The Rector of St. Marks (Chapter 9, page 1 of 6)


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Chapter 9

Through the rich curtains which shaded the windows of a room looking
out on Fifth Avenue, the late October sun was shining, and as its red
light played among the flowers on the carpet a pale young girl sat
watching it, and thinking of the Hanover hills, now decked in their
autumnal glory, and of the ivy on St. Mark's, growing so bright and
beautiful beneath the autumnal frosts. Anna had been very sick since
that morning in September when she sat on the piazza at the Ocean
House and read Lucy Harcourt's letter. The faint was a precursor of
fever, the physician said, when summoned to her aid, and in a tremor
of fear and distress Mrs. Meredith had had her at once removed to New
York, and that was the last Anna remembered.

From the moment her aching head had touched the soft pillows in Aunt
Meredith's house all consciousness had fled, and for weeks she had
hovered so near to death that the telegraph wires bore daily messages
to Hanover, where the aged couple who had cared for her since her
childhood wept, and prayed, and watched for tidings from their
darling. They could not go to her, for Grandpa Humphreys had broken
his leg, and his wife could not leave him, so they waited with what
patience they could for the daily bulletins which Mrs. Meredith sent,
appreciating their anxiety, and feeling glad withal of anything which
kept them from New York.

"She had best be prayed for in church," the old man had said, and so
Sunday after Sunday Arthur read the prayer for the sick, his voice
trembling as it had never trembled before, and a keener sorrow in his
heart than he had ever known when saying the solemn words. Heretofore
the persons prayed for had been comparative strangers, people in whom
he felt only the interest a pastor feels in all his flock, but now it
was Anna, whose case he took to God, and he always smothered a sob
during the moment he waited for the fervent response the congregation
made, the "Amen" which came from the pew where Lucy sat sounding
louder and heartier than all the rest, and having in it a sound of the
tears which fell so fast on Lucy's book as she asked that Anna might
not die. Oh, how he longed to go to her, but this he could not do, and
so he had sent Lucy, who bent so tenderly above the sick girl,
whispering loving words in her ear, and dropping kisses upon the lips
which uttered no response, save once, when Lucy said: "Do you remember Arthur?"

Then they murmured faintly: "Yes; Arthur, I remember him, and the Christmas song, and the
gathering in the church; but that was long ago. There's much happened
since then."

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