Chapter 5


Unhappy sinners, who are lulled to rest by the illusions of the world, and who live as if there was no hell, will be suddenly stripped of their illusions by the most frightful of catastrophes. From the midst of their pleasures they shall fall into the pit of torments.

The disaster of the Cafe Kivoto supplies an image of the catastrophe, still more terrible, which awaits them, soon or late.

The Kivoto was a theatrical cafe at Smyrna, built upon piles in the sea. The extremely stout stakes that kept the house above the waves, water and time-eaten, had lost their solid contents.

It was on the 11th of February, 1873, at 10 o’clock P.M. Two hundred persons had assembled to witness a comic spectacle. They were amusing themselves, when, all at once, a frightful crash was heard.

At the same moment everything gave way and was turned topsy-turvy; the house, with the theatre and spectators, was pitched forward and swallowed up in the sea. What an awful surprise for these amusement amateurs! A more tragic surprise awaits the worldling. A day will come when from the centre of his pleasure, he shall, all of a sudden, behold himself cast headlong into a sea of sulfur and fire.

On the night of the 31st of March–1st of April, 1873, a stately and magnificent steamship, the Atlantic, foundered on the Canadian banks, near Halifax. The number on board, passengers and crew, reached 950, of whom 700 were lost in this shipwreck. Most of them were wrapped in sleep, when the vessel, striking some rocks, sank almost instantaneously. Swallowed up by the sea in the middle of their repose, they awoke in the waters, and were suffocated before being able to account for the terrible accident which had just happened. Frightful awaking! But more frightful will be the awaking of the atheist when he shall see himself suddenly engulfed in hell.

On the 28th of December, 1879, occurred the Tay bridge accident. The train from London to Edinburgh crosses the Tay, near Dundee, over an iron bridge half a league long. A dreadful storm, which had swelled the waves and broken the bridge during the day, ended by sweeping away several arches, despite the iron cross-bars piers. These arches, when falling, left an empty space, which was not perceived in the darkness.

At 7:30 P.M. the express train out from Edinburgh thunders along, carrying a hundred travelers; it mounts the fatal bridge, and soon, coming on the empty space, is hurled into the waves. Not a cry was heard; in the twinkling of an eye the victims were in the depths below. What a surprise! What a sudden change! But what will it be when the sinner shall see himself, in the twinkling of an eye, in the pit of hell?

Chapter 6