“I am requested to announce,” said Dr Drummond after the singing of the last hymn, “the death, yesterday morning, of James Archibald Ramsay, for fifteen years an adherent and for twenty-five years a member of this church. The funeral will take place from the residence of the deceased, on Court House Street, tomorrow afternoon at four o’clock. Friends and acquaintances are respectfully—invited—to attend.”
The minister’s voice changed with the character of its affairs. Still vibrating with the delivery of his sermon, it was now charged with the official business of the interment. In its inflections it expressed both elegy and eulogy; and in the brief pause before and after “invited” and the fall of “attend” there was the last word of comment upon the mortal term. A crispation of interest passed over the congregation; every chin was raised. Dr Drummond’s voice had a wonderful claiming power, but he often said he wished his congregation would pay as undivided attention to the sermon as they did to the announcements.
“The usual weekly prayer meeting will be held in the basement of the church on Wednesday evening.” Then almost in a tone of colloquy, and with just a hint of satire about his long upper lip—
“I should be glad to see a better attendance of the young people at these gatherings. Time was when the prayer meeting counted among our young men and women as an occasion not to be lightly passed over. In these days it would seem that there is too much business to be done, or too much pleasure to be enjoyed, for the oncoming generation to remember their weekly engagement with the Lord. This is not as it should be; and I rely upon the fathers and mothers of this congregation, who brought these children in their arms to the baptismal font, there to be admitted to the good hopes and great privileges of the Church of God—I rely upon them to see that there shall be no departure from the good old rule, and that time is found for the weekly prayer meeting.”
Mrs Murchison nudged Stella, who returned the attention, looking elaborately uninterested, with her foot. Alec and Oliver smiled consciously; their father, with an expression of severe gravity, backed up the minister who, after an instant’s pause, continued—
“On Tuesday afternoon next, God willing, I shall visit the following families in the East Ward—Mr Peterson, Mr Macormack, Mrs Samuel Smith, and Mr John Flint. On Thursday afternoon in the South Ward, Mrs Reid, Mr P. C. Cameron, and Mr Murchison. We will close by singing the Third Doxology: Blessed, blessed be Jehovah, Israel’s God to all eternity—”
The congregation trooped out; the Murchisons walked home in a clan, Mr and Mrs Murchison, with Stella skirting the edge of the sidewalk beside them, the two young men behind. Abby, when she married Harry, had “gone over” to the Church of England. The wife must worship with the husband; even Dr Drummond recognized the necessity, though he professed small opinion of the sway of the spouse who, with Presbyterian traditions behind her, could not achieve union the other way about; and Abby’s sanctioned defection was a matter of rather shame-faced reference by her family. Advena and Lorne had fallen into the degenerate modern habit of preferring the evening service.