Suddenly, as he watched in a blank sort of way Brother Soulsby take out a penknife, and lop an offending twig from a rose-bush against the fence, something occurred to him. There was a curious exception to that rule of Alice’s isolation. She had made at least one friend. Levi Gorringe seemed to like her extremely.
As if his mind had been a camera, Theron snapped a shutter down upon this odd, unbidden idea, and turned away from the window.
The sounds of an active, almost strenuous conversation in female voices came from the kitchen. Theron opened the door noiselessly, and put in his head, conscious of something furtive in his intention.
“You must dreen every drop of water off the spinach, mind, before you put it over, or else—”
It was Sister Soulsby’s sharp and penetrating tones which came to him. Theron closed the door again, and surrendered himself once more to the circling whirl of his thoughts.
A love-feast at nine in the morning opened the public services of a Sunday still memorable in the annals of Octavius Methodism.
This ceremony, which four times a year preceded the sessions of the Quarterly Conference, was not necessarily an event of importance. It was an occasion upon which the brethren and sisters who clung to the old-fashioned, primitive ways of the itinerant circuit-riders, let themselves go with emphasized independence, putting up more vehement prayers than usual, and adding a special fervor of noise to their “Amens!” and other interjections—and that was all.
It was Theron’s first love-feast in Octavius, and as the big class-room in the church basement began to fill up, and he noted how the men with ultra radical views and the women clad in the most ostentatious drabs and grays were crowding into the front seats, he felt his spirits sinking. He had literally to force himself from sentence to sentence, when the time came for him to rise and open the proceedings with an exhortation. He had eagerly offered this function to the Presiding Elder, the Rev. Aziel P. Larrabee, who sat in severe silence on the little platform behind him, but had been informed that the dignitary would lead off in giving testimony later on. So Theron, feeling all the while the hostile eyes of the Elder burning holes in his back, dragged himself somehow through the task. He had never known any such difficulty of speech before. The relief was almost overwhelming when he came to the customary part where all are adjured to be as brief as possible in witnessing for the Lord, because the time belongs to all the people, and the Discipline forbids the feast to last more than ninety minutes. He delivered this injunction to brevity with marked earnestness, and then sat down abruptly.
There was some rather boisterous singing, during which the stewards, beginning with the platform, passed plates of bread cut in small cubes, and water in big plated pitchers and tumblers, about among the congregation, threading their way between the long wooden benches ordinarily occupied at this hour by the children of the Sunday-school, and helping each brother and sister in turn. They held by the old custom, here in Octavius, and all along the seats the sexes alternated, as they do at a polite dinner-table.