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Esther

Chapter V
While this ecclesiastical idyl was painting and singing itself in its own way, blind and
deaf to the realities of life, this life moved on in its accustomed course undisturbed by
idyls. The morning's task was always finished at one o'clock. At that hour, if the weather
was fine, Mr. Dudley commonly stopped at the church door to take them away, and the
rest of the day was given up to society. Esther and Catherine drove, made calls, dined
out, went to balls, to the theater and opera, without interrupting their professional work.
Under Mrs. Murray's potent influence, Catherine glided easily into the current of society
and became popular without an effort. She soon had admirers. One young man, of an
excellent and very old Dutch family, Mr. Rip Van Dam, took a marked fancy for her. Mr.
Van Dam knew nothing of her, except that she was very pretty and came from Colorado
where she had been brought up to like horses, and could ride almost any thing that
would not buck its saddle off. This was quite enough for Mr. Van Dam whose taste for
horses was more decided than for literature or art. He took Catherine to drive when the
sleighing was good, and was flattered by her enthusiastic admiration of his beautiful pair
of fast trotters. His confidence in her became boundless when he found that she could
drive them quite as well as he. His success in winning her affections would have been
greater if Catherine had not found his charms incessantly counteracted by the society of
the older and more intelligent men, whom she never met at balls, but whom she saw
every morning at the church, and whose tastes and talk struck her imagination. She
liked Mr. Van Dam, but she laughed at him, which proved a thoughtless mind, for
neither artists, clergymen nor professors were likely to marry her, as this young man
might perhaps have done, under sufficient encouragement. When, towards the first of
January, Catherine left Mrs. Murray, in order to stay with Esther, for greater
convenience in the church work, Mr. Van Dam's attentions rather fell off. He was afraid
of Esther, whom he insisted on regarding as clever, although Esther took much care
never to laugh at him, for fear of doing mischief.
Catherine learned to play whist in order to amuse Mr. Dudley. They had small dinners,
at which Hazard was sometimes present, and more often Strong, until he was obliged to
go West to deliver a course of lectures at St. Louis. In spite of Mr. Dudley's supposed
dislike for clergymen, he took kindly to Hazard and made no objection to his becoming a
tame cat about the house. To make up a table at whist, Hazard did not refuse to take a
hand; and said it was a part of his parochial duty. Mr. Dudley laughed and told him that
if he performed the rest of his parochial duties equally ill, the parish should give him a
year's leave of absence for purposes of study. Mr. Dudley disliked nothing so much as
to be treated like an invalid, or to be serious, and Hazard gratified him by laughing at the
doctors. They got on wonderfully well together, to the increasing amazement of Esther.
Card-playing and novel-reading were not the only cases in which Mr. Hazard took a
liberal view of his functions. His theology belonged to the high-church school, and in the
pulpit he made no compromise with the spirit of concession, but in all ordinary matters
of indifference or of innocent pleasure he gave the rein to his instincts, and in regard to
art he was so full of its relations with religion that he would admit of no divergence
 
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