cated as he rose to open the service, which he
did by repeating the Lord's Prayer in a clear,
melodious voice, making it seem a new thing
to some who had only heard it droned before.
Quick, subtile glances, indicative of surprise
and approval, were shot from pew to pew. The
old familiar hymn, too, as he read it, gathered
fresh beauty from his lips. A chapter from
the Scriptures followed, in which Mr. Dilling-
ham touched the key-note of his sermon. There
was a strange light come into the gentle blue
eyes now, and the serene, pale face that had
seemed to promise so little was alive with in-
By the time he had reached this portion of
172 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
the service, the young minister had taken more
than half of his listeners captive. The sermon
itself completed the victory, Mr. Seth Wig-
gins and Uncle Jedd alone remaining uncon-
quered, the former having dropped into oblivi-
ous slumber after the first hymn, and the latter
having retreated into the belfry, where he had
sat ruminative on a rafter, communing with
the glossy pigeons and ringdoves, until it was
time for him to open the doors below.
Mr. Wiggins awoke instinctively, with a jerk,
for the benediction, and assumed that half-
deprecatory, half-defiant expression which marks
the chronic delinquent ; and Uncle Jedd threw
open the padded doors just at the critical in-
stant, as if he had been waiting there a cen-
As the people filed out of church, both these
gentlemen were made aware that the new min-
ister had created a deep impression on the con-
gregation. A drizzling warm rain had begun
to fall, as I have said, and groups of elderly
ladies and pretty girls, grasping their skirts
with despairing clutches, stood about the vesti-
bule waiting for umbrellas to be brought.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 173
" A young man of uncommon talent," Mr.
Lathers, the master of the Boys' High-School,
was heard to remark to Mr. Gargoyle, the re-
" 0, uncommon ! " responded that gentleman.
" I think he is just perfectly splendid," said
Miss Imogen Browne, bringing her creaseless
lavender gloves together ecstatically.
" So modest," said Miss Hesba Godfrey.
" And such fine eyes," chimed Miss Amelia,
the younger sister.
" How lovely it was in him," remarked Miss
Blydenburgh, composedly fastening her brace-
let, which had come unlinked, and giving it a
little admonitory pat, " to choose for his text
the very verse which Parson Hawkins was
reading when he died, ' Thou good and faith-
ful servant,' etc., etc."
" And how beautifully he spoke of Parson
Hawkins," said young Mrs. Newbury, looking
distractingly cool and edible something like
celery - - in her widows'-weeds. " I was ready
" I did."
" What a spiritual face he has ! ' observed
17-4 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
the elder Miss Trippew, who painted in water-
colors ; "it reminded me of our Saviour's in
the engraving of Leonardo da Vinci's ' Last
" And what a delicious voice, like Wendell
" Then such a sermon ! It is certainly an
improvement on the poor old parson's inter-
minable mutinies and finallies."
" I wonder if he is married," said Miss Can-
<lace Woodman, a compact little person, with
almond-shaped brown eyes and glittering yel-
low ringlets which might have been sent to
the mint and cut up instantly into five-dollar
Miss Candace's remark cast a strange gloom
for a moment over the group in which she
stood. Presently the umbrellas appeared ;
snowy skirts were daintily gathered up ; the
vestibule was deserted ; the voices melted away
into the distance. Here and there along the
streets, darting to and fro in the rain like
swallows, one might have caught scores of
such light-winged adjectives as enthusiastic
young women let loose when they give expres-
sion to their admiration.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 175
" "Well, well," muttered Uncle Jedd, turning
the key in the ponderous lock of the church-
door, " I dunno what th' world is a-comin'
ter ! "
" And what do you think of Mr. Dilling-
ham, Prue ? ' asked Mr. Dent, as the hoofs of
the horses struck on the slippery planks of the
bridge leading from town.
Mr. Dent had not even blinked that day in
church. It had been noticed and commented
on by the local satirist, that that suspicious
smooth place on the wooden pillar intersecting
the northwest corner of Mr. Dent's pew was
not covered once during the sermon. Mr.
Dent himself had observed that "damne'd spot"
for the first time with remorse, and had se-
cretly determined to have the interior of the
church repainted at his own expense.
" I think," said Prudence, in reply to her
guardian's question, "I think he reads well
and speaks well."
" Gad, I never heard anybody speak better,
except one, and that was Daniel "Webster."
" He is very handsome, and seems to be un-
conscious that he is conscious of it.'
176 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
" I declare, Prue, you are too deep for me ! '
" Is n't he, and with good reason, just a little
bit you know meekly conceited?' 1
" Not at all," said Mr. Dent. " I don't know
a man with less conceit than Dillingham. He
is in earnest. He is going to be very much
interested in his work here, and will make his
mark. I am only afraid we shall not be able
to keep so brilliant a fellow."
" When he becomes known, some wealthy
Boston or New York society will be sure to
make him tempting offers."
" But if he is very much interested in his
work here, he will not be tempted."
" Perhaps not. But the best of them like fat
salaries," said Mr. Dent, absently.
Prudence pictured to herself Parson Wibird
deserting the North Parish, or any parish where
he thought his duty lay, to accept a call from
some richer congregation ; but she was not able
to draw a distinct picture of it.
" Then I suppose the fatter the salary is the
deeper the interest they take in their work ? ''
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 177
" Yes," said Mr. Dent, shortly.
He felt that he had cast a reflection upon his
friend Dillingham ; he did not see exactly how,
and it annoyed him. The rest of the ride home
was in silence. Prudence, too, was not satis-
fied with herself. In intimating that she
thought Mr. Dillingham conceited, she had de-
parted from her usual candor.
Throughout the services his manner had been
without a tinge of self-consciousness. She had
taken her scat in the pew rather sadly. To
see a new minister standing in the place hal-
lowed so many years by the presence of Parson
Wibird - - it was only a fortnight ago that he
stood there, with his placid, venerable face-
could but be painful to her. The first few
words Mr. Dillingham uttered had grated on
her heart ; then she had yielded insensibly to
the charm which had fallen upon most of the
congregation, and found herself listening to him
with hushed breath. The strains of the organ
seemed to take up the prayer where he had
paused ; the tones of his voice and the rich
swell of the music blended and appeared to
have one meaning, like those frescos in which
178 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
the same design repeats itself in different tints.
She listened and listened, and when Uncle
Jedd suddenly threw open the muffled green
doors, it was as if a spell had been broken.
0, glorious gift of speaking golden words with
a golden tongue !
A sense of having been disloyal to the mem-
ory of the old parson was troubling Prudence
when Mr. Dent put his question, and she had
not answered him fairly. It was sins like that
which Prudence would have had to confess if
she had been a Roman Catholic.
She liked Mr. Dillingham more than she had
believed it possible to like Parson Wibird's
successor ; but the limitations of her character
would not allow her to acknowledge it upon
compulsion. On leaving the church she felt in
her heart that she disliked Mr. Dillingham for
having made her listen to him ; and there
shaped itself in Prudence's mind an inexplica-
ble wish, often enough she thought of it
afterwards, that he had never come to Riv-
PRUDENCE PALFUEY. 179
A NEW ENGLAND IDOL.
ON the following Sunday the Rev. James
Dillingham was formally installed pastor
of the Old Brick Church. The Rev. Joseplms
Starleigh delivered the installation sermon (af-
terwards printed in pamphlet form at the re-
quest of the parish), and Mr. Thomas Jeffer-
son Greene, a young poet of local celebrity,
composed an original hymn for the occasion.
So the mantle of Parson Wibird Hawkins
fell upon the shoulders of the young minister,
and the solemn chant ascended, while the
great guns were booming down South.
Those were the days what ages ago they
seem ! - - when the tap of the snare-drum and
the shrill treble of the fife startled New Eng-
land from her dream, and awoke the vengeful
echoes which had been slumbering in the
mountain fastnesses and among the happy val-
leys for nearly half a century.
180 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
It had long ceased to be at Mr. Dillingham's
option to return to South Carolina, and he
must have congratulated himself on having
found so pleasant a haven as Rivermouth to
rest in until the simoon blew over. And cer-
tainly Rivermouth congratulated itself on shel-
tering so brilliant a young divine. I happened
to be there at that period, recovering from a
protracted illness, and I had the privilege of
witnessing a spectacle which is possible only
in genteel decayed old towns like that in which
the scene of my story lies. To see one or two
hundred young New England vestals burning
incense and strewing flowers before a slim
young gentleman in black is a spectacle worth
witnessing once in the course of one's life.
The young man who, putting behind him
the less spiritual rewards of other professions,
selects the ministry as the field of his labors
drawn to his work by the consciousness
that it is there his duty points - - is certain to
impress us with the purity of his purpose.
That he should exert a stronger influence over
our minds than a young lawyer does, or a
young merchant, or a young man in any re-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 181
spectable walk of life, is easily understood.
But a young man, because he buttons the top
button of his coat and wears a white necktie,
is not necessarily a person of exalted purpose
or shining ability. Yet he is apt, without any
very searching examination, to be so regarded
in some of our provincial towns. I think the
straight-cut black coat must possess a subtile
magnetism in itself, something analogous to
the glamour there is in the uniform of a
young naval or army officer. How else shall
we explain the admiration which we have many
a time seen lavished on very inferior young
I am not speaking in this vein of the Rev.
James Dillingham. The secret of his popular-
ity was an open secret. It was his manly
bearing and handsome face and undeniable elo-
quence that made him a favorite at once in
Rivermouth, and would have commended him
anywhere. If Mr. Dillingham turned the heads
of all the young women in the parish, he won
the hearts of nearly all the elderly people also.
I think he would have done this bv his amia-
bility and talents, if he had not been rich or
182 TRUUENCE PALFREY.
young or handsome. If lie had been married ?
Well, I cannot say about that. A young un-
married clergyman, especially if he is rich, is
likely to be well thought of in a sequestered
valley where there are a surplus of blooming
Rachels and a paucity of available Jacobs.
From my point of view, it was something of
an ordeal that Mr. Dillingham passed through
in those first three months. As much as I
admired his sermons, and they were above the
average both in style and texture, I admired
greatly more the modest good sense which en-
abled him to keep his bark trim in those pleas-
ant but perilous waters. A vain man would
have been wrecked in a week. But the Rev.
Mr. Dillingham, as Mr. Ralph Dent had de-
clared, was without conceit of the small kind.
The attentions Mr. Dillingham received from
all quarters would have gone far to spoil eight
men in ten placed in his position. It is so
easy to add another story to the high opinion
which other people have of you.
There were evening parties made for Mr.
Dillingham at the Blydenburghs', the Gold-
stones', and the Grimes's ; there were picnics
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 183
up the river, and excursions down the harbor,
and innumerable teaings on shore. I do not
know if Mr. Dillingham had a very strong
sense of humor ; but even if he were only
mildly humorous, he must have been amused
as well as embarrassed by the number of em-
broidered slippers and ingenious pen-wipers and
study-caps and carved paper-cutters that fell to
his lot at the fair held about this time for the
benefit of the foreign missions. If he had
been a centipede he could not have worn out
the slippers under four years, wearing them
day and night ; if he had been a hydra he
could not have made head against the study-
caps in a lifetime. Briareus would have lacked
hands to hold the paper-cutters. The slippers
overran Mr. Dillingham's bedroom like the
swarms of locusts that settled upon Egypt.
The pen-wipers made his study-table look like
a bed of variegated dahlias.
There were other expressions of regard, less
material and tangible than these, to be sure,
but which must have been infinitely harder to
dispose of. There were sudden droopings of
eyelashes, black or golden, when he spoke ;
184 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
furtive glances of shyness or reverence ; half-
parted lips, indicating that breathless interest
which is the very cream of compliment, and
flies to the head like wine.
Mr. Dillingham moved gracefully and se-
renely among the shoals and quicksands ; he
listened to the songs of the sirens, and passed
on. He did not, however, accept the flattery
as if it were only his due ; he accepted it mod-
estly, and was simply natural, and candid, and
good-natured, like a man who finds himself
among friends. " I see how it is," he once
remarked to Mr. Dent, " I am standing in the
sunshine created by my predecessor." It was
no glory of his own ; he was fortunate in fall-
ing among a people who took kindly to their
If Mr. Dillingham had been blind, he might
have seen that he could have his choice of
Rivermouth's belles ; and he was far from sight-
less. He read women and men very well in
his quiet fashion. Clearly, he was in no haste
to be fettered. What a crowd of keen, fair
slave-merchants would have flocked down to
the market-place, if this slender, blond prince
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 185
from Southland had been chained by the ankle
to one of the stalls, to be knocked down by
Mr. Wiggins to the highest bidder !
Miss Veronica Blydenburgh, who passed her
winters in New York and Baltimore, and
had flirted in a high-spirited way with various
professions, became suddenly pensive. Hesba
Godfrey candidly owned that she had fallen in
love with Mr. Dillingham before he got half-
way up the pulpit stairs the first Sunday, but
that Fred Shelborne refused to release her, and
she supposed she should be obliged to marry
Fred, just to keep him quiet. Young Mrs.
Newbury in her widows'-weeds, like a diamond
set in jet, seemed to grow lovelier day by day.
In my own mind I put the widow down as
dangerous. Not that I had any reason for so
doing. Mr. Dillingham smiled upon her with
precisely the same smile he gave to the Widow
Mugridge. There was not a shade of differ-
ence perceptible between his manner to the
elder Miss Trippew, a remarkably plain lamb,
and his manner to Miss Veronica of the golden
fleece. I said it before, and I say again, 1
admired the way he carried himself through
18G PRUDENCE PALFREY.
When Mr. Dilliiigham, the morning follow-
ing his initial sermon, signified to the deacons
his acceptance of the pastorate of the Old
Brick Church, a knotty question arose as to
the residence of the new minister. There was
no parsonage attached to the church ; the cot-
tage which Parson Hawkins had occupied so
many years did not belong to the society ; be-
sides, if there had been a parsonage, Mr. Dil-
lingham had no family, and the absurdity of
his going to housekeeping without a family
was obvious. The three or four private board-
ing-places suggested to him failed to meet his
views. Deacon Twombly, who saw the advan-
tage of having a lucrative boarder, hinted at
his first-floor as furnishing desirable accommo-
dation ; but the ewe-lamb was brought up as
Mr. Dillingham, who was staying at the Bell
Tavern, the only hotel in town, having de-
clined Mr. Dent's offer of hospitality, cut
the Gordian knot by deciding to remain where
This gave a sensible shock to some of the
congregation, for it seemed scarcely proper for
PRUDENCE PALFilEY. IS?
the pastor of the Old Brick Church to live at
a hotel. Deacon Wendell adroitly intimated as
much to Mr. Dillingham, who replied that he
did not see why it was proper for him to re-
main six days at the hotel, as he had done, if
it was improper for him to remain there six
months, or six years. Propriety was not a
question of time. The house was quiet, his
rooms commodious and comfortable, and he did
not see how he could do better. He invited
Deacon Wendell to dinner, and no further ob-
jections were heard of.
In the first bloom of his popularity Mr. Dil-
lingham could have done pretty much as he
pleased, and he did.
Among other innovations, he brought sun-
shine into the Old Brick Church. Parson
Hawkins had been a good man, a saint, in-
deed ; but his saintliness had been of the som-
bre sort ; listening to some of his doctrinal ser-
mons, one might have applied to him that epi-
gram of Lander's, -
" Fear God ! " says Percival ; and when you hear
Tones so lugubrious, you perforce must fear :
If in such awful accents he should say,
" Fear lovely Innocence ! " you 'd run away !
188 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
That early Puritan taint which sometimes
appeared in Parson Hawkins's theology, but
never in his daily life, was an alien thing to
Mr. Dillingham in or out of the pulpit. The
spirit of his teaching was eminently a cheerful
There was a new order of things in the North
Parish. The late parson had stood a great deal
of browbeating first and last. A conservative
man, leaning perhaps a little too heavily on
the pillars of the church, he had ever consulted
the inclination of the deacons. They had an
independent minister now ; a parson who set-
tled questions for himself, and did not embar-
rass his mind by loading it with outside opin-
ions. There was a spice of novelty in this
surprisingly agreeable to the palate of a com-
munity long accustomed to domineer over its
pastor. How long will it last ? I used to
wonder. I had seen so many idols set up rev-
erently, and bowled over ruthlessly, that I was
slightly sceptical as to the duration of Mr. Dil-
lingham's popularity. If the towns-people were
image-worshippers, they were iconoclasts also,
when the mood was on them. But Mr. Dil-
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 189
lingham's popularity did not wane during my
three months' stay in Rivermouth ; it went on
steadily increasing. The war-fever was at its
height in those months ; and the loyalty of Mr.
Dillingham, a Southerner, stood out in striking
contrast with the mild patriotism of several of
our native-born statesmen. When his first
quarter's salary fell due, Mr. Dillingham set
the seal to public favor by turning over the
amount to the fund for the Soldiers' Hospital.
Uncle Jedd himself, one of the last in the par-
ish that held out against the new minister, was
obliged to admit that this was very handsome
in the young man.
Mr. Dillingham had not been three weeks in
Rivermouth before he knew all the queer old
men and women in the place, and stood in
their good graces. Even the one habitual
drunkard, when he was not hiding the light of
his countenance at the Town-Farm, would touch
his battered hat convulsively, meeting the young
parson on the street.
Mr. Dillingham was gifted in a high degree
with the genius for knowing people, and dis-
played consummate tact in his dealings with
190 PRUDENCE PALFEEY,
the poor of the parish. When he made the
Widow Pepperell and the Clemmer boys his
pensioners, he did it so delicately that the ob-
ligation seemed on his side. " The parson's
smile," said Sandy Harden, " jest doubles what
he gives a feller." Jeremiah Bowditch, the
unfortunate inebriate mentioned, - a shy, mor-
bid man, and as sensitive as an exposed
nerve, was not afraid to apply to the parson
for a dollar, having discovered that the coin
would not be dropped upon him from such a
moral height as to knock the breath out of his
body and wound all his finer feelings.
" What I like in Dillingham," said the Hon.
Sam Knubley, democratic member of the Gen-
eral Court, " is that there is n't any ' first-
family ' nonsense about him. You can see
with half an eye that he belongs to the South-
ern aristocracy, but he is n't eternally shinning
up his genealogical tree. There 's old Blyden-
burgh, who is always perching himself on the
upper branches and hurling clown the cocoa-
nuts of his ancestors at common folks."
It is not to be supposed that the Hon. Sam
Knubley himself would have objected to a few
PRUPENCE PALFREY. 191
brilliant ancestors. To have the right to 'fall
in at the end of a long queue of men and
women distinguished in their day and genera-
tion, is a privilege which none but a simpleton
would undervalue. It is a privilege, however,
which often has its drawbacks. Much is ex-
pected of a man whose progenitors have been
central figures. To inherit the great name
without the great gifts is a piece of ironical
good fortune. When one's ancestors have been
everything, and one's self is nothing, it is per-
haps just as well not to demand from the
world the same degree of consideration that
was given voluntarily to one's predecessors. I
have encountered two or three young gentle-
men in the capital of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts who seemed to have the idea
that they were killed at the battle of Bunker
Hill. It was possibly this sort of assumption
that displeased the Hon. Sam Knubley ; if so,
the Hon. Sam Knubley was quite right in the
Mr. Dent witnessed with pride the success
of his young friend ; and Prudence, who, by
the way, had naturally seen a great deal of
192 PRUDENCE PALFREY.
Mr. Dillingham meanwhile, began to take her-
self to task for her cold demeanor towards
If the truth must be told, she had been far
from cordial to Mr. Dillingham. Now, it is as
mortifying to have one's lack of cordiality un-
noticed as it is to have one's warmth over-
looked. Mr. Dillingham had apparently not
observed that Miss Palfrey had treated him
with haughtiness. If she had been the Widow
Mugridge, he could not have smiled upon her
more benignly, or listened to her more atten-
tively, when she was pleased to address him.
The offence to her self-love was so subtile that
Prudence was never able to account for the
restless and half-provoked mood which, up to
this time, had always possessed her in his
" The fact is," Prudence soliloquized one
evening when the young clergyman had taken
tea at Willowbrook, " I have an unamiable dis-
position ; Uncle Ralph has spoiled me by hu-
moring me. I must discipline myself, and I '11
begin by treating Mr. Dillingham with a little
politeness, if his royal highness will allow it.
PRUDENCE PALFREY. 193
I always feel as if he stepped down from a
throne to converse with me. In spite of his
smile and deference, when one is speaking,
there 's something depressing and condescend-
ing in his air. If King Cophetua was the
least like that, I wonder the beggar-maid had
anything to do with him.."
It was, by the way, Miss Veronica Blyden-
burgh who had christened him King Cophetua
194 rilCUENCE PALFRLY.
mHOUGH the Rev. Mr. Dillingham had too
J- much diplomacy to stroke one lamb on
the head more tenderly than another, and so
throw the whole flock into confusion, he made
no secret of his preference for Mr. Dent.
Mr. Dillingham passed most of his leisure
hours at Willowbrook. Since his installation,
he had taken tea there every Sunday evening.
When Mr. Dent went to town, which was three
or four times a week, he always dropped into
his friend's study, and frequently Mr. Dilling-
ham rode home with him and remained to
dinner. There was a well-stocked fish-pond a