The Rector of St. Marks (Chapter 2, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 2

Mrs. Julia Meredith had arrived, and the brown farmhouse was in a
state of unusual excitement; not that Captain Humphreys or his good
wife, Aunt Ruth, respected very highly the great lady who had so
seldom honored them with her presence, and who always tried so hard to
impress them with a sense of her superiority and the mighty favor she
conferred upon them by occasionally condescending to bring her
aristocratic presence into their quiet, plain household, and turn it
topsy-turvy. Still, she was Anna's aunt, and then, too, it was a
distinction which Aunt Ruth rather enjoyed, that of having a
fashionable city woman for her guest, and so she submitted with a good
grace to the breaking in upon all her customs, and uttered no word of
complaint when the breakfast table waited till eight, and sometimes
nine o'clock, and the freshest eggs were taken from the nest, and the
cream all skimmed from the pans to gratify the lady who came down very
charming and pretty in her handsome cambric wrapper, with rosebuds in
her hair. She had arrived the previous night, and while the rector was
penning his letter she was holding Anna's hand in hers, and, running
her eye rapidly over her face and form, was making an inventory of her
charms and calculating their value.

A very graceful figure, neither too short nor too tall. This she gets
from the Ruthvens. Splendid eyes and magnificent hair, when Valencia
has once taken it in hand. Complexion a little too brilliant, but a
few weeks of dissipation will cure that. Fine teeth, and features
tolerably regular, except that the mouth is too wide, and the forehead
too low, which defects she takes from the Humphreys. Small feet and
rather pretty hands, except that they seem to have grown wide since I
saw her before. Can it be these horrid people have set her to milking
the cows?

This was what Mrs. Meredith thought that first evening after her
arrival at the farmhouse, and she had not materially changed her mind
when the next afternoon she went with Anna down to the Glen, for which
she affected a great fondness, because she thought it was romantic and
girlish to do so, and she was far being past the period when women
cease caring for youth and its appurtenances. She had criticised
Anna's taste in dress--had said that the belt she selected did not
harmonize with the color of the muslin she wore, and suggested that a
frill of lace about the neck would be softer and more becoming than
the stiff white linen collar.

"But in the country it does not matter," she said. "Wait till I get
you to New York, under Madam Blank's supervision, and then we shall
see a transformation such as will astonish the humble Hanoverians."

This was up in Anna's room, and when the Glen was reached Mrs.
Meredith continued the conversation, telling Anna of her plans for
taking her first to New York, where she was to pass through a
reformatory process with regard to dress. Then they were going to
Saratoga, where she expected her niece to reign supreme; both as a
beauty and a belle.

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