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    Chapter 5

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    Chapter 5
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    We passed out through the arched doorway, and Broadway was before us. I had another thrill of distress--a vision of myself walking down this crowded street with this extraordinary looking personage. The crowds would stare at us, the street urchins would swarm about us, until we blocked the traffic and the police ran us in! So I thought, as we descended the steps and started; but my fear passed, for we walked and no one followed us--hardly did anyone even turn his eyes after us.

    I realized in a little while how this could be. The pleasant climate of Western City brings strange visitors to dwell here; we have Hindoo swamis in yellow silk, and a Theosophist college on a hill-top, and people who take up with "nature," and go about with sandals and bare legs, and a mane of hair over their shoulders. I pass them on the street now and then--one of them carries a shepherd's crook! I remember how, a few years ago, my Aunt Caroline, rambling around looking for something to satisfy her emotions, took up with these queer ideas, and there came to her front door, to the infinite bewilderment of the butler, a mild-eyed prophet in pastoral robes, and with a little newspaper bundle in his hand. This, spread out before my aunt, proved to contain three carrots and two onions, carefully washed, and shining; they were the kindly fruits of the earth, and of the prophet's own labor, and my old auntie was deeply touched, because it appeared that this visitor was a seer, the sole composer of a mighty tome which is to be found in the public library, and is known as the "Eternal Bible."

    So here I was, strolling along quite as a matter of course with my strange acquaintance. I saw that he was looking about, and I prepared for questions, and wondered what they would be. I thought that he must naturally be struck by such wonders as automobiles and crowded street-cars. I failed to realize that he would be thinking about the souls of the people.

    Said he, at last: "This is a large city?"

    "About half a million."

    "And what quarter are we in?"

    "The shopping district."

    "Is it a segregated district?"

    "Segregated? In what way?"

    "Apparently there are only courtesans."

    I could not help laughing. "You are misled by the peculiarities of our feminine fashions--details with which you are naturally not familiar--"

    "Oh, quite the contrary," said he, "I am only too familiar with them. In childhood I learned the words of the prophet: 'Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.'"

    From the point of view of literature this might be great stuff; but on the corner of Broadway and Fifth Street at the crowded hours it was unusual, to say the least. My companion was entering into the spirit of it in a most alarming way; he was half chanting, his voice rising, his face lighting up. "'Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.'"

    "Be careful!" I whispered. "People will hear you!"

    "But why should they not?" He turned on me a look of surprise. "The people hear me gladly." And he added: "The common people."

    Here was an aspect of my adventure which had not occurred to me before. "My God!" I thought. "If he takes to preaching on street corners!" I realized in a flash--it was exactly what he would be up to! A panic seized me; I couldn't stand that; I'd have to cut and run!

    I began to speak quickly. "We must get across this street while we have time; the traffic officer has turned the right way now." And I began explaining our remarkable system of traffic handling.

    But he stopped me in the middle. "Why do we wish to cross the street, when we have no place to go?"

    "I have a place I wish to take you to," I said; "a friend I want you to meet. Let us cross. "And while I was guiding him between the automobiles, I was desperately trying to think how to back up my lie. Who was there that would receive this incredible stranger, and put him up for the night, and get him into proper clothes, and keep him off the soap-box?

    Truly, I was in an extraordinary position! What had I done to get this stranger wished onto me? And how long was he going to stay with me? I found myself recalling the plight of Mary who had a little lamb!

    Fate had me in its hands, and did not mean to consult me. We had gone less than a block further when I heard a voice, "Hello! Billy!" I turned. Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord! Of all the thankless encounters--Edgerton Rosythe, moving picture critic of the Western City "Times." Precisely the most cynical, the most profane, the most boisterous person in a cynical and profane and boisterous business! And he had me here, in full daylight, with a figure just out of a stained glass window in St. Bartholomew's Church!
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