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XII. An Explanation And A Dare
The Rev. Dr. Cooper preached in Glen St. Mary the next evening and the
Presbyterian Church was crowded with people from near and far. The Reverend
Doctor was reputed to be a very eloquent speaker; and, bearing in mind the old
dictum that a minister should take his best clothes to the city and his best
sermons to the country, he delivered a very scholarly and impressive discourse.
But when the folks went home that night it was not of Dr. Cooper's sermon they
talked. They had completely forgotten all about it.
Dr. Cooper had concluded with a fervent appeal, had wiped the perspiration from
his massive brow, had said "Let us pray" as he was famed for saying it, and had
duly prayed. There was a slight pause. In Glen St. Mary church the old fashion of
taking the collection after the sermon instead of before still held--mainly because
the Methodists had adopted the new fashion first, and Miss Cornelia and Elder
Clow would not hear of following where Methodists had led. Charles Baxter and
Thomas Douglas, whose duty it was to pass the plates, were on the point of
rising to their feet. The organist had got out the music of her anthem and the
choir had cleared its throat. Suddenly Faith Meredith rose in the manse pew,
walked up to the pulpit platform, and faced the amazed audience.
Miss Cornelia half rose in her seat and then sat down again. Her pew was far
back and it occurred to her that whatever Faith meant to do or say would be half
done or said before she could reach her. There was no use making the exhibition
worse than it had to be. With an anguished glance at Mrs. Dr. Blythe, and
another at Deacon Warren of the Methodist Church, Miss Cornelia resigned
herself to another scandal.
"If the child was only dressed decently itself," she groaned in spirit.
Faith, having spilled ink on her good dress, had serenely put on an old one of
faded pink print. A caticornered rent in the skirt had been darned with scarlet
tracing cotton and the hem had been let down, showing a bright strip of unfaded
pink around the skirt. But Faith was not thinking of her clothes at all. She was
feeling suddenly nervous. What had seemed easy in imagination was rather hard
in reality. Confronted by all those staring questioning eyes Faith's courage almost
failed her. The lights were so bright, the silence so awesome. She thought she
could not speak after all. But she MUST--her father MUST be cleared of
suspicion. Only--the words would NOT come.
Una's little pearl-pure face gleamed up at her beseechingly from the manse pew.
The Blythe children were lost in amazement. Back under the gallery Faith saw
the sweet graciousness of Miss Rosemary West's smile and the amusement of
Miss Ellen's. But none of these helped her. It was Bertie Shakespeare Drew who
saved the situation. Bertie Shakespeare sat in the front seat of the gallery and he
made a derisive face at Faith. Faith promptly made a dreadful one back at him,
and, in her anger over being grimaced at by Bertie Shakespeare, forgot her stage
fright. She found her voice and spoke out clearly and bravely.
"I want to explain something," she said, "and I want to do it now because
everybody will hear it that heard the other. People are saying that Una and I