fever and another barefoot stranger

fever and another barefoot stranger

The last winter before the completion of the new church he had an encounter with a stranger who had called upon him repeatedly and who was staying at the town’s only inn. He was dressed in simple, yet elegant clothes, cut out of fine, dark cloth. In a small town a stranger like this would normally have generated a great deal of curiosity. But he was so quiet and unassuming in his manner as to almost appear invisible. He went for daily visits to the rectory where he was served tea and would have long conversations with the pastor. The elegance of his appearance was so convincing that it took a while for the pastor to notice that the stranger wore but a kind of biblical footwear, close to being shoeless.

It was late fall. The trees were brilliantly red as if with religious fervor. The pastor felt alert, alive almost as if a lifetime of doubt and study suddenly held some promise, as if the dark aspects of his life were less weighing on him. Then the stranger came down with a severe flu which delayed his departure. High fevers made him delirious, and the doctor and priest both were called to soothe the rage which seemed to devour the man who had been a quiet guest until he came down with this fever. After three days he lost his consciousness and did not regain it. He died in the fourth night without the pastor at his side. The pastor himself was delirious in fever at this time and died only two days after the stranger.

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