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each other's souls with calm scrutiny but had remained friends. Together they had loved, together they had sought the same shrines. Elder girls and school-mistresses had been the first to receive that gush of blind, ardent adoration whose source is the schoolgirl breast. They had fessed to each other shy, pure passions for unknown curates, even for grocers' assistants. Their mutual cognizance of the profound folly of their hearts had established a true freemasonry between them. Together they had gone circuitous ways to school on foolish pretexts that covered a longing to see some door or window from whence the beloved might peer. Together they had lingered at shop windows choosing imaginary presents for the dear object. They plumbed the sentimentality of their girlish love and found it fifty fathoms deep.
When each was really in love she grew shy and reticent, and only the symptoms were noted by the other. Christina's heartbreak, though it was apparent to Margaret, was not mentioned for long. There were periods of silence followed by a thunderstorm of confidence.
One of these storms took place on a February morning when Christina was cutting oranges for marmalade. She sat, clothed in a big apron, by the dining-room table. Her parents were out.
Margaret came in glowing from the cold air. She cast aside her coat and sat down to help her friend. They talked of indifferent matters for a time. Then Margaret said, "How pretty your ring is."
“Do you think so? Yes, I suppose it is. I don't think I care for a diamond bar myself.”
“But it's very grand. Very expensive I should think. If my Herbert ever proposes to me he won't be able to afford anything more than turquoises or garnets.”
“I'd as soon have garnets and
“Oh! nothing; I don't know. Why have you never congratulated me, Margaret? You haven't! You're the only one who hasn't told me how lucky I am and how happy I must be."
"Well, I know you're not happy." “But you know I ought to be.”
“I don't know. How can a girl be happy who is going to take a step that alters all her life, upsets all her old conventions, and brings her responsibilities greater than she can guess?”
Christina continued to chop oranges.
"That is it,” she answered; "then why does everyone joke about marriage? Why has the convention grown up that a bride should be so happy? If she has any sense of responsibility she must be overwhelmed." "I
suppose if you love you can face it."
Christina threw her knife down.
“Oh! that is it,” she answered. “Why don't I? Why don't I? Margaret, I hate myself so.
When I look into my heart I see myself as some poor, blind, groveling thing."
Margaret opened her gray eyes wide.
"Why?" she asked: “I don't suppose you're worse than other people. If you don't love Mr. Travis, you can't help it."
“But if he had dark wavy hair and large eyes I should love him. If he were tall and had nice black eyebrows, and a sudden flashing smile, I should love him. If his collars were different -if his coat didn't look baggy, ifoh! what a wretched creature I am. I can't see his soul because his face is ordinary."
“Yes,” said Margaret, “he is ordinary. I think he's very nice indeed
As a husband I'm sure he'll be delightful. But one can't imagine him lover. Poor Chris! don't be angry with yourself, I think we're all like that."
... when I
“Do you think so? I can't believe that anyone is so petty and horrid as
The heart of woman is infinitely wicked."
“Then don't think about it. I'm sure it's best not to look at one's thoughts when they're ugly. No one goes about without their clothes, and no one should go about in their minds. I think where conventions are kind and decent one should stick to them. Really, Chris, truth is much better at the bottom of the well."
“Then you think it'll be all right to go on?'
"If there's no one else I think it will be all right when it's done."
“If one could only try it for a year.” “ 'Till death us do part.'
Yes, it does frighten one. I don't wonder that the wedding service is so severe.”
"For myself I think that people about to be married should fast for a month, and then be clothed in sackcloth with ashes on their heads, and so come to the church where all the guests should be in black. That would show the seriousness of it."
Margaret laughed; but Christina having relieved some of the burden of her mind had grown more cheerful.
“If one weren't expected to be so happy it wouldn't be so bad," she said, “but it seems so hard to be miserable at what should be the happiest time of one's life. If one didn't want to be happy one would be happier.”
Margaret, who had little taste for paradox, was silent.
Christina developed her idea, groping her way along the well-beaten track of saints and sages.
"To get outside oneself—that is happiness. People who are absorbed in some work or interest are happy because they leave themselves behind. Very good people who live horrid lives, that we should hate, they are happy. They have forgotten all the cravings and restlessness and dissatis
faction of being themselves. I used to think at one time when was very unhappy, that I should like to be a Stoic philosopher and cease to feel anything, pain or happiness.'
"That would be wrong," said Margaret shortly; “how unsympathetic you'd be. It's better to feel and to be miserable than not to feel. I'm sure of that, though I've never read a word of philosophy."
Christina continued her work. A wholesome sense of duty carried her from one day to the next. A life of detail kept her from too much consideration of abstract problems. In an artistic household Christina would have been more original and more interesting, but she would have acquired less common sense and restraint. The week-days went their jog-trot round of housekeeping, sewing, visiting, and attention to her father. Sunday was her lover's day. He came from Manchester on Saturday afternoon, and stayed at “Avalon" till Sunday evening. His visits quired a certain routine. Christina and he went for a walk on Saturday afternoon. After supper, she played the piano. Mark Travis showed a marked preference for the Blue Danube Waltz. Polkas roused bim to “Bravo! that's jolly,” while Chopin left him cold. In songs he liked a very obvious order of sentiment set to a popular tune. He was moved by ballads of orphans dying in the snow, and love songs of a caramel quality. The tune must be beaten out distinctly, chords in the bass and the melody in the treble. For him beauty was obvious, simple and very sweet. He was nervously ready with his praise lest Christina should think him unappreciative of her talent. And she, in ironic mood, would give him the obvious song and the insistent waltz, and would keep real music for tempestuous seasons of solitude.
On Sunday the affianced pair accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Merridew to church.
Mr. Merridew was a church warden. He had a strong sense of duty to the Church of his fathers. Unless it rained very severely, or he had lumbago, he always went out to Morning Prayer. He was bitterly scornful of those who called the service "Mattins."
On the first Sunday of the month he, his wife and daughter, waited for the celebration of Holy Communion which followed after Morning Prayer. It would have seemed to Mr. Merridew almost wrong to communicate on any Sunday but the first. Although he was a fierce foe to what he called "ritualistic nonsense,” he was a born ritualist, as perhaps every human being is and will be till time is done. He was as much a ritualist as the old spaniel who never settled to sleep without his three turns, in honor of some primeval forefather. The inborn reverence for certain habits and methods approved by time was strong in the old man, but he detested the ritual of others.
Had anyone dared to exchange the alms-dish over the altar for a cross, Mr. Merridew would have grown indignant. The alms-dish had become part of the order of things and it is likely that the old man would have gone steadfastly to martyrdom for its sake. He would, no doubt, have died loyally for the eagle in preference to any other style of lectern. Dimly he believed that the Church of St. Etheldreda was representative of the belief of his fathers. He fancied that for this, just this, no more and no less, the fires of Smithfield had been kindled.
He had heard vaguely of the Oxford Movement, and he condemned it in two words
innovation. He feared the Pope as his father had feared Bonaparte. On the other hand, he had a rooted dislike for Non
conformity. To him gentleman must be an English churchman. The Almighty had, it was clear, created the Church of England and established it safely, so that English gentlemen might have a faith entirely suited to themselves. No gentleman could be a dissenter. This he thought obvious. Among the phenomena of life was the fact that certain old families were born Roman Catholics, a freak of heredity to his mind. But he sympathized with those who upheld the tradition. What was good enough for the grandfather was good enough for the grandson; he set his face against innovations.
There was something impressive in the old man's erect bearing as he walked up the church and took the corner seat of the pew, shutting the oak door carefully after him. His was neither the attitude of the Pharisee nor of the Publican, it was the attitude of the good son who stands respectful but unshamed in his Father's presence.
He listened to the service attentively. He would discuss it thoroughly at the Sunday dinner. He was very critical, and disliked anything strange or fantastic or modern in the discourse. At the last hymn he rose, took the plate from behind him and went forth to collect the alms of the faithful. When he reached the chancel steps, he always deposited half a crown on the pile. This was his ritual, and he adhered to it loyally.
Christina had grown up to accept this order of things. It did not satisfy her, but she was scarcely aware of dissatisfaction. She had not the piety nor the concentration of her parents, and she wearied of the long service. There was no artistic or emotional appeal in the plain church with its bare walls, its ugly windows, its heavy gas chandeliers
and wellcushioned pews.
There were here no aids to worship the self-consciousness of the hobbledeIf the soul had not the spiritual faculty hoy stage was upon them, and the to soar upwards, leaving the things simplicity of childhood had passed. of
behind, it must remain For a short time he knew a little of groveling.
them. They came to him one by The only sight that roused her one, and he sought earnestly to estabimagination was the rector himself. lish a spiritual relationship with them. He was of the school that is called Often by force of his essential priestliEvangelical, a man who wore the ness he attained it for the half-hour black stole in church and the white tie of the interview. Then they were out of it. He had never spoken of confirmed, and he lost touch with himself as a priest, but the fire of them. A shy smile in the street, a priesthood was in his soul. He was timid handclasp, a few polite answers of those who through all the ages to his questions—that was all he show the world that they “have been knew of the souls in his keeping, unless with esus."
illness brought them in need of his When he prayed, he spoke to God ministry. Yet he passionately desired face to face; when he preached, his something better. His responsibility love of souls made him passionately weighed him down. In the case of eloquent. Mr. Merridew frequently Christina, he would willingly have disapproved of him, found him excit- given counsel and help, but he only able, over-ardent, but at these times met her in her mother's drawingChristina loved him. It was the priest
He congratulated her, thinking in him that drew out her shrinking what a nice, fresh, good girl she was, soul.
of that sane and happy type from Often when he preached she made which the rank of British matrons up her mind to seek him out, to lay is recruited. She seemed so her perplexities before him, to show and orderly as she sat there doing him the queer little, troubled, restless
fine needlework while Mrs. thing that was her conscience. But Merridew talked. Mr. Merridew came how could she go? She wanted to in presently, all indignation about the find him in church in that official growth of auricular confession in the position that makes confidence possi- Church of England. ble. But in the vestry she would run “I'd never let a daughter of mine go against church-wardens and the like. to confession,” he declared; "a girl No, she could not go there. She ought to confess to her mother. Monmight, she reflected, seek him at the key-tricks!” He glared fiercely at Chrisrectory, but that involved ringing tina, who was listening attentively. the bell and meeting a servant. It The rector considered. would have something of the nature “Yet I believe it is helpful to many of a call about it, whereas she wanted souls," he said; "there does
I an impersonal interview
often think it ... seem some natural plane above the social.
instinct in people that urges them Week after week passed and her to tell out what they are to some marriage became more inevitable, yet
You need not call it she never had courage to seek out the confession, but you will find that the rector. Had she known it he often Salvation Army and many other regrieved that he knew so little of his ligious bodies encourage this disyounger parishioners. He prepared burdening of the soul.'' them for confirmation at an age when “It's the thin edge of the wedge,”
said Mr. Merridew; "it means priest- “She's an affectionate girl,” he excraft and tyranny and nobody calling plained; "she can't bear the thought their souls their own. I should be of leaving her mother and me. The very sorry to see any relation of mine only girl, you see, rector. It's a dreadgoing to confession."
ful parting to us all; but there, the “I see many dangers,” the rector Bible says it must be, and so we must answered, "formality, a shelving of make the best of it." responsibility and the like, and yet I "She's a little overstrained,” said have to admit some considerable good Mrs. Merridew; "an engagement tries a in a voluntary confession.”
girl very much. I'm sure I went to He looked up and met Christina's a skeleton, didn't I, papa?” eyes. A curious sense of looking into The rector rose to go. the girl's soul came over him. He "I suppose Miss Christina wouldn't wished he knew her better. But Mrs. care to come and ta'k over her future Merridew was speaking.
with me?” he asked diffidently;"some"We hope you
marry our times young people like to consult a Christina,” she was saying. “I think clergyman." she's too shy to ask you herself. Mrs. Merridew shook his hand The Friday before Whit Sunday we warmly. thought, for that gives her Mark the “Thank you, rector, thank you, but Whit week holiday."
really I think the child needs dis"I shall be delighted,” he answered, traction. She's rather over-nervous smiling at the girl. She dropped her just now. I go on the plan of keeping eyes, flushed, and said, “Thank you," her busy with trifles and never talking He went on to ask questions about her of anything serious." future home, and was told that Travis “I see-of course you know her best, had received an excellent appoint- but if she should want a little talk ment in Westhampton—not so very with me, I shall be at her service far away after all," said Mr. Merridew. any time at my house or here."
"Oh! we shall see her very often,” The door closed behind him. Christhe mother answered.
tina peeping through her window saw Christina rose abruptly and left the
Her father nodded his white “Oh! if only I dared run after him," head.
she whispered. (To be continued.)
"THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD" AND ITS INTERPRETERS*
Dickens died suddenly; both left an unfinished story in course of or partly ready for publication (as also did R. L. Stevenson). Thackeray left of Denis Duval enough to make about
The strange coincidences in the deaths of the two greatest Victorian novelists have naturally excited frequent notice.
Both Thackeray and *1. Watched by the Dead. By R. A. Proctor. (London: W. H. Allen and Co. 1887.)
By Sir William Robertson Nicoll. (London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1912.)
2. The Puzzle of Dickens' Last Plot. By Andrew Lang. (London: Chapman and Hall. 1905.)
3. Clues to the Mystery of Eduin Drood. By J. Cuming Walters. (London: Chapman and Hall. 1905).
4. Keys to the Drood Mystery. By Edwin Charles. (London: Collier and Co. 1908.)
5. About Eduin Drood. By Hļenry]J[ackson). (Cambridge University Press. 1910.)
6. The Problem of Eduin Drood.
7. The Mystery in the Drood Family. By Montagu Saunders. (Cambridge University Press. 1914.)
8. The Mystery of Eduin Drood. With Introduction by G. K. Chesterton. "Every, man's Library.' (London: J. M. Dent and Co. Ltd. 1915.)