PART 9 of 24 parts

It was nearly midnight before the service at the Rectangle closed. Mr. Gray stayed up long into Sunday morning, praying and talking to many of the converts who, in the great emotion of their new life, clung to the evangelist with a personal helplessness as if they were depending upon him to save them from physical death. Among these was Rollin Page.

Sometime after midnight Jasper Chase sat in his room staring at the papers on his desk and going over the past hour with painful persistence. While walking Rachel home, he had told her that he loved her. Rachel had not given her love in return.

He had yielded to his feelings because he had felt so certain that Rachel would respond to his love. What had gone wrong?

Never before had her beauty and her vitality influenced him as it had tonight. While she was singing he saw and heard no one else. The tent swarmed with a confused crowd of faces, and he knew he was sitting there hemmed in by a mob of people; but he saw only Rachel. He felt powerless to avoid speaking of his love to her.

Now that he had spoken, he felt that he had misjudged either Rachel or the time. He had been sure that she cared for him. It was no secret between them that the heroine of Jasper’s first novel had been his own portrait of Rachel. The hero in the story was himself, and they had loved each other in the book. No one else knew. The names and characters had been drawn with a subtle skill that revealed to Rachel the fact of his love for her. She had not been offended then and that was nearly a year ago.

Tonight he recalled the scene between them with every inflection and movement etched in his memory. He even recalled the fact that he began to speak just at that point on the avenue where, a few days before, he had met Rachel walking with Rollin Page. He had wondered at the time what Rollin was saying.

"Rachel," Jasper had begun, "I never knew until tonight how much I love you. Why should I try to conceal it any longer? You know I love you as my life."

The first intimation he had of a repulse was the very calmness of Rachel’s reaction. She had allowed him to speak and had neither turned her face toward him nor away from him. She had looked straight on, and her voice was sad but firm and quiet when she spoke.

"Why do you speak to me now? I cannot bear it—after what we have seen tonight."

"Why—what--?" he had stammered, and then was silent.

Rachel withdrew her arm from his, but still walked near him.

Then he had cried out, with the anguish of one who begins to see a great loss facing him where he had expected a great joy.

"Rachel! Do you not love me?"

She had walked silently for a few steps after that. They had passed a street lamp. Her face was pale and beautiful. He had made a movement to grab her arm. And she had moved a little apart from him.

"No," she had replied. "There was a time—but that is past—you should not have spoken to me now."

He had seen in these words his answer. He was extremely sensitive. Nothing short of a joyous response to his own love would ever have satisfied him. He could not think of pleading with her.

"Sometime—when I am more worthy?" he had asked in a low voice; but she did not seem to hear, and they had parted at her home. He recalled vividly the fact that no goodnight had been said.

Now as he went over the brief but significant scene, he lashed himself for his foolish haste. He had not reckoned on Rachel’s tense, passionate absorption of all her feeling in the scenes at the tent, which were so new in her mind. But he did not know her well enough, even yet, to understand the meaning of her refusal. When the clock in the First Church struck one, he was still sitting at his desk, staring at the top page of the manuscript of his unfinished novel.

Rachel Winslow went up to her room and faced her evening’s experience with conflicting emotions. Had she ever loved Jasper Chase? Yes. No. One moment she felt that her life’s happiness was at stake over the result of her action. Another, she had a strange feeling of relief that she had spoken as she had.

There was one great overmastering feeling in her—the response of the people in the tent to her singing. The swift, powerful, awesome presence of the Holy Spirit had affecter her as never in all her life before. The moment Jasper had spoken her name, and she realized that he was telling her of his love, she felt a sudden revulsion for him. Had he no respect for the supernatural events they had just witnessed? The thought that all the time she was singing with the complete passion of her soul to touch the conscience of that tent, Jasper Chase had been unmoved by it except to love her for herself, made his feeling for her seem irreverent. She could not tell why she felt as she did, only she knew that if he had not told her tonight, she would still have felt the same toward him as she always had. What was that feeling? What had he been to her?

She went to her bookcase and took out the novel Jasper had given her, then turned to certain passages she had read often, and which she knew Jasper had written for her. She read them again. Somehow they no longer touched her strongly. She closed the book and let it lie on the table.

Her thought turned to the sights she had witnessed in the tent. Those faces! Men and women, touched for the first time with the Spirit’s glory! What a wonderful experience life could be. The complete regeneration revealed in the sight of drunken, debauched humans kneeling down to give themselves to a life of purity and Christlikeness—here was surely a witness to the divine power in the world! And the face of Rollin Page by the side of that miserable creature out of the gutter—she could recall as if she now saw it.

And Virginia crying, with her arms around her brother. And Mr. Gray kneeling close by. And the forlorn woman Virginia had taken into her heart! All these pictures drawn by the Holy Spirit, in the human tragedies brought to a climax there in the most abandoned spot in all Raymond, stood out in Rachel’s memory now—a memory so recent that her room seemed for the time being to contain all the actors and their movements.

"No! No!" she had said aloud. "He had no right to speak after all that! He should have respected the place where our thoughts should have been! I am sure I do not love him. Not enough to give him my life!"

The people of Raymond awoke Sunday morning to a growing knowledge of events that stirred the community to its depths. Alexander Powers’ action in the matter of the railroad frauds had created a sensation, not only in Raymond but throughout the country. Edward Norman’s daily changes of policy in the conduct of his paper had startled the community and caused more comment than any recent political event. Rachel Winslow’s singing at the Rectangle meetings had made a stir in society and excited the wonder of all her friends. Virginia’s conduct, her presence every night with Rachel, her absence from all the usual circle of her wealthy, fashionable acquaintances, had furnished a great deal of material for gossip and question. In addition to the events centering about these persons who were so well known, there had been strange happenings all through the city, in homes, businesses and social circles.

Nearly one hundred people in Henry Maxwell’s church had made the pledge to take certain steps after asking, "What would Jesus do?" In many cases the result had been unheard-of actions. As a climax to the week’s events had come the remarkable demonstration at the Rectangle, including conversions of nearly fifty of the worst characters in that neighborhood, together with the transformation of Rollin Page, the well-known clubman.

It is no wonder that members of the First Church of Raymond came to the Sunday morning service in a mood of keen expectancy.

Perhaps nothing had astonished the people more than the great change that had come over the minister since he had proposed to them the imitation of Jesus in conduct. The self-satisfied, contented attitude of the refined person in the pulpit had been displaced by a manner that was sometimes hesitant, much less assured, and yet appealing and winsome.

The sermon had become a message. It was no longer delivered. It was brought to them with a love, an earnestness, a passion, a desire, a humility that poured its enthusiasm into the truth and made the speaker no more prominent than he had to be as the living voice of God. His prayers were unlike any the people had ever heard before. They were often broken; even once or twice they had been actually ungrammatical in a phrase or two. When had Henry Maxwell so far forgotten himself in a prayer as to make a mistake of that sort?

He knew that he had often taken as much pride in the diction and delivery of his prayers as of his sermons. Was it possible he now so abhorred the elegant refinement of a formal public petition that he purposely chose to rebuke himself for his previous precise manner of prayer? It is more likely that he had no thought of all that. His great longing to voice the needs and wants of his people made him unmindful of an occasional mistake. It is certain that he had never prayed so effectively as he did now.

There are times when a sermon has a value and power due to conditions in the audience rather than to anything new or startling or eloquent in the words said or the arguments presented. Such conditions faced Henry Maxwell this morning as he preached against the liquor business and the damage it did to family life through the saloon. He had no new statements to make about the evil influence of the saloon in Raymond. What new facts were there? What could he say that had not been said by temperance orators a great many times? The effect of his message this morning owed its power to the unusual fact of his preaching about the saloon at all, together with the events that had stirred the people. He had never, in the course of his ten years’ pastorate, mentioned the saloon as an enemy, not only to the poor and tempted, but to the business life of the community and the church itself. He spoke now with a freedom that seemed to measure his complete sense of conviction that Jesus would so speak.

At the close he pleaded with the people to remember the new life that had begun at the Rectangle. The regular election of city officers was near at hand. The question of license would be an issue in that election. What of the miserable individuals surrounded by the temptation of drink while just beginning to feel the joy of deliverance from sin? Was there one word to be said by the Christian disciple, businessman, citizen, in favor of continuing to license crime and shame-producing institutions? Was not the most Christian thing they could do as citizens to elect good men to city offices and clean up the municipality? What good were prayers to make Raymond better when votes and actions had really been on the side of the enemies of Jesus? What disciple would refuse to suffer or take up his cross in this matter?

His appeal was stronger at this last point than he knew. It is not too much to say that the spiritual tension of his people reached its highest point right there. The imitation of Jesus that had begun with a group of volunteers in the church was working like leaven through the whole church. Henry Maxwell would have been amazed if he could have measured the extent of desire on the part of his people to take up the cross.

While he was speaking this morning, before he closed with a loving appeal to the discipleship of two thousand years’ knowledge of the Master, many a man and woman in the church was saying as Rachel had said so passionately to her mother, "I want to do something that will cost me in the way of sacrifice. I am hungry to suffer something for Jesus."



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