THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF HOME
Recalling for another moment or two the ancient affair of the heart described in the last chapter, it may pertinently be added that James Mesurier fulfilled his threat on that occasion, and had in fact written to the “forward little girl’s” parents. Could he have seen the rather amused reception of his letter, he would have realised with sorrow that an age of parental leniency, little short of degeneration, was in certain quarters unmistakably supplanting the stern age of which he was in a degree an anachronistic survival. That forward little girl’s parents chanced to know James Mesurier enough by sight and reputation to respect him, while they smiled across to each other at his rather quaint disciplinarianism. Could Henry Mesurier have seen that smile, he would not only have felt reassured as to the fate of his little sweetheart, but have understood that there were temperate zones of childhood, as well as arctic, when young life waxed gaily to the sound of laughter and other musical accompaniments.
This revelation, however, was deferred some few years, till he became acquainted with the merry family of which Mike Laflin was the characteristic expression. Old Mr. Laflin was a little, jolly, bald-headed gentleman, bubbling over with mirth, who liked to have young people about him, and in his quips and cranks was as young as, and much cleverer than, any of them. It almost startled Henry on his first introduction to this family of two daughters and two brothers, where the father was rather like a brother grown prematurely bald, and the stepmother supplied with monumental dignity that element of solemnity without which no properly regulated household is complete, to notice the camaraderie which prevailed amongst them all. Jokes were flying about from one to another all the time, and the father made a point of capping them all. This was home in a liberal sense which the word had never meant to Henry. Doubtless, it had its own individual restrictions and censorships; but its surface was at all events debonair, and it was serviceable to Henry as revealing the existence of more genial social climates than that in which he had been nurtured—though in making the comparison with his own atmosphere, he realised that this bonhomie was nothing more important than a grace.
Perhaps, nay, very surely, the seriousness, even the severity of, his own training, had been among the very conditions needed to make him what he some day hoped to be, though they had seemed so purposely inimical. Had James Mesurier’s religion been more free and easy, a matter less personally assured and momentous, his son’s almost oppressive sense of the spiritual significance of existence had been less radiant and constantly supporting. Life might have gained in superficial liveableness; but it would have lost in intensity, in real importance, and with that loss would have gone too Henry’s chance of being a poet.” The poet in a golden clime was born!”—once and again, maybe, but more often he comes from a land of iron and tears.