The elder girls hastened to draw close to their father in gratitude, and home breathed a kinder, freer air than ever had been known before. Between Esther and her father particularly a kind of comradeship began to spring up, which perhaps more than ever made the mother miss her boy.
But, all the same, home was growing old. This was the kindness of the setting sun!
Childless middle age is no doubt often dreary to contemplate, yet is it an egoistical bias which leads one to find in such limitation, or one might rather say preservation, of the ego, a certain compensation? The childless man or woman has at least preserved his or her individuality, as few fathers and mothers of large families are suffered to do. By the time you are fifty, with a family of half a dozen children, you have become comparatively impersonal as “father” or “mother.” It is tacitly recognised that your life-work is finished, that your ambitions are accomplished or not, and that your hopes are at an end.
The young Mesuriers, for example, were all eagerly hastening towards their several futures. They were garrulous over them at every meal. But to what future in this world were James and Mary Mesurier looking forward? Love had blossomed and brought forth fruit, but the fruit was quickly ripening, and stranger hands would soon pluck it from the boughs. In a very few years they would sit under a roof-tree bared of fruit and blossom, and sad with falling leaves. They had dreamed their dream, and there is only one such dream for a lifetime; now they must sit and listen to the dreams of their children, help them to build theirs. They mattered now no longer for themselves, but just as so much aid and sympathy on which their children might draw. Too well in their hearts they knew that their children only heard them with patience so long as they talked of their to-morrows. Should they sometimes dwell wistfully on their own yesterdays, they could too plainly see how long the story seemed.
Telle est la vie! as James Mesurier said, and, that being so, no wonder life is a sad business. Better perhaps be childless and retain one’s own personal hopes and fears for life, than be so relegated to history in the very zenith of one’s days. If only this younger generation at the door were always, as it assumes, stronger and better than its elder! but, though the careless assumption that it is so is somewhat general, history alone shows how false and impudent the assumption often is. Too often genius itself must submit to the silly presumption of its noisy and fatuous children, and it is the young fool who too often knocks imperiously at the door of wise and active middle age.