“Not useless. We need the flowers and the butterflies and the things that adorn.... I wish Jean would give herself over to pleasure for a little. Her poor little head is full of schemes—quite practical schemes they are too, she has a shrewd head—about helping others. I tell her she will do it all in good time, but I want her to forget the woes of the world for a little and rejoice in her youth.”
“I know,” said Pamela. “I was astonished to find how responsible she felt for the misery in the world. She is determined to build a heaven in hell’s despair! It reminds one of Saint Theresa setting out holding her little brother’s hand to convert the Moors!... Now I’ve stayed too long and tired you, and Augusta will have me assassinated. Thank you, my very dear lady, for letting me come to see you, and for—telling me about your sons. Bless you....”
“For never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.”
As You Like It.
The lot of the conscientious philanthropist is not an easy one. The kind but unthinking rich can strew their benefits about, careless of their effect on the recipients, but the path of the earnest lover of his fellows is thorny and difficult, and dark with disappointment.
To Jean in her innocence it had seemed that money was the one thing necessary to make bright the lives of her poorer neighbours. She pictured herself as a sort of fairy godmother going from house to house carrying sunshine and leaving smiles and happiness in her wake. She soon found that her dreams had been rosy delusions. Far otherwise was the result of her efforts.
“It’s like something in a fairy-tale,” she complained to Pamela. “You are given a fairy palace, but when you try to go to it mountains of glass are set before you and you can’t reach it. You can’t think how different the people are to me now. The very poor whom I thought I could help don’t treat me any longer like a friend to whom they can tell their troubles in a friendly way. The poor-spirited ones whine, with an eye on my pocket, and where I used to get welcoming smiles I now only get expectant grins. And the high-spirited ones are so afraid that I’ll offer them help that their time is spent in snubbing me and keeping me in my place.”
“It’s no use getting down about it,” Pamela told her. “You are only finding what thousands have found before you, that’s it the most difficult thing in the world to be wisely charitable. You will never remove mountains. If you can smooth a step here and there for people and make your small corner of the world as pleasant as possible you do very well.”
Jean agreed with a sigh. “If I don’t finish by doing harm. I have awful thoughts sometimes about the dire effects money may have on the boys—on Mhor especially. In any case it will change their lives entirely. It’s a solemnising thought,” and she laughed ruefully.