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It was just that time when many persons prefer to waste the moments in the dusky, dreamy uncertainty of twilight,
“ Ere the evening lamps are lighted,”
and, as Elith emerged from the clearer light without into the darkened room, she could discern but imperfectly the figure of her mother, as she thought, sitting in the chair which she usually occupied. Edith believed she was weeping, as she often surprised her of late. Hastening to the side of the chair, she threw her arms about the neck of the one who sat there, and imprinted an earnest, affectionate kiss upon the brow. She now started suddenly, as if she had encountered a peril, and with a voice of affright demanded who was there.
“ Doubtless there is some mistake here," returned a quiet, manly voice.
“I thought it was my mother,” said Edith, overwhelmed with confusion. • What have I done?”
“ No harm, certainly; you might have done worse," replied the same voice, in a tone of mingled pleasantry and curiosity.
At this crisis, the door of an adjoining room opened, and a lady entered with lights. “ This is Mrs. Goodwin,” exclaimed Edith.
“ I thought, surely, I was in our own home.”
She now saw that the person she had mistaken for her mother was a gentleman, and a stranger. But as he was studying her attentively, she bestowed only a glance. She vainly essayed to summon words for an apology, the tears rushed to her eyes, and she blushed carnation.
“ If you have got into the wrong pew for once, it is of no consequence," said Mrs. Goodwin, perceiving nothing but a common mistake in the matter. “Let me introduce
you to Mr. Wellmont, who has come to preach for us to-morrow Miss Hale, a next-door neighbor of ours,” she added to the gentleman.
Edith merely bowed in return to Mr. Wellmont's courteous salutation, and moved toward the door to effect her escape as easily as possible.
" Don't leave so soon,” continued Mrs. Goodwin, who, being the wife of a deacon, felt it more than usually incumbent on her to press her hospitalities on such an occasion; “ Mr. Wellmont would be glad to make your acquaintance, I
Before the gentleman could add his assent, Edith had excused herself briefly, and vanished like a shadow.
“ Beautiful as the angel of a dream!” thought the young minister, when Mrs. Goodwin had left him once more alone.
A new and strange delight filled his soul, and he was even yet inspired with the presence of that mistaken caress. A hundred times, that evening, at least, he imagined his neck encircled lovingly, and his forehead pressed by those warm, rosy lips, which he had seen tremulous with surprise and mortification.
On the next day, which was the Sabbath, the house of worship appeared scarcely less attractive to the people than a flower-garden to insects with parti-colored wings. On every hand they assembled, as if the gate of the temple called Beau
tiful were newly unclosed. A candidate fresh from the theological institution was expected.
For some time the people had held themselves in readiness for the right one to minister to them in holy things; but, being somewhat cautious in their selection, the situation yet remained open for the ambition of any aspirant.
The fame of the new preacher had preceded him by weeks. They had heard how, while struggling with poverty to obtain an education, he used to sacrifice his pride to self-denial, wear a straw hat with broken braids, shut himself in his closet to use the needle, walk thirty miles of a night to visit his widowed mother; how, later, he had excelled all his fellowstudents in his acquirements, and that for his style, which was wonderfully imbued with that charm which moves all hearts, he had received warm encomiums from certain distinguished men, who declared he was much too fine a fellow to wear a black coat, and go in and out upon the “ treadmill of a pulpit," with the salary of a few hundred a year.
Something of this lingered in the thoughts of many who sat waiting for the opening of the services. Something, too, of the new spring hats and shawls was in the thoughts of many more.
Up a side aisle now came one of those ladies who are to be found more or less over the civilized world. She was a single lady of middle age, and a perfect terror to evildoers. The children who sat in the pew before her composed themselves into decorum as soon as they heard the rustle of her garments, venting their inward titillation by nudging each
others' elbows, and exchanging glances from the corners of their
eyes. Even their elders could not rid themselves of the feeling that they were under the watch-care of Miss Leah, and that she would be first to know it if they dropped off to napping. Altogether, Miss Leah Shaw was such an one as deserves especial prominence among her sex, and it would have seemed befitting to have given her a reserved, central elevation in church, as distinguished worthies sometimes had in Puritan times. She was never so much engrossed with other people, however, as to lose a word of the discourse; and copious notes were taken in a thin, dark-covered book, which she invariably carried to church.
This custom was imitated by another lady of the congregation. She was not single, but a wife without children. It was necessary to mention that she had a husband, else but few would have mistrusted the fact; for Mr. Simon Witherell was a meek man, and shrunk from appearing in his wife's overblowing shadow, except on Sundays, when he walked carefully into church, and, being seated, covered with his hand the side of his face next the head of the pew. In the midst of hard breathing, sometimes he made such an unusual demonstration of his individuality as a sudden spring, when the toe of his boot was jogged unceremoniously by his wife's gaiter. In but one office was he her helpmeet; he carried her notebook to and from church in the dorsal pocket of his coat.
Amid the various reflections of the congregation which cumbered the air of this Sabbath morning, a hush suddenly pervaded the house. The figure of a stranger advanced up
the aisle, and, with a gentle tread, ascended the pulpit steps.
“How handsome he is ! ” whispered one young lady to another.
“ He'll turn half of our young girls' heads,” inwardly murmured Deacon Dennis.
The new speaker began to read; his voice was solemn and powerful, but he spoke as though much was still in reserve, and he had a habit of looking about him as unconcernedly as though each new face were but a book on his libraryshelves. Miss Leah afterward said of this, that she liked the way
of a minister looking about upon the faces of his people, and of all things it made her the most uncomfortable to have a minister look first on one wall and then on the other, on one window and then to the opposite, as though he were trying to spy out cobwebs instead of the sins of the people.
It was soon evident the young man had power. Others had stood in that place before who had aroused and interested their auditors; but now the depths of their souls were moved as though troubled by an angel. Yet he displayed none of the tricks of oratory; made fow gestures, but stood like a living statue of Tranquillity, sublimely directing all eyes toward heaven.
“ This ere is what I call preachin' the Gospel,” said Father Shaw, - father of people in general, and of Miss Leah in particular, -as he left the church at the conclusion of the exercises.