A Cathedral Courtship

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Language: English
Published: 5 days ago
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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....