Page:Life of Octavia Hill as told in her letters.djvu/91

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but, as one grows and lives, above all as year follows year, and there is removed from one's side one whose blessed smile has lighted our Christmas hearth, as the vacant chair becomes a witness of the lost one, as one is conscious of the "one mute presence watching all," when one has said in one's heart, "Why should we keep Christmas at all; witness as it is of change?" and one has answered, "Would the sense of change forsake you if you had no such time? Do you wish that it should leave you? Or has it taught you to put all trust in One who is unchanging, Who gives to all their work, Who binds all in one?" When one has felt all this, the mirth of Christmas is gone but not its value; witness, as it is, of that inward union of which we vainly strive to hold the outward symbol. We may spend it in the truest sense with those who have been called to other lands.

But these, my children, to whom care and anxiety are so familiar, and to whom all the beauty and poetry of life are so strange, so new,—I must bring home to them some of the gladness which they see around them; their only Christmas trees must not be those in confectioners' windows, at which they gaze with longing eyes. There is time enough for Christmas to become solemn, when it has become joyful and dear.

I thought that I loved these children when I was with you. I did not know how much it was possible to love them. I am very much pleased about another person, with whom I have been so long,—Miss Cons. She has now thoroughly established herself, and has begun to study, walk, think, draw, be entirely independent of me. More than this, when she came here, she had not a single person in the world to love or be loved by except her own family. … Our Miss Cons,