“I send back the ring that was used to trick me with. Perhaps, whatever happens, you will wear it for my sake. It is, you know, a symbol of Eternity.
Just as Angela was engaged in finishing her long letter to Arthur— surely one of the strangest ever written by a girl to the man she loved—Mr. Fraser was reading an epistle which had reached him by that afternoon’s post. We will look over his shoulder, and see what was in it.
It was a letter dated from the vicarage of one of the poorest parishes in the great Dock district in the east of London. It began—
“I shall be only too thankful to entertain your proposal for an exchange of livings, more especially as, at first sight, it would seem that all the advantage is on my side. The fact is, that the incessant strain of work here has at last broken down my health to such a degree, that the doctors tell me plainly I must choose between the comparative rest of a country parish, or the certainty of passing to a completer quiet before my time. Also, now that my children are growing up, I am very anxious to remove them from the sights and sounds and tainted moral atmosphere of this poverty- stricken and degraded quarter.
“But, however that may be, I should not be doing my duty to you, if I did not warn you that this is no parish for a man of your age to undertake, unless for strong reasons (for I see by the Clergy List that you are a year or so older than myself). The work is positively ceaseless, and often of a most shocking and thankless character; and there are almost no respectable inhabitants; for nobody lives in the parish, except those who are too poor to live elsewhere. The stipend, too, is, as you are aware, not large. However, if, in face of these disadvantages, you still entertain the idea of an exchange, perhaps we had better meet. . . .”
The letter then entered into details.
“I think that will suit me very well,” said Mr. Fraser, aloud to himself, as he put it down. “It will not greatly matter if my health does break down; and I ought to have gone long ago. ’Positively ceaseless,’ he says the work is. Well, ceaseless work is the only thing that can stifle thought. And yet it will be hard, coming up by the roots after all these years. Ah me! this is a queer world, and a sad one for some of us! I will write to the bishop at once.”
From which it will be gathered that things had not been going well with Mr. Fraser.
Meanwhile, Angela put her statement and the accompanying letter into a large envelope. Then she took the queer emerald ring off her finger, and, as there was nobody looking, she kissed it, and wrapped it up in a piece of cotton-wool, and stowed it away in the letter, and sealed it up. Next she addressed it, in her clear miniature handwriting, to