A Cathedral Courtship

#Fiction #Action & Adventure
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Excerpt 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 travelling under the yoke of an [p2] iron itinerary, warranted neither to bend nor break. It was made out by a young High Church curate in New York, and if it were a creed, or a document that 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. Mamma was a Unitarian, and so when she was alive I generally attended service at that church. Aunt Celia says it is not a Church; that the most you can say for it is that it is a ‘belief’ rather loosely and carelessly formulated. She also says that dear old Dr. Kyle is the most dangerous Unitarian she knows, because he has leanings towards Christianity. Long ago, in her youth, Aunt Celia was engaged to a young architect. He, with his triangles and T-squares and things, [p3] 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, it would have been revered and followed by all the nations of the earth. I went to see the 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 modest performance, [p4] and so I shall say nothing, save that I am sure it was the charm of the man that won my aunt’s affection, not the genius of the builder. 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 note-book, with ‘Katharine Schuyler’ stamped in gold letters on the Russia-leather cover, and a lock and key to conceal its youthful inanities from the general public. 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. She also says that one’s language gains unconsciously in dignity and sobriety by being set down in black and white, and that a liberal use of pen and ink will [p5] be sure to chasten my extravagances of style....
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