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The Christmas Miracle 1911   By: (1850-1922)

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By Charles Egbert Craddock


He yearned for a sign from the heavens. Could one intimation be vouchsafed him, how it would confirm his faltering faith! Jubal Kennedy was of the temperament impervious to spiritual subtleties, fain to reach conclusions with the line and rule of mathematical demonstration. Thus, all unreceptive, he looked through the mountain gap, as through some stupendous gateway, on the splendors of autumn; the vast landscape glamorous in a transparent amethystine haze; the foliage of the dense primeval wilderness in the October richness of red and russet; the "hunter's moon," a full sphere of illuminated pearl, high in the blue east while yet the dull vermilion sun swung westering above the massive purple heights. He knew how the sap was sinking; that the growths of the year had now failed; presently all would be shrouded in snow, but only to rise again in the reassurance of vernal quickening, to glow anew in the fullness of bloom, to attain eventually the perfection of fruition. And still he was deaf to the reiterated analogy of death, and blind to the immanent obvious prophecy of resurrection and the life to come. His thoughts, as he stood on this jutting crag in Sunrise Gap, were with a recent "experience meeting" at which he had sought to canvass his spiritual needs. His demand of a sign from the heavens as evidence of the existence of the God of revelation, as assurance of the awakening of divine grace in the human heart, as actual proof that wistful mortality is inherently endowed with immortality, had electrified this symposium. Though it was fashionable, so to speak, in this remote cove among the Great Smoky Mountains, to be repentant in rhetorical involutions and a self accuser in finespun interpretations of sin, doubt, or more properly an eager questioning, a desire to possess the sacred mysteries of religion, was unprecedented. Kennedy was a proud man, reticent, reserved. Although the old parson, visibly surprised and startled, had gently invited his full confidence, Kennedy had hastily swallowed his words, as best he might, perceiving that the congregation had wholly misinterpreted their true intent and that certain gossips had an unholy relish of the sensation they had caused.

Thereafter he indulged his poignant longings for the elucidation of the veiled truths only when, as now, he wandered deep in the woods with his rifle on his shoulder. He could not have said to day that he was nearer an inspiration, a hope, a "leading," than heretofore, but as he stood on the crag it was with the effect of a dislocation that he was torn from the solemn theme by an interruption at a vital crisis.

The faint vibrations of a violin stirred the reverent hush of the landscape in the blended light of the setting sun and the "hunter's moon." Presently the musician came into view, advancing slowly through the aisles of the red autumn forest. A rapt figure it was, swaying in responsive ecstasy with the rhythmic cadence. The head, with its long, blowsy yellow hair, was bowed over the dark polished wood of the instrument; the eyes were half closed; the right arm, despite the eccentric patches on the sleeve of the old brown jeans coat, moved with free, elastic gestures in all the liberties of a practiced bowing. If he saw the hunter motionless on the brink of the crag, the fiddler gave no intimation. His every faculty was as if enthralled by the swinging iteration of the sweet melancholy melody, rendered with a breadth of effect, an inspiration, it might almost have seemed, incongruous with the infirmities of the crazy old fiddle. He was like a creature under the sway of a spell, and apparently drawn by this dulcet lure of the enchantment of sound was the odd procession that trailed silently after him through these deep mountain fastnesses.

A woman came first, arrayed in a ragged purple skirt and a yellow blouse open at the throat, displaying a slender white neck which upheld a face of pensive, inert beauty... Continue reading book >>

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