At the hour when Theron started away, there were few enough signs of life about this encampment. The four or five hundred people who were in constant residence were eating their dinners in the big boarding-house, or the cottages or the tents. It was not the time of day for strangers. Even when services were in progress by daylight, the regular attendants did not make much of a show, huddled in a gray-black mass at the front of the auditorium, by comparison with the great green and blue expanses of nature about them.
The real spectacle was in the evening when, as the shadows gathered, big clusters of kerosene torches, hung on the trees facing the audience were lighted. The falling darkness magnified the glow of the lights, and the size and importance of what they illumined. The preacher, bending forward over the rails of the platform, and fastening his eyes upon the abashed faces of those on the “anxious seat” beneath him, borrowed an effect of druidical mystery from the wall of blackness about him, from the flickering reflections on the branches far above, from the cool night air which stirred across the clearing. The change was in the blood of those who saw and heard him, too. The decorum and half-heartedness of their devotions by day deepened under the glare of the torches into a fervent enthusiasm, even before the services began. And if there was in the rustic pulpit a man whose prayers or exhortations could stir their pulses, they sang and groaned and bellowed out their praises with an almost barbarous license, such as befitted the wilderness.
But in the evening not all were worshippers. For a dozen miles round on the country-side, young farm-workers and their girls regarded the camp-meeting as perhaps the chief event of the year—no more to be missed than the country fair or the circus, and offering, from many points of view, more opportunities for genuine enjoyment than either. Their behavior when they came was pretty bad—not the less so because all the rules established by the Presiding