“It is a very ancient ceremony,” said the priest; “probably Persian, like the baptismal form, although, for that matter, we can never dig deep enough for the roots of these things. They all turn up Turanian if we probe far enough. Our ways separate here, I’m afraid. I am delighted to have made your acquaintance, Mr. Ware. Pray look in upon me, if you can as well as not. We are near neighbors, you know.”
Father Forbes had shaken hands, and moved off up another street some distance, before the voice of the girl recalled Theron to himself.
“Of course you knew him by name,” she was saying, “and he knew you by sight, and had talked of you; but my poor inferior sex has to be introduced. I am Celia Madden. My father has the wagon-shops, and I—I play the organ at the church.”
“I—I am delighted to make your acquaintance,” said Theron, conscious as he spoke that he had slavishly echoed the formula of the priest. He could think of nothing better to add than, “Unfortunately, we have no organ in our church.”
The girl laughed, as they resumed their walk down the street. “I’m afraid I couldn’t undertake two,” she said, and laughed again. Then she spoke more seriously. “That ceremony must have interested you a good deal, never having seen it before. I saw that it was all new to you, and so I made bold to take you under my wing, so to speak.”
“You were very kind,” said the young minister. “It was really a great experience for me. May—may I ask, is it a part of your functions, in the church, I mean, to attend these last rites?”
“Mercy, no!” replied the girl, spinning the parasol on her shoulder and smiling at the thought. “No; it was only because MacEvoy was one of our workmen, and really came by his death through father sending him up to trim a tree. Ann MacEvoy will never forgive us that, the longest day she lives. Did you notice her? She wouldn’t speak to me. After you came out, I tried to tell her that we would look out for her and the children; but all she would say to me was: ‘An’ fwat would a wheelwright, an’ him the father of a family, be doin’ up a tree?’”
They had come now upon the main street of the village, with its flagstone sidewalk overhung by a lofty canopy of elm-boughs. Here, for the space of a block, was concentrated such fashionable elegance of mansions and ornamental lawns as Octavius had to offer; and it was presented with the irregularity so characteristic of our restless civilization. Two or three of the houses survived untouched from the earlier days—prim, decorous structures, each with its gabled centre and lower wings, each with its row of fluted columns supporting the classical roof of a piazza across its whole front, each vying with the others in the whiteness of those wooden walls enveloping its bright green blinds. One had to look over picket fences to see these houses, and in doing so caught the notion that they thus railed themselves off in pride at being able to remember before the railroad came to the village, or the wagon-works were thought of.