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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."
"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.