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started off to the play not very happy, but she was familiar
with that feeling, only sometimes she was more unhappy than
at others. Her feeling expressed itself tonight by a withdrawal
into herself. When the company was seated in the box and
the curtain had gone up Felicia was back of the others and
remained for the evening by herself. Mrs. Delano, as chaperon
for half a dozen young ladies, understood Felicia well enough
to know that she was "queer," as Rose so often said, and
she made no attempt to draw her out of her corner. And so
the girl really experienced that night by herself one of
the feelings that added to the momentum that was increasing
the coming on of her great crisis.
The play was an English melodrama, full of startling situations,
realistic scenery and unexpected climaxes. There was one
scene in the third act that impressed even Rose Sterling.
It was midnight on Blackfriars Bridge. The Thames flowed
dark and forbidden below. St. Paul's rose through the dim
light imposing, its dome seeming to float above the buildings
surrounding it. The figure of a child came upon the bridge
and stood there for a moment peering about as if looking
for some one. Several persons were crossing the bridge,
but in one of the recesses about midway of the river a woman
stood, leaning out over the parapet, with a strained agony
of face and figure that told plainly of her intention. Just
as she was stealthily mounting the parapet to throw herself
into the river, the child caught sight of her, ran forward
with a shrill cry more animal than human, and seizing the
woman's dress dragged back upon it with all her little strength.
Then there came suddenly upon the scene two other characters
who had already figured in the play, a tall, handsome, athletic
gentleman dressed in the fashion, attended by a slim-figured
lad who was as refined in dress and appearance as the little
girl clinging to her mother, who was mournfully hideous
in her rags and repulsive poverty. These two, the gentleman
and the lad, prevented the attempted suicide, and after
a tableau on the bridge where the audience learned that
the man and woman were brother and sister, the scene was
transferred to the interior of one of the slum tenements
in the East Side of London. Here the scene painter and carpenter
had done their utmost to produce an exact copy of a famous
court and alley well known to the poor creatures who make
up a part of the outcast London humanity. The rags, the
crowding, the vileness, the broken furniture, the horrible
animal existence forced upon creatures made in God's image
were so skilfully shown in this scene that more than one
elegant woman in the theatre, seated like Rose Sterling
in a sumptuous box surrounded with silk hangings and velvet
covered railing, caught herself shrinking back a little
as if contamination were possible from the nearness of this
piece of scenery. It was almost too realistic, and yet it
had a horrible fascination for Felicia as she sat there
alone, buried back in a cushioned seat and absorbed in thoughts
that went far beyond the dialogue on the stage.
From the tenement scene the play shifted to the interior
of a nobleman's palace, and almost a sigh of relief went
up all over the house at the sight of the accustomed luxury
of the upper classes. The contrast was startling. It was
brought about by a clever piece of staging that allowed
only a few moments to elapse between the slum and the palace
scene. The dialogue went on, the actors came and went in
their various roles, but upon Felicia the play made but
one distinct impression. In realty the scenes on the bridge
and in the slums were only incidents in the story of the
play, but Felicia found herself living those scenes over
and over. She had never philosophized about the causes of
human misery, she was not old enough she had not the temperament
that philosophizes. But she felt intensely, and this was
not the first time she had felt the contrast thrust into
her feeling between the upper and the lower conditions of
human life. It had been growing upon her until it had made
her what Rose called "queer," and other people in her circle
of wealthy acquaintances called very unusual. It was simply
the human problem in its extreme of riches and poverty,
its refinement and its vileness, that was, in spite of her
unconscious attempts to struggle against the facts, burning
into her life the impression that would in the end either
transform her into a woman of rare love and self-sacrifice
for the world, or a miserable enigma to herself and all
who knew her.
Felicia, aren't you going home?" said Rose. The play was
over, the curtain down, and people were going noisily out,
laughing and gossiping as if "The Shadows of London" were
simply good diversion, as they were, put on the stage so
Felicia rose and went out with the rest quietly, and with
the absorbed feeling that had actually left her in her seat
oblivious of the play's ending. She was never absent-minded,
but often thought herself into a condition that left her
alone in the midst of a crowd.
what did you think of it?" asked Rose when the sisters had
reached home and were in the drawing-room. Rose really had
considerable respect for Felicia's judgment of a play.
thought it was a pretty fair picture of real life."
mean the acting," said Rose, annoyed.
bridge scene was well acted, especially the woman's part.
I thought the man overdid the sentiment a little."
you? I enjoyed that. And wasn't the scene between the two
cousins funny when they first learned they were related?
But the slum scene was horrible. I think they ought not
to show such things in a play. They are too painful."
must be painful in real life, too," replied Felicia.
but we don't have to look at the real thing. It's bad enough
at the theatre where we pay for it."
Rose went into the dining-room and began to eat from a plate
of fruit and cakes on the sideboard.
you going up to see mother?" asked Felicia after a while.
She had remained in front of the drawing-room fireplace.
replied Rose from the other room. "I won't trouble her tonight.
If you go in tell her I am too tired to be agreeable."
So Felicia turned into her mother's room, as she went up
the great staircase and down the upper hall. The light was
burning there, and the servant who always waited on Mrs.
Sterling was beckoning Felicia to come in.
Clara to go out," exclaimed Mrs. Sterling as Felicia came
up to the bed.
Felicia was surprised, but she did as her mother bade her,
and then inquired how she was feeling.
said her mother, "can you pray?"
The question was so unlike any her mother had ever asked
before that she was startled. But she answered: "Why, yes,
mother. Why do you ask such a question?"
I am frightened. Your father -- I have had such strange
fears about him all day. Something is wrong with him. I
want you to pray -- ."
Felicia reached out her hand and took her mother's. It was
trembling. Mrs. Sterling had never shown such tenderness
for her younger daughter, and her strange demand now was
the first real sign of any confidence in Felicia's character.
The girl kneeled, still holding her mother's trembling hand,
and prayed. It is doubtful if she had ever prayed aloud
before. She must have said in her prayer the words that
her mother needed, for when it was silent in the room the
invalid was weeping softly and her nervous tension was over.
Felicia stayed some time. When she was assured that her
mother would not need her any longer she rose to go.
night, mother. You must let Clara call me if you feel badly
in the night."
feel better now." Then as Felicia was moving away, Mrs.
Sterling said: "Won't you kiss me, Felicia?"
Felicia went back and bent over her mother. The kiss was
almost as strange to her as the prayer had been. When Felicia
went out of the room her cheeks were wet with tears. She
had not often cried since she was a little child.
Sunday morning at the Sterling mansion was generally very
quiet. The girls usually went to church at eleven o'clock
service. Mr. Sterling was not a member but a heavy contributor,
and he generally went to church in the morning. This time
he did not come down to breakfast, and finally sent word
by a servant that he did not feel well enough to go out.
So Rose and Felicia drove up to the door of the Nazareth
Avenue Church and entered the family pew alone.
When Dr. Bruce walked out of the room at the rear of the
platform and went up to the pulpit to open the Bible as
his custom was, those who knew him best did not detect anything
unusual in his manner or his expression. He proceeded with
the service as usual. He was calm and his voice was steady
and firm. His prayer was the first intimation the people
had of anything new or strange in the service. It is safe
to say that the Nazareth Avenue Church had not heard Dr.
Bruce offer such a prayer before during the twelve years
he had been pastor there. How would a minister be likely
to pray who had come out of a revolution in Christian feeling
that had completely changed his definition of what was meant
by following Jesus? No one in Nazareth Avenue Church had
any idea that the Rev. Calvin Bruce, D. D., the dignified,
cultured, refined Doctor of Divinity, had within a few days
been crying like a little child on his knees, asking for
strength and courage and Christlikeness to speak his Sunday
message; and yet the prayer was an unconscious involuntary
disclosure of his soul's experience such as the Nazareth
Avenue people had seldom heard, and never before from that
In the hush that succeeded the prayer a distinct wave of
spiritual power moved over the congregation. The most careless
persons in the church felt it. Felicia, whose sensitive
religious nature responded swiftly to every touch of emotion,
quivered under the passing of that supernatural pressure,
and when she lifted her head and looked up at the minister
there was a look in her eyes that announced her intense,
eager anticipation of the scene that was to follow. And
she was not alone in her attitude. There was something in
the prayer and the result of it that stirred many and many
a disciple in that church. All over the house men and women
leaned forward, and when Dr. Bruce began to speak of his
visit to Raymond, in the opening sentence of his address
which this morning preceded his sermon, there was an answering
response in the people that came back to him as he spoke,
and thrilled him with the hope of a spiritual baptism such
as he had never during all his ministry experienced.