Meanwhile Hugh Finlay, in secular attire, had left the church by the vestry door, and was rapidly overtaking groups of his hearers as they walked homeward. He was unusually aware of his change of dress because of a letter in the inside pocket of his coat. The letter, in that intimate place, spread a region of consciousness round it which hastened his blood and his step. There was purpose in his whole bearing; Advena Murchison, looking back at some suggestion of Lorne’s, caught it, and lost for a moment the meaning of what she said. When he overtook them, with plain intention, she walked beside the two men, withdrawn and silent, like a child. It was unexpected and overwhelming, his joining them after the service, accompanying them, as it were, in the flesh after having led them so far in the spirit; he had never done it before. She felt her heart confronted with a new, an immediate issue, and suddenly afraid. It shrank from the charge for which it longed, and would have fled; yet, paralysed with delight, it kept time with her sauntering feet.
They talked of the sermon, which had been strongly tinged with the issue of the day. Dreamer as he was by temperament, Finlay held to the wisdom of informing great public questions with the religious idea, vigorously disclaimed that it was anywhere inadmissible.
“You’ll have to settle with the Doctor, Mr Finlay,” Lorne warned him gaily, “if you talk politics in Knox Church. He thinks he never does.”
“Do you think,” said Finlay, “that he would object to— to one’s going as far afield as I did tonight?”
“He oughtn’t to,” said Lorne. “You should have heard him when old Sir John Macdonald gerrymandered the electoral districts and gave votes to the Moneida Indians. The way he put it, the Tories in the congregation couldn’t say a word, but it was a treat for his fellow Grits.”
Finlay smiled gravely. “Political convictions are a man’s birthright,” he said. “Any man or any minister is a poor creature without them. But of course there are limits beyond which pulpit influence should not go, and I am sure Dr Drummond has the clearest perception of them. He seems to have been a wonderful fellow, Macdonald, a man with extraordinary power of imaginative enterprise. I wonder whether he would have seen his way to linking up the Empire as he linked up your Provinces here?”
“He’d have hated uncommonly to be in opposition, but I don’t see how he could have helped it,” Lorne said. “He was the godfather of Canadian manufacturers, you know—the Tories have always been the industrial party. He couldn’t have gone for letting English stuff in free, or cheap; and yet he was genuinely loyal and attached to England. He would discriminate against Manchester with tears in his eyes! Imperialist in his time spelled Conservative, now it spells Liberal. The Conservatives have always talked the loudest about the British bond, but when it lately came to doing we’re on record on the right side, and they’re on record on the wrong. But it must make the old man’s ghost sick to see—”