The Rector of St. Marks (Chapter 3, page 1 of 4)


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Chapter 3

There was an unnatural flush on the rector's face, and his lips were
very white when he came before his people that Sunday morning, for he
felt that he was approaching the crisis of his fate; that he had only
to look across the row of heads up to where Anna sat, and he should
know the truth. Such thoughts savored far too much of the world which
he had renounced, he knew, and he had striven to banish them from his
mind; but they were there still, and would be there until he had
glanced once at Anna, occupying her accustomed seat, and quietly
turning to the chant she was so soon to sing: "Oh, come, let us sing
unto the Lord; let us heartily rejoice in the strength of His
salvation." The words echoed through the house, filling it with rare
melody, for Anna was in perfect tone that morning, and the rector,
listening to her with hands folded upon his prayer-book, felt that she
could not thus "heartily rejoice," meaning all the while to darken his
whole life, as she surely would if she told him "no." He was looking
at her now, and she met his eyes at last, but quickly dropped her own,
while he was sure that the roses burned a little brighter on her
cheek, and that her voice trembled just enough to give him hope, and
help him in his fierce struggle to cast her from his mind and think
only of the solemn services in which he was engaging. He could not
guess that the proud woman who had sailed so majestically into church,
and followed so reverently every prescribed form, bowing in the creed
far lower than ever bow was made before in Hanover, had played him
false and was the dark shadow in his path.

That day was a trying one for Arthur, for, just as the chant was ended
and the psalter was beginning, a handsome carriage dashed up to the
door, and, had he been wholly blind, he would have known, by the
sudden sound of turning heads and the suppressed hush which ensued,
that a perfect hailstorm of dignity was entering St. Mark's.

It was the Hethertons, from Prospect Hill, whose arrival in town had
been so long expected. Mrs. Hetherton, who, more years ago than she
cared to remember, was born in Hanover, but who had lived most of her
life either in Paris, New York or New Orleans and who this year had
decided to fit up her father's old place, and honor it with her
presence for a few weeks at least; also, Fanny Hetherton, a brilliant
brunette, into whose intensely black eyes no one could long look, they
were so bright, so piercing, and seemed so thoroughly to read one's
inmost thoughts; also, Colonel Hetherton, who had served in the
Mexican war, and, retiring on the glory of having once led a forlorn
hope, now obtained his living by acting as attendant on his
fashionable wife and daughter; also, young Dr. Simon Bellamy who,
while obedient to the flashing of Miss Fanny's black eyes, still found
stolen opportunities for glancing at the fifth and last remaining
member of the party, filing up the aisle to the large, square pew,
where old Judge Howard used to sit, and which was still owned by his
daughter. Mrs. Hetherton liked being late at church, and so,
notwithstanding that the Colonel had worked himself into a tempest of
excitement, had tied and untied her bonnet-strings half a dozen times,
changed her rich basquine for a thread lace mantilla, and then, just
as the bell from St. Mark's gave forth its last note, and her
husband's impatience was oozing out in sundry little oaths, sworn
under his breath, she produced and fitted on her fat, white hands a
new pair of Alexander's, keeping herself as cool, and quiet, and
ladylike as if outside upon the graveled walk there was no wrathful
husband threatening to drive off and leave her, if she did not "quit
her cussed vanity, and come along."

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