeing before him the lash, the fire, and the depthlesswater, seeing his head bowed down for ever, he, John, the lowest among these lowly. And helooked for his mother, but her eyes were fixed on this dark army—she was claimed by this army.

  And his father would not help him, his father did not see him, and Roy lay dead.

  Then he whispered, not knowing that he whispered: ‘Oh, Lord, have mercy on me. Havemercy on me.’

  And a voice, for the first time in all his terrible journey, spoke to John, through he rage andweeping, and fire, and darkness, and flood:

  ‘Yes,’ said the voice, ‘go through. Go through.’

  ‘Lift me up,’ whispered John, ‘lift me up. I can’t go through.’

  ‘Go through,’ said the voice, ‘go through.’

  Then there was silence. The murmuring ceased. There was only this trebling beneath him.

  And he knew there was a light somewhere.

  ‘Go through.’

  ‘Ask Him to take you through.’

  But he could never go through this darkness, through this fire and this wrath. He nevercould go through. His strength was finished, and he could not move. He belonged to the darkness—the darkness from which he had thought to flee had claimed him. And he moaned again,weeping, and lifted up his hands.

  ‘Call on Him. Call on Him.’

  ‘Ask Him to take you through.’

  Dust rose again in his nostrils, sharp as the fumes of Hell. And he turned again in thedarkness, trying to remember something he had heard, something he had read.

  Jesus saves.

   And he saw before him the fire, red and gold, and waiting for him—yellow, and red, andgold, and burning in a night eternal, and waiting for him. He must go through this fire, and into thisnight.

  Jesus saves.

  Call on Him.

  Ask Him to take you through.

  He could not call, for his tongue would not unlock, and his heart was silent, and great withfear. In the darkness, how to move?—with death’s ten thousand jaws agape, and waiting in thedarkness. On any turning whatsoever the beast may spring—to move in the darkness is to moveinto the moving jaws of death. And yet, it came to him that he must move; for there was a lightsomewhere, and life, and joy, and singing—somewhere, somewhere above him.

  And he moaned again: ‘Oh, Lord, have mercy. Have mercy, Lord.’

  There came to him again the communion service at which Elisha had knelt at his father’sfeet. Now this service was in a great, high room, a room made golden by the light of the sun; andthe room was filled with a multitude of people, all in long, white robes, the women with coveredheads. They sat at a long, bare, wooden table. They broke at this table flat, unsalted bread, whichwas the body of the Lord, and drank from a heavy silver cup the scarlet wine of His blood. Then hesaw that they were barefoot, and that their feet were stained with this same blood. And a sound ofweeping filled the room as they broke the bread and drank the wine.

  Then they rose, to come together over a great basin filled with water. And they divided intofour groups, two of women, and man before man, to watch each other’s feet. But the blood wouldnot wash off; many washings only turned the crystal water red; and someone cried: ‘Have youbeen to the river?’

  Then John saw the river, and the multitude was there. And now they had undergone achange; their robes were ragged, and stained with the road they had traveled, and stained withunholy blood; the robes of some barely covered their nakedness; and some indeed were naked.

  And some stumbled on the smooth stones at the river’s edge, for they were blind; and somecrawled with a terrible wailing, for they were lame; some did not cease to pluck at their flesh,which was rotten with running sores. All struggled to get to the river, in a dreadful hardness ofheart: the strong struck down the weak, the ragged spat on the naked, the naked cursed the blind,the blind crawled over the lame. And someone cried: ‘Sinner, do you love my Lord?’

  Then John saw the Lord—for a moment only; and the darkness, for a moment only, wasfilled with a light he could not bear. Then, in a moment, he was set free; his tears sprang as from afountain; his heart, like a fountain of waters, burst. Then he cried: ‘Oh, blessed Jesus! Oh, LordJesus! Take me through!’

  Of tears there was, yes, a very fountain—springing from a depth never sounded before,from depths John had not known were in him. And he wanted to rise up, singing, singing in thatgreat morning, the morning of his new life. Ah, how his tears ran down, how they blessed his soul!

  —as he felt himself, out of the darkness, and the fire, and the terrors of death, rising upward tomeet the saints ‘Oh, yes!’ cried the voice of Elisha. ‘Bless our God for ever!’

  And a sweetness filled John as he heard this voice, and heard the sound of singing: thesinging was for him. For his drifting soul was anchored in the love of God; in the rock that enduredfor ever. The light and the darkness had kissed each other, and were married now, for ever, in thelife and the vision of John’s soul.

  I, John, saw a city, way in the middle of the air,Waiting, waiting, waiting up there.

  He opened his eyes on the morning, and found them, in the light of the morning, rejoicingfor him. The trembling he had known in darkness had been the echo of their joyful feet—thesefeet, bloodstained for ever, and washed in many rivers—they moved on the bloody road for ever,with no continuing city, but seeking one to come: a city out of time, not made with hands, buteternal in the heavens. No power could hold this army back, no water disperse them, no fireconsume them. One day they would compel the earth to heave upward, and surrender the waitingdead. They sang, where the darkness gathered, where the lion waited, where the fire cried, andwhere blood ran down:

  My soul, don’t you be uneasy!

  They wandered in the valley for ever; and they smote the rock, for ever; and the waterssprang, perpetually, in the perpetual desert. They cried unto the Lord for ever, and lifted up theireyes for ever, they were cast down for ever, and He lifted them up for ever. No, the fire could nothurt them, and yes, the lion’s jaws were stopped; the serpent was not their master, the grave wasnot their resting-place, the earth was not their home. Job bore them witness, and Abraham wastheir father, Moses had elected to suffer with them rather that glory in sin for a season. Shadrach,Meshach, and Abednego had gone before them into the fire, their grief had been sung by David,and Jeremiah had wept for them. Ezekiel had prophesied upon them, these scattered bones, theseslain, and, in the fullness of time, the prophet, John, had come out of the wilderness, crying that thepromise was for them. They were encompassed with a very cloud of witnesses: Judas, who hadbetrayed the Lord; Thomas, who had doubted Him; Peter, who had trembled at the crowing of acock; Stephen, who had been stoned; Paul, who had been bound; the blind man crying in the dustyroad, the dead man rising from the grave. And they looked unto Jesus, the author and the finisherof their faith, running with patience the race He had set before them; they endured the cross, andthey despised the shame, and waited to join Him, one day, in glory, at the right hand of the Father.

  My soul! don’t you be uneasy!

  Jesus going to make up my dying bed!

  ‘Rise up, rise up, Brother Johnny, and talk about the Lord’s deliverance.’

   It was Elisha who had spoken; he stood just above John, smiling; and behind him were thesaints—Praying Mother Washington, and Sister McCandless, and Sister Price. Behind these, hesaw his mother, and his aunt; his father, for the moment, was hidden from his view.

  ‘Amen!’ cried Sister McCandless, ‘rise up, and praise the Lord!’

  He tried to speak, and could not, for the joy that rang in him this morning. He smiled up toElisha, and his tears ran down; and Sister McCandless began to sing:

  ‘Lord, I ain’tNo stranger now!

  ‘Rise up, Johnny,’ said Elisha, again. ‘Are you saved, boy?’

  ‘Yes,’ said John, ‘oh, yes!’ And the words came upward, it seemed, of themselves, in thenew voice God had given him. Elisha stretched out his hand, and John took the hand, and stood—so suddenly, and so strangely, and with such wonder!—once more on his feet.

  ‘Lord, I ain’tNo stranger now!’

  Yes, the night had passed, the powers of darkness had been beaten back. He moved amongthe saints, he, John, who had come home, who was one of their company now; weeping, he yetcould find no words to speak of his great gladness; and he scarcely knew how he moved, for hishands were new, and his feet were new, and he moved in a new and Heaven-bright air. PrayingMother Washington took him in her arms, and kissed him, and their tears, his tears and the tears ofthe old, black woman, mingled.

  ‘God bless you, son. Run on, honey, and don’t get weary!’

  ‘Lord, I been introduced,To the Father and the Son,And I ain’tNo stranger now!’

  Yes, as he moved among them, their hands touching, and tears falling, and the music rising—as though he moved down a great hall, full of a splendid company—something began to knockin that listening, astonished, newborn, and fragile heart of his; something recalling the terrors ofthe night, which were not finished, his heart seemed to say; which, in this company, were now tobegin. And, while his heart was speaking, he found himself before his mother. Her face was full oftears, and for a long while they looked at each other, saying nothing. And once again, he tried toread the mystery of that face—which, as it had never before been so bright and pained with love,had never seemed before so far from him, so wholly in communion with a life beyond his life. He wanted to comfort her, but the night had given him no language, no second sight, no power to seeinto the heart of any other. He knew only—and now, looking at his mother, he knew that he couldnever tell it—that the heart was a fearful place. She kissed him, and she said: ‘I’m mighty proud,Johnny. You keep the faith. I’m going to be praying for you till the Lord puts me in my grave.’

  Then he stood before his father. In the moment that he forced himself to raise his eyes andlook into his father’s face, he felt in himself a stiffening, and a panic and a blind rebellion, and ahope for peace. The tears still on his face, and smiling still, he said: ‘Praise the Lord.’

  ‘Praise the Lord,’ said his father. He did not move to touch him, did not kiss him, did notsmile. They stood before each other in silence, while the saints rejoiced; and John struggled tospeak the authoritative, the living word that would conquer the great division between his fatherand himself. But it did not come, the living word; in the silence something died in John, andsomething came alive. It came to him that he must testify: his tongue only could bear witness tothe wonders he had seen. And he remembered, suddenly, the text of a sermon he had once heardhis father preach. And he opened his mouth, feeling, as he watched his father, the darkness roarbehind him, and the very earth beneath him seem to shake; yet he gave to his father their commontestimony. ‘I’m saved,’ he said, ‘and I know I’m saved.’ And then, as his father did not............

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