The Project Gutenberg eBook, A Cathedral Courtship, by Kate Douglas Wiggin This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.org Title: A Cathedral Courtship Author: Kate Douglas Wiggin Release Date: July 7, 2008 [eBook #1551] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII) ***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A CATHEDRAL COURTSHIP***
Transcribed from the 1893 Gay and Bird edition by David Price, email email@example.com
KATE DOUGLAS WIGGIN
WITH FIVE ILLUSTRATIONS
BY CLIFFORD CARLETON
LONDON: GAY AND BIRD
5 CHANDOS STREET STRAND
All rights reserved
First Edition June 1893.
Second Edition July 1893.
Third Edition September 1893.
Fourth Edition November 1893.
Fifth Edition October 1894.
to my boston
no anglomaniac, but
a true briton
Winchester, May 28, 1891
The Royal Garden Inn.
We are doing the English cathedral towns, aunt Celia and I. Aunt Celia has an intense desire to improve my mind. Papa told her, when we were leaving Cedarhurst, that he wouldn’t for the world have it too much improved, and aunt Celia remarked that, so far as she could judge, there was no immediate danger; with which exchange of hostilities they parted.
We are traveling under the yoke of an iron itinerary, warranted neither to bend nor break. It was made out by a young High Church curate in New York, and if it had been blessed by all the bishops and popes it could not be more sacred to aunt Celia. She is awfully High Church, and I believe she thinks this tour of the cathedrals will give me a taste for ritual and bring me into the true fold. I have been hearing dear old Dr. Kyle a great deal lately, and aunt Celia says that he is the most dangerous Unitarian she knows, because he has leanings towards Christianity.
Long ago, in her youth, she was engaged to a young architect. He, with his triangles and T-squares and things, succeeded in making an imaginary scale-drawing of her heart (up to that time a virgin forest, an unmapped territory), which enabled him to enter in and set up a pedestal there, on which he has remained ever since. He has been only a memory for many years, to be sure, for he died at the age of twenty-six, before he had had time to build anything but a livery stable and a country hotel. This is fortunate, on the whole, because aunt Celia thinks he was destined to establish American architecture on a higher plane,—rid it of its base, time-serving, imitative instincts, and waft it to a height where, in the course of centuries, we should have been revered and followed by all the nations of the earth. I went to see the livery stable, after one of these Miriam-like flights of prophecy on the might-have-been. It isn’t fair to judge a man’s promise by one performance, and that one a livery stable, so I shall say nothing.
This sentiment about architecture and this fondness for the very toppingest High Church ritual cause aunt Celia to look on the English cathedrals with solemnity and reverential awe. She has given me a fat notebook, with “Katharine Schuyler” stamped in gold letters on the Russia leather cover, and a lock and key to protect its feminine confidences. I am not at all the sort of girl who makes notes, and I have told her so; but she says that I must at least record my passing impressions, if they are ever so trivial and commonplace.
I wanted to go directly from Southampton to London with the Abbotts, our ship friends, who left us yesterday. Roderick Abbott and I had had a charming time on board ship (more charming than aunt Celia knows, because she was very ill, and her natural powers of chaperoning were severely impaired), and the prospect of seeing London sights together was not unpleasing; but Roderick Abbott is not in aunt Celia’s itinerary, which reads: “Winchester, Salisbury, Wells, Bath, Bristol, Gloucester, Oxford, London, Ely, Lincoln, York, Durham.”
Aunt Celia is one of those persons who are born to command, and when they are thrown in contact with those who are born to be commanded all goes as merry as a marriage bell; otherwise not.
So here we are at Winchester; and I don’t mind all the Roderick Abbotts in the universe, now that I have seen the Royal Garden Inn, its pretty coffee-room opening into the old-fashioned garden, with its borders of clove pinks, its aviaries, and its blossoming horse-chestnuts, great towering masses of pink bloom!
Aunt Celia has driven to St. Cross Hospital with Mrs. Benedict, an estimable lady tourist whom she “picked up” en route from Southampton. I am tired, and stayed at home. I cannot write letters, because aunt Celia has the guide-books, so I sit by the window in indolent content, watching the dear little school laddies, with their short jackets and wide white collars; they all look so jolly, and rosy, and clean, and kissable! I should like to kiss the chambermaid, too! She has a pink print dress; no bangs, thank goodness (it’s curious our servants can’t leave that deformity to the upper classes), but shining brown hair, plump figure, soft voice, and a most engaging way of saying, “Yes, miss? Anythink more, miss?” I long to ask her to sit down comfortably and be English, while I study her as a type, but of course I mustn’t. Sometimes I wish I could retire from the world for a season and do what I like, “surrounded by the general comfort of being thought mad.”
An elegant, irreproachable, high-minded model of dignity and reserve has just knocked and inquired what we will have for dinner. It is very embarrassing to give orders to a person who looks like a judge of the Supreme Court, but I said languidly, “What would you suggest?”
“How would you like a clear soup, a good spring soup, to begin with, miss?”
“And a bit of turbot next, miss?”
“Yes, turbot, by all means,” I said, my mouth watering at the word.
“And what for a roast, miss? Would you enjoy a young duckling, miss?”
“Just the thing; and for dessert”—I couldn’t think what we ought to have for dessert in England, but the high-minded model coughed apologetically and said, “I was thinking you might like gooseberry tart and cream for a sweet, miss.”
Oh that I could have vented my New World enthusiasm in a shriek of delight as I heard those intoxicating words, heretofore met only in English novels!
“Ye-es,” I said hesitatingly, though I was palpitating with joy, “I fancy we should like gooseberry tart (here a bright idea entered my mind) and perhaps in case my aunt doesn’t care for the gooseberry tart, you might bring a lemon squash, please.”
Now I had never met a lemon squash personally, but I had often heard of it, and wished to show my familiarity with British culinary art.
“One lemon squash, miss?”
“Oh, as to that, it doesn’t matter,” I said haughtily; “bring a sufficient number for two persons.”
* * * * *
Aunt Celia came home in the highest feather. She had twice been taken for an Englishwoman. She said she thought that lemon squash was a drink; I thought it was a pie; but we shall find out at dinner, for, as I said, I ordered a sufficient number for two persons.
At four o’clock we attended even-song at the cathedral. I shall not say what I felt when the white-surpliced boy choir entered, winding down those vaulted aisles, or when I heard for the first time that intoned service, with all its “witchcraft of harmonic sound.” I sat quite by myself in a high carved-oak seat, and the hour was passed in a trance of serene delight. I do not have many opinions, it is true, but papa says I am always strong on sentiments; nevertheless, I shall not attempt to tell even what I feel in these new and beautiful experiences, for it has been better told a thousand times.
There were a great many people at service, and a large number of Americans among them, I should think, though we saw no familiar faces. There was one particularly nice young man, who looked like a Bostonian. He sat opposite me. He didn’t stare,—he was too well bred; but when I looked the other way, he looked at me. Of course I could feel his eyes,—anybody can, at least any girl can; but I attended to every word of the service, and was as good as an angel. When the procession had filed out and the last strain of the great organ had rumbled into silence, we went on a tour through the cathedral, a heterogeneous band, headed by a conscientious old verger who did his best to enlighten us, and succeeded in virtually spoiling my pleasure.
After we had finished (think of “finishing” a cathedral in an hour or two!), aunt Celia and I, with one or two others, wandered through the beautiful close, looking at the exterior from every possible point, and coming at last to a certain ruined arch which is very famous. It did not strike me as being remarkable. I could make any number of them with a pattern, without the least effort. But at any rate, when told by the verger to gaze upon the beauties of this wonderful relic and tremble, we were obliged to gaze also upon the beauties of the aforesaid nice young man, who was sketching it. As we turned to go away, aunt Celia dropped her bag. It is one of those detestable, all-absorbing, all-devouring, thoroughly respectable, but never proud Boston bags, made of black cloth with leather trimmings, “C. Van T.” embroidered on the side, and the top drawn up with stout cords which pass over the Boston wrist or arm. As for me, I loathe them, and would not for worlds be seen carrying one, though I do slip a great many necessaries into aunt Celia’s.
I hastened to pick up the horrid thing, for fear the nice young man would feel obliged to do it for me; but, in my indecorous haste, I caught hold of the wrong end and emptied the entire contents on the stone flagging. Aunt Celia didn’t notice; she had turned with the verger, lest she should miss a single word of his inspired testimony. So we scrambled up the articles together, the nice young man and I; and oh, I hope I may never look upon his face again!
There were prayer-books and guide-books, a bottle of soda mint tablets, a spool of dental floss, a Bath bun, a bit of gray frizz that aunt Celia pins into her steamer cap, a spectacle case, a brandy flask, and a bonbon box, which broke and scattered cloves and cardamom seeds. (I hope he guessed aunt Celia is a dyspeptic, and not intemperate!) All this was hopelessly vulgar, but I wouldn’t have minded anything if there had not been a Duchess novel. Of course he thought that it belonged to me. He couldn’t have known aunt Celia was carrying it for that accidental Mrs. Benedict, with whom she went to St. Cross Hospital.
After scooping the cardamom seeds out of the cracks in the stone flagging, he handed me the tattered, disreputable-looking copy of “A Modern Circe” with a bow that wouldn’t have disgraced a Chesterfield, and then went back to his easel, while I fled after aunt Celia and her verger.
Memoranda: The Winchester Cathedral has the longest nave. The inside is more superb than the outside. Izaak Walton and Jane Austen are buried there.
Winchester, May 28, 1891
The White Swan.
As sure as my name is Jack Copley, I saw the prettiest girl in the world to-day,—an American, too, or I’m greatly mistaken. It was in the cathedral, where I have been sketching for several days. I was sitting in the end of a seat, at afternoon service, when two ladies entered by the side door. The ancient maiden, evidently the head of the family, settled herself devoutly, and the young one stole off by herself to one of the old carved seats back of the choir. She was worse than pretty! I took a sketch of her during service, as she sat under the dark carved-oak canopy, with this Latin inscription over her head:—
There ought to be a law against a woman’s making a picture of herself, unless she is willing to sit and be sketched.
A black and white sketch doesn’t give any definite idea of this charmer’s charms, but some time I’ll fill it in,—hair, sweet little hat, gown, and eyes, all in golden brown, a cape of tawny sable slipping off her arm, a knot of yellow primroses in her girdle, carved-oak background, and the afternoon sun coming through a stained-glass window. Great Jove! She had a most curious effect on me, that girl! I can’t explain it,—very curious, altogether new, and rather pleasant! When one of the choir boys sang, “Oh for the wings of a dove!” a tear rolled out of one of her lovely eyes and down her smooth brown cheek. I would have given a large portion of my modest monthly income for the felicity of wiping away that teardrop with one of my new handkerchiefs, marked with a tremendous “C” by my pretty sister.
An hour or two later they appeared again,—the dragon, who answers to the name of “aunt Celia,” and the “nut-brown mayde,” who comes when you call her “Katharine.” I was sketching a ruined arch. The dragon dropped her unmistakably Boston bag. I expected to see encyclopædias and Russian tracts fall from it, but was disappointed. The nut-brown mayde (who has been brought up rigidly) hastened to pick up the bag, for fear that I should serve her by doing it. She was punished by turning it inside out, and I was rewarded by helping her pick up the articles, which were many and ill assorted. My little romance received the first blow when I found that she reads the Duchess novels. I think, however, she has the grace to be ashamed of it, for she blushed scarlet when I handed her “A Modern Circe.” I could have told her that such a blush on such a cheek would atone for reading Mrs. Southworth, but I refrained. After she had gone I discovered a slip of paper which had blown under some stones. It proved to be an itinerary. I didn’t return it. I thought they must know which way they were going; and as this was precisely what I wanted to know, I kept it for my own use. She is doing the cathedral towns. I am doing the cathedral towns. Happy thought! Why shouldn’t we do them together,—we and aunt Celia?
I had only ten minutes—to catch my train for Salisbury, but I concluded to run in and glance at the registers of the principal hotels. Found my nut-brown mayde at once on the pages of the Royal Garden Inn register: “Miss Celia Van Tyck, Beverly, Mass.; Miss Katharine Schuyler, New York.” I concluded to stay over another train, ordered dinner, and took an altogether indefensible and inconsistent pleasure in writing “John Quincy Copley, Cambridge, Mass.,” directly beneath the charmer’s autograph.
Salisbury, June 1
The White Hart Inn.
We left Winchester on the 1.06 train yesterday, and here we are within sight of another superb and ancient pile of stone. I wanted so much to stop at the Highflyer Inn in Lark Lane, but aunt Celia said that if we were destitute of personal dignity, we at least owed something to our ancestors. Aunt Celia has a temperamental distrust of joy as something dangerous and ensnaring. She doesn’t realize what fun it would be to date one’s letters from the Highflyer Inn, Lark Lane, even if one were obliged to consort with poachers and cockneys in order to do it.
We attended service at three. The music was lovely, and there were beautiful stained-glass windows by Burne-Jones and Morris. The verger (when wound up with a shilling) talked like an electric doll. If that nice young man is making a cathedral tour, like ourselves, he isn’t taking our route, for he isn’t here. If he has come over for the purpose of sketching, he wouldn’t stop at sketching one cathedral. Perhaps he began at the other end and worked down to Winchester. Yes, that must be it, for the Ems sailed yesterday from Southampton.
* * *
We intended to go to Stonehenge this morning, but it rained, so we took a “growler” and went to the Earl of Pembroke’s country place to see the pictures. Had a delightful morning with the magnificent antiques, curios, and portraits. The Van Dyck room is a joy forever. There were other visitors; nobody who looked especially interesting. Don’t like Salisbury so well as Winchester. Don’t know why. We shall drive this afternoon, if it is fair, and go to Wells to-morrow. Must read Baedeker on the bishop’s palace. Oh dear! if one could only have a good time and not try to know anything!
Memoranda: This cathedral has the highest spire. Remember: Winchester, longest nave; Salisbury, highest spire.
The Lancet style is those curved lines meeting in a rounding or a sharp point like this
[Drawing like two very circular n’s next to each other]
and then joined together like this:
[Drawing like \/\/\/]
the way they used to scallop flannel petticoats. Gothic looks like triangles meeting together in various spots and joined with beautiful sort of ornamented knobs. I think I know Gothic when I see it. Then there is Norman, Early English, fully developed Early English, Early and Late Perpendicular, and Transition. Aunt Celia knows them all apart.
Salisbury, June 3
The Red Lion.
I went off on a long tramp this afternoon, and coming on a pretty river flowing through green meadows, with a fringe of trees on either side, I sat down to make a sketch. I heard feminine voices in the vicinity, but, as these are generally a part of the landscape in the tourist season, I paid no special notice. Suddenly a dainty patent-leather shoe floated towards me on the surface of the stream. It evidently had just dropped in, for it was right side up with care, and was disporting itself right merrily. “Did ever Jove’s tree drop such fruit?” I quoted, as I fished it out on my stick; and just then I heard a distressed voice saying, “Oh, aunt Celia, I’ve lost my smart little London shoe. I was sitting in a tree, taking a pebble out of the heel, when I saw a caterpillar, and I dropped it into the river, the shoe, you know, not the caterpillar.” Hereupon she came in sight, and I witnessed the somewhat unusual spectacle of my nut-brown mayde hopping on one foot, like a divine stork, and ever and anon emitting a feminine shriek as her off foot, clad in a delicate silk stocking, came in contact with the ground. I rose quickly, and, polishing the patent leather ostentatiously, inside and out, with my handkerchief, I offered it to her with distinguished grace. She swayed on her one foot with as much dignity as possible, and then recognizing me as the person who picked up the contents of aunt Celia’s bag, she said, dimpling in the most distracting manner (that’s another thing there ought to be a law against), “Thank you again; you seem to be a sort of knight-errant!”
“Shall I—assist you?” I asked. (I might have known that this was going too far.)
“No, thank you,” she said, with polar frigidity. “Good-afternoon.” And she hopped back to her aunt Celia without another word.
I don’t know how to approach aunt Celia. She is formidable. By a curious accident of feature, for which she is not in the least responsible, she always wears an unfortunate expression as of one perceiving some offensive odor in the immediate vicinity. This may be a mere accident of high birth. It is the kind of nose often seen in the “first families,” and her name betrays the fact that she is of good old Knickerbocker origin. We go to Wells to-morrow. At least I think we do.
Gloucester, June 9
The Spread Eagle.
I met him at Wells, and again at Bath. We are always being ridiculous, and he is always rescuing us. Aunt Celia never really sees him, and thus never recognizes him when he appears again, always as the flower of chivalry and guardian of ladies in distress. I will never again travel abroad without a man, even if I have to hire one from a Feeble-Minded Asylum. We work like galley slaves, aunt Celia and I, finding out about trains and things. Neither of us can understand Bradshaw, and I can’t even grapple with the lesser intricacies of the A B C railway guide. The trains, so far as I can see, always arrive before they go out, and I can never tell whether to read up the page or down. It is certainly very queer that the stupidest man that breathes, one that barely escapes idiocy, can disentangle a railway guide, when the brightest woman fails. Even the Boots at the inn in Wells took my book, and, rubbing his frightfully dirty finger down the row of puzzling figures, found the place in a minute, and said, “There ye are, miss.” It is very humiliating. All the time I have left from the study of routes and hotels I spend on guide-books. Now I’m sure that if any one of the men I know were here, he could tell me all that is necessary as we walk along the streets. I don’t say it in a frivolous or sentimental spirit in the least, but I do affirm that there is hardly any juncture in life where one isn’t better off for having a man about. I should never dare divulge this to aunt Celia, for she doesn’t think men very nice. She excludes them from conversation as if they were indelicate subjects.
But, to go on, we were standing at the door of Ye Olde Bell and Horns, at Bath, waiting for the fly which we had ordered to take us to the station, when who should drive up in a four-wheeler but the flower of chivalry. Aunt Celia was saying very audibly, “We shall certainly miss the train if the man doesn’t come at once.”
“Pray take this fly,” said the flower of chivalry. “I am not leaving till the next train.”
Aunt Celia got in without a murmur; I sneaked in after her. I don’t think she looked at him, though she did vouchsafe the remark that he seemed to be a civil sort of person.
At Bristol, I was walking about by myself, and I espied a sign, “Martha Huggins, Licensed Victualer.” It was a nice, tidy little shop, with a fire on the hearth and flowers in the window, and, as it was raining smartly, I thought no one would catch me if I stepped inside to chat with Martha. I fancied it would be so delightful and Dickensy to talk quietly with a licensed victualer by the name of Martha Huggins.
Just after I had settled myself, the flower of chivalry came in and ordered ale. I was disconcerted at being found in a dramshop alone, for I thought, after the bag episode, he might fancy us a family of inebriates. But he didn’t evince the slightest astonishment; he merely lifted his hat, and walked out after he had finished his ale. He certainly has the loveliest manners!
And so it goes on, and we never get any further. I like his politeness and his evident feeling that I can’t be flirted and talked with like a forward boarding-school miss, but I must say I don’t think much of his ingenuity. Of course one can’t have all the virtues, but, if I were he, I would part with my distinguished air, my charming ease, in fact almost anything, if I could have in exchange a few grains of common sense, just enough to guide me in the practical affairs of life.
I wonder what he is? He might be an artist, but he doesn’t seem quite like an artist; or a dilettante, but he doesn’t seem in the least like a dilettante. Or he might be an architect; I think that is the most probable guess of all. Perhaps he is only “going to be” one of these things, for he can’t be more than twenty-five or twenty-six. Still he looks as if he were something already; that is, he has a kind of self-reliance in his mien,—not self-assertion, nor self-esteem, but belief in self, as if he were able, and knew that he was able, to conquer circumstances.
Gloucester, June 10
Nothing accomplished yet. Her aunt is a Van Tyck, and a stiff one, too. I am a Copley, and that delays matters. Much depends upon the manner of approach. A false move would be fatal. We have six more towns (as per itinerary), and if their thirst for cathedrals isn’t slaked when these are finished we have the entire continent to do. If I could only succeed in making an impression on the retina of aunt Celia’s eye! Though I have been under her feet for ten days, she never yet has observed me. This absent-mindedness of hers serves me ill now, but it may prove a blessing later on.
It was here in Oxford that a grain of common sense entered the brain of the flower of chivalry. You might call it the dawn of reason. We had spent part of the morning in High Street, “the noblest old street in England,” as our dear Hawthorne calls it. As Wordsworth had written a sonnet about it, aunt Celia was armed for the fray,—a volume of Wordsworth in one hand, and one of Hawthorne in the other. (I wish Baedeker didn’t give such full information about what one ought to read before one can approach these places in a proper spirit.) When we had done High Street, we went to Magdalen College, and sat down on a bench in Addison’s Walk, where aunt Celia proceeded to store my mind with the principal facts of Addison’s career, and his influence on the literature of the something or other century. The cramming process over, we wandered along, and came upon “him” sketching a shady corner of the walk.
Aunt Celia went up behind him, and, Van Tyck though she is, she could not restrain her admiration of his work. I was surprised myself: I didn’t suppose so good looking a youth could do such good work. I retired to a safe distance, and they chatted together. He offered her the sketch; she refused to take advantage of his kindness. He said he would “dash off” another that evening, and bring it to our hotel,—“so glad to do anything for a fellow-countryman,” etc. I peeped from behind a tree and saw him give her his card. It was an awful moment; I trembled, but she read it with unmistakable approval, and gave him her own with an expression that meant, “Yours is good, but beat that if you can!”
She called to me, and I appeared. Mr. John Quincy Copley, Cambridge, was presented to her niece, Miss Katharine Schuyler, New York. It was over, and a very small thing to take so long about, too.
He is an architect, and of course has a smooth path into aunt Celia’s affections. Theological students, ministers, missionaries, heroes, and martyrs she may distrust, but architects never!
“He is an architect, my dear Katharine, and he is a Copley,” she told me afterwards. “I never knew a Copley who was not respectable, and many of them have been more.”
After the introduction was over, aunt Celia asked him guilelessly if he had visited any other of the English cathedrals. Any others, indeed! This to a youth who had been all but in her lap for a fortnight! It was a blow, but he rallied bravely, and, with an amused look in my direction, replied discreetly that he had visited most of them at one time or another. I refused to let him see that I had ever noticed him before; that is, particularly.
Memoranda: “The very stones and mortar of this historic town seem impregnated with the spirit of restful antiquity.” (Extract from one of aunt Celia’s letters.) Among the great men who have studied here are the Prince of Wales, Duke of Wellington, Gladstone, Sir Robert Peel, Sir Philip Sidney, William Penn, John Locke, the two Wesleys, Ruskin, Ben Jonson, and Thomas Otway. (Look Otway up.)
I have done it, and if I hadn’t been a fool and a coward I might have done it a week ago, and spared myself a good deal of delicious torment. I have just given two hours to a sketch of Addison’s Walk and carried it to aunt Celia at the Mitre. Object, to find out whether they make a long stay in London (our next point), and if so where. It seems they go directly through. I said in the course of conversation, “So Miss Schuyler is willing to forego a London season? Marvelous self-denial!”
“My niece did not come to Europe for a London season,” replied Miss Van Tyck. “We go through London this time merely as a cathedral town, simply because it chances to be where it is geographically. We shall visit St. Paul’s and Westminster Abbey, and then go directly on, that our chain of impressions may have absolute continuity and be free from any disturbing elements.”
Oh, but she is lovely, is aunt Celia!
The Black Boy Inn.
I am stopping at a beastly little hole, which has the one merit of being opposite Miss Schuyler’s lodgings. My sketch-book has deteriorated in artistic value during the last two weeks. Many of its pages, while interesting to me as reminiscences, will hardly do for family or studio exhibition. If I should label them, the result would be something like this:—
1. Sketch of a footstool and desk where I first saw Miss Schuyler kneeling.
2. Sketch of a carved-oak chair, Miss Schuyler sitting in it.
3. “Angel Choir.” Heads of Miss Schuyler introduced into the carving.
4. Altar screen. Full length figure of Miss Schuyler holding lilies.
5. Tomb of a bishop, where I tied Miss Schuyler’s shoe.
6. Tomb of another bishop, where I had to tie it again because I did it so badly the first time.
7. Sketch of the shoe; the shoe-lace worn out with much tying.
8. Sketch of the blessed verger who called her “madam,” when we were walking together.
9. Sketch of her blush when he did it the prettiest thing in the world.
10. Sketch of J. Q. Copley contemplating the ruins of his heart.
“How are the mighty fallen!”
At Miss Brown’s, Castle Garden.
Mr. Copley has done something in the world; I was sure that he had. He has a little income of his own, but he is too proud and ambitious to be an idler. He looked so manly when he talked about it, standing up straight and strong in his knickerbockers. I like men in knickerbockers. Aunt Celia doesn’t. She says she doesn’t see how a well-brought-up Copley can go about with his legs in that condition. I would give worlds to know how aunt Celia ever unbent sufficiently to get engaged. But, as I was saying, Mr. Copley has accomplished something, young as he is. He has built three picturesque suburban churches suitable for weddings, and a state lunatic asylum.
Aunt Celia says we shall have no worthy architecture until every building is made an exquisitely sincere representation of its deepest purpose,—a symbol, as it were, of its indwelling meaning. I should think it would be very difficult to design a lunatic asylum on that basis, but I didn’t dare say so, as Mr. Copley seemed to think it all right. Their conversation is absolutely sublimated when they get to talking of architecture. I have just copied two quotations from Emerson, and am studying them every night for fifteen minutes before I go to sleep. I’m going to quote them some time offhand, just after morning service, when we are wandering about the cathedral grounds. The first is this: “The Gothic cathedral is a blossoming in stone, subdued by the insatiable demand of harmony in man. The mountain of granite blooms into an eternal flower, with the lightness and delicate finish as well as the aerial proportion and perspective of vegetable beauty.” Then when he has recovered from the shock of this, here is my second: “Nor can any lover of nature enter the old piles of Oxford and English cathedrals without feeling that the forest overpowered the mind of the builder, and that his chisel, his saw and plane, still reproduced its ferns, its spikes of flowers, its locust, elm, pine, and spruce.”
Memoranda: Lincoln choir is an example of Early English or First Pointed, which can generally be told from something else by bold projecting buttresses and dog-tooth moulding round the abacusses. (The plural is my own, and it does not look right.) Lincoln Castle was the scene of many prolonged sieges, and was once taken by Oliver Cromwell.
The Black Swan.
Kitty Schuyler is the concentrated essence of feminine witchery. Intuition strong, logic weak, and the two qualities so balanced as to produce an indefinable charm; will-power large, but docility equal, if a man is clever enough to know how to manage her; knowledge of facts absolutely nil, but she is exquisitely intelligent in spite of it. She has a way of evading, escaping, eluding, and then gives you an intoxicating hint of sudden and complete surrender. She is divinely innocent, but roguishness saves her from insipidity. Her looks? She looks as you would imagine a person might look who possessed these graces; and she is worth looking at, though every time I do it I have a rush of love to the head. When you find a girl who combines all the qualities you have imagined in the ideal, and who has added a dozen or two on her own account, merely to distract you past all hope, why stand up and try to resist her charm? Down on your knees like a man, say I!
* * * * *
I’m getting to adore aunt Celia. I didn’t care for her at first, but she is so deliciously blind! Anything more exquisitely unserviceable as a chaperon I can’t imagine. Absorbed in antiquity, she ignores the babble of contemporaneous lovers. That any man could look at Kitty when he could look at a cathedral passes her comprehension. I do not presume too greatly on her absent-mindedness, however, lest she should turn unexpectedly and rend me. I always remember that inscription on the backs of the little mechanical French toys,—“Quoiqu’elle soit très solidement montée, il faut ne pas brutaliser la machine.”
And so my courtship progresses under aunt Celia’s very nose. I say “progresses,” but it is impossible to speak with any certainty of courting, for the essence of that gentle craft is hope, rooted in labor and trained by love.
I set out to propose to her during service this afternoon by writing my feelings on the fly-leaf of the hymn-book, or something like that; but I knew that aunt Celia would never forgive such blasphemy, and I thought that Kitty herself might consider it wicked. Besides, if she should chance to accept me, there was nothing I could do, in a cathedral, to relieve my feelings. No; if she ever accepts me, I wish it to be in a large, vacant spot of the universe, peopled by two only, and those two so indistinguishably blended, as it were, that they would appear as one to the casual observer. So I practiced repression, though the wall of my reserve is worn to the thinness of thread-paper, and I tried to keep my mind on the droning minor canon, and not to look at her, “for that way madness lies.”
High Petersgate Street.
My taste is so bad! I just begin to realize it, and I am feeling my “growing pains,” like Gwendolen in “Daniel Deronda.” I admired the stained glass in the Lincoln Cathedral, especially the Nuremberg window. I thought Mr. Copley looked pained, but he said nothing. When I went to my room, I looked in a book and found that all the glass in that cathedral is very modern and very bad, and the Nuremberg window is the worst of all. Aunt Celia says she hopes that it will be a warning to me to read before I speak; but Mr. Copley says no, that the world would lose more in one way than it would gain in the other. I tried my quotations this morning, and stuck fast in the middle of the first.
Mr. Copley says that aunt Celia has been feeing the vergers altogether too much, and I wrote a song about it called “The Ballad of the Vergers and the Foolish Virgin,” which I sang to my guitar. Mr. Copley says it is cleverer than anything he ever did with his pencil, but of course he says that only to be agreeable.
We all went to an evening service last night. Coming home, aunt Celia walked ahead with Mrs. Benedict, who keeps turning up at the most unexpected moments. She’s going to build a Gothicky memorial chapel somewhere. I don’t know for whom, unless it’s for Benedict Arnold. I don’t like her in the least, but four is certainly a more comfortable number than three. I scarcely ever have a moment alone with Mr. Copley; for go where I will and do what I please, aunt Celia has the most perfect confidence in my indiscretion, so she is always en évidence.
Just as we were turning into the quiet little street where we are lodging I said, “Oh dear, I wish that I knew something about architecture!”
“If you don’t know anything about it, you are certainly responsible for a good deal of it,” said Mr. Copley.
“I? How do you mean?” I asked quite innocently, because I couldn’t see how he could twist such a remark as that into anything like sentiment.
“I have never built so many castles in my life as since I’ve known you, Miss Schuyler,” he said.
“Oh,” I answered as lightly as I could, “air-castles don’t count.”
“The building of air-castles is an innocent amusement enough, I suppose,” he said, “but I’m committing the folly of living in mine. I”—
Then I was frightened. When, all at once, you find you have something precious you only dimly suspected was to be yours, you almost wish it hadn’t come so soon. But just at that moment Mrs. Benedict called to us, and came tramping back from the gate, and hooked her supercilious, patronizing arm in Mr. Copley’s, and asked him into the sitting-room to talk over the “lady chapel” in her new memorial church. Then aunt Celia told me they would excuse me, as I had had a wearisome day; and there was nothing for me to do but to go to bed, like a snubbed child, and wonder if I should ever know the end of that sentence. And I listened at the head of the stairs, shivering, but all that I could hear was that Mrs. Benedict asked Mr. Copley to be her own architect. Her architect indeed! That woman ought not to be at large!
At Farmer Hendry’s.
We left York this morning, and arrived here about eleven o’clock. It seems there is some sort of an election going on in the town, and there was not a single fly at the station. Mr. Copley walked about in every direction, but neither horse nor vehicle was to be had for love nor money. At last we started to walk to the village, Mr. Copley so laden with our hand-luggage that he resembled a pack-mule. We made a tour of the inns, but not a single room was to be had, not for that night nor for three days ahead, on account of that same election.
“Hadn’t we better go on to Edinburgh, aunt Celia?” I asked.
“Edinburgh? Never!” she replied. “Do you suppose that I would voluntarily spend a Sunday in those bare Presbyterian churches until the memory of these past ideal weeks has faded a little from my memory? What, leave out Durham and spoil the set?” (She spoke of the cathedrals as if they were souvenir spoons.) “I intended to stay here for a week or more, and write up a record of our entire trip from Winchester while the impressions were fresh in my mind.”
“And I had intended doing the same thing,” said Mr. Copley. “That is, I hoped to finish off my previous sketches, which are in a frightful state of incompletion, and spend a good deal of time on the interior of this cathedral, which is unusually beautiful.” (At this juncture aunt Celia disappeared for a moment to ask the barmaid if, in her opinion, the constant consumption of malt liquors prevents a more dangerous indulgence in brandy and whiskey. She is gathering statistics, but as the barmaids can never collect their thoughts while they are drawing ale, aunt Celia proceeds slowly.)
“For my part,” said I, with mock humility, “I am a docile person who never has any intentions of her own, but who yields herself sweetly to the intentions of other people in her immediate vicinity.”
“Are you?” asked Mr. Copley, taking out his pencil.
“Yes, I said so. What are you doing?”
“Merely taking note of your statement, that’s all.—Now, Miss Van Tyck, I have a plan to propose. I was here last summer with a couple of Harvard men, and we lodged at a farmhouse half a mile from the cathedral. If you will step into the coffee-room of the Shoulder of Mutton and Cauliflower for an hour, I’ll walk up to Farmer Hendry’s and see if they will take us in. I think we might be fairly comfortable.”
“Can aunt Celia have Apollinaris and black coffee after her morning bath?” I asked.
“I hope, Katharine,” said aunt Celia majestically,—“I hope that I can accommodate myself to circumstances. If Mr. Copley can secure lodgings for us, I shall be more than grateful.”
So here we are, all lodging together in an ideal English farmhouse. There is a thatched roof on one of the old buildings, and the dairy house is covered with ivy, and Farmer Hendry’s wife makes a real English courtesy, and there are herds of beautiful sleek Durham cattle, and the butter and cream and eggs and mutton are delicious; and I never, never want to go home any more. I want to live here forever, and wave the American flag on Washington’s birthday.
I am so happy that I feel as if something were going to spoil it all. Twenty years old to-day! I wish mamma were alive to wish me many happy returns.
Memoranda: Casual remark for breakfast table or perhaps for luncheon,—it is a trifle heavy for breakfast: “Since the sixteenth century and despite the work of Inigo Jones and the great Wren (not Jenny Wren—Christopher), architecture has had, in England especially, no legitimate development.”
Durham, July 19
O child of fortune, thy name is J. Q. Copley! How did it happen to be election time? Why did the inns chance to be full? How did aunt Celia relax sufficiently to allow me to find her a lodging? Why did she fall in love with the lodging when found? I do not know. I only know Fate smiles; that Kitty and I eat our morning bacon and eggs together; that I carve Kitty’s cold beef and pour Kitty’s sparkling ale at luncheon; that I go to vespers with Kitty, and dine with Kitty, and walk in the gloaming with Kitty—and aunt Celia. And after a day of heaven like this, like Lorna Doone’s lover,—ay, and like every other lover, I suppose,—I go to sleep, and the roof above me swarms with angels, having Kitty under it!
We were coming home from afternoon service, Kitty and I. (I am anticipating for she was “Miss Schuyler” then, but never mind.) We were walking through the fields, while Mrs. Benedict and aunt Celia were driving. As we came across a corner of the bit of meadow land that joins the stable and the garden, we heard a muffled roar, and as we looked round we saw a creature with tossing horns and waving tail making for us, head down, eyes flashing. Kitty gave a shriek. We chanced to be near a pair of low bars. I hadn’t been a college athlete for nothing. I swung Kitty over the bars, and jumped after her. But she, not knowing in her fright where she was nor what she was doing; supposing, also, that the mad creature, like the villain in the play, would “still pursue her,” flung herself bodily into my arms, crying, “Jack! Jack! Save me!”
“It was the first time she had called me Jack,” and I needed no second invitation. I proceeded to save her,—in the usual way, by holding her to my heart and kissing her lovely hair reassuringly, as I murmured: “You are safe, my darling; not a hair of your precious head shall be hurt. Don’t be frightened.”
She shivered like a leaf. “I am frightened,” she said. “I can’t help being frightened. He will chase us, I know. Where is he? What is he doing now?”
Looking up to determine if I need abbreviate this blissful moment, I saw the enraged animal disappearing in the side door of the barn; and it was a nice, comfortable Durham cow,—that somewhat rare but possible thing, a sportive cow!
“Is he gone?” breathed Kitty from my waistcoat.
“Yes, he is gone—she is gone, darling. But don’t move; it may come again.”
My first too hasty assurance had calmed Kitty’s fears, and she raised her charming flushed face from its retreat and prepared to withdraw. I did not facilitate the preparations, and a moment of awkward silence ensued.
“Might I inquire,” I asked, “if the dear little person at present reposing in my arms will stay there (with intervals for rest and refreshment) for the rest of her natural life?”
She withdrew entirely now, all but her hand, and her eyes sought the ground.
“I suppose I shall have to now,—that is, if you think—at least, I suppose you do think—at any rate, you look as if you were thinking—that this has been giving you encouragement.”
“I do indeed,—decisive, undoubted, barefaced encouragement.”
“I don’t think I ought to be judged as if I were in my sober senses,” she replied. “I was frightened within an inch of my life. I told you this morning that I was dreadfully afraid of bulls, especially mad ones, and I told you that my nurse frightened me, when I was a child, with awful stories about them, and that I never outgrew my childish terror. I looked everywhere about: the barn was too far, the fence too high, I saw him coming, and there was nothing but you and the open country; of course I took you. It was very natural, I’m sure,—any girl would have done it.”
“To be sure,” I replied soothingly, “any girl would have run after me, as you say.”
“I didn’t say any girl would have run after you,—you needn’t flatter yourself; and besides, I think I was really trying to protect you as well as to gain protection; else why should I have cast myself on you like a catamount, or a catacomb, or whatever the thing is?”
“Yes, darling, I thank you for saving my life, and I am willing to devote the remainder of it to your service as a pledge of my gratitude; but if you should take up life-saving as a profession, dear, don’t throw yourself on a fellow with”—
“Jack! Jack!” she cried, putting her hand over my lips, and getting it well kissed in consequence. “If you will only forget that, and never, never taunt me with it afterwards, I’ll—I’ll—well, I’ll do anything in reason; yes, even marry you!”
Canterbury, July 31
The Royal Fountain.
I was never sure enough of Kitty, at first, to dare risk telling her about that little mistake of hers. She is such an elusive person that I spend all my time in wooing her, and can never lay flattering unction to my soul that she is really won.
But after aunt Celia had looked up my family record and given a provisional consent, and papa Schuyler had cabled a reluctant blessing, I did not feel capable of any further self-restraint.
It was twilight here in Canterbury, and we were sitting on the vine-shaded veranda of aunt Celia’s lodging. Kitty’s head was on my shoulder. There is something very queer about that; when Kitty’s head is on my shoulder, I am not capable of any consecutive train of thought. When she puts it there I see stars, then myriads of stars, then, oh! I can’t begin to enumerate the steps by which ecstasy mounts to delirium; but at all events, any operation which demands exclusive use of the intellect is beyond me at these times. Still I gathered my stray wits together and said, “Kitty!”
“Now that nothing but death or marriage can separate us, I have something to confess to you.”
“Yes,” she said serenely, “I know what you are going to say. He was a cow.”
I lifted her head from my shoulder sternly, and gazed into her childlike, candid eyes.
“You mountain of deceit! How long have you known about it?”
“Ever since the first. Oh, Jack, stop looking at me in that way! Not the very first, not when I—not when you—not when we—no, not then, but the next morning I said to Farmer Hendry, ‘I wish you would keep your savage bull chained up while we are here; aunt Celia is awfully afraid of them, especially those that go mad, like yours!’ ‘Lor’, miss,’ said Farmer Hendry, ‘he haven’t been pastured here for three weeks. I keep him six mile away. There ben’t nothing but gentle cows in the home medder.’ But I didn’t think that you knew, you secretive person! I dare say you planned the whole thing in advance, in order to take advantage of my fright!”
“Never! I am incapable of such an unnecessary subterfuge! Besides, Kitty, I could not have made an accomplice of a cow, you know.”
“Then,” she said, with great dignity, “if you had been a gentleman and a man of honor, you would have cried, ‘Unhand me, girl! You are clinging to me under a misunderstanding!’”
Jack and I are going over this same ground next summer, on our wedding trip. We shall sail for home next week, and we haven’t half done justice to the cathedrals. After the first two, we saw nothing but each other on a general background of architecture. I hope my mind is improved, but oh, I am so hazy about all the facts I have read since I knew Jack! Winchester and Salisbury stand out superbly in my memory. They acquired their ground before it was occupied with other matters. I shall never forget, for instance, that Winchester has the longest spire and Salisbury the highest nave of all the English cathedrals. And I shall never forget so long as I live that Jane Austen and Isaac Newt—Oh dear! was it Isaac Newton or Izaak Walton that was buried in Winchester and Salisbury? To think that that interesting fact should have slipped from my mind, after all the trouble I took with it! But I know that it was Isaac somebody, and that he was buried in—well, he was buried in one of those two places. I am not certain which, but I can ask Jack; he is sure to know.
***END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A CATHEDRAL COURTSHIP***