Read CHAPTER XXV - CHRISTMAS EVE of The End of a Coil , free online book, by Susan Warner, on ReadCentral.com.

Christmas Eve came, and Rupert attended Dolly to the Piazza di Spagna, where her friends had apartments in a great hotel.  Dolly was quite prepared to enjoy herself; the varied delights of the foregoing days had lifted her out of the quiet, patient mood of watchful endurance which of late had been chronic with her, and her spirits were in a flow and stir more fitted to her eighteen years.  She was going through the streets of Rome! the forms of the ages rose before her mind’s eye continually, and before her bodily eye appeared here and there tokens and remains which were like the crumblings of those ages; tangible proofs that once they had been, and that Rome was still Rome.  Dolly drew breaths of pleasure as she and Rupert walked along.

“You are going to stay all night?” said Rupert.

“Yes, they want me.”

“And they have asked nobody but you?” said Rupert, who was not conventional.

“They wanted nobody but me.  It is not a party; it is my old school-friend only, who wants to show me her future husband.”

Rupert grunted his intelligence, and at the same time his mystification.  “What for?” he asked.  And Dolly laughed.

“I don’t know!  It is natural, I suppose, to some people.  Here we are.  Good night.”

The Thayers were very well lodged indeed.  Dolly found herself in really charming rooms, well furnished and well lighted.  She was joyfully received, and Christina led her forthwith through saloon and dining-room to the sanctuary of her own chamber.  A certain feeling of contrast began to fall upon Dolly already, Christina looked so very fresh and fair and well kept; the lightest veil of anxiety had never shadowed her bloom; the most remote cloud of embarrassment or need had never risen on her horizon.  Careless, happy, secure, her mind knew no burden.  It made Dolly feel the pressure of her own; and yet she was glad, for a little, to get into this atmosphere of peace and confidence, and enjoy it even by the contrast.  Christina’s room looked like a curiosity shop.  It was littered with recent purchases; all sorts of pretty things, useful and useless.

“One cannot help buying,” she said, excusing herself.  “I see something at every step that I want; and I must get it when I see it, or I may never see it again, you know.  It is great fun, but sometimes I almost get tired.  Here, dear, I can lay your things here.  Isn’t my fire nice?  Now sit down and warm yourself.  It’s too delightful to have you!  It is like a bit of home, and a bit of old times.  Those old school days were pleasant?”

“Very pleasant!” said Dolly, sitting down and looking into the queer but bright fire of small sticks which burned in Christina’s chimney.  “Very pleasant!  I was with my dear Aunt Hal, in Philadelphia.”

“But these days are better, Dolly,” Miss Thayer went on.  “That wasn’t much compared to this.”

“I don’t know,” said Dolly.  “There was no care in those times.”

“Care?” exclaimed Christina, as if she did not know the meaning of the word.  “What care have you, Dolly?  I have none, except the care to make my money buy all I want ­which it won’t, so I may as well make up my mind to it, and I do.  What have you been getting in Rome?”

“Oh, more pleasure than I knew so many days could hold,” said Dolly, laying some of the sticks of the fire straight.

“Isn’t it wonderful?  I think there’s nothing like Rome.  Unless, perhaps, Paris.”

“Paris!” said Dolly.  “What’s at Paris?”

“Ah, you don’t know it, or you wouldn’t ask!  Everything, my dear.  Rome has a good deal, certainly, but Paris has everything.  Now tell me, ­are you engaged?”

“I?  No.  Of course not.”

“I don’t see why it’s of course.  Most people are at one time or another; and I didn’t know but your time had come.”

“No,” said Dolly.  “Neither the time nor the man.  I’ve come to hear about yours.”

“If he’s good, you’ll see him; the man, I mean.  He promised to be with us at Christmas, if he could; and he always keeps his promises.”

“That’s a good thing,” said Dolly. .

“Ye-s,” said Christina, “that is, of course, a good thing.  One likes to have promises kept.  But it is possible to have too much of a good thing.”

“Not of keeping promises!” said Dolly in unfeigned astonishment.

“I don’t know,” said Christina.  “Sandie is so fixed in everything; he holds to his opinions and his promises and his expectations; and he holds a trifle too fast.”

“He has a right to hold to his expectations, surely,” said Dolly, laughing.

“Not too much,” said Christina.  “He has no right to expect everybody to keep their promises as precisely as he does his!  People aren’t made alike.”

“No; but honour is honour.”

“Come, now, Dolly,” said Christina laughing in her turn, “you are another!  You are just a little bit precise, like my Sandie.  You cannot make all the world alike, if you try; and he can’t.”

“I am not going to try, and I think it would be a very stupid world if I could do it; but nobody ought to raise expectations he is not prepared to gratify.”

“Like a sentence out of a book!” cried Christina.  “But Sandie is the most unchangeable person; he will not take any views of anything but the views he has always taken; he is as fixed as the rock of Gibraltar, and almost as distinct and detached from the rest of the world.”

“And don’t you like that?”

“No; confess I do not.  I’d like him to come down a little from his high place and mix with the rest of us mortals.”

“What expectations does he indulge which you are not willing to meet?”

“That’s the very thing!” cried Christina, in her turn stooping to arrange the little sticks and pile more on; “he is unreasonable.”

“How?”

“Wants me to marry him.”

“Is that unreasonable?”

“Yes! till things are ready for such a step, and I am ready.”

“What things?”

“Dolly, he is only the first officer of his ship.  He was distinguished in the last war, and he has the prospect of promotion.  I don’t want to marry him till he is a captain.”

“Why?” said Dolly.

“Why? ­Don’t you understand?  He would have a better position then, and better pay; and could give me a better time generally; and mamma thinks we ought to wait.  And I like waiting.  It’s better fun, I do think, to be engaged than to be married.  I know I shouldn’t have my head near so much if I was married to Sandie.  I do just as I like now; for mamma and I are always of a mind.”

“And are not you and Mr. Shubrick of a mind?”

“Not about this,” said Christina, getting up from the hearth, and laughing.

“Pray, if one may ask, how long have you and he been waiting already?”

“Oh, he thinks it is a great while; but what is the harm of waiting?”

“Well, how long is it, Christina?”

“Dolly, we were engaged very young.  It was before I left school; one summer when I was home for the vacation.  I was sixteen; that is four years ago, and more.”

“Four years!” cried Dolly.

“Yes.  Of course we were too young then to think of marrying.  He was home on furlough, and I was home for the vacation; and our houses were near together; and so we made it up.  His people were not very well off, but mine were; so there was nothing in the way, and nobody objected much; only mother said we must wait.”

“What are you waiting for now, Christina?”

“I told you.  I am in no hurry, for my part.  I want Sandie to get his ship; and in the meanwhile it is just as nice to be as we are.  We see each other when we can; and Italy is Italy; and I am very contented.  Unfortunately, Sandie isn’t.”

“How long do you propose to go on waiting?”

“I don’t know.  Oh, I don’t know! and I don’t care.  What is the harm of waiting?”

“That depends on what you promise yourselves in being married.”

“Dolly,” said Christina thoughtfully, “I don’t promise myself anything much better than I have got now.  If Sandie would only be content, I could go on so for ever.”

“And not be married?”

“Besides, Dolly, I don’t want to keep house in a small way.  I do not! and if I married a lieutenant in the navy, I couldn’t do anything else.  You see, Sandie would not live upon papa’s money; though papa would do anything for me; but Sandie won’t; and on his means we should live on a very small scale indeed.”

“But you would have enough?”

“Enough for what?  We should have enough to eat.  But, Dolly, I do not like to have to think of economy.  I have never been used to it.  Look at my room; see the things I have got together these last few days.  Look here ­this is a ring I want you to wear for me.  Isn’t it delicious?  It is as old as the best time of cameo-cutting, they say, but I do not remember when that was; it’s rather large for a lady’s ring, but it is an undoubted beauty.  Jupiter’s eagle, with the thunderbolts.  Just look at the plumage of the bird, ­and its fierce eye!”

Dolly was greatly delighted.  Of all the pretty things she had seen during the weeks past, she had bought nothing, save one or two bits for her mother.  This gift was vastly more to Dolly than Christina could imagine.  She had so literally everything she wanted, that no further acquisition could give her great pleasure.  It lacked the enhancement of difficulty and rarity.  I suppose the ring was more to Dolly than her whole roomful beside to Christina.  It was in truth a very exquisite cameo.  Dolly put it on her finger and looked at it in different lights, and admired it and enjoyed it hugely; while at the same time it gave an odd grace of setting-off to her simple dress.  Dolly was in a plain black silk, with no adornment at all, until she put the ring on.  Unless her quaint old cable chain could be called such. That Dolly always wore.  She was a sweet, quaint figure, illuminated by the firelight, as Christina observed her; girlish and graceful, with a fair face and beautiful hair; the sober dress and the true womanly eyes making a certain hidden harmony, and the cameo setting a seal of daintiness and rareness to the whole.  Christina was seized with admiration that had a good deal of respect blended with it of a sudden.

“You don’t agree with me, Dolly,” she said after a little, when Dolly’s thanks and the beauty of the ring had been sufficiently discussed, and a pause had brought the thoughts of both back to the former subject.

“What do you want, Christina?”

“I just want to be happy and comfortable,” said the girl, “as I always have been.  I don’t want to come down to pinching.  Is that unreasonable?”

“You would not have to pinch, Christina.”

“Yes, I should; to live like the rest of the world.”

“Are you obliged to do that?”

“Live like the rest of the world?  Yes, or be out of the world.”

“I thought you were a Christian,” said Dolly softly.

“A Christian!  Yes, so I am.  What has that got to do with it?”

“A good deal, I should say.  Tiny, you cannot follow Christ and be like the world.”

“I don’t want to be like the world, in bad things; but I mean things that are not bad.  One must be like the world in some ways, if one can.  Don’t you set up for being any better than me, Dolly, for I won’t stand it; we are all really just alike.”

“The world and Christians?”

“Yes; in some things.”

“Ways of living?”

“Yes, ­in some ways.”

“Christina, did you use to think so in old times?”

“I was young then; I did not know the world.  You have got to do as the world do, in a measure, Dolly.”

Dolly was silent a bit.  She too, on her part, observed her friend.  Fair and handsome she was; very handsome; with the placid luxuriance of nature which has never known shocks or adverse weather.  Dolly felt the contrast which Christina had also felt, but Dolly went deeper into it.  She and her friend had drifted apart, not in regard for each other, but in life and character; and Dolly involuntarily compared their experiences.  Trouble to Christina was a word of unknown meaning; to herself it was become daily bread.  Had that made the difference?  Christina was living on the surface of things; skimming a smooth sea in a gilded gondola; shelter and adornment were all about her life, and plenty within.  Dolly had been, as it were, cast into the waves and was struggling with them; now lifted on a high crest, and now brought down to the bottom.  Was that how she had learned to know that there were wonderful things of preciousness and beauty at the bottom of the sea? and must one perhaps be tossed by the storm to find out the value and the power of the hand that helps?  It did smite Dolly with a kind of pain, the sense of Christina’s sheltered position and security; the thought of the father’s arms that were a harbour for her, the guardianship that came between her and all the roughness of the world.  And yet, Dolly along with the bitterness of this, was tasting also something else which did not enter Christina’s cup of life; a rarer sweetness, which she would not have exchanged for Christina’s whole draught.  She had found jewels more precious at the depth of the sea than ever Christina could pick up in her pleasure sail along shore.  Christina, with all her luxury, was missing something, and in danger of losing more.  Dolly resolved to speak.

“Do you know, Tiny,” she said, “if I were Mr. Shubrick, I should not be satisfied?”

“Why not?” said Christina carelessly.

“Why, you are preferring the world to him.”

“I am not!  No such thing, Dolly.  I love him dearly.”

“By your own showing, you love ­what shall I say? ­luxuries and position, more.”

“I only want to wait a little.”

“And, Christina ­I don’t believe God likes it.”

“Likes what?”

“Your wanting to do as the world do.”

“How do you know I do?”

“You said so.”

“I like to have a nice house, and servants enough, and furniture to please me, and means to entertain my friends; and who doesn’t?  That’s all I ask for.”

“And to do what everybody else does.”

“Yes,” said Christina smiling.  “Who don’t?”

“You were on the Pincian Hill Sunday afternoon.”

“Yes,” said Christina suddenly, looking up.  “Why not?  Why weren’t you there?”

“If you will read the last two verses of the fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah, you will know.”

“I can’t read in this light,” said Christina, looking round the room, “and I don’t know just where I have laid my Bible.  Everybody goes to the Pincian.  It’s no harm.”

“Would Mr. Shubrick go?”

“Who told you he wouldn’t?” said Christina.  “I declare, if you are going to help him in his crotchets, I won’t let you see much of him!  Sandie! ­he’s just an unmanageable, unreasonable bit of downrightness. ­And uprightness,” she added, laughing.  “Dolly, he can have his own way aboard ship; but in the world one can’t get along so.  One must conform a little.  One must.”

“Does God like it?” said Dolly.

“What queer questions you ask!  This is not a matter of religion; it is only living.”

Dolly remembered words which came very inconveniently across Christina’s principles; yet she was afraid of saying too much.  She reflected that her friend was breathing the soft air of luxury, which is not strengthening, and enveloped in a kind of mist of conventionality, through which she could not see.  With herself it was different.  She had been thrown out of all that; forced to do battle with necessity and difficulty, and so driven to lay hold of the one hand of strength and deliverance that she could reach.  What wonder if she held it fast and held it dear? while Christina seemed hardly to have ever felt the need of anything.

“Now, Dolly, tell me all about yourself,” Christina broke in upon her meditations.

“There isn’t much to tell.”

“What have you been doing?”

“Painting miniatures ­one of the last things.”

“Oh, delightful!  Copies?”

“Copies from life.  May I take you? and then perhaps, if I succeed, you will get me work.”

“Work!” repeated Christina.

Dolly nodded.  “Yes; I want work.”

“Work!” cried Christina again.  “Dolly, you don’t mean that you need it?  Don’t say that!”

“I do.  That’s nothing so dreadful, if only I can get it.  I paint miniatures for ­I have had ten and I have had twenty pounds,” said Dolly with a laugh; “but twenty is magnificent.  I do not ask twenty.”

Christina exclaimed with real sorrow and interest, and was eager to know the cause of such a state of things.  Dolly could but give her the bare facts, not the philosophy of them.

“You poor, dear, lovely little Dolly!” cried Christina.  “A thought strikes me.  Why don’t you marry this handsome, rich young Englishman?”

Again Dolly’s face dimpled all over.

“The thought don’t strike me,” she said.

“But he’s very rich, isn’t he?”

“Yes.  That is nothing to me.  I wouldn’t give my father and mother for him.”

“But for your father and mother’s sake?” ­There was a knock at the door here.  “What is it? dinner?  Come, Dolly; we’ll reason afterwards.”

The dinner was excellent.  More than the excellence, however, went to Dolly’s enjoyment.  The rare luxury of eating without having to think what it cost, and without careful management to make sure that enough was left for the next day’s breakfast and lunch.  It was great luxury! and how Dolly felt it, no one there could in the least guess.  With that, however, as the evening went on and the unwonted soft atmosphere of ease was taking effect upon her, Dolly again and again drew the contrast between herself and her friend.  How sheltered and guarded, and fenced in and fenced off, Christina was! how securely and safely blooming in the sacred enclosure of fatherly and motherly care! and Dolly ­alas, alas! her defences were all down, and she herself, delicate and tender, forced into the defender’s place, to shield those who should have shielded her.  It pressed on her by degrees, as the sweet unaccustomed feeling of ease and rest made itself more and more sensible, and by contrast she realised more and more the absence of it in her own life.  It pressed very bitterly.

The girls had just withdrawn again after dinner to the firelight cosiness of Christina’s room, when Mrs. Thayer put her head in.

“Christina, here’s Baron Kraemer and Signor Count Villa Bella, come to know if you will go to the Sistine Chapel.”

“Mother! ­how you put titles together!  Oh, I remember; there is music at the Sistine to-night.  But Sandie might come.”

“And might not,” said Mrs. Thayer.  “You will have time enough to see Sandie; and this is Christmas Eve, you know.  You may not be in Rome next Christmas.”

“Would you like to go, Dolly?” said Christina doubtfully.

Dolly’s heart jumped at the invitation; music and the Sistine Chapel!  But it did not suit her to make an inconvenient odd one in a partie carree, among strangers.  She declined.

“I said I would go,” said Mrs. Thayer.  “Since the gentlemen have come to take you, I think you had better.  Dolly will not mind losing you for an hour or two.”

Which Dolly eagerly confirmed; wondering much at the same time to see Christina hesitate, when her lover, as she said, might come at any minute.

She, too, finally resolved against it, however; and when Mrs. Thayer and the gentlemen had gone, and Mr. Thayer had withdrawn, as his custom was, to his own apartment, the two girls took possession of the forsaken drawing-room.  It was a pretty room, very well furnished, and like every other part of the present home of the Thayers, running over with new possessions in the shape of bits of art or antiquity, pictures, and trinkets of every kind, which they were always picking up.  These were an infinite amusement to Dolly; and Christina was good-humouredly pleased with her pleasure.

“There’s no fun in being in Rome,” she remarked, “if you cannot buy all you see.  I would run away if my purse gave out.”

“But there is all that you cannot take away,” said Dolly.  “Think of what your mother has gone to this evening.”

“The Sistine Chapel,” said Christina.  “I don’t really care for it.  Those stupid old prophets and sybils say nothing to me; though of course one must make a fuss about them; and the picture of the Last Judgment, I think, is absolutely frightful.”

But here Dolly’s eyes arrested her friend.

“Well, I tell you the truth; I do think so,” she said.  “I may tell the truth to you.  I do not care one pin for Michael Angelo.”

“Mayn’t you tell the truth to anybody?”

“Not unless I want to be stared at; and I do not want to be stared at, in that way.  I am glad I did not go with mamma and those people; if Sandie had come, I do not think he would have altogether liked it.  Though I don’t know but it is good to make men jealous.  Mamma says it is.”

“Oh no!” said Dolly.  “Not anybody you care for.”

“What do you know?” said Christina archly.  Before she could receive an answer, then, she had started and sprung up; for the door gently opened and on the threshold presented himself a gentleman in naval uniform.

“Sandie!” cried Christina.

“Didn’t you expect me?” he said with a frank and bright smile.

Dolly had heard enough about this personage to make her very curious; and her eyes took keen note of him.  She saw a tall, upright figure, with that free poise of bearing which is a compound of strength and ease; effortless, quiet, graceful, and dignified.  Though in part the result of a certain symmetry of joints and practised activity in the use of them, this sort of bearing refers itself also, and yet more surely, to the character, and makes upon the beholder the impression again of strength and ease in the mental action.  It is not common; it struck Dolly in the first five steps he made into the room and in the manner of his greeting his betrothed.  Out of delicate consideration, I suppose, for the company in which they found themselves, he offered only a look and a hand-clasp; but Christina jumped up and kissed him.  She was not short, yet she had to make a little spring to reach his lips.  And then, quietly putting an arm round her, he gave her her kiss back.  Christina was rosy when she turned to present him, and both were smiling.  Letting her go, he bowed low before Christina’s friend; low and gravely; with such absolute gravity that Dolly almost felt herself in the way; as if he wished her not there.  Then they sat down around the fire; and the same feeling came over her again with a rush.  They were three; they ought to have been but two; she was one too many; they must wish her away.  And yet, Christina had asked her precisely and specially that she might be one of the company that night.  Dolly would have wished herself away, nevertheless; only that she was so very much interested, and could not.  The newcomer excited her curiosity greatly, and provoked her observation; and, if the truth must be told, exercised also a powerful attraction upon her.  He sat before the fire, full in her view, and struck Dolly as different from all the people she had ever seen in her life.  She took glances from time to time, as she could, at the fine, frank, manly face, which had an unusual combination of the two qualities, frankness and manliness; was much more than usually serious, for a man of his age; and yet, she saw now and then, could break to tenderness or pleasure or amusement, with a sweetness that was winning.  Dolly was fascinated, and could not wish herself away; why should she, if Christina did not?

In all her life she never forgot the images of two of the people around the fire that evening.  “Sandie” in the middle, in front of the blaze; Christina on the other hand of him.  She was in a glistening robe of dark blue silk, her fair hair knotted and wound gracefully about her head; a beautiful creature; looking at her lover with complacent looks of possession and smiles of welcome.  Dolly never knew what sort of a figure the third was; she could not see herself, and she never thought about it.  Yet she was a foil to the other two, and they were a foil to her, as she sat there at the corner of the hearth on a low cushion, in her black dress, and with no ornament about her other than the cameo ring.  A creature very different from the beauty at the other corner of the fireplace; more delicate, more sensitive, more spiritual; oddly and inexplicably, more of a child and more of a woman.  That’s a rare mixture.  There was something exceedingly sweet and simple in her soft brown eyes and her lips; but the eyes had looked at life, the brow was grave, and the lips could close into lines of steady will.  The delicate vessel was the shrine of a soul, as large as it could hold, and so had taken on the transparent nobility which belongs to the body when the soul is allowed to be dominant.  One point of the contrast between the two girls was in the character and arrangement of their hair.  Christina’s was smooth, massed, and in a sort massive; Dolly’s clustered or was knotted about her head, without the least disorder, but with a wilfulness of elegant play most harmonious with all the rest of her appearance.  To characterise the two in a word, Christina was a beautiful pearl, and Dolly was a translucent opal.

They sat down round the fire.

“Well, Sandie, you naughty boy,” Christina began, “what has kept you away all this time?”

“Duty.”

“Duty!  I told you so, Dolly; this man has only two or three words in his vocabulary, which he trots out on all occasions to do general service.  One of them is ‘duty;’ another is ‘must.’”

“‘Must’ is the true child of ‘duty,’” the gentleman remarked.

“Oh no, I don’t allow that; it is a marriage connection, which may be dissolved by a dispensation.”

“Is that your idea of the marriage connection?” said he with a smile.

“But, Sandie! don’t you want something to eat?”

“No, thank you.”

“Because you can have it in a moment.”

“I have dined, Christina.”

“Where have you been all this while ­weeks and weeks?”

“Have you not received any letters from me?”

“Yes, indeed! but words are so different spoken and written.  We have been half over Europe.  I wish you could have been along!  Sandie, we went to Baden-Baden.”

“What for?”

What for! Why, to see it.  And we saw the gaming.”

“How did you like it?”

“It is fascinating.  I never saw such a scene in my life; the people’s faces; and then the mad eagerness with which they went at it; old men and young men, and women.  Oh, it was astonishing to see the women!”

“What was the effect upon you?”

“I don’t know; astonishment.”

“How did Mrs. Thayer like it?”

“Do you know, I think she half wanted to try her hand?  I was so amazed at mother!  I told her she must not.”

“You observe, Miss Copley, Miss Thayer knows the use of one of my words.”

It was a strange, novel, absorbing experience to Dolly.  Sitting at one corner of the hearth, quiet, and a little as it were a one side, she watched the play and the people.  She was so delightfully set free for the moment from all her home cares and life anxieties.  It was like getting out of the current and rush of the waves into a nook of a bay, where her tossed little skiff could lie still for a bit, and the dangers and difficulties of navigation did not demand her attention.  She rested luxuriously and amused herself with seeing and hearing what went on.  And to tell the whole truth, Dolly was more than amused; she was interested; and watched and listened keenly.  Christina was a lovely figure in her bright dress and bright beauty, a little excited, and happy, not too much; not too much to make Dolly’s presence desirable and agreeable; just enough to make her more lovely than usual.  The other figure of the little party was more interesting yet to Dolly.  She thought he was very peculiar, and unlike any one she had ever seen.  His repose of demeanour was striking; he seemed to make no unnecessary movement; he sat still; neither hand nor head nor foot betrayed any restlessness either of mind or body; and yet when he did move, were it only hand or foot or head, the impression he gave Dolly was of readiness for the keenest action, if the time for action once came.  How the two seemingly contradictory impressions were conveyed together, Dolly did not stop to think; she had no time to moralise upon her observations; however, this mingling of calm and vigour was very imposing to her; it attracted and fascinated.  No man could sit more quiet in company; and yet, if he turned his head or shifted the position of his hand, what Dolly saw was power and readiness to move with effect if there were anything to be done; and the calm intensified the power to her mind.  And then, apart from all this, the room in which they were sitting was filled with pretty things and charming things which the Thayers had been collecting since they came to Rome.  Dolly’s eye strayed from one to another, as she sat listening to her companions; though the pretty things never diverted her attention from what these were saying or what they were doing.  It was a charmed hour altogether! of rest and relief and enjoyment.  Taken out of herself and away from her cares, Dolly tasted and delighted in the fairy minutes as they flew, and did not even trouble herself to think how soon they would be flown by and gone.

“You have been a great while away, Sandie,” Christina was saying.  “Why could you not join us before?  You might have skipped something.  Here have I stayed away from the Sistine to-night, for your sake.”

“Is it any special loss, this evening of all others?”

“Certainly!  It is Christmas; there is music, and company.”

“Do you enjoy the Sistine Chapel, apart from music and company?”

“No, indeed I don’t!  I don’t like it at all.  Such horrid things on the walls, as are enough to give one the nightmare after being there.  I know it is Michael Angelo, and I am horribly out of order in saying so; but what is the use of pretending in this company?”

“What is the use of pretending in any company?”

“Oh, nonsense, Sandie! a great deal.  Everybody pretends, at some time or other.  What would become of us if we spoke out all we had in our minds?”

“You do not like the Sistine Chapel.  What do you enjoy most in Rome?”

“Most?  The Pincian, Sunday afternoon.”

“Sunday!  Why Sunday?”

“Music, and all the world there.  It’s the most beautiful scene, in the first place, and the most amusing, that you can find.  There is everybody there, Sandie; people from all the quarters of the earth; of all nationalities and costumes; the oddest and the prettiest; everybody you know and everybody you don’t know.”

“But why on Sunday?”

“Oh, that’s the special day; that and Thursday, I believe; but I generally have something else to do Thursday; and anyhow there isn’t as good a show.  I rarely go Thursday.”

“And Sunday you have nothing else to do.  I see.”

“Well, Sandie, of course we have been to church in the morning, you know.  There is nothing to go to in the afternoon.  What should one do?”

“Miss Copley, do you enjoy the Pincian on Sunday evenings?”

“I have not tried it,” said Dolly.

“Your mother and father were there, though, last Sunday,” said Christina.  “Sandie, what are you thinking of?  You have some superstitious objection?  I daresay you have!”

“Not I,” said Mr. Shubrick.  “But it occurs to me that there is a command somewhere, touching the question.”

“What command?  In the Bible!  Sandie, do you think those Sunday commands are to be taken just as they stand ­to mean just so? and shut one stupidly up in the house for all day Sunday except when one is going in procession to church?”

“You know,” said Mr. Shubrick, “I am like the centurion in the Bible, ‘a man under authority,’ having other men under me; ’and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come and he cometh.’  I know nothing about orders that are not to be obeyed.”

“And is that the way you would rule your house?” said Christina, half pouting.

“I should leave that to you,” he answered smiling.  “It is enough for me to rule my ship.  The house would be your care.”

“Would it?  Does that mean that you expect always to be a sailor?”

“It is my profession.  A man must do something.”

“If he must.  But not if he has no need to do anything?”

The young officer looked at her with a considerative sort of gravity, and inquired if she could respect a lazy man.

“No, and you never would be lazy, or could be lazy,” she said, laughing.  “But surely there are things enough to be done on shore.”

“Things enough.  The question for every one is where he can do most.”

“Why, Sandie,” Christina cried, “it is not possible that you should have your time to yourself on shipboard, and as an acting officer, as you could at home on shore.  Reading and study, that, you like, I know; and then painting, and all art pleasures, that you think so much about, much more than I do; and a thousand other things; ­you have no chance for them at sea.”

“You talk as if one had nothing to do but to please himself.”

“Well,” said Christina, “so far as one can, why not?  Does not all the world?”

“Yes.  All the world.  You are right.  All the world, except a little body of men who follow Christ; and He, pleased not Himself.  I thought you knew I was one of His servants, Christina.”

“Does that forbid your pleasing yourself?”

“Not in one way,” said Mr. Shubrick, smiling again, a smile that made Dolly’s heart throb with its meaning.  “It is my pleasure to do my Master’s will.  The work He has given me to do, I would rather do of all things.”

“I can’t think what work you mean, Sandie.  I really do not understand.”

“Do you understand, Miss Copley?”

Dolly started.  “I believe so,” she said.

“Will you have the goodness to explain to Christina?”

“Why don’t you explain yourself, Sandie?” said his betrothed.

“I am talking too much.  Besides, it will come better from Miss Copley’s lips.”

“I don’t think so; but however. ­Well, Dolly, if you are to explain, please explain.  But how come you to understand, when I don’t understand?  What work does he mean?”

“I suppose,” said Dolly, “Mr. Shubrick means work for other people.”

“Work for other people!” cried Christina.  “Do you think we do not do work for other people?  Mamma gives away loads; she does a great deal for the poor.  She is always doing it.”

“And you?”

“Oh, I help now and then.  But she does not want my help much.”

“Did you think, Miss Copley, I meant work for poor people?”

“No,” said Dolly.  “At least ­that is ­I thought you meant the work that is for Christ.”

“Well, I am sure He commanded us to take care of the poor,” said Christina.

“He commanded us also to carry the gospel to every creature.”

“That’s for ministers, and missionaries,” said Christina.

“The order was given to all the disciples, and He commanded us to be lights in the world.”

“Of course ­to set good examples.”

“That is not quite the whole,” said Mr. Shubrick; “though people do take it so, I believe.”

“I have always taken it so,” said Dolly.  “What more can it be?”

“Remember the words ­’Whatsoever doth make manifest is light.’  There is the key.  There are good examples ­so called ­which disturb nobody.  There are others,” ­he spoke very gravely, ­“before which sin knows itself, and conscience shrinks away; before which no lie can stand.  Those are the Lord’s light-bearers.”

“Sandie, what has got you into this vein of moralising?  Is this talk for Christmas Eve, when we ought to be merry?  Don’t you lead a dreadful dull life on board ship?”

“No,” said he.  “Never.  Neither there nor anywhere else.”

“Are you always picking at the wick of that light of yours, to make it shine more?”

“By no means.  No lamp would stand such treatment.  No; the only thing for us to do in that connection is to see that the supply of oil is kept up.”

“Sandie, life would be fearful on your terms!”

“I do not find it so.”

And, “Oh no, Christina!” came from Dolly’s lips at the same time.  Christina looked from one to the other.

“I had better gone to the Sistine,” she said.  “I suppose you would tell me there to look at Michael Angelo’s picture of the Last Judgment.  But I assure you I never do.  I make a point not to see it.”

“What do you enjoy most in this old city, Miss Copley?” Mr. Shubrick said now, turning to her.

“I hardly can tell,” said Dolly; “I enjoy it all so very much.  I think, of all ­perhaps the Colosseum.”

“That old ruin!” said Christina.

“But it is such a beautiful ruin!  Have you seen it by moonlight?  And I always think of the time when it was finished, and full, and of the things that were done there; and I fancy the times when the moonlight shone in just so after the days when Christians had been given to the lions.  I never get tired of the Colosseum.”

“You, too!” exclaimed Christina.  “What pleasant and enlivening contemplations!”

“Yes,” said Dolly.  “Grand.  I see the moonlight shining on the broken walls of the Colosseum, and I think of the martyrs in their white robes.  There is no place brings me nearer to heaven, and the world looks so small.”

“Dolly Copley!” cried Christina.  “Do you want the world to look small, as long as you are obliged to live in it?”

“It looks big enough,” said Dolly, smiling, “as soon as I get home.”

The conversation, however, after this did take a turn, and ran upon more everyday topics; less interesting to Dolly however.  But the speakers were interesting always; and she watched them, the play of sense and nonsense, of feeling and fun, not caring much that the matter of the talk did not concern her; until Mrs. Thayer and her escort were heard returning.

And then, indeed, the evening changed its character; however the fascination remained for Dolly.  The talk was no longer on personal subjects; it went gaily and jovially over all sorts of light matters; an excellent supper was served; and in the novelty and the brightness and the liveliness of all about her, Dolly was in a kind of bewitchment.  It was a lull, a pause in the midst of her cares, a still nook to which an eddy had brought her, out of the current; Dolly took the full benefit.  She would not think of trouble.  Sometimes a swift feeling of contrast swept in upon her, the contrast of her friend’s safe and sheltered life.  No care for her; no anxiety about ways and means; no need to work for money; and no need to fear for anybody dear to her.  Christina’s father was her guardian, not she his; he might be a very humdrum man, and no doubt was, but his daughter had no cause to be ashamed for him; had not the burden of his life and character on her own shoulders to take care of.  A swift, keen feeling of this contrast would come over Dolly; but she put it away as instantly, and would not see or hear anything but what was pleasant.