Those “Atlantic liners” are an illustration of my meaning. To the young Mesuriers they were hideous chromo-lithographs in vulgar gilt frames, arbitrary defacements of home; but undoubtedly even they would have found a tolerant tenderness for them, had they realised that they represented the poetry—long since renounced and put behind him—of James Mesurier’s life. He had come of a race of sea-captains, two of his brothers had been sailors, and deep down in his heart the spirit of romance answered, with voice fresh and young as ever, to any breath or association of the sea. But he seldom, if ever, spoke of it, and only in an anecdote or two was it occasionally brought to mind. Sometimes his wife would tease him with the vanity which, on holidays by the sea, would send him forth on blustering tempestuous nights clad in a greatcoat of blue pilot-cloth and a sealskin cap, and tell how proud he was on one occasion, as he stood on the wharf, at being addressed as “captain,” and asked what ship he had brought into port. Even the hard heart of youth must soften at such a reminiscence.
Then scattered about the house was many a prosaic bit of furniture which was musical with memories for the parents,—memories of their first little homes and their early struggles together. This side-board, now relegated to the children’s play-room, had once been their piece de resistance in such and such a street, twelve years ago, before their children had risen up and—not called them blessed.
A few years, and the light of poetry will be upon these things for their children too; but, meanwhile, can we blame them that they cannot accept the poetry of their elders in exchange for that of their own which they are impatient to make? And when that poetry is made and resident in similar concrete objects of home—how will it seem, one wonders, to their children? This old desk which Esther has been allowed to appropriate, and in a secret drawer of which are already accumulating certain love-letters and lavender, will it ever, one wonders, turn to lumber in younger hands? For a little while she leans her sweet young bosom against it, and writes scented letters in a girlish hand to a little red-headed boy who has these past weeks begun to love her. Can it be possible that the desk on which Esther once wrote to her little Mike will ever hear itself spoken of as “this ugly old thing”? Let us hope not.
OF THE LOVE OF HENRY AND ESTHER
Father and son had both meant what they said; and even the mother, for whom it would be the cruellest wrench of all, knew that Henry was going to leave home. Not literally on the morrow, for the following evening he had appeared before his father to apologise for the manner—carefully for the manner, not the matter,—in which he had spoken to him the evening before, and asked for a day or two in which to make his arrangements for departure. James Mesurier was too strong a man to be resentful, and he accepted his son’s apology with a gentleness that, as each knew, detracted nothing from the resolution which each had come to.