However, as I say, everybody knows, now, what he WOULD have been, - and so they flock by the million to get a glimpse of him whenever they hear he is going to be anywhere. Caesar, and Hannibal, and Alexander, and Napoleon are all on his staff, and ever so many more great generals; but the public hardly care to look at THEM when HE is around. Boom! There goes another salute. The barkeeper's off quarantine now."
Sandy and I put on our things. Then we made a wish, and in a second we were at the reception-place. We stood on the edge of the ocean of space, and looked out over the dimness, but couldn't make out anything. Close by us was the Grand Stand - tier on tier of dim thrones rising up toward the zenith. From each side of it spread away the tiers of seats for the general public. They spread away for leagues and leagues - you couldn't see the ends. They were empty and still, and hadn't a cheerful look, but looked dreary, like a theatre before anybody comes - gas turned down. Sandy says, -
"We'll sit down here and wait. We'll see the head of the procession come in sight away off yonder pretty soon, now."
Says I, -
"It's pretty lonesome, Sandy; I reckon there's a hitch somewheres. Nobody but just you and me - it ain't much of a display for the barkeeper."
"Don't you fret, it's all right. There'll be one more gun-fire - then you'll see.
In a little while we noticed a sort of a lightish flush, away off on the horizon.
"Head of the torchlight procession," says Sandy.
It spread, and got lighter and brighter: soon it had a strong glare like a locomotive headlight; it kept on getting brighter and brighter till it was like the sun peeping above the horizon-line at sea - the big red rays shot high up into the sky.
"Keep your eyes on the Grand Stand and the miles of seats - sharp!" says Sandy, "and listen for the gun-fire."
Just then it burst out, "Boom-boom-boom!" like a million thunderstorms in one, and made the whole heavens rock. Then there was a sudden and awful glare of light all about us, and in that very instant every one of the millions of seats was occupied, and as far as you could see, in both directions, was just a solid pack of people, and the place was all splendidly lit up! It was enough to take a body's breath away. Sandy says, -
"That is the way we do it here. No time fooled away; nobody straggling in after the curtain's up. Wishing is quicker work than travelling. A quarter of a second ago these folks were millions of miles from here. When they heard the last signal, all they had to do was to wish, and here they are."
The prodigious choir struck up, -
We long to hear thy voice, To see thee face to face.
It was noble music, but the uneducated chipped in and spoilt it, just as the congregations used to do on earth.
The head of the procession began to pass, now, and it was a wonderful sight. It swept along, thick and solid, five hundred thousand angels abreast, and every angel carrying a torch and singing - the whirring thunder of the wings made a body's head ache. You could follow the line of the procession back, and slanting upward into the sky, far away in a glittering snaky rope, till it was only a faint streak in the distance. The rush went on and on, for a long time, and at last, sure enough, along comes the barkeeper, and then everybody rose, and a cheer went up that made the heavens shake, I tell you! He was all smiles, and had his halo tilted over one ear in a cocky way, and was the most satisfied- looking saint I ever saw. While he marched up the steps of the Grand Stand, the choir struck up, -
The whole wide heaven groans, And waits to hear that voice."
There were four gorgeous tents standing side by side in the place of honor, on a broad railed platform in the centre of the Grand Stand, with a shining guard of honor round about them. The tents had been shut up all this time. As the barkeeper climbed along up, bowing and smiling to everybody, and at last got to the platform, these tents were jerked up aloft all of a sudden, and we saw four noble thrones of gold, all caked with jewels, and in the two middle ones sat old white-whiskered men, and in the two others a couple of the most glorious and gaudy giants, with platter halos and beautiful armor.