Page images

miles away); and it took some of the best and most influential men of that parish,-father among the rest. But most of them died years ago, and their sons didn't fill their places (seems to me none of them do, now-a-days!); or their property was divided and sold, and the new owners didn't care for the church. Then father met with heavy losses, and had to sell out his old, fine place upon the Hill (this is mother's property);-and so the parish began to run down, and it's kept going down hill ever since, till there isn't a man left in it worth his salt. To be sure father 'll do all he can, but he's got to be old, you see, and has pretty much done with active life, in the world and in the Church. And if it wasn't for the women, the parish would be dead as a door-nail, in no time!"

Which it never would be, I thought, as long as Mrs. Prescott remained to galvanize it into any spasmodic, intermittent life, with her energy and acidity. And I found, thereafter, that she was truly the mainspring of the parish, without which it must have gone to irremediable ruin. Not that she was a popular or discreet leader, for her sharp philippics and stinging comments, while they penetrated some obtuse consciences, and stirred their owners up to sluggish good works, mortally offended others, and drove them into greater apathy or dogged opposition. Nevertheless, she fought on, exhibiting genuine courage, perseverance, and self-sacrifice, and achieving something for Christ and His Church, which is put down to her credit, doubtless, against the day when the books are opened,

"And the clergyman that is coming next Sunday, who is he?" inquired I..

"Oh! he's a Mr. Taylor,-just ordained, I believe, though he's not a young man; he has a wife and family. He seems like a downright, earnest, zealous, wide-awake sort of a man, and I hope he'll shake up this valley of dry bones a little. By the way, Miss Frost, won't you join our Sewing Society? We need all the help we can get."

MALA. Sewing Society! Nursery of gossip, and hotbed of malice and all uncharitableness! In the name of Common Sense, tell her you must respectfully decline.

BONA. You need not gossip, nor bear malice, nor deal uncharitably. Take care that your own motives are right, and do not judge your neighbors. If no good work is to be commenced, or carried on, until the workers and the system are cleansed from all evil, where, on this earth, are you to find a place to begin ?

MALA. To be sure, it might afford you amusement to go. It must be a rare place to study character.

BONA. Nay, if you are going for that object mainly, you had better decline.

I (peevishly). Was ever poor mortal bothered with such a pair of contradictory advisers! You change your places so quickly that I do not know one from the other, nor which to follow. (Then, aloud, to Mrs. Prescott). I cannot promise to join, until I am more certain that I can do good by becoming a member. But I will go once, if you wish, and see what it is like.

"Well, it meets to-morrow," she answered. "It don't generally meet on Saturday, but it will this week, on account of Mr. Taylor's coming. We must get together, and find out what sort of a support we can promise him. And I shall certainly call you, to go along."

That evening, Leo once more accompanied me to the dwelling of the Warrens, and waited patiently at the gate while I made a brief visit within. The white, waxen maiden still slept her untroubled sleep, in the room where Death had given her the kiss of peace; the father sat apart, silent, morose, wrapped in grief and in gloom; the mother received me with sad, gentle composure. She told me that the funeral was fixed for the coming Sunday, at the usual hour of afternoon service;-an appointment that seemed strange to me, though I heard it without comment,-seeing, from her

manner, that it must be in accordance with the Shiloh practice.

Then, through moonlight and shadow-shadows ourselves!-Leo and I went silently home.

And the morning and the evening were the second day!




BOUT one o'clock on the following day, Mrs. Prescott sent a shrill call up the staircase to know if I was "ready to go to Society?" I had not expected so early a summons, but I made quick work with my toilet, and soon joined her and Alice at the gate. The walk was a pleasant one; over a winding, hilly, alternately shady and sunny road, bordered by a pleasant succession of fields and meadows and woodland, with here and there a comfortable farm-house, standing sufficiently aloof to preserve its own individual life intact, yet affording its neighbors glimpses of a blue column of smoke, by day, and a red windowgleam by night, as an assurance of available help and companionship, at need.

Mrs. Prescott enlivened the way with some account of the people I was about to meet.

"There's my second cousin, Esther Volger-Essie, inost folks call her, but I don't believe in turning the good old Bible names into wishy-washy nicknames-I'd rather have cream than skim-milk, any day. Well, Esther is a person of some consequence in Shiloh; she is the only daughter of the richest man in the place, and she has been away to a city boarding-school for two or three years, and learned to play the piano, and got varnished up generally;-though it hasn't spoilt her a bit-I'll say that for her. On the contrary, she's got some good, besides the varnishing; for she

went to a Church school, and learned more about Church ways, and got more interested in Church work, than she would ever have done if she had stayed at home; for her father don't care any more about any Church than he does about the man in the moon. But he gives Esther pretty liberally of pocket-money, and as she's young and spry, and hasn't much to do,—except to mitten young fellows who hang round her because she's an heiress,-I manage to get more money and more work out of her than anybody else. Then, there's Mrs. Seber (it's at her house that the Society meets to-day); she's a woman who had a good deal rather there wouldn't be any minister here in Shiloh, because she thinks it's smarter to go up town to church. Still, she hasn't got the face to turn her back on us, when we do have service; but she means to be top of the heap, to pay her for her condescension. She always expects to be made president of Society, though she hasn't any idea of doing a president's work. But there's one comfort about that,-when she's president, I can have my way pretty much; all she wants is the honor; she is glad enough to get rid of the labor. But Mrs. Burcham is a bird of a different feather. Whether she's in office, or out, she makes it her business to fight what anybody else proposes. If a measure is tried today, she'll fight it tooth and nail; if you try the very opposite to-morrow, she is just as ready to fight that. I always know where to find her, on the contrary side! Then, there's Mrs. Shemnar; she happened to be made without any mind of her own, so she helps herself to the one that is handiest, whenever there's a vote to be taken. If I could be at her elbow all the time, she would do just as I said; if Mrs. Burcham happens to be nearest, she'll follow her lead just as quick. But I believe I'm more troubled, just now, about Mrs. Danforth than anybody else." And Mrs. Prescott stopped to take breath.

"Who is Mrs. Danforth?" I asked.

"Mrs. Danforth is a New Yorker, like yourself. She

« PreviousContinue »