“My boy,” he said, “you will never have such good friends as your father and mother; but it is best that you go out into the world to learn it.”
There is something terribly winning and unnerving to the blackest resolution, when the severity of the strong dissolves for a brief moment into tenderness. The rare kind words of the stern, explain it as we will, and unjust as the preference must surely be, one values beyond the frequent forgivenesses of the gentle. Mary Mesurier would have laid down her life in defence of her son’s greatest fault, and James Mesurier would as readily have court-martialled him for his smallest, and yet, somehow, a kind word from him brought the tears to his son’s eyes.
He had no longer the heart to stimulate the rebellion of Esther, as he felt it his duty to do; and, to her disappointment, he announced that, on the whole, it would perhaps be best for him to go alone.
“It would almost kill poor mother,” he said; “and father means well after all,” he added.
“I’m afraid it would break father’s heart,” said Esther.
So these two young people agreed to spare their parents, though—let it not be otherwise imagined—at a great sacrifice. The little paper on which they had carefully worked out their housekeeping, skilfully allotting so much for rent, butcher’s meat, milk, coals, and washing, and making “everything” come most optimistically to L59 17s. 9d. a year, would be of no use now, at all events for the present. Their little Charles and Mary Lamb dream must be laid aside—for, of course, they had thought of Charles and Mary Lamb; and indeed, out beyond this history of a few youthful years, their friendship was to prove itself far from unworthy of its famous model.
Yet at this time it was of no great antiquity; for, but a very few years back, Henry had been a miniature tyrant too, and ruled it over his kingdom of six sisters with all the hideous egoism of a pampered “son and heir.” Although in the very middle class of society into which Henry Mesurier was born, the dignity of eldest son is one but very contingently connected with tangible inheritance, it is none the less vigorously kept up; and, no doubt, without any consciousness of partiality, Henry Mesurier, from his childhood, had been brought up to regard himself as a sort of young prince, for whom all the privileges of home were, by divine right, reserved. For example, he took his meals with his parents fully five years before any of his sisters were allowed to do so; and for retention of this privilege, when at length the democratic measure of its extension to his two elder sisters was proposed, he fought with the bitterest spirit of caste. Indeed, few oligarchs have been more wildly hated than Henry Mesurier up to the age, say, of fourteen. That was the age of his last thrashing, and it was in the gloomy dusk of that momentous occasion, as he lay alone with smarting back in the twilight of an unusually early bed-time, that a possible new view of woman—as a creature of like passions and privileges—presented itself to him.