This sub-conscious sense of aristocracy—it must be observed, lest it should have been insufficiently implied—was almost humorously dissociated in the minds of the young Mesuriers from any recorded family distinctions. In so far as it was conscious, it was defiantly independent of genealogy. Had the Mesuriers possessed a coat-of-arms, James Mesurier would probably have kept it locked up as a frivolity to be ashamed of, for it was a part of his Puritanism that such earthly distinctions were foolishness with God; but, as a matter of fact, between Adam and the immediate great-grandparents of the young Mesuriers, there was a void which the Herald’s office would have found a difficulty in filling. This it never occurred to them to mind in the least.
It was one of Henry’s deep-sunken maxims that “a distinguished product implied a distinguished process,” and that, at all events, the genealogical process was only illustratively important. It would have been interesting to know how they, the Mesuriers, came to be what they were. In the dark night of their history a family portrait or two, or an occasional reference in history, would have been an entertaining illumination—but, such not being forthcoming, they were, documentally, so much the less indebted to their progenitors. Yet if they had only been able to claim some ancestor with a wig and a degree for the humanities, or some beautiful ancestress with a romantic reputation! One’s own present is so much more interesting for developing, or even repeating, some one else’s past. And yet how much better it was to be as they were, than as most scions of aristocratic lineage, whose present was so often nothing and their past everything. How humiliating to be so pathetically inadequate an outcome of such long and elaborate preparation,—the mouse of a genealogical mountain! Yes, it was immeasurably more satisfactory to one’s self-respect to be Something out of Nothing, than Nothing out of Everything. Here so little had made so much; here so much had made—hardly even a lord. It was better for your circumstances to be inadequate for you, than you to be inadequate for your circumstances.