“Sounds a bit of orl right, and no mistake,” the young man remarked, turning round to the crowd. “I’m going to stop and ’ave a go for that coat.”
A young man in a bright scarlet jersey pushed himself to the front, followed by a little volley of chaff, more or less good-natured.
“There’s Salvation Joe wants a new trombone.”
“Christian Sall’s blown a hole in the old one, eh, Joe?”
Breathless he reached Brooks’ side. The sweat stood out in beads upon his forehead. He seemed not to hear a word that was said amongst the crowd. Brooks smiled at him good-humouredly. “Well, sir,” he said, “what can I do for you?”
“I happened in, sir, out of curiosity,” the young man said, in a strange nasal twang, the heritage of years of outdoor preaching; “I hoped to hear of one more good work begun in this den of iniquity and to clasp hands with another brother in God.”
“Glad to see you,” Brooks said. “You’ll remember we’re busy.”
“The message of God,” the young man answered, “must be spoken at all times.”
“Oh, chuck ’im out!” cried the disgusted costermonger, spitting upon the floor. “That sort o’ stuff fair sickens me.”
The young man continued as though he had not heard.
“Such charity as you are offering,” he cried, “is corruption. You are going to dispense things for their carnal welfare, and you do nothing for their immortal souls. You will not let them even shout their thanks to God. You will fill their stomachs and leave their souls hungry.”
The costermonger waved a wonderful red handkerchief, and spat once more on the floor. Brooks laid his hand upon the young man’s shoulder.
“Look here, my young friend,” he said, “you’re talking rot. Men and women who live down here in wretchedness, and who are fighting every moment of their time to hang on to life, don’t want to be talked to about their souls. They need a leg-up in the world, and we’ve come to try and give it to them. We’re here as friends, not preachers. We’ll leave you to look after their souls. You people who’ve tried to make your religion the pill to go with your charity have done more harm in the world than you know of.”
The young man was on fire to speak, but he had no chance. They hustled him out good-naturedly except that the costermonger, running him down the room, took his cap from his head and sent it spinning across the road. Lord Arranmore left the hall at the same time, and turned homewards, walking like a man in a dream.
BROOKS AND HIS MISSIONS
“Now then, please,” Brooks said, dipping his pen in the ink.
A lady of ample proportions, who had been standing since the commencement of the proceedings with her hand tightly grasping the leg of Brooks’ table, gave a final shove of discomfiture to a meek-faced girl whom she had suspected of an attempt to supersede her, and presented herself before the desk.