Simpson did not find in the bush the enlightenment that he had hoped for. He did, however, anaesthetize his mind into the belief that he had found it. Returning, he approached Port au Prince by a route new to him. A well-beaten trail aroused his curiosity and he followed it into a grove of ceiba and mahogany. It was clear under foot, as no tropic grove uncared for by man can be clear; in the middle of it lay the ashes of a great fire, and three minaca-palm huts in good repair huddled almost invisible under the vast trees. The ground, bare of grass, was trodden hard, as though a multitude had stamped it down—danced it down, perhaps—and kept it bare by frequent use.
“What a place for a camp-meeting!” thought Simpson as he turned to leave it. “God’s cathedral aisles, and roofed by God’s blue sky.”
His pony shied and whirled around, a long snake—a fer-de-lance—flowed across the path.
The desire to hold his services in the grove remained in his mind; the only reason he did not transfer them there at once was that he was not yet quite sure of his people. They came eagerly to hear him, they reflected his enthusiasm at his behest, they wept and praised God. Yet, underneath all his hopes and all his pride in what he had done ran a cold current of doubt, an undefined and indefinable fear of something devilish and malign that might thwart him in the end. He thrust it resolutely out of his mind.
“I have told your people—your canaille,” said Father Antoine, “that I shall excommunicate them all.”
The priest had been graver than his wont—more dignified, less volcanic, as though he was but the mouthpiece of authority, having none of it himself.
“They are better out of your Church than in it,” Simpson answered.
Father Antoine trembled a little; it was the first sign he had given that his violent personality was still alive under the perplexing new power that had covered it.
“You are determined?” Simpson nodded with compressed lips. “Their damnation be on your head, then.”