Imágenes de páginas

every Sabbath that the Lord would turn again the captivity of Kirjath, which the worthy man thought could be best effected by his own translation to the contested seat, for Kirjath was worth a good twenty pounds a year more than his own pulpit. At last, when the Teape party seemed on the point of carrying their candidate, and the opposition were about to declare open revolt by 'lifting' their Bibles and hymn-books from their pews in Kirjath, the leaders of the sect interfered and made a last effort for peace. Through their influence a call was addressed to young Mr. Teape from a wealthy dissenting congregation in an English manufacturing town, which he was only too glad to accept; and the congregation of Kirjath received a hint that if they placed any value upon the goodwill of the Church, they would make choice of Mr. Sempill for their minister. All parties were now well tired of squabbling, and the advent of Mr. Sempill, a candidate from a neutral quarter, was as oil cast upon the troubled waters. And so on the motion of Mr. Lundie, seconded by Mr. Teape, Mr. Sempill was harmoniously elected to the pastoral charge of the congregation of Kirjath.


THE new pastor of Kirjath was of a very different stamp from the majority of his class. He had entered the ministry rather late in life, and though he was now upwards of five-and-thirty he had never before held the charge of a congregation. No one knew very well how the previous part of his life had been spent, for Dr. Brodie, of the Theological College, who had sent him down to Kirjath, had given no details of his antecedents, except that he had had much experience of the world before he received a 'call,' and that he was well connected and had a small income of his own. He was evidently a man of superior education, who had travelled much, and knew both men and books; so that when Brother Dudgeon, of Drywells, who had prepared himself for the ministry behind a draper's counter, called to offer the right hand of fellowship to the new minister, he was somewhat overawed by Mr. Sempill's manner, and felt constrained to address him as 'Sir' more frequently than was consistent with a notion of perfect equality.

Not the least interested portion of the congregation in Mr. Sempill's settlement were the young ladies of the flock. Handsome ministers with private incomes, and with a snug manse and comfortable salary, were not so common in the connection that a man of Mr. Sempill's appearance and prospects could be treated with indifference. The new minister of Kirjath was pronounced by Miss Lundie to be distangwee, and by Miss Powrie to be just like an officer;' and as these ladies set themselves up for the social oracles of Simonie, all the rest of the sex readily accepted Mr. Sempill as a legitimate object of adoration. Long before the day appointed for the new minister's induction, Miss Lundie and Miss Powrie had con

stituted themselves a committee for canvassing the congregation and collecting funds to present Mr. Sempill with a pulpit gown and Bible, although his predecessor, Mr. Glendinning, had been quite content to preach in his threadbare frock. The fair promoters would have fain made their gift take the form of a silver tea-service, but then the new pastor was a bachelor, and uncharitable persons like Miss Dickson or Miss Teape would be ready to hint that they were scheming to get themselves one day advanced to preside over the plate, and so Miss Dickson and Miss Teape were not called upon to aid in the collection; but as two ladies could hardly claim to represent the female portion of the congregation, Miss Lundie and Miss Powrie called to their counsels Daisy Lyon, whom all the parish looked upon as a child, and who might be expected to let them have their own way.

It was a great day in the annals of Kirjath when Mr. Sempill was installed into its pulpit. The famous Dr. Brodie, of the Theological College, himself came down to introduce the minister to his flock. Then there was a procession of the Sunday scholars, who marched in proud array from Simonie to Kirjath, with Brother Dudgeon, of Drywells, at their head, with flags and banners displayed, and chanting the Sankey hymn, 'See the mighty host (advancing, Satan leading on,' without, however, intending to impute any diabolical attributes to the reverend gentleman who preceded them. The induction sermon was preached by Brother Dudgeon, who, in his exultation at the accession of strength which the Church had gained, forgot, it is to be hoped, that Kirjath was worth twenty pounds more than Drywells; and after the new pastor had shaken hands with the office-bearers and members, Mr. Lundie led in the deputation from the ladies of Kirjath, and announced in his most pompous tones the pleasant mission with which they had been charged. Mr. Sempill did not look like a nervous man, but probably in his previous experience he had never been exposed to such a battery of charms as that now brought to bear upon him. There was Miss Lundie, tall and dark, with bold black eyes and bright red cheeks, who had evidently left her teens a good many years behind, and who looked like a lady not to be trifled with. Next came Miss Powrie, a gushing girl of thirty, who clung to her companion's arm with a great affectation of shyness, and who kept her eyes modestly fixed upon the ground, as if she feared to encounter the gaze of the new pastor. Miss Powrie had limp, jute-coloured hair, and a face wreathed into stereotyped smiles, and as she was the cousin of a Radical member of Parliament, and had been jilted by a Major of Native Infantry, advantages of which no other lady in Simonie could boast, Miss Lundie could not refuse to divide with her the social empire of the town. Mr. Sempill accepted the black robe which these two ladies held out to him with a polite expression of gratitude for their kindness; but when Mr. Lundie brought forward Daisy Lyon, who was to present the pulpit Bible, the new minis

ter could not help betraying a warmer interest in the ceremony. Miss Powrie had been anxious that this office should be entrusted to her, but the deacons of Kirjath, remembering that Mrs. Lyon had contributed shekels for Miss Powrie's mite, determined that Daisy should have the preference. And what young unmarried minister could have looked with indifference upon the shrinking, slight-made form which clung nervously to the portly side of Mr. Lundie? Mr. Sempill had too much experience of the world to allow his composure to be shaken by the bold assurance of Miss Lundie or the simpering affectation of her companion, but there was something in the fair fresh young face, now suffused with bashful blushes; the limpid hazel eyes which, having failed in an attempt to look saucy, now seemed on the point of melting into tears; the bright, smooth temples upon which honesty and frankness had set their stamp, and from which heavy masses of dark brown hair, pushed back in rippling clusters, fell in thick curls over her slender curved neck and sloping shoulders there was something, we say, about Daisy Lyon that a man more insensible to female charms than the new minister of Kirjath could not have gazed upon unmoved. His hand lingered upon that of the girl as he took the sacred book from her, and while he essayed a few incoherent remarks about the preciousness of the gift, and the need he would have for its guidance, he was conscious only of the sweet young face cast down before his earnest gaze, and of the shy, trembling figure that clung still closer to Deacon Lundie as the minister addressed her.

"There!' said Deacon Lundie, with a sigh of relief, when, the blessing pronounced and the congregation dispersed, the officebearers met in the vestry; that is a good business well over. If we had you married next, Mr. Sempill, we would feel as if you were fairly settled among us.'

Ay, ay,' laughed Mr. Lyon, in his loud hearty tones. All the young women in Kirjath will be pulling caps for you. But don't you be taken in by them, Mr. Sempill. I warrant a handsome man like you has a lass of your own to put at the head of the manse table, and she'll be heartily welcome among us. Goodness' sakes alive' this was the nearest approach to swearing that the farmer of Broomknowes was permitted to make since his wife had compelled him to enter the communion of Kirjath-goodness' sakes alive, ministers are but men as well as other folk.'

'A wife who knows the flock, and can enter into pastoral work, is often of great assistance to a young minister,' said Mr. Lundie decisively. We are plain people here in Kirjath, Mr. Sempill, but I trust that you will give me the pleasure of your company to dinner on an early day. It is my misfortune to be a widower; but my daughter-you saw her to-day-will be delighted to receive you.'

[ocr errors]

We are but poor tradesfolk, and don't afford to give dinners,' put in Mr. Teape, the clothier, with a covert sneer at Mr. Lundie, who was by far the poorer of the two, and who was always giving

himself superior airs as a professional' man; but we hope Mr. Sempill will often give us the honour of his company at tea. busy man, myself, but you will always find my wife and daughter in the house, which will be proud to welcome you, though they do not push theirselves forward in the congregation.'

'I don't deal in invitations; there is no ceremony about me,' cried Mr. Dickson, the corn-factor, with great affectation of heartiness. My house is handy for the station, and look in whenever you pass. A glass of dry sherry used for the stomach's sake is not such a bad thing when you are travelling, and that at any rate I can always promise you, Mr. Sempill.'

While acknowledging the hospitable proffers of his office-bearers, Mr. Sempill could not help wondering why Mr. Lyon had not joined in them; and indeed as the recollection of Daisy passed across his mind, he felt that an invitation to Broomknowes would be more to his taste than any of the inducements held out by the others. But Mr. Lyon had turned away, and was gazing abstractedly through the vestry window, while his hands, plunged deep into his trousers pocket, kept jingling loose money, as if he heard nothing of what was passing.

[ocr errors]

"You must not mind Brother Lyon,' said Mr. Lundie, who had turned back after the others had taken their leave, to have the last word with the minister. He is but a weak vessel, poor man! Between ourselves, Mrs. Lyon has a will of her own, and her husband gets but little of his own way. And yet she is a worthy woman, and takes a great interest in Christian work; much more so than her husband, for he would never have come to Kirjath if it had not been for her. And that girl, too, will give him a deal of trouble unless I am much mistaken.'

'How trouble?' demanded the minister, suddenly aroused to interest in Mr. Lundie's conversation. 'She seemed to be a mere child.'

"Yes, she is a child, and a spoiled child too,' retorted the deacon. 'You see, Mr. Sempill, the Lyons have no more family but herself, and she has always been allowed to have her own way from the cradle. And what's the consequence? I have seen her myself smiling to the young men in church, and she gallops about the country on her pony with her hair flying behind her in the wind in a way that is a scandal to the congregation. And that young rascal Nesbitt, who has just come back from college, has been running about with her. Her mother was talking to me the other day about getting her admitted as a member of Kirjath, but we shall have to deal with her first, Mr. Sempill, we shall have to deal with her.'

And who is young Nesbitt?' asked the minister gloomily, as he felt the bright impressions left by the vision of the morning rapidly vanishing before the disparaging remarks of his deacon. Oh, he is the scapegrace son of that drunken old blackguard Nesbitt, of Westermains, who is now on his last legs with debt,'

[ocr errors]


returned Mr. Lundie. He don't belong to Kirjath, though his son has been coming to our meetings lately for the chance of escorting Daisy Lyon home. There has been far too much promiscuousness about our meetings, thanks to the hold that Teape and Dickson had on old Mr. Glendinning. But you'll soon see your way among us, and for my part I would only open the meetings to people who are really anxious.'

Their arrival at the manse gate gave Mr. Sempill an excuse for escaping from his deacon's exposition of the evil influences which Messrs. Teape and Dickson had exerted on the interests of Kirjath, and his counsels to be firm and take his own way—which meant his, Mr. Lundie's, advice-whatever opposition these troublers of Israel might be disposed to offer.

Somehow Mr. Sempill's thoughts, as he sat over his solitary dinner, turned much more towards the maiden of Broomknowes than upon the solemn obligations which he had that day taken upon himself to fulfil. Mr. Sempill had seen much of the world, and was not unused to the influence of female fascinations, but his mind could not be restrained from weaving threads of romance around Daisy Lyon. And this entanglement with young Nesbitt of which his deacon had spoken only served as an excuse for letting his thoughts stray in the direction of the girl. Was he not her pastor, responsible for her spiritual welfare, and was he not accordingly bound to save her, if possible, from the intrigues of a bad, designing character, such as he did not doubt young Nesbitt to be? This ministerial duty at least Mr. Sempill determined resolutely to fulfil, and it is to be feared that his mind was more occupied with this subject during the afternoon of his induction than with topics of a more purely clerical character.

Meanwhile Mr. Lyon, with his wife and daughter, were driving smartly home from Kirjath to Broomknowes; and Daisy, who was making up for her shyness in church by an exuberant outburst of spirits, kept her father chuckling the whole way by her wild sallies, while Mrs. Lyon, loth to check her darling, only evinced displeasure at her levity by bending her eyebrows and pursing her lips. The solemnity of Mr. Sempill, the stiffness of Miss Lundie, and the affected artlessness of Miss Powrie all came in for a dash of Daisy's mocking humour, and the girl could hardly sit still in the dogcart while she mimicked the airs of her two spinster colleagues. But as they drove past the corner where the Simonie road joins the county turnpike she suddenly sat still and became silent, while a crimson flush came over her face, very different from the rosy blushes which had covered it while she stood before Mr. Sempill in the Kirjath chapel. Mr. Lyon also gave his horse a cut with the whip, as if to urge the animal on faster, and his wife straightened herself up on her seat, and folded her hands and squared her arms, as if she anticipated being brought into contact with an unpleasant object; and indeed a rencontre was at hand which they would all have gladly

« AnteriorContinuar »