The body of the hall was arranged like a great lecture-room; there were no facilities for or suggestions of devotion, but the seats were abundantly cushioned, and with every arrangement for the comfort of the occupants. The hall was not more than half full, the greater part of those present being women. Most of these were fair and beautiful; and even those who had long passed middle age retained, by the virtue of many cunning arts, well known to these people, much of the appearance and freshness of youth. I might here note that the prolongation of life in the upper classes, and its abbreviation in the lower classes, are marked and divergent characteristics of this modern civilization.
I observed in the women, as I had in those of the Darwin Hotel, associated with great facial perfection, a hard and soulless look out of the eyes; and here, even more than there, I could not but notice a sensuality in the full, red lips, and the quick-glancing eyes, which indicated that they were splendid animals, and nothing more.
An usher led us up one of the thickly carpeted aisles to a front pew; there was a young lady already seated in it. I entered first, and Max followed me. The young lady was possessed of imperial beauty. She looked at us both quite boldly, without shrinking, and smiled a little. We sat down. They were singing a song—I could not call it a hymn; it was all about the “Beautiful and the Good”—or something of that sort. The words and tune were fine, but there were no allusions to religion, or God, or heaven, or anything else of a sacred character. The young lady moved toward me and offered to share her song-book with me. She sang quite sweetly, but there was no more soul in her voice than there was in the song.
After a little time the preacher appeared on the platform. Max told me his name was Professor Odyard, and that he was one of the most eminent philosophers and orators of the day, but that his moral character was not of the best. He was a large, thick-set, florid, full-bearded man, with large lips, black hair and eyes, and swarthy skin. His voice was sweet and flute-like, and he had evidently perfected himself in the graces of elocution. He spoke with a great deal of animation and action; in fact, he was a very vivacious actor.
He commenced by telling the congregation of some new scientific discoveries, recently made in Germany, by Professor Von der Slahe, to the effect that the whole body of man, and of all other animals and even inanimate things, was a mass of living microbes—not in the sense of disease or parasites, but that the intrinsic matter of all forms was life-forms; the infinite molecules were creatures; and that there was no substance that was not animated; and that life was therefore infinitely more abundant in the world than matter; that life was matter.