Mike created some valuable nonsense on the occasion, which unfortunately has not been preserved, and Esther was disgusted with Henry because he could give no intelligible description of the latest London hats; and all examined with due reverence those wonderful books for review.
In Tichborne Street Aunt Tipping had taken advantage of his absence to enrich his room with a bargain in the shape of an old desk, which was the very thing he wanted. Dear old Aunt Tipping! And Gerard, it is to be feared, took a little more brandy than usual in honour of his young friend’s adventures in the capital.
These excitements over, Henry sat down at his old desk to write his first review; and there for the present we may leave him, for he took it very seriously and was dangerous to interrupt.
THE OLD HOME MEANWHILE
More than a year had now gone by since Henry left home, and meanwhile, with the exception of Dot’s baptism, there had been no exciting changes to record. Perhaps uneventfulness is part of the security of a real home. Every morning James Mesurier had risen at half-past six,—though he no longer imposed that hour of rising upon his daughters,—breakfasted at eight, and reached his office at nine. Every evening during those months, punctually at half-past six his latch-key had rattled in the front-door lock, and one or other of his daughters had hurried out at the sound to bid him welcome home.
“Home at last, father dear!” they had said, helping him off with his coat; and sometimes when he felt bright he would answer,—
“Yes, my dear, night brings crows home.”
“Home again, James!” his wife would say, as he next entered the front parlour, and bent down to kiss her where she sat. “It’s a long day. Isn’t it time you were pulling in a bit? Surely some of the younger heads should begin to relieve you.”
“Responsibility, Mary dear! We cannot delegate responsibility,” he would answer.
“But we see nothing of you. You just sacrifice your whole life for the business.”
If he were in a good humour, he might answer with one of his rare sweet laughs, and jokingly make one of his few French quotations: “Telle est la vie! my dear, Telle est la vie! That’s the French for it, isn’t it, Dot?”
James Mesurier was just perceptibly softening. Perhaps it was that he was growing a little tired, that he was no longer quite the stern disciplinarian we met in the first chapter; perhaps the influence of his wife, and his experiences with his children, were beginning to hint to him what it takes so long for a strong individual nature to learn, that the law of one temperament cannot justly or fruitfully be enforced as the law of another.
The younger children—Esther and Dot and Mat used sometimes to say to each other—would grow up in a more clement atmosphere of home than had been Henry’s and theirs. Already they were quietly assuming privileges, and nothing said, that would have meant beatings for their elders. For these things had Henry and Esther gladly faced martyrdom. Henry had looked on the Promised Land, but been denied an entrance there. By his stripes this younger generation would be healed.