His thrashing had been so unjustly severe, that even the granite little hearts of his sisters had been softened; and Esther, managing to secrete a cake that he loved from the tea that was lost to him, stole with it to the top of the house, where he writhed amid lonely echoes and shadows.
She had brought it to him awkwardly, by no means sure of its reception, but sure in her heart that she would hate him for ever, if he missed the meaning of the little solatium. But fortunately his back was far too sore, and his spirit too broken to remember his pride, and he accepted the offering with gratitude and tears.
“Kiss me, Esther,” he had said; and a wonderful thrill had gone through the little girl at this strange softness in the mighty, while the dawn of a wonderful pity for the lot of woman had, unconsciously, broken in the soul of the boy.
“Kiss me again, Esther,” he had said, and, with the tears that mingled in that kiss, an eternal friendship was baptized.
Henry rose on the morrow a changed being. The grosser pretensions of the male had fallen from him for ever, and there was at first something almost awe-inspiring to his sisters in the gentle solicitude for them and their rights and pleasures which replaced the old despotism. From that time, Esther and he became closer and closer companions, and as they more and more formed an oligarchy of two, a rearrangement of parties in the little parliament of home came about, to be upset again as Dot and Mat qualified for admission into that exclusive little circle.
So soon as Henry had a new dream or a new thought, he shared it with Esther; and freely as he had received from Carlyle, or Emerson, or Thoreau, freely he passed it on to her. For the gloomiest occasion he had some strengthening text, and one of the last things he did before he left home was to make for her a little book which he called “Faith for Cloudy Days,” consisting of energising and sustaining phrases from certain great writers,—as it were, a bottle of philosophical phosphates against seasons of spiritual cowardice or debility. There one opened and read: “Sudden the worst turns best to the brave” or Thoreau’s “I have yet to hear a single word of wisdom spoken to me by my elders,” or again Matthew Arnold’s
“Tasks in hours
of insight willed
May be through hours of gloom fulfilled.”
James Mesurier knew nothing of all this; but if he had, he might have understood that after all his children were not so far from the kingdom of heaven.
OF THE PROFESSIONS THAT CHOOSE, AND MIKE LAFLIN