Having made up their minds that there was no earthly reason why Charles Pixley and Hennie Penny should not be as happy as they were themselves, Margaret and Graeme saw to it that nothing should be awanting in the way of opportunity.
Miss Penny’s natural goodness of heart impelled her to the most delicate consideration towards Mrs. Pixley. Hennie Penny, you see, had come bravely through dire troubles of her own, and tribulation softens the heart as it does the ormer. She anticipated the nervous old lady’s every want, soothed her bruised susceptibilities in a thousand hidden ways, tended her as lovingly as an only daughter might have done,—and all out of the sheer necessity of her heart, and with never a thought of reward other than the satisfaction of her own desire for the happiness of all about her.
Not that the others were one whit less considerate, but, in the natural course of things, Miss Penny’s heart and time were, perhaps, a little more at liberty for outside service, and in Mrs. Pixley the opportunity met her half-way.
It is safe to say that the old lady had never in her life been so much made of. Margaret had always been gentle and sweet with her; but the cold white light of Mr. Pixley’s unco’ guidness had always cast a shadow upon the household, and Margaret had got from under it whenever the chance offered.
“You are very good to me, my dear,” Charles heard his mother say to Hennie Penny, one day when they two were alone together and did not know anyone was near. “If I had ever had a daughter I would have liked her to be like you. How did you learn to be so thoughtful of other people?”
“I think it must have been through having come through lots of troubles of my own,” said Hennie Penny simply.
“Troubles abound,” said the tremulous old lady. “You have drawn the sting of yours and kept only the honey,” which saying astonished Charles greatly. He had no idea his mother could say things like that. She had had time to think plenty of them, indeed, but there had never been room for more than one shining light in the household and that had cast strong shadows.
Charles had gone quietly away smiling to himself, and had been in cheerful spirits for the rest of the day.
The first night, when the ladies had gone chattering upstairs to make sure that all the arrangements were in order, Graeme and Pixley sat out on the verandah smoking a final pipe.
The ladies’ voices floated through the open windows as they passed from room to room, and Graeme laughed softly. “What’s up?” asked Pixley, gazing at him soberly.
“I was thinking of the changes here since the first night I slept in this house all by myself, and heard ghosts creeping about and all kinds of noises.”
“Much jollier to hear them,” said Charles, as Miss Penny’s and Margaret’s laughter came floating down the softness of the night.