The Rector of St. Marks (Chapter 8, page 1 of 7)


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Chapter 8

Lucy had insisted that she did not care to go to Saratoga. She
preferred remaining in Hanover, where it was cool and quiet, and where
she would not have to dress three times a day and dance every night
till twelve. She was beginning to find that there was something to
live for besides consulting one's own pleasure, and she meant to do
good the rest of her life, she said, assuming such a sober nun-like
air, that no one who saw her could fail to laugh, it was so at
variance with her entire nature.

But Lucy was in earnest; Hanover had a greater attraction for her
than all the watering-places in the world, and she meant to stay
there, feeling very grateful when Fanny threw her influence on her
side, and so turned the scale in her favor. Fanny was glad to leave
her dangerous cousin at home, especially after Dr. Bellamy decided to
join their party at Saratoga, and, as she carried great weight with
both her parents, it was finally decided to let Lucy remain at
Prospect Hill in peace, and so one morning in July she saw the family
depart to their summer gayeties without a single feeling of regret
that she was not of their number. She had too much on her hands to
spend her time in regretting anything. There was the parish school to
visit, and a class of children to hear--children who were no longer
ragged, for Lucy's money had been poured out like water, till even
Arthur had remonstrated with her and read her a long lecture on the
subject of misplaced charity. Then, there was Widow Hobbs, waiting for
the jelly Lucy had promised, and for the chapter which Lucy read to
her, sitting where she could watch the road and see just who turned
the corner, her voice always sounding a little more serious and good
when the footsteps belonged to Arthur Leighton, and her eyes, always
glancing at the bit of cracked mirror on the wall, to see that her
dress and hair and ribbons were right before Arthur came in.

It was a very pretty sight to see her there and hear her as she read
to the poor woman, whose surroundings she had so greatly improved, and
Arthur always smiled gratefully upon her, and then walked back with
her to Prospect Hill, where he sometimes lingered while she played or
talked to him, or brought the luscious fruits with which the garden
abounded.

This was Lucy's life, the one she preferred to Saratoga, and they
left her to enjoy it, somewhat to Arthur's discomfiture, for much as
he valued her society, he would a little rather she had gone when the
Hethertons went, for he could not be insensible to the remarks which
were being made by the curious villagers, who watched this new
flirtation, as they called it, and wondered if their minister had
forgotten Anna Ruthven. He had not forgotten Anna, and many a time was
her loved name upon his lips and a thought of her in his heart, while
he never returned from an interview with Lucy that he did not contrast
the two and sigh for the olden time, when Anna was his co-worker
instead of pretty Lucy Harcourt. And yet there was about the latter a
powerful fascination, which he found it hard to resist. It rested him
just to look at her, she was so fresh, so bright, so beautiful, and
then she flattered his self-love by the unbounded deference she paid
to his opinions, studying all his tastes and bringing her own will
into perfect subjection to his, until she scarcely could be said to
have a thought or feeling which was not a reflection of his own. And
so the flirtation, which at first had been a one-sided affair, began
to assume a more serious form; the rector went oftener to Prospect
Hill, while the carriage from Prospect Hill stood daily at the gate of
the rectory, and people said it was a settled thing, or ought to be,
gossiping about it until old Captain Humphreys, Anna's grandfather,
conceived it his duty as senior warden of St. Mark's, to talk with the
young rector and know "what his intentions were."

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