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The Rector of St. Mark's   By: (1825-1907)

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The Sunday sermon was finished, and the young rector of St. Mark's turned gladly from his study table to the pleasant south window where the June roses were peeping in, and abandoned himself for a few moments to the feeling of relief he always experienced when his week's work was done. To say that no secular thoughts had intruded themselves upon the rector's mind, as he planned and wrote that sermon, would not be true; for, though morbidly conscientious on many points and earnestly striving to be a faithful shepherd of the souls committed to his care, Arthur Leighton possessed the natural desire that those who listened to him should not only think well of what he taught but also of the form in which the teaching was presented. When he became a clergyman he did not cease to be a man, with all a man's capacity to love and to be loved, and so, though he fought and prayed against it, he had seldom brought a sermon to the people of St. Mark's in which there was not a thought of Anna Ruthven's soft, brown eyes, and the way they would look at him across the heads of the congregation. Anna led the village choir, and the rector was painfully conscious that far too much of earth was mingled with his devotional feelings during the moments when, the singing over, he walked from his armchair to the pulpit and heard the rustle of the crimson curtain in the organ loft as it was drawn back, disclosing to view the five heads of which Anna's was the center. It was very wrong, he knew, and to day he had prayed earnestly for pardon, when, after choosing his text, "Simon, Simon, lovest thou me?" instead of plunging at once into his subject, he had, without a thought of what he was doing, idly written upon a scrap of paper lying near, "Anna, Anna, lovest thou me, more than these?" the these, referring to the wealthy Thornton Hastings, his old classmate in college, who was going to Saratoga this very summer, for the purpose of meeting Anna Ruthven and deciding if she would do to become Mrs. Thornton Hastings, and mistress of the house on Madison Square. With a bitter groan at the enormity of his sin, and a fervent prayer for forgiveness, the rector had torn the slips of paper in shreds and given himself so completely to his work that his sermon was done a full hour earlier than usual, and he was free to indulge in reveries of Anna for as long a time as he pleased.

"I wonder if Mrs. Meredith has come," he thought, as, with his feet upon the window sill, he sat looking across the meadow land to where the chimneys and gable roof of Captain Humphreys' house was visible, for Captain Humphreys was Anna Ruthven's grandfather, and it was there she had lived since she was three years old.

As if thoughts of Mrs. Meredith reminded him of something else, the rector took from the drawer of his writing table a letter received the previous day, and, opening to the second page, read again as follows:

"Are you going anywhere this summer? Of course not, for so long as there is an unbaptized child, or a bed ridden old woman in the parish, you must stay at home, even if you do grow as rusty as did Professor Cobden's coat before we boys made him a present of a new one. I say, Arthur, there was a capital fellow spoiled when you took to the ministry, with your splendid talents, and rare gift for making people like and believe in you.

"Now, I suppose you will reply that for this denial of self you look for your reward in heaven, and I suppose you are right; but as I have no reason to think I have any stock in that region, I go in for a good time here, and this summer I take it at Saratoga, where I expect to meet one of your lambs... Continue reading book >>

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