When the boy had returned with the glasses, the three stood for a moment in silence, meditatively watching the curious scene spread below them. Beyond the bar, Theron could catch now through the trees regularly recurring glimpses of four or five swings in motion. These were nearest him, and clearest to the vision as well, at the instant when they reached their highest forward point. The seats were filled with girls, some of them quite grown young women, and their curving upward sweep through the air was disclosing at its climax a remarkable profusion of white skirts and black stockings. The sight struck him as indecorous in the extreme, and he turned his eyes away. They met Celia’s; and there was something latent in their brown depths which prompted him, after a brief dalliance of interchanging glances, to look again at the swings.
“That old maid Curran is really too ridiculous, with those white stockings of hers,” remarked Celia; “some friend ought to tell her to dye them.”
“Or pad them,” suggested Father Forbes, with a gay little chuckle. “I daresay the question of swings and ladies’ stockings hardly arises with you, over at the camp-meeting, Mr. Ware?”
Theron laughed aloud at the conceit. “I should say not!” he replied.
“I’m just dying to see a camp-meeting!” said Celia. “You hear such racy accounts of what goes on at them.”
“Don’t go, I beg of you!” urged Theron, with doleful emphasis. “Don’t let’s even talk about them. I should like to feel this afternoon as if there was no such thing within a thousand miles of me as a camp-meeting. Do you know, all this interests me enormously. It is a revelation to me to see these thousands of good, decent, ordinary people, just frankly enjoying themselves like human beings. I suppose that in this whole huge crowd there isn’t a single person who will mention the subject of his soul to any other person all day long.”
“I should think the assumption was a safe one,” said the priest, smilingly, “unless,” he added on afterthought, “it be by way of a genial profanity. There used to be some old Clare men who said ’Hell to my soul!’ when they missed at quoits, but I haven’t heard it for a long time. I daresay they’re all dead.”
“I shall never forget that death-bed—where I saw you first,” remarked Theron, musingly. “I date from that experience a whole new life. I have been greatly struck lately, in reading our ‘Northern Christian Advocate’ to see in the obituary notices of prominent Methodists how over and over again it is recorded that they got religion in their youth through being frightened by some illness of their own, or some epidemic about them. The cholera year of 1832 seems to have made Methodists hand over fist. Even to this day our most successful revivalists, those who work conversions wholesale wherever they go, do it more by frightful pictures of hell-fire surrounding the sinner’s death-bed than anything else. You could hear the same thing at our camp-meeting tonight, if you were there.”