THE TEMPTATION OF SAMUEL BURGE
Mr. Higgs, jeweller, sat in the small parlour behind his shop, gazing hungrily at a supper-table which had been laid some time before. It was a quarter to ten by the small town clock on the mantelpiece, and the jeweller rubbing his hands over the fire tried in vain to remember what etiquette had to say about starting a meal before the arrival of an expected guest.
"He must be coming by the last train after all, sir," said the housekeeper entering the room and glancing at the clock. "I suppose these London gentlemen keep such late hours they don't understand us country folk wanting to get to bed in decent time. You must be wanting your supper, sir."
Mr. Higgs sighed. "I shall be glad of my supper," he said slowly, "but I dare say our friend is hungrier still. Travelling is hungry work."
"Perhaps he is thinking over his words for the seventh day," said the housekeeper solemnly. "Forgetting hunger and thirst and all our poor earthly feelings in the blessedness of his work."
"Perhaps so," assented the other, whose own earthly feelings were particularly strong just at that moment.
"Brother Simpson used to forget all about meal-times when he stayed here," said the housekeeper, clasping her hands. "He used to sit by the window with his eyes half-closed and shake his head at the smell from the kitchen and call it flesh-pots of Egypt. He said that if it wasn't for keeping up his strength for the work, luscious bread and fair water was all he wanted. I expect Brother Burge will be a similar sort of man."
"Brother Clark wrote and told me that he only lives for the work," said the jeweller, with another glance at the clock. "The chapel at Clerkenwell is crowded to hear him. It's a blessed favour and privilege to have such a selected instrument staying in the house. I'm curious to see him; from what Brother Clark said I rather fancy that he was a little bit wild in his younger days."
"Hallelujah!" exclaimed the housekeeper with fervour. "I mean to think as he's seen the error of his ways," she added sharply, as her master looked up.
"There he is," said the latter, as the bell rang.
The housekeeper went to the side-door, and drawing back the bolt admitted the gentleman whose preaching had done so much for the small but select sect known as the Seventh Day Primitive Apostles. She came back into the room followed by a tall stout man, whose upper lip and short stubby beard streaked with grey seemed a poor match for the beady eyes which lurked behind a pair of clumsy spectacles.
"Brother Samuel Burge?" inquired the jeweller, rising.
The visitor nodded, and regarding him with a smile charged with fraternal love, took his hand in a huge grip and shook it fervently.
"I am glad to see you, Brother Higgs," he said, regarding him fondly. "Oh, 'ow my eyes have yearned to be set upon you! Oh, 'ow my ears 'ave longed to hearken unto the words of your voice!"
He breathed thickly, and taking a seat sat with his hands upon his knees, looking at a fine piece of cold beef which the housekeeper had just placed upon the table....