“Mother has no company at present. I am sure we would be glad to give him a place with us.”
She looked strongly agitated. No one noticed it particularly. They were all excited over the strange event, the strangest that First Church people could remember. But the minister insisted on taking charge of the man, and when a carriage came the unconscious but living form was carried to his house; and with the entrance of that humanity into the minister’s spare room a new chapter in Henry Maxwell’s life began, and yet no one, himself least of all, dreamed of the remarkable change it was destined to make in all his after definition of the Christian discipleship.
The event created a great sensation in the First Church parish. People talked of nothing else for a week. It was the general impression that the man had wandered into the church in a condition of mental disturbance caused by his troubles, and that all the time he was talking he was in a strange delirium of fever and really ignorant of his surroundings. That was the most charitable construction to put upon his action. It was the general agreement also that there was a singular absence of anything bitter or complaining in what the man had said. He had, throughout, spoken in a mild, apologetic tone, almost as if he were one of the congregation seeking for light on a very difficult subject.
The third day after his removal to the minister’s house there was a marked change in his condition. The doctor spoke of it but offered no hope. Saturday morning he still lingered, although he had rapidly failed as the week drew near its close. Sunday morning, just before the clock struck one, he rallied and asked if his child had come. The minister had sent for her at once as soon as he had been able to secure her address from some letters found in the man’s pocket. He had been conscious and able to talk coherently only a few moments since his attack.
“The child is coming. She will be here,” Mr. Maxwell said as he sat there, his face showing marks of the strain of the week’s vigil; for he had insisted on sitting up nearly every night.
“I shall never see her in this world,” the man whispered. Then he uttered with great difficulty the words, “You have been good to me. Somehow I feel as if it was what Jesus would do.”
After a few minutes he turned his head slightly, and before Mr. Maxwell could realize the fact, the doctor said quietly, “He is gone.”
The Sunday morning that dawned on the city of Raymond was exactly like the Sunday of a week before. Mr. Maxwell entered his pulpit to face one of the largest congregations that had ever crowded the First Church. He was haggard and looked as if he had just risen from a long illness. His wife was at home with the little girl, who had come on the morning train an hour after her father had died. He lay in that spare room, his troubles over, and the minister could see the face as he opened the Bible and arranged his different notices on the side of the desk as he had been in the habit of doing for ten years.