"It's beautifully fine," said Miss Benson, still examining the piece.
"You think that it is a right which must be earned?"
"Yes," said she, after a minute's pause. "Don't you?"
"I understand what you mean. It is a delight to have gifts made to you by those whom you esteem and love, because then such gifts are merely to be considered as fringes to the garment--as inconsiderable additions to the mighty treasure of their affection, adding a grace, but no additional value, to what before was precious, and proceeding as naturally out of that as leaves burgeon out upon the trees; but you feel it to be different when there is no regard for the giver to idealise the gift--when it simply takes its stand among your property as so much money's value. Is this it, Ruth?"
"I think it is. I never reasoned why I felt as I did; I only knew that Mr. Bradshaw's giving me a present hurt me, instead of making me glad."
"Well, but there is another side of the case we have not looked at yet--we must think of that, too. You know who said, 'Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you'? Mr. Bradshaw may not have had that in his mind when he desired his wife to send you this; he may have been self-seeking, and only anxious to gratify his love of patronising--that is the worst motive we can give him; and that would be no excuse for your thinking only of yourself, and returning his present."
"But you would not have me pretend to be obliged?" asked Ruth.
"No, I would not. I have often been similarly situated to you, Ruth; Mr. Bradshaw has frequently opposed me on the points on which I feel the warmest--am the most earnestly convinced. He, no doubt, thinks me Quixotic, and often speaks of me, and to me, with great contempt when he is angry. I suppose he has a little fit of penitence afterwards, or perhaps he thinks he can pay for ungracious speeches by a present; so, formerly, he invariably sent me something after these occasions. It was a time, of all others, to feel as you are doing now; but I became convinced it would be right to accept them, giving only the very cool thanks which I felt. This omission of all show of much gratitude had the best effect--the presents have much diminished; but, if the gifts have lessened, the unjustifiable speeches have decreased in still greater proportion, and I am sure we respect each other more. Take this muslin, Ruth, for the reason I named; and thank him as your feelings prompt you. Overstrained expressions of gratitude always seem like an endeavour to place the receiver of these expressions in the position of debtor for future favours. But you won't fall into this error."