“I wouldn’t bother about that if I were you,” he said. “My father spoke quite—colloquially.”
“Oh!” said Hesketh.
They parted on the pavement outside. “I hope you understand,” said Lorne, with an effort at heartiness, “how glad my parents will be to have you if you find yourself able to spare us any of your time?”
“Thanks very much,” said Hesketh; “I shall certainly give myself the pleasure of calling as soon as possible.”
“Dear me!” said Dr Drummond. “Dear me! Well! And what does Advena Murchison say to all this?”
He and Hugh Finlay were sitting in the Doctor’s study, the pleasantest room in the house. It was lined with standard religious philosophy, standard poets, standard fiction, all that was standard, and nothing that was not; and the shelves included several volumes of the Doctor’s own sermons, published in black morocco through a local firm that did business by the subscription method, with “Drummond” in gold letters on the back. There were more copies of these, perhaps, than it would be quite thoughtful to count, though a good many were annually disposed of at the church bazaar, where the Doctor presented them with a generous hand. A sumptuous desk, and luxurious leather-covered armchairs furnished the room; a beautiful little Parian copy of a famous Cupid and Psyche decorated the mantelpiece, and betrayed the touch of pagan in the Presbyterian. A bright fire burned in the grate, and there was not a speck of dust anywhere.
Dr Drummond, lost in his chair, with one knee dropped on the other, joined his fingers at the tips, and drew his forehead into a web of wrinkles. Over it his militant grey crest curled up; under it his eyes darted two shrewd points of interrogation.
“What does Miss Murchison say to it?” he repeated with craft and courage, as Finlay’s eyes dropped and his face slowly flushed under the question. It was in this room that Dr Drummond examined “intending communicants” and cases likely to come before the Session; he never shirked a leading question. “Miss Murchison,” said Finlay, after a moment, “was good enough to say that she thought her father’s house would be open to Miss—to my friends when they arrived; but I thought it would be more suitable to ask your hospitality, sir.”
“Did she so?” asked Dr Drummond gravely. It was more a comment than an inquiry. “Did she so?” Infinite kindness was in it.
The young man assented with an awkward gesture, half-bend, half-nod, and neither for a moment spoke again. It was one of those silences with a character, conscious, tentative. Half-veiled, disavowed thoughts rose up in it, awakened by Advena’s name, turning away their heads. The ticking of the Doctor’s old-fashioned watch came through it from his waistcoat pocket. It was he who spoke first.
“I christened Advena Murchison,” he said. “Her father was one of those who called me, as a young man, to this ministry. The names of both her parents are on my first communion roll. Aye!"...