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A CATHEDRAL COURTSHIP (4)

2006-09-08 20:01

    HE

    SALISBURY, June  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.

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