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The End Of A Coil Part 74

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"Independence!" said Mrs. Thayer, with an air half curious, half confounded, which was a severe trial to Dolly's risible muscles. "I know young ladies are very independent in these days--I don't know whether it is a change for the better or not--but I do not think Christina would boast of her independence of _her_ knight-errant."

"No," said Dolly. "The cases are different--as I said. Mr. St. Leger does not stand in that particular relation to me."

"Doesn't he? But, my dear, I hope you haven't quarrelled?"

"Not at all," said Dolly. "We do not like each other well enough to quarrel."

"But he struck me as a most delightful young man."



"I believe he generally makes that impression."

"I used to know his father," said Mrs. Thayer. "He was a sad flirt. I know, you see, my dear, because I was one myself. I am glad Christina does not take after me. But I used to think it was great fun. Is Mr.

St. Leger anything of a flirt?"

"I have had no opportunity of knowing, ma'am," said Dolly gravely.

"Well, you will bring him to see us? You are all coming to make us a visit at our villa, at Sorrento; and Mr. Shubrick is coming; Christina wants to show him to you; you know a girl is always proud of her conquests; and then we will go everywhere and make you see everything.

You have just no notion how delightful it is at Sorrento in the spring and summer. It's Paradise!"

"But you are coming first to spend Christmas with me, Dolly," said her friend, who until now had hardly been able to get in a word. "I have five thousand things to talk to you about. My sailor friend has promised to be here too, if he can, and his ship is in the Mediterranean somewhere, so I guess he can; and I want you to see him.

Come and spend Christmas Eve with me--do! and then we shall have a chance to talk before he comes. Of course there would be no chance after," she added with a confident smile.

Dolly was not much in a mood for visiting, and scantly inclined to mix in the joyous circle which must be breathing so different an atmosphere from her own. She doubted besides whether she could leave her watch and ward for so long a time as a night and a day. Yet it was pleasant to see Christina, and the opportunity to talk over old times was tempting; and her friend's instances were very urgent. Dolly at last gave a conditional assent; and they parted; Dolly and Rupert taking the way home.

"Is that lady a friend of yours?" Rupert enquired.

"The daughter; not the mother."

"The old lady, I meant. She has a mind to know all about us."

"Why?"

"She asked me about five hundred and fifty questions, after she quitted you."

"What did you tell her?"

"I told her what she knew before," said Rupert, chuckling. "Her stock of knowledge hasn't grown _very_ much, I guess, by all she got out of me. But she tried."

Dolly was silent. After a short pause, Rupert spoke again in quite another tone.

"Miss Dolly, you've put me in a sort of a puzzle. You said a little while ago, or you spoke as if you thought, that all those grand old Roman emperors were not after all great men. Then, if _they_ were not great, what's a fellow to try for? If a common fellow does his best, he will not get to the hundredth or the thousandth part of what those men did. Yet you say they were not great. What's the use of my trying, for instance, to do anything, or be anything?"

"What did they do, Rupert?"

"Well, you seem to say, nothing! But don't you come to Rome to admire what they did?"

"Some of the things they did, or made. But stand still here, Rupert, and look. Do you see the Rome of the Caesars? You see an arch here and a theatre there; but the city of those days is buried. It is under our feet. The great works of art here, those that were done in their day, were not done by them. Do you think it is any good to one of those old emperors in the other world--take the best of them--is it any good to him now that he had some of these splendid buildings erected, or marbles carved? Or that his armies conquered the world, and his government held order wherever his arms went? If he is happy in the presence of God, is it anything to him, now, that we look back and admire his work?--and if he is unhappy, banished that Presence, is it anything to him then?"

"Well, what _is_ greatness then?" said Rupert. "What is worth a man's trying for, if these greatest things are worth nothing?"

"I do not think anything is really great or worth while," said Dolly, "except those things that God likes."

"You come back to religion," said Rupert. "I did not mean religion.

What are those things?"

"I do not think anything is worth trying for, Rupert, except the things that will last."

"What things will last?" said he half impatiently.

"Look here," said Dolly. "Step a little this way. Do you see the Colosseum over yonder? Who do you think will remember, and do remember, that with most pleasure; Vespasian and Titus who built it, or the Christians who gave themselves to the lions there for Christ's sake?"

"Yes," said Rupert, "of course; but _that_ isn't the thing. There are no lions here now."

"There are lions of another sort," said Dolly, standing still and with her eyes fixed upon the wonderful old pile in the distance. "There is always work to be done for God, Rupert, and dangers or difficulties to be faced; and to the people who face _any_ lions for His sake, there is a promise of praise and honour and blessing that will last for ever."

"Then you would make all a man's work to be work for God?" said Rupert, not satisfied with this view of the question. "What is to become of all the rest of the things that are to be done in the world?"

"There ought not to be anything else done in the world," said Dolly, laughing, as she turned and began to walk on again. "It ought all to be done for Him. Merchants ought to make money for His service; and lawyers ought to strive to bring God's order between man and man, and justice to every one, and that never wrong should be done or oppression exercised by anybody. 'Break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free.' And soldiers ought to fight for no other reason but to protect weaker people from violence and wrong. And so on of everything else.

And, Rupert, God has promised a city, of His own preparing, for His people; it will be a place of delights; and I am thinking of that word,--'Blessed are they that do His commandments; that they may have a right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.' I don't believe anybody that is left outside will think much of what we call greatness in that day."

"Why, the world wouldn't be the world, at that rate," cried Rupert.

"Think it wouldn't be altered for the better?"

"But a few people can't make it like that."

"Suppose they make only a very little piece of it like that?--But then comes the end, Rupert, and the King's 'Well done!'"

"Then you wouldn't have a man make as much as he can of himself," said Rupert after a dissatisfied pause.

"Certainly I would."

"What use?"

"Oh, to be a better servant to his Master, the best he possibly can; and to do more work for Him; the most he can do."

"It seems to me, Miss Dolly, if you are right, pretty much all the rest of the world are wrong."

"Yes, Rupert; don't you remember the Bible says that the wrong way is the broad way, where almost all the people go?"

Rupert's meditations this time held him till they got home.

The days that intervened before Christmas were filled full with delightful business. Dolly had her anxieties, it is true; but she was in Rome. What could stand against the witchery of the enchantress city?

Anxieties fell into the background; and with all the healthy, elastic spring of her young years Dolly gave herself to the Present and the Past, and rejoiced, hour by hour and step by step, in what the Present and the Past opened up to her. True, her father and mother hardly shared in her pleasure; Mr. Copley's taste was blunted, I fear, for all noble enjoyment; and Mrs. Copley cared mainly to be comfortable in her home quarters, and to go out now and then where the motley world of fashion and of sight-seeing did most congregate. Especially she liked to go to the Pincian Hill Sunday afternoon, and watch the indescribable concourse of people of all nationalities which is there to be seen at that time. But there Dolly would not go.

"It is very absurd of you, Dolly!" cried her mother, greatly disappointed; for she had a pride in seeing the universal attention which was drawn to Dolly in every public place. "What harm should there be in looking at the beautiful view and hearing music? we are not going to _do_ anything."

"It's the Lord's day, mother," said Dolly, looking up at her sorrowfully.

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