Finally Miss Felicia, arriving in mid-June, paid an unending visit, of which Damaris felt no impatience. Miss Felicia during the last two years had, indeed, become a habit. The major affairs of life it might be both useless and unwise to submit to her judgment. She lost her way in them, fluttering ineffectual, gently hurried and bird-like. But, in life’s minor affairs, her innocent enthusiasm was invaluable as an encouraging asset. It lent point and interest to happenings and occupations otherwise trivial or monotonous. If silly at times, she never was stupid—distinction of meaning and moment.—A blameless creature, incapable of thinking, still more of speaking, evil of the worst or weakest, her inherent goodness washed about you like sun-warmed water, if sterile yet translucently pure.
And so the months accumulated. The clear colours of spring ripened to the hotter gamut of mid-summer, to an August splendour of ripening harvest in field, orchard and hedgerow, and thence to the purple, russet and gold of autumn. The birds, their nesting finished, ceased from song, as the active care of hungry fledglings grew on them. The swallows had gathered for their southern flight, and the water-fowl returned from their northern immigration to the waters and reed-beds of the Haven, Sir Charles Verity’s book, in two handsome quarto volumes, had been duly reviewed and found a place of honour in every library, worth the name, in the United Kingdom, before anything of serious importance occurred directly affecting our maiden. Throughout spring, summer and the first weeks of autumn, she marked time merely. Her activities and emotions—in as far, that is, as outward expression of these last went—were vicarious, those of others. She glowed over and gloried in the triumph of her father’s book, it is true, but it was his adventure, after all, rather than her own.
Then suddenly, as is the way with life, events crowded on one another, the drama thickened, sensation was tuned to a higher pitch. And it all began, not unludicrously, through the praiseworthy, if rather ill-timed moral indignation of Canon Horniblow’s newly installed curate, Reginald Sawyer.
RECALLING, IN SOME PARTICULARS, THE EASIEST RECORDED THEFT IN HUMAN HISTORY
He was short, neat, spectacled, in manner prompt and perky, in age under thirty, a townsman by birth and education, hailing from Midlandshire. Further, a strong advocate of organization, and imbued with the deepest respect for the obligations and prerogatives of his profession upon the ethical side. He took himself very seriously; and so took, also, the decalogue as delivered to mankind amid the thunders of Sinai. Keep the Ten Commandments, according to the letter, and you may confidently expect all things, spiritual and temporal, to be added unto you—such was the basis of his teaching and of his private creed.