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A Modern Idyll by Frank Harris

For whosoever will save his life


As

he opened the vestry door, and stepped into the little room, he stopped short. Mrs. Hooper was there, coming towards him with outstretched hand and radiant smile:

"Good morning Mr. Letgood, all the Deacons are here to meet you, and they let me come; because I was the first you told the news to, and because I'm sure you're not goin' to leave us. Besides, I wanted to come."

He could not help looking at her for a second as he took her hand and bowed:

"Thank you, Mrs. Hooper." Not trusting himself further, he began to shake hands with the assembled elders. In answer to one who expressed the hope that they would keep him, he said slowly and gravely:

"I always trust something to the inspiration of the moment, but I confess I am greatly moved to refuse this call."

"That's what I said," broke in Mr. Hooper triumphantly, "and I said, too, there were mighty few like you, and I meant it. But we don't want you to act against yourself, though we'd be mighty glad to hev you stay."

A chorus of "Yes, sir! Yes, indeed! That's so" went round the room in warm approval, and then, as the minister did not answer save with an abstracted, wintry smile, the Deacons began to file into the church. Curiously enough Mrs. Hooper having moved away from the door during this scene was now, necessarily it

seemed, the last to leave the room. While she was passing him, Mr. Letgood bent towards her and in an eager tone whispered:

"And my answer?"

Mrs. Hooper paused, as if surprised.

"Oh! ain't you men stupid," she murmured and with a smile tossed the question over her shoulder: "What _did_ I come here for?"

That sermon of Mr. Letgood's is still remembered in Kansas City. It is not too much to say that the majority of his hearers believed him to be inspired. And, in truth, as an artistic performance his discourse was admirable. After standing for some moments with his hand upon the desk, apparently lost in thought, he began in the quietest tone to read the letter from the Deacons of the Second Baptist Church in Chicago. He then read his reply, begging them to give him time to consider their request He had considered it--prayerfully. He would read the passage of Holy Scripture which had suggested the answer he was about to send to the call. He paused again. The rustling of frocks and the occasional coughings ceased--the audience straining to catch the decision--while in a higher key he recited the verse, "For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it; and whosoever will lose his life for My sake, shall find it."

As the violinist knows when his instrument is perfectly attuned, so Mr. Letgood knew when he repeated the text that his hearers had surrendered themselves to him to be played upon. It would be useless here to reproduce the sermon, which lasted for nearly an hour, and altogether impossible to give any account of the preacher's gestures or dramatic pauses, or of the modulations and inflections of his voice, which now seemed to be freighted with passionate earnestness, now quivered in pathetic appeal, and now grew musical in the dying fall of some poetic phrase. The effect was astonishing. While he was speaking simply of the text as embodying the very spirit of the Glad Tidings which Christ first delivered to the world, not a few women were quietly weeping. It was impossible, they felt, to listen unmoved to that voice.


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