It was impossible, with reference to the condition of Holden’s mind, to have selected either a topic or reader more unsuitable. The aversion he had manifested at first increased every moment. It was one of those antipathies as unquestionable as they are unaccountable. It at first exhibited itself in restlessness, and an inability to remain quiet, and afterwards in half-suppressed groans and sighs. If he opened his eyes and looked at the reader, he saw a devilish figure, with a malignant leer glaring at him; if he shut them to exclude the disagreeable image it was converted into a thousand smaller figures, dancing up and down like motes in a distempered vision, all wearing that intolerable grin, while the whole time a hissing sound, as if it came from a snake, whispered in his ears temptations to some deadly sin. It was a trial the shattered nerves of the enthusiast were ill qualified to bear, and, finally, a torture beyond his powers of endurance. The very force of the reasons urged by the writer distressed him more and more. They seemed to his disordered imagination the subtle enticements of an evil spirit to lure him from the truth, and Davenport an emissary of Satan, if not the arch-deceiver himself. No adequate answers to doctrines which he was persuaded were false presented themselves to his mind, and this he ascribed to some hellish spell, which fettered his reason, and must soon be broken, or he was lost. Mentally, then, first ejaculating a prayer, he suddenly sprung to his feet, and in a loud voice bade the reader to stop.
“Forbear,” he cried, “man of sin, to seduce the people with these soul-damning and abominable lies. I conjure thee, Satan, to leave the body of this man, and depart. Ha! thou wouldst lull them into security that they may slumber and have no oil in their lamps when the Bridegroom cometh, when He cometh in the clouds of heaven. My soul have not thou thy portion with the unbelievers.”
The words were uttered with wonderful vehemence and rapidity, and upon their conclusion, he strode with long strides down the passage towards the door. Not an exclamation was heard, not a hand raised to stay his departure, so stupefied were all with astonishment. Upon leaving the room he rushed into the street, and, forgetful of his promise to Mr. Armstrong, took his way to his own hut. The tything man, awakening from his lethargy, and a few others recovering their presence of mind, went at last to the door, and gazed up and down the street, but the disturber of the meeting was not in sight, nor, sooth to say, were any of the number sorry, or wished to meet him that night. Contenting themselves, therefore, with this slight demonstration of zeal, they returned to the Conference-room. There, great as was the scandal occasioned by the interruption, all things soon settled down into their usual course, and the meeting was regularly concluded and dismissed.