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Day After Day: Thirty-One

Muriel in Worcester and her betrothed Harold, who is working in the mining industry in Malaya, exhange loving letters which are also a commentary on the early days of the Twentieth Century.

To read preceding chapters of Jean Day's novel please click on Day By Day in the menu on this page.

Lansdowne Crescent, Worcester
November 20th, 1905

Dear Harold,
Thank you so much for the exquisite bag. You must give me the name of the lady who made it so I can write and thank her as well. It caused much interest and comment when I took it to church last Sunday.

I enjoy your lectures, although sometimes they do go on a bit. But it is all information that I must learn if I am going to do a proper job of being your wife and living there.

I expect you already have heard about Einstein's theory of relativity which was published recently. I am more interested in the fact that Picasso is beginning what he calls his "Pink Period" in Paris.

Changing the subject, you know the Misserrimus, in the cloister of the Cathedral - the nameless grave for the unknown unfortunate who lies below. I much enjoyed reading the poetry about it and I have copied it here for you.

Miserrimus! and neither name or date,
Prayer, test, or symbol, graven on the stone;
Nought but that word assigned to the unknown;
That solitary word to separate
From all, and cast a cloud around the fate
Of him who lies beneath. Most wretched one;
Who chose his epitaph? Himself alone
Could thus have dared the grave to agitate,
And claim, among the dead, this awful crown;
Nor doubt that he marked also for his own,
Close to these cloistral steps, a burial place
That every foot might fall with heavier tread
Trampling upon his vileness. Stranger, pass Softly!
To save the contrite, Jesus bled.

Do you know the story of the man whose tomb it is? He was the Rev. Thomas Morris, a minor canon of the Cathedral and curate of Claines, a man of great charm and eloquence, handsome, kindly and cheerful. I have copied this information from a book about it I found in the library.

His story touches on the problem of loyalty, which caused so much heart-searching in the 17th century. He believed in the divine right of hereditary sovereigns, and when James II was driven from the throne, his conscience forbade him to transfer his allegiance to the new sovereigns William and Mary. There were others like him called non-jurors (a kind of conscientious objector). Eventually they were "ejected" from the Church, but only after the new Dean and Chapter had shown extraordinary forebearance, doing what they had to do only because it was law.

Thomas Morris withdrew from his office in the Church, but lingered under the shadow of the Cathedral, attending daily services, kind and gentle to all, leading a quiet life, until in great age, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle extinguished the last hope that the exiled royal family would return, and the old man's heart was broken.

He was carried to the grave in the cloister, close to the Cathedral he loved, but outside it, as he had been ejected. His coffin was borne by six maidens dressed in white, with rosettes of a pattern of his own choosing, and by his desire, one word "Miserrimus" was engraved on the stone."

A quick quote for you, 'Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.'

All for now. I am nearly late for whist.
Love,
Muriel

**

Lahat, Perak
15th December, 1905

Dear Muriel,
I wish you the happiest of Christmases, this second one when we will be apart, but it is my hope and plan that we shall be together for Christmas, 1906.

However, I have bad news. I was told today that my application for leave from April-May next year has been rejected. I will not have been here yet the required two years, and they were unwilling to make an exception for me, even for the very good reason of our hoped for wedding date. I have been assured however, that when I apply again, for a date after September, they will be much more likely to approve it.

So that means that our plans for sharing our wedding day with May and John will not happen after all. It means that I won't be able to see them married either. What a disappointment that will be for you - as it is for me, but more so for you. But we can with confidence plan our next wedding day and I will leave it to you to say when that shall be.

I think they are more likely to be pleased to give me time off in the winter months - November to February - so keep that in mind in your planning.

The Chinese lady who sold me your handbag was Rey Cheung. Write to her if you like, but she does not understand English writing. But I will try to find someone to translate it for her.

I do know my Wordsworth as well as Chesterton. You never did tell me that other one that I couldn't guess.

'I choose my wife as she did her wedding gown, not for a fine glossy surface, but such qualities as would wear well.' Have you chosen your wedding gown yet?

I feel so bad to be saying these things now when you want most to be happy. It will be a very lonely Christmas without you my love.

Harold

**

1906
January 20th

Dear Harold,
It is very British to start one's letter first with news of the weather, but we have had such atrocious weather. Your climate must seem like heaven in comparison. It has been cold. Frost, snow and storms, followed by more of the same, day after day, week after week.

I'm sure you have heard about how in the General Election on January 15th, the Liberals defeated the Conservatives in a landslide victory. The Tories lost 245 seats.

A very important news item as far as I was concerned: In Washington 300 suffragettes presented their demands for electoral reform. Perhaps if the American women get behind the cause we will have a better chance of success.

We went to Malvern on the 17th for a concert with Max Mossel and the pianist George Woodhouse. The accompanist spoiled the sonata, and it was a let down after the wonderful concerts we are used to.

This of course is the year of May and John's wedding, and ours to follow later. We have decided to go out looking for wedding dresses now, as there will be reductions just after Christmas, and we need to have the time to have them altered if need be.

I'm afraid I couldn't guess your last quote. Here is mine: 'The covers of this book are too far apart.'

Love
Muriel

P.S. May and I went shopping and looked for wedding dresses, and she tried on several. She will have to go with her mother when she finally is ready to make her choice, but we felt it was important to see what was on offer first. I also tried on some, and may well have made my choice. But I certainly am not going to tell you what it is like.

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