Such a sight had never been seen in Cornwall before: on this Sunday morning an hour after sunrise every road leading to the village of Porthawn had its procession of men, women, and children, going to hear the preacher. The roads became dusty, as dry roads do when an army of soldiers passes over them; and here was an army of soldiers along, with its horse and foot and baggage-waggons—such an army as had never been in the West since the days of Monmouth's Rebellion; and this great march was the beginning of another rebellion, not destined to fail as the other had failed. Without banners, without arms, with no noise, with no shoutings of the captains, this great force marched to fight—to take part in an encounter that proved more lasting in its effects than any recorded in the history of England since the days of the Norman Invasion.

The Cornish crowds did not know that they were making history. The people had heard rumours of the preacher who had awakened the people of Somersetshire from their sleep of years, and who, on being excluded from the churches which had become Sabbath dormitories, had gone to the fields where all was wakefulness, and had here spoken to the hearts of tens of thousands.

The reports that spread abroad by the employment of no apparent agency must have contained some element that appealed with overwhelming power to the people of the West. The impulse that drove quiet folk from their homes and induced them to march many miles along dusty roads upon the morning of the only day of the week that gave them respite from toil was surely stronger than mere curiosity. They did not go into the wilderness to see a reed shaken by the wind. There was a seriousness of purpose and a sincerity about these people which must have been the result of a strong feeling among them that the existing order of things was lacking in some essentials—that the Church should become a stimulating force to them who were ready to perish, and not remain the apathetic force that it was when at its best, the atrophying influence that it was when at its worst.

That the ground was ready for the sowing was the opinion of Wesley, though few signs had been given to him to induce this conclusion, but that he had not misinterpreted the story of the Valley of Dry Bones was proved by the sight of the multitudes upon the roads—upon the moorland sheep-tracks—upon the narrow lanes where the traffic was carried on by pack-horses. There they streamed in their thousands. Farmers with their wives and children seated on chairs in their heavy waggons, men astride of everything that was equine—horses and mules and asses—some with their wives or sisters on the pillion behind them, but still more riding double with a friend.

On the wayside were some who were resting, having walked seven or eight or ten miles, and had seen the sun rise over the hills on that scented Spring morning. Some were having their breakfast among the primroses under the hedges, some were smoking their pipes before setting forth to complete their journey. Mothers, were nursing their infants beneath the pink and white coral of the hawthorns.

“'Tis a fair,” said Hal Holmes to his friend, Dick Pritchard, who was seated by his side in a small pony cart made by himself during the winter.

“Salvation Fair,” hazarded the water-finder. “Salvation Fair I would call it if only I was bold enough.”

The smith shook his head.

“That is how it will be styled by many, I doubt not,” he said. “And being as it must be, a strange mixture of the two—a church-going and a fairgoing—I have my fears that 'twill fall 'twixt the two. If the thing was more of a failure 'twould be a huge success. You take me, Dick?”

“Only vague, Hal—only vague, man,” replied the water-finder, after a long cogitating pause. “When you spake the words there came a flash upon me like the glim from the lanthorn when 'tis opened sudden. I saw the meaning clear enough like as 'twere a stretch of valley on an uneven night of moonlight and cloud. Seemed as if there was a rift in your discourse and the moon poured through. But then the clouds fled across and I walk in the dark. Say 't again, Hal, and it may be that 'twill be plain. I have oft thought that your speech lit up marvellous well.”

The blacksmith grinned.

“Maybe that is by reason of my work with the forge,” he said. “The furnace is black enough until I give it a blast with the bellows and then 'tis a very ruby stone struck wi' lightning.”

“Maybe—ay, very likely,” said the little man doubtfully.

The smith grinned again.

“You don't altogether see it with my eyes, friend,” he said. “How could you, Dick, our trades being natural enemies the one to t'other? My best friend is fire, yours is water. But what was on my mind this moment was the likelihood that the light-hearted may be fain to treat this great serious field gathering as though it were no more than a fair. Now, I say still that if 'twas no more than a gathering together of two or three parishes none would think of it in light of a fair, but being as 'tis—a marvel of moving men and women—why, then, there may be levity and who knows what worse.”

“Ay, it looks as if the carcase of the hills was alive and moving with crawling maggots,” remarked Dick. The summit of the hill on the road had been reached, and thus a view was given him and his companion of the hollow in the valley beyond, which was black with the slow-moving procession.

And there were many who, while anxious for the success of the meeting, shared Hal Holmes's fears and doubts as to its result. What impression could one man make upon so vast an assembly in the open air, they asked of each other. They shook their heads.

These were the sober-minded people who sympathised with the aims of the preacher—God-fearing men and women to whom his hopes had been communicated. They knew that hundreds in that procession on the march to the meeting-place were no more serious than they would be had they been going to a fair. They were going to meet their friends, and they were impelled by no higher motives than those which were the result of the instinct of the gregarious animals. Many of them lived far away from a town or even a village, in the wilder parts of the Duchy, and they laid hold on an opportunity that promised to bring them in contact with a greater crowd than they had ever joined before. The joy of being one of the crowd was enough for them; the preaching was only an insignificant incident in the day's proceedings. The sober-minded, knowing this, were afraid that in these people the spirit of levity might be aroused, especially if they could not hear the words of the preacher, and the consequences would be disastrous.

And doubtless there were hundreds of the dwellers along the coast who would have been pleased if grief came to an enterprise that threatened their employment as smugglers or the agents of smugglers. Smuggling and wrecking were along the coast, and pretty far inland as well, regarded as a legitimate calling. Almost everyone participated in the profits of the contraband, and the majority of the clergy would have been very much less convivial if they had had to pay the full price for their potations. Preaching against such traffic would have been impolitic as well as hypocritical, and the clergy were neither. The parson who denounced his congregation for forsaking the service on the news of a wreck reaching the church was, probably, a fair type of his order. His plea was for fair play. “Let us all start fair for the shore, my brethren.”

Such men had a feeling that the man who had come to preach to the multitude would be pretty sure to denounce their fraud; or if he did not actually denounce it he might have such an influence upon their customers as would certainly be prejudicial to the trade. This being so, how could it be expected that they should not look forward to the failure of the mission?

And there was but a solitary man to contend against this mixed multitude! There was but one voice to cry in that wilderness—one voice to awaken those who slept. The voice spoke, and its sound echoed round the wide world.

He stood with bared head, with a rock for his pulpit, on a small plateau overlooking a long stretch of valley. On each side there was an uneven, sloping ground—rocks overgrown with lichen, and high tufts of coarse herbage between, with countless blue wild flowers and hardy climbing plants. The huge basin formed by the converging of the slopes made a natural amphitheatre, where ten thousand people might be seated. Behind were the cliffs, and all through the day the sound of the sea beating around their bases mingled with the sound of many voices. A hundred feet to the west there hung poised in its groove the enormous rocking stone of Red Tor.

Perhaps amongst the most distant of his hearers there was one who might never again have an opportunity of having the word that awakens spoken in his hearing. There might be one whose heart was as the ground in Summer—waiting for the seed to be sown that should bring forth fruit, sixtyfold or an hundredfold. That was what the man thought as he looked over the vast multitude. He felt for a moment overwhelmed by a sense of his responsibility. He felt that by no will of his own he had been thrust forward to perform a miracle, and he understood clearly that the responsibility of its performance rested with him.

For a moment the cry of the overwhelmed was in his heart.

“It is too much that is laid upon me.”

For a moment he experienced that sense of rebellion which in a supreme moment of their lives—the moment preceding a great achievement for the benefit of the world—takes possession of so many of the world's greatest, and which has its origin in a feeling of humility. It lasted but for a moment. Then he found that every thought of his mind—every sense of his soul—was absorbed by another and greater force. He had a consciousness of being possessed by a Power that dominated every sensation of his existence. That Power had thrust him out from himself as it were, and he felt that he was standing by wondering while a voice that he did not know to be his own went forth, and he knew that it reached the most remote of the people before him. It was like his own voice heard in a dream. For days there had been before his eyes the vision that had come to the prophet—the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones. He had seemed to stand by the side of the man to whom it had been revealed. He had always felt that the scene was one of the most striking that had ever been depicted; but during the week it was not merely its mysticism that had possessed him. He felt that it was a real occurrence taking place before his very eyes.

And now he was standing on his rock looking all through that long valley, and he saw—not the thousands of people who looked up to him, but ranks upon ranks and range upon range of dead men's bones, bleaching in the sunshine—filling up all the hollows of the valley forsaken of life, overhung by that dread legend of a battle fought so long ago that its details had vanished. There they stretched, hillocks of white bones—ridges of white bones—heaps upon heaps. The winds of a thousand years had wailed and shrieked and whistled, sweeping through the valley, the rains of a thousand years had been down upon them—hail and snow had flung their pall of white over the whiteness of the things that lay there, the lightnings had made lurid the hollow places in the rocks, and had rent in sunder the overhanging cliffs—there was the sign of such a storm—the tumbled tons of black basalt that lay athwart one of the white hillocks—and on nights of fierce tempest the white foam from the distant sea had been borne through the air and flung in quivering flakes over cliffs and into chasm—upon coarse herbage and the blue rock flowers. But some nights were still. The valley was canopied with stars. And there were nights of vast moonlight, and the white moonlight spread itself like a great translucent lake over the white deadness of that dreary place....

The man saw scene after scene in that valley as in a dream. And then there came a long silence, and out of that silence he heard the voice that said: “Can these dead bones live?”

There was another silence before the awful voice spoke the command:

“Let these bones live!”

Through the moments of silence that followed, the sound of the sea was borne by a fitful breeze over the cliff face and swept purring through the valley.

Then came the moment of marvel. There was a quivering here and there—something like the long indrawing of breath of a sleeper who has slept for long but now awakens—a slow heaving as of a giant refreshed, and then in mysterious, dread silence, with no rattling of hollow skeleton limbs, there came the great moving among the dry bones, and they rose up, an exceeding great army.

Life had come triumphant out of the midst of

Death. That was what the voice said. The whole valley, which had been silent an hour before, was now vibrating, pulsating with life—the tumult of life which flows through a great army—every man alert, at his post in his rank—waiting for whatever might come—the advance of the enemy, the carrying out of the strategy of the commander.

Life had come triumphant out of the midst of death, and who would dare now to say that the deepest spiritual life might not lie hidden from sight among the bleaching heaps of dead bones that strewed the valley from cliffy to cliffs—hidden but only waiting for the voice to cry aloud:

“Let these bones live!”

“Oh, that that Dread Voice would speak through me!” cried the preacher.

That was the first time he became conscious of the sound of his own voice, and he was startled. He had heard that other voice speaking, carrying him away upon the wings of its words down through the depths of that mystic valley, but now all was silent and he was standing with trembling hands and quivering lips, gazing out over no valley of mystery alive with a moving host, but over a Cornish vale of crags; and yet there beneath his eyes were thousands of faces, and they looked like the faces of such as had been newly awakened after a long sleep—dazed—wondering—waiting....

He saw it. The great awakening had come to these people, and now they were waiting—for what?

He knew what he had to offer them. He knew what was the message with which he had been entrusted—the good news which they had never heard before.

And he told it with all simplicity, in all humility, in all sincerity—the evangel of boundless love—of illimitable salvation, not from the wrath to come—he had no need to speak of the Day of Wrath—his theme wras the Day of Grace—salvation from the distrust of God's mercy—salvation from the doubts, from the cares of the world, from the lethargy that fetters the souls of men, from the gross darkness and from the complacency of walking in that darkness.

He let light in upon their darkness and he forced them to see the dangers of the dark, and, seeing, they were overwhelmed. For the first time these people had brought before their eyes the reality of sin—the reality of salvation. They had had doctrines brought before them in the past, but the tale of doctrines had left them unmoved. They had never felt that doctrines were otherwise than cold, impassioned utterances. Doctrines might have been the graceful fabrics that clothed living truths, but the truth had been so wrapped up in them that it had remained hidden so far as they were concerned. They had never caught a glimpse of the living reality beneath.

But here was the light that showed them the living thing for which they had waited, and the wonder of the sight overwhelmed them.

The voice of the preacher spoke to them individually. That was the sole mystery of the preaching—the sole magnetism (as it has been called) of the preacher.

And that was the sole mystery of the manifestation that followed. Faces were streaming with tears, knees were bowed in prayer; but there were other temperaments that were forced to give expression to their varied feelings—of wonder, of humiliation, of exultation. These were not to be controlled. There were wild sobbings, passionate cries, a shout or two of thanksgiving, an outburst of penitence—all the result of the feelings too strong to be controlled, and all tokens of the new life that had begun to pulsate in that multitude—all tokens that the Valley which had been strewn with dry bones had heard the voice that said:

“Let these dry bones live.”

There was a great moving among the dry bones, and they stood up, an exceeding great army.

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