(This was the kind of thing girls at home had to put up with!)
“Well, mother, did you ever see such a funny old person?” said Esther, on her return to the parlour.
“You mustn’t laugh at him,” Mrs. Mesurier would say, laughing herself; “he’s a good old man.”
“No doubt he’s good enough, mother dear; but he’s unmistakably funny,” Esther would reply, with a whimsical thought of the family tree. Yes, they were a distinguished race!
No, the Mesuriers had absolutely nothing to hope for from their relations,—nothing to look back upon, less to look forward to. Most families, however poor and even bourgeois, had some memories to dignify them or some one possible contingency of pecuniary inheritance. At the very least, they had a ghost-story in the family. You seldom read the biographies of writers or artists without finding references, however remote, to at least one person of some distinction or substance. To have had even a curate for an ancestor, or a connection, would have been something, some frail link with gentility.
Now if, instead of being a rough old sea-captain of a trading ship, Grandfather Mesurier had only been a charming old white-headed admiral living in London, and glad, now and again, to welcome his little country granddaughters to stay with him! He would probably have been very dull, but then he would have looked distinguished, and taken one for walks in the Park, or bought one presents in the Burlington arcade. At least old admirals always seemed to serve this indulgent purpose in stories. At all events, he would have been something, some possible link with an existence of more generous opportunities. Dot and Mat would then at least have seen a nice boy or two occasionally, and in time got married as they deserved to be, and thus escape from this little provincial theatre of Sidon. Who could look at Dot and think that anything short of a miracle—a miracle like Esther’s own meeting with Mike—was going to find her a worthy mate in Sidon; and, suppose the miracle happened once more in her case, what of Mat and all the rest? To be the wife of a Sidonian town-councillor, at the highest,—what a fate!
Henry and she had often discussed this inadequate outlook for their younger sisters, quite in the manner of those whose positions of enlargement were practically achieved. The only thing to be done was for Henry to make haste to win a name as a writer, and Mike to make his fortune as an actor. Then another society would be at once opened to them all. Yes, what wonders were to take place then, particularly when Mike had made his fortune!—for the financial prospects of the young people were mainly centred in him. Literature seldom made much money—except when it wasn’t literature. Henry hoped to