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painful for her shrunk leg. Would Mr. Sempill have been as firmly resolved to face obloquy if it had been to be met with in assisting her home to her cottage? And there was old Widow Proctor, who had been a member of Kirjath since the congregation was first formed, whose seat in the church was never vacant, and who was so bad with asthma that she was obliged to stand up and take breath at every few yards as she walked along the road. Would Mr. Sempill have felt that there was any need for mental apologies had his perception of duty led him to offer his arm to Widow Proctor on her way home? But Mr. Sempill was still in the youth and vigour of manhood, and heart-free, and it was not much wonder that his duty seemed to lie more directly in the way of Daisy Lyon than of either lame Jane Sim or asthmatic Widow Proctor.
And what did Daisy herself think of the minister's evident preference for her society? At first, she was disposed to regard his company as an infliction, and to feel rather disappointed that the pastor should play the part of a sheep-dog to scare away younger and more amusing companions. But the female mind is quick to detect the existence of any regard of which it is the object; and Daisy was not long of divining that the minister's stiffness and awkwardness in her company were due to feelings under these, struggling for expression to which he was afraid to give utterance. The idea of captivating a man of Mr. Sempill's age and gravity seemed so preposterous to the girl's mind that she felt inclined to treat it as a joke; and in her giddy moments she would scandalise her mother, and amuse the servant-maids, by picturing to them how she would act if the minister were to propose to her. But at heart Daisy soon began to discover that Mr. Sempill's feelings were not so much a matter of indifference to her as she would have her friends believe. At first she had been awed in the minister's presence, but gradually, as the ice between them began to break, she could not help perceiving that he possessed many manly and lovable qualities. There was a dash of romance, too, in the idea of a man so much superior in years and wisdom falling in love with her that was not displeasing to a girl of Daisy's time of life; and as the young ladies of the congregation had always affected to treat her as a child, she was not without a feeling of pride that Mr. Sempill had thus distinguished her by his regard. The previous love-episode in Daisy's life had not been one that she could take pride in, even at the time when she fancied herself to be passionately fond of young Nesbitt. And now that she had got a suitor whom she need feel no shame in owning before all the world, the girl's heart was not a little elated. But although she felt sure of her mother's approbation of Mr. Sempill's pretensions, and of her father's ready concurrence in any project for her happiness, Daisy had yet her own reasons to avoid the declaration of her attachment to the minister of Kirjath.
'Don't think you can throw me away like an old glove,' young Nesbitt had said to her at their last interview, when the girl told No. 611 (No. cxxxi. N. s.)
him that she would come no more to meet him; 'I'm not the sort of fellow that you can try on that game with. You swore you loved me, and you said you would never marry anyone but me; and by G―d, I shall hold you at your word, whether you are willing or not.'
'That was two years ago; I was but fifteen then, but a child,' said Daisy, trembling indeed, but with a look of firm determination on her face; you have no right to say such things to me.'
Right or no right, mind what I tell you,' said the young man, as he mounted his horse, and shook the hand that held the whip towards the girl: it might have been as a gesture of adieu, but it looked more like a menace. 'Mind what I say. You have promised to marry me, and it will be a woful day for you if you ever promise another. I have your letters and your locks of hair, and I'll take such revenge that you shall never hold up your head in the country again.'
'Try yourself,' said Daisy, stung into passion. You may paste my letters on to the parish church-door for all that I care. Though you were to be guilty of such meanness, people could not think worse of you than they do already.' And she turned on her heel and fled swiftly home towards Broomknowes, leaving Nesbitt sitting in the saddle in the middle of the road.
'What an infernal fool I am to lose my temper!' he muttered, as he turned his horse's head towards Westermains. "I shall never make anything of her by bullying; my chances are worse than ever now. I shall have to go down on my knees to her again and see if that will do any good. I wonder if she would care if I were to threaten to kill myself? Aha, my lady!' added he, as he turned in the saddle and looked after Daisy's retreating figure, now vanishing in the twilight. You may try on your tricks just now; but if I had you at Westermains and half of old John Lyon's cash lying at my account in the bank, I would soon bring you into subjection.'
But, though he wrote a piteous letter to Daisy next day, imploring forgiveness, and pleading that his love for her was driving him mad, he got no answer; and though he went constantly to Kirjath and seized every excuse for throwing himself in her way, Daisy Lyon saw him as though she saw him not.
'BY THE BYE,' said Mr. Sempill, looking up from his desk, at which he was seated transacting some of the financial affairs of Kirjath with his senior deacon-by the bye, Mr. Lundie, Miss Lyon wishes to be admitted as a member of the congregation. Her mother was talking to me about it the other day.'
The minister spoke with an affectation of indifference, and began to nib a pen; but there was a slight tremor in his voice, and he could not resist casting an anxious look upon the deacon's face.
Mr. Lundie pressed himself firmly down on his chair and clasped his hands, which had been engaged in their usual occupation of stroking his legs tightly together.
'Hem!' said he at length, when by the aid of these external movements he had screwed his nerves up to the pitch of combativeness; we have always been very particular in Kirjath.'
'I hope so,' said Mr. Sempill, looking up in astonishment; but what has that to do with what I have just said?'
You see, Mr. Sempill,' continued Deacon Lundie, still keeping his hands closely clasped together, and parting his lips only just as much as would let the words pass through them, Kirjath has never been like other congregations. From the very first time that we became a flock we have been far more particular than any of the congregations round about us.'
Well?' returned Mr. Sempill, impatiently. "I don't suppose you mean to insinuate that your particularity is likely to prove any barrier to Miss Lyon's admission into the Church?"
'In Drywells, for instance,' continued Mr. Lundie, taking no notice of the minister's remarks, you have only got to say that you have been converted; but we have never been reduced to admitting members without something more than a mere profession.'
'I don't know what you are driving at, Mr. Lundie,' said the minister impatiently, rising to his feet. Miss Lyon has opened her mind to me, and I feel fully satisfied of her fitness to be admitted into the Church. I don't conceive that anything else is necessary than to go through the usual forms in her case.'
The admission of members,' observed Mr. Lundie drily, does not rest with the minister. There is none of the bondage of prelatic or State churches with us. It's the office-bearers and members that have the power, and they would be betraying their trust and acting unworthy of the spirit of the gospel if they allowed their functions to be usurped.'
Who wants to usurp your functions, Mr. Lundie?' cried the minister, losing his temper. I have only told you that a young lady, whose parents have been the chief supporters of this church, wishes to be admitted as a member, and you begin to talk as if I was endeavouring to force some notorious character upon you.'
Not at all, Mr. Sempill, not at all; there is no occasion for vehemence,' said Mr. Lundie, with a provoking appearance of placidity. Miss Lyon's proposal shall have all due consideration. I myself at the next church meeting will move the appointment of a committee to deal with her.'
'I really can't see the necessity for any "dealing" in the matter,' returned the minister. Miss Lyon has possessed me of her mind upon religion, and I am quite prepared to assure the congregation that her sentiments are all that they could wish. There is no reason why she should not be proposed for admission at the next meeting,
and duly received if no objections are offered, as I don't suppose there will be.'
You're a stranger among us, Mr. Sempill,' observed Deacon Lundie, with freezing coldness in his tones, and don't know as much of your flock yet as the office-bearers do. We deal with everybody before we let them into Kirjath, and there are special reasons why we should be careful in Daisy Lyon's case.'
What reasons?' demanded the minister, while an angry flush mounted to his face.
You have heard of course of her scandalous connection with young Nesbitt of Westermains,' replied the Deacon, who, although he was no stranger to the reports that were going about of the minister's attachment to Miss Lyon, was determined not to spare him now that he had got him in his power; although she is not a member of the Church, all Kirjath felt compromised by her conduct. Nesbitt used to meet her clandestinely evening after evening, and if all tales be true
'I may save you further trouble, Mr. Lundie,' interrupted the minister, in repeating the gossip of the village scandalmongers by telling you that Miss Lyon, with the full approbation of her parents, will shortly become my wife.'
'In that case,' said Mr. Lundie, still in his calmest tones, 'the congregation will have to deal with you likewise.'
Deal away then,' retorted the minister, as he shut his desk with a loud snap, to indicate that the interview was at an end.
A defiance had thus been flung in his teeth, and Mr. Lundie was not the man to refuse such a challenge. His frequent attempts at agitation in the congregation had not generally been very popular, but he felt that on this occasion he would carry all Kirjath along with him. The whole parish were talking of the engagement between Mr. Sempill and Daisy Lyon; and the congregation felt that its minister must be compromised if he were to wed a girl so light and frivolous. A minister's wife is an integral part of himself, and it would have been difficult for Mr. Sempill to persuade the congregation of Kirjath that they had no claim to be consulted in the matter. The female part of the flock, headed by Miss Lundie and Miss Powrie, were especially bitter against Daisy. Cruel suggestions regarding her silly entanglement with young Nesbitt were bruited about, which might with little trouble have been traced to the evil imaginations of one or other of these ladies. Miss Lundie declared that they might as well belong to the Established Church, if their ministers were allowed to contract leeaysongs in such a fashion. Miss Powrie, who professed to feel for Daisy, hoped that she had found grace to repent of her follies, and instanced the cases of Mary Magdalene and the woman by the well of Samaria as reasons why they should give her the benefit of Christian charity. Mr. Sempill was, in Miss Powrie's opinion, much more to blame, for there could
be no doubt that he was going to marry Daisy Lyon entirely from mercenary motives. And the dark hints of exposure and revenge which young Nesbitt allowed himself to utter when his boon companions teased him about allowing a psalm-singing parson' to carry off his sweetheart, were duly noted down by the disaffected in Kirjath, and kept in store against the time when an opportunity would present itself of bringing them forward.
Nesbitt had now lost all hopes of reconciliation with Daisy, and his only care was how he might revenge himself most effectually upon her. He had at first been attracted towards the girl by her father's wealth, but her beauty had taken hold of him, and though he was utterly incapable of feeling anything like a pure passion, he did love Daisy Lyon with all the strength of his selfish nature. He had rather prided himself on the success of his gallantries, and had supported the character of a rural Lothario with little credit to himself. His vanity was accordingly piqued by being thrown over for a person whom he held in so much contempt as the minister of Kirjath, and he felt that some apology was necessary for his discomfiture. And so he went about dropping coarse hints that Mr. Sempill was welcome to wear his old shoes, that he for his part was well tired of Daisy Lyon, that he had never meant anything but flirtation, that he could bring her back again by holding up his little finger, and that he had letters in his possession which would give both her and the minister red faces. All of which sayings lost none of their evil significance when repeated by the gossips of Kirjath.
'You've lost the lass, George,' said his father, and unless you can lay your hands upon another before long, you had better look out for yourself. I'm up to the neck in bills, and can do nothing for you. If you had only stuck to the praying business you might well have got as much of John Lyon's money as would have cleared the debt and given us a start again.'
'If I had had less to do with the praying business, as you call it, I might have come better off,' growled the son. I loafed about that infernal chapel until I was the laughing-stock of the whole congregation. It was all your advice, too, for if I had taken my own way, I believe I could have carried off Daisy before any of her friends knew what was up.'
'Hain't you got no letters or nothing that you could sue for damages on?' demanded the old man. 'You must be a green hand to let a girl slip out of your fingers so easily. Had it been me now, I warrant I had made them pay through the nose. It don't do for a parson to have a hullabaloo made about his marriage; and rich people like the Lyons would pay anything to keep their name from being made a world's wonder.'
You mind your own business, dad,' retorted the hopeful son, as he lighted his pipe and sauntered out of the parlour. I know pretty well what I'm about, and Miss Daisy shall rue the day when