“Yes,” Jean agreed. “If life is merely a chance of gaining love she will come out with high marks. Did you give her the miniature?”
“Yes, just as we left, when you had walked on to the gate with Mr. Macdonald. She was so absurdly grateful she made me cry. You would have thought no one had ever given her a gift before.”
“The world,” said Jean, “is divided into two classes, the givers and the takers. Nothing so touches and pleases and surprises a ‘giver’ as to receive a gift. The ‘takers’ are too busy standing on their hind legs (like Peter at tea-time) looking wistfully for the next bit of cake to be very appreciative of the biscuit of the moment.”
“Bless me!” said Pamela, “Jean among the cynics!”
“The soul’s dark cottage,
batter’d and decay’d,
Lets in the light through chinks that time has made:
Stronger by weakness wiser men become
As they draw near to their eternal home:
Leaving the old, both worlds at once they view
That stand upon the threshold of the new.”
One day Pamela walked down to Hopetoun to lunch with Mrs. Hope. Augusta had gone away on a short visit and Pamela had promised to spend as much time as possible with her mother.
“You won’t be here much longer,” Mrs. Hope had said, “so spend as much time with me as you can spare, and we’ll talk books and quote poetry, and,” she had finished defiantly, “I’ll miscall my neighbours if I feel inclined.”
It was February now, and there was a hint of spring in the air. The sun was shining as if trying to make up for the days it had missed, the green shoots were pushing daringly forth, and a mavis in a holly-bush was chirping loudly and cheerfully. To-morrow they might be plunged back into winter, the green things nipped and discouraged, the birds silent—but to-day it was spring.
Pamela lingered by Tweedside listening to the mavis, looking back at the bridge spanning the river, the church steeple high against the pale blue sky, the little town pouring its houses down to the water’s edge. Hopetoun Woods were still bare and brown, but soon the larches would get their pencils, the beeches would unfurl tiny leaves of living green, and the celandines begin to poke their yellow heads through the carpet of last year’s leaves.
Mrs. Hope was sitting close to the window that looked out on the Hopetoun Woods. The spring sunshine and the notes of the mavis had brought to her a rush of memories.
“For what can spring renew
More fiercely for us than the need of you.”
Her knitting lay on her lap, a pile of new books stood on the table beside her, but her hands were idly folded, and she did not look at the books, did not even notice the sunshine; her eyes were with her heart, and that was far away across the black dividing sea in the last resting-places of her three sons. Wild laddies they had been, never at rest, never out of mischief, and now—“a’ quaitit noo in the grave.”