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A Convert Of The Mission
by [?]

The largest tent of the Tasajara camp meeting was crowded to its utmost extent. The excitement of that dense mass was at its highest pitch. The Reverend Stephen Masterton, the single erect, passionate figure of that confused medley of kneeling worshipers, had reached the culminating pitch of his irresistible exhortatory power. Sighs and groans were beginning to respond to his appeals, when the reverend brother was seen to lurch heavily forward and fall to the ground.

At first the effect was that of a part of his performance; the groans redoubled, and twenty or thirty brethren threw themselves prostrate in humble imitation of the preacher. But Sister Deborah Stokes, perhaps through some special revelation of feminine intuition, grasped the fallen man, tore loose his black silk necktie, and dragged him free of the struggling, frantic crowd whose paroxysms he had just evoked. Howbeit he was pale and unconscious, and unable to continue the service. Even the next day, when he had slightly recovered, it was found that any attempt to renew his fervid exhortations produced the same disastrous result.

A council was hurriedly held by the elders. In spite of the energetic protests of Sister Stokes, it was held that the Lord “was wrestlin’ with his sperrit,” and he was subjected to the same extraordinary treatment from the whole congregation that he himself had applied to THEM. Propped up pale and trembling in the “Mourners’ Bench” by two brethren, he was “striven with,” exhorted, prayed over, and admonished, until insensibility mercifully succeeded convulsions. Spiritual therapeutics having failed, he was turned over to the weak and carnal nursing of “womenfolk.” But after a month of incapacity he was obliged to yield to “the flesh,” and, in the local dialect, “to use a doctor.”

It so chanced that the medical practitioner of the district was a man of large experience, of military training, and plain speech. When, therefore, he one day found in his surgery a man of rude Western type, strong-limbed and sunburned, but trembling, hesitating and neurotic in movement, after listening to his symptoms gravely, he asked, abruptly: “And how much are you drinking now?”

“I am a lifelong abstainer,” stammered his patient in quivering indignation. But this was followed by another question so frankly appalling to the hearer that he staggered to his feet.

“I’m Stephen Masterton–known of men as a circuit preacher, of the Northern California district,” he thundered–“and an enemy of the flesh in all its forms.”

“I beg your pardon,” responded Dr. Duchesne, grimly, “but as you are suffering from excessive and repeated excitation of the nervous system, and the depression following prolonged artificial exaltation–it makes little difference whether the cause be spiritual, as long as there is a certain physical effect upon your BODY–which I believe you have brought to me to cure. Now–as to diet? you look all wrong there.

“My food is of the simplest–I have no hankering for fleshpots,” responded the patient.

“I suppose you call saleratus bread and salt pork and flapjacks SIMPLE?” said the doctor, coolly; “they are COMMON enough, and if you were working with your muscles instead of your nerves in that frame of yours they might not hurt you; but you are suffering as much from eating more than you can digest as the veriest gourmand. You must stop all that. Go down to a quiet watering-place for two months.” . . .

“I go to a watering-place?” interrupted Masterton; “to the haunt of the idle, the frivolous and wanton–never!”

“Well, I’m not particular about a ‘watering-place,'” said the doctor, with a shrug, “although a little idleness and frivolity with different food wouldn’t hurt you–but you must go somewhere and change your habits and mode of life COMPLETELY. I will find you some sleepy old Spanish town in the southern country where you can rest and diet. If this is distasteful to you,” he continued, grimly, “you can always call it ‘a trial.'”