An Ambitious Man (Chapter 8, page 3 of 5)


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Chapter 8

Meanwhile Senator Cheney's purse was always open to any demand the
church made; he believed in churches as benevolent if not soul-saving
institutions, and cheerfully aided their charitable work.

The rector of St Blank's, the fashionable edifice where the ladies of
the Cheney household obtained spiritual manna in New York, died when
Alice was sixteen years old. He was a good old man, and a sincere
Episcopalian, and whatever originality of thought or expression he
may have lacked, his strict observance of the High Church code of
ethics maintained the tone of his church and rendered him an object
of reverence to his congregation. His successor was Reverend Arthur
Emerson Stuart, a young man barely thirty years of age, heir to a
comfortable fortune, gifted with strong intellectual powers and
dowered with physical attractions.

It was not a case of natural selection which caused Arthur Stuart to
adopt the church as a profession. It was the result of his middle
name. Mrs Stuart had been an Emerson--in some remote way her family
claimed relationship with Ralph Waldo. Her father and grandfather
and several uncles had been clergymen. She married a broker, who
left her a rich widow with one child, a son. From the hour this son
was born his mother designed him for the clergy, and brought him up
with the idea firmly while gently fixed in his mind.

Whatever seed a mother plants in a young child's mind, carefully
watches over, prunes and waters, and exposes to sun and shade, is
quite certain to grow, if the soil is not wholly stony ground.

Arthur Stuart adored his mother, and stifling some commercial
instincts inherited from the parental side, he turned his attention
to the ministry and entered upon his chosen work when only twenty-
five years of age. Eloquent, dramatic in speech, handsome, and
magnetic in person, independent in fortune, and of excellent lineage
on the mother's side, it was not surprising that he was called to
take charge of the spiritual welfare of fashionable St Blank's Church
on the death of the old pastor; or that, having taken the charge, he
became immensely popular, especially with the ladies of his
congregation. And from the first Sabbath day when they looked up
from their expensive pew into the handsome face of their new rector,
there was but one man in the world for Mabel Cheney and her daughter
Alice, and that was the Reverend Arthur Emerson Stuart.

It has been said by a great and wise teacher, that we may worship the
god in the human being, but never the human being as God. This
distinction is rarely drawn by women, I fear, when their spiritual
teacher is a young and handsome man. The ladies of the Rev. Arthur
Stuart's congregation went home to dream, not of the Creator and
Maker of all things, nor of the divine Man, but of the handsome face,
stalwart form and magnetic voice of the young rector. They feasted
their eyes upon his agreeable person, rather than their souls upon
his words of salvation. Disappointed wives, lonely spinsters and
romantic girls believed they were coming nearer to spiritual truths
in their increased desire to attend service, while in fact they were
merely drawn nearer to a very attractive male personality.

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