I have been asked to try and recall any memories I may have of Miss Mason and I have attempted once or twice to write something adequate but have failed miserably. Time and events from the outside seem to have made a long leap from the days when I first worked for the P.N.E.U.
But a picture of a certain Sunday in Advent, though it must be twenty odd years ago, rises to my mind and is as fresh as if it had occurred yesterday. It was my first visit to Ambleside as appointed, or provisionally appointed Secretary to the London Office. I was horribly frightened (I had only arrived the night before) the students knew so much more than I did--I had no training--nothing but a hope that I might possibly be the right person for the job. Miss Mason I was told had talks with her students on Sunday afternoons. We assembled in the drawing room, it looked so countrified to my London eyes, and the trunk and branches of a cherry tree outside the window held my attention--as well as the portrait of Matthew Arnold on the wall. Trees and Arnold might help me I thought to keep my nervousness within bounds. I remember Miss Mason and her gentle smile and voice as she explained my presence to the others there. The actual words of her talk I have forgotten, but I hope not the spirit. "That thoughts out of many hearts may be revealed" was the stone upon which she built a complete" house of education" for us that afternoon--explaining how thoughts could be translated into action when revealed, and like young plants bear fruit in due season in the lives of the young children who were to carry on the work.
I have since looked up this text on which the little sermon was built and find I had underlined the words following "There was one Anna a prophetess." Surely something then had moved me to connect the two ideas. Had I realized dimly at this first meeting, that a prophetess was speaking, and that slowly and surely her prophecies would be fulfilled? That she was then revealing to a little handful of her followers something of that wealth of though which she was depending upon us to translate into action?
I know I hoped sincerely that I might bear my part in the good cause.
Ms. Mason was gifted in many ways, but in none I think more than in her power of inspiring others with ideas, and ideas fundamentally so sound, that those who were able to work them out, felt that they must originate in truth--so often ideas are inspiring for a time, but having little actuality, little relation with facts--they do not live to bear fruit. We can all say of Ms. Mason's work for children and true education, that it dealt with those primary conceptions of the tense value of every human soul that nothing of God's gifts given direct by God Himself, or through the instrument of his creatures could be too good for it. I think I had the impression that this was the thought in her heart that Sunday that she was revealing to us, and that we on our part were earnestly desiring that it might be the spirit in which the work could be accomplished and the only way in which it could ever be accomplished. This must have been so for I find marked with the same date, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings." Whether I elaborated the idea for myself, or whether Ms. Mason did for me, I am after this long stretch of years unable to tell. The train of thought was continued somehow to its conclusion. If we were able to reveal the thoughts in our hearts to the children, they would so express themselves that we could not fail to recognise the source from which all inspiration and good thoughts come, that are only truly revealed in "that perfected praise" which is the inherited gift of the children of God.
This little sermon, if I may call it so, has recurred to my mind over and over again and I have written it out as best I may--as a very small tribute to the memory of one for whom I had and have a very profound admiration.
Frances Chesterton.(wife of GK Chesterton)