The meeting began. The big hall was crammed to overflowing with an eager audience for the Public Speaker's was a well known and greatly esteemed name. The Public Speaker stood leaning over the black desk on the platform, pouring out the flood of his eloquence over his breathless auditory: the flush of inspiration covered his cheeks, and his eyes flashed with the inward fire of a prophet or visionary. "What a soul that man must have," those who had attended some of his lectures or read one of the beautiful books he wrote from time to time, with the apostolic frontispiece photograph of himself, used to say about him — for his tongue and his pen were equally expressive.
He talked of Brotherhood, and Compassion, and Love; he talked fervently, mightily, and many an eye grew dim as he talked, many a cheek glistened suspiciously wet.
It was over.
The recent speaker was walking home through the dark night, the stormy applause that had crowned his speech still ringing pleasurably in his ears. In vain Vincent hurried after him, eager to express personally his deep appreciation of the beautiful words he had listened to a short while ago. The Public Speaker was walking quickly, for the night was cold and a sharp November wind prevailed. A dark figure stood closely pressed against the wall of a house: it was that of a beggar, frozen with cold. His eyes uttered a dumb appeal as — the Public Speaker passed by, and a chapped, blue hand was hesitatingly stretched forward — but the Public Speaker did not see the ragged form at his side: he was too deep in thought. Then the outstretched hand grasped his coat sleeve and a trembling voice began:
"In the name of mercy, good sir . . ."
Startled, the Public Speaker looked up and angrily wrenched his sleeve away from the beggar's hand.
"Let go at once!" he said. "How dare you stop me in this manner?"
And he passed on, for he was just thinking of a new book to write on Brotherhood and Compassion and did not like to be disturbed in his thinking.