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The Happiest Time of Their Lives by Alice Duer Miller

Part 3 out of 5

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"Who has the room above mine, Adelaide?" he asked.

"My maid."

"Ask her not to practice the fox-trot, will you?"

"O Vincent, she is never there."

"My mistake," he answered, and shut his eyes.

She repented at once.

"Of course I'll tell her. I'm sorry that you were disturbed." But she
was thinking only of his tone. He was not an irritable man, and he had
never used such a tone to her before. All pleasure in the interview was
over. She was actually glad when one of the nurses came in and began to
move about the room in a manner that suggested dismissal.

"Of course I'm not angry," she said to herself. "He's so weak one must
humor him like a child."

She derived some satisfaction, however, from the idea of sending for her
maid Lucie and making her uncomfortable; but on her way she met Mathilde
in the hall.

"May I speak to you, Mama?" she said.

Mrs. Farron laughed.

"May you speak to me?" she said. "Why, yes; you may have the unusual
privilege. What is it?"

Mathilde followed her mother into the bedroom and shut the door.

"Pete has just been here. He has been offered a position in China."

"In China?" said Mrs. Farron. This was the first piece of luck that had
come to her in a long time, but she did not betray the least pleasure. "I
hope it is a good one."

"Yes, he thinks it good. He sails in two weeks."

"In two weeks?" And this time she could not prevent her eye lighting a
little. She thought how nicely that small complication had settled
itself, and how clever she had been to have the mother to dinner and
behave as if she were friendly. She did not notice that her daughter was
trembling; she couldn't, of course, be expected to know that the girl's
hands were like ice, and that she had waited several seconds to steady
her voice sufficiently to pronounce the fatal sentence:

"He wants me to go with him, Mama."

She watched her mother in an agony for the effect of these words.
Mrs. Farron had suddenly detected a new burn in the hearth-rug. She
bent over it.

"This wood does snap so!" she murmured.

The rug was a beautiful old Persian carpet of roses and urns.

"Did you understand what I said, Mama?"

"Yes, dear; that Mr. Wayne was going to China in two weeks and wanted you
to go, too. Was it just a _politesse_, or does he actually imagine that
you could?"

"He thinks I can."

Mrs. Farron laughed good-temperedly.

"Did you go and see about having your pink silk shortened?" she said.

Mathilde stared at her mother, and in the momentary silence Lucie came in
and asked what madame wanted for the evening, and Adelaide in her fluent
French began explaining that what she really desired most was that Lucie
should not make so much noise in her room that monsieur could not sleep.
In the midst of it she stopped and turned to her daughter.

"Won't you be late for dinner, darling?" she said.

Mathilde thought it very possible, and went away to get dressed. She went
into her own room and shut the door sharply behind her.

All the time she was dressing she tried to rehearse her case--that it
was her life, her love, her chance; but all the time she had a sickening
sense that a lifted eye-brow of her mother's would make it sound childish
and absurd even in her own ears. She had counted on a long evening, but
when she went down-stairs she found three or four friends of her mother's
were to dine and go to the theater. The dinner was amusing, the talk,
though avowedly hampered by the presence of Mathilde, was witty and
unexpected enough; but Mathilde was not amused by it, for she
particularly dreaded her mother in such a mood of ruthless gaiety. At the
theater they were extremely critical, and though they missed almost the
whole first act, appeared, in the entr'acte, to feel no hesitation in
condemning it. They spoke of French and Italian actors by name, laughed
heartily over the playwright's conception of social usages, and made
Mathilde feel as if her own unacknowledged enjoyment of the play was the
guiltiest of secrets.

As they drove home, she was again alone with her mother, and she said at
once the sentence she had determined on:

"I don't think you understood, Mama, how seriously I meant what I said
this afternoon."

Mrs. Farron was bending her long-waisted figure forward to get a good
look at a picture which, small, lonely, and brightly lighted, hung in a
picture-dealer's window. It was a picture of an empty room. Hot summer
sunlight filtered through the lowered Venetian blinds, and fell in bands
on the golden wood of the floor. Outside the air was burned and dusty,
but inside the room all was clear, cool, and pure.

"How perfect his things are," murmured Mrs. Farron to herself, and then
added to her daughter: "Yes, my dear, I did take in what you said. You
really think you are in love with this Wayne boy, don't you? It's
immensely to your credit, darling," she went on, her tone taking on a
flattering sweetness, "to care so much about any one who has such funny,
stubby little hands--most unattractive hands," she added almost dreamily.

There was a long pause during which an extraordinary thing happened to
Mathilde. She found that it didn't make the very slightest difference to
her what her mother thought of Pete or his hands, that it would never
make any difference to her again. It was as if her will had suddenly
been born, and the first act of that will was to decide to go with the
man she loved. How could she have doubted for an instant? It was so
simple, and no opposition would or could mean anything to her. She was
not in the least angry; on the contrary, she felt extremely pitiful, as
if she were saying good-by to some one who did not know she was going
away, as if in a sense she had now parted from her mother forever. Tears
came into her eyes.

"Ah, Mama!" she said like a sigh.

Mrs. Farron felt she had been cruel, but without regretting it; for that,
she thought, was often a parent's duty.

"I don't want to hurt your feelings, Mathilde. The boy is a nice enough
little person, but really I could not let you set off for China at a
minute's notice with any broker's clerk who happened to fall in love with
your golden hair. When you have a little more experience you will
discriminate between the men you like to have love you and the men there
is the smallest chance of your loving. I assure you, if little Wayne were
not in love with you, you would think him a perfectly commonplace boy. If
one of your friends were engaged to him, you would be the first to say
that you wondered what it was she saw in him. That isn't the way one
wants people to feel about one's husband, is it? And as to going to China
with him, you know that's impossible, don't you?"

"It would be impossible to let him go without me."

"Really, Mathilde!" said Mrs. Farron, gently, as if she, so willing to
play fair, were being put off with fantasies. "I don't understand you,"
she added.

"No, Mama; you don't."

The motor stopped at the door, and they went in silence to Mrs. Farron's
room, where for a bitter hour they talked, neither yielding an inch. At
last Adelaide sent the girl to bed. Mathilde was aware of profound
physical exhaustion, and yet underneath there was a high knowledge of
something unbreakable within her.

Left alone, Adelaide turned instinctively toward her husband's door.
There were her strength and vision. Then she remembered, and drew back;
but presently, hearing a stir there, she knocked very softly. A nurse
appeared on the instant.

"Oh, _please_, Mrs. Farron! Mr. Farron has just got to sleep."

Adelaide stood alone in the middle of the floor. Once again, she thought,
in a crisis of her life she had no one to depend on but herself. She
lifted her shoulders. No one was to blame, but there the fact was. They
urged you to cling and be guided, but when the pinch came, you had to act
for yourself. She had learned her lesson now. Henceforward she took her
own life over into her own hands.

She reviewed her past dependences. Her youth, with its dependence on her
father, particularly in matters of dress. She recalled her early
photographs with a shudder. Had she really dressed so badly or was it
only the change of fashion? And then her dependence on Joe Severance.
What could be more ridiculous than for a woman of her intelligence to
allow herself to be guided in everything by a man like Joe, who had
nothing himself but a certain shrewd masculinity? And now Vincent. She
was still under the spell of his superiority, but perhaps she would come
to judge him too. She had learned much from him. Perhaps she had learned
all he had to teach her. Her face looked as if it were carved out of some
smooth white stone.


After she had gone up-stairs, Mathilde went down again to telephone Pete
that she had made her decision. She went boldly snapping electric
switches, for her going was a sort of assertion of her right to
independent action. She would have hesitated even less if she had known
how welcome her news was, how he had suffered since their parting.

On going home from his interview with her, he found his mother dressing
to dine with Mr. Lanley, a party arranged before the unexpected arrival
of Mrs. Baxter. The only part of dressing that delayed Mrs. Wayne was her
hair, which was so long that the brushing of it took time. In this
process she was engaged when her son, in response to her answer, came
into her room.

"How is Mr. Farron?" she asked at once, and he, rather touched at the
genuineness of her interest, answered her in detail before her next
exclamation betrayed that it was entirely for the employer of Marty
Burke that she was solicitous. "Isn't it too bad he was taken ill just
now?" she said.

The bitterness and doubt from which Wayne was suffering were not emotions
that disposed him to confidence. He did not want to tell his mother what
he was going through, for the obvious and perhaps unworthy reason that it
was just what she would have expected him to go through. At the same time
a real deceit was involved in concealing it, and so, tipping his chair
back against her wall, he said:

"The firm has asked me to go to China for them."

His mother turned, her whole face lit up with interest.

"To China! How interesting!" she said. "China is a wonderful country. How
I should like to go to China!"

"Come along. I don't start for two weeks."

She shook her head.

"No, if you go, I'll make a trip to that hypnotic clinic of Dr.
Platerbridge's; and if I can learn the trick, I will open one here."

The idea crossed Wayne's mind that perhaps he had not the power of
inspiring affection.

"You don't miss people a bit, do you, Mother?" he said.

"Yes, Pete, I do; only there is so much to be done. What does Mathilde
say to you going off like this? How long will you be gone?"

"More than a year."

"Pete, how awful for her!"

"There is nothing to prevent her going with me."

"You couldn't take that child to China."

"You may be glad to know that she is cordially of your opinion."

The feeling behind his tone at last attracted his mother's full

"But, my dear boy," she said gently, "she has never been anywhere in her
life without a maid. She probably doesn't know how to do her hair or mend
her clothes or anything practical."

"Mother dear, you are not so awfully practical yourself," he answered;
"but you would have gone."

Mrs. Wayne looked impish.

"I always loved that sort of thing," she said; and then, becoming more
maternal, she added, "and that doesn't mean it would be sensible because
I'd do it."

"Well,"--Wayne stood up preparatory to leaving the room,--"I mean to take
her if she'll go."

His mother, who had now finished winding her braid very neatly around her
head, sank into a chair.

"Oh, dear!" she said, "I almost wish I weren't dining with Mr. Lanley.
He'll think it's all my fault."

"I doubt if he knows about it."

Mrs. Wayne's eyes twinkled.

"May I tell him? I should like to see his face."

"Tell him I am going, if you like. Don't say I want to take her with me."

Her face fell.

"That wouldn't be much fun," she answered, "because I suppose the truth
is they won't be sorry to have you out of the way."

"I suppose not," he said, and shut the door behind him. He could not
truthfully say that his mother had been much of a comfort. He had
suddenly thought that he would go down to the first floor and get Lily
Parret to go to the theater with him. He and she had the warm friendship
for each other of two handsome, healthy young people of opposite sexes
who might have everything to give each other except time. She was
perhaps ten years older than he, extremely handsome, with dimples and
dark red hair and blue eyes. She had a large practice among the poor,
and might have made a conspicuous success of her profession if it had
not been for her intense and too widely diffused interest. She wanted to
strike a blow at every abuse that came to her attention, and as, in the
course of her work, a great many turned up, she was always striking
blows and never following them up. She went through life in a series of
springs, each one in a different direction; but the motion of her
attack was as splendid as that of a tiger. Often she was successful, and
always she enjoyed herself.

When she answered Pete's ring, and he looked up at her magnificent
height, her dimples appeared in welcome. She really was glad to see him.

"Come out and dine with me, Lily, and go to the theater."

"Come to a meeting at Cooper Union on capital punishment. I'm going to
speak, and I'm going to be very good."

"No, Lily; I want to explain to you what a pitiable sex you belong to.
You have no character, no will--"

She shook her head, laughing.

"You are a personal lot, you young men," she said. "You change your mind
about women every day, according to how one of them treats you."

"They don't amount to a row of pins, Lily."

"Certainly some men select that kind, Pete."

"O Lily," he answered, "don't talk to me like that! I want some one to
tell me I'm perfect, and, strangely enough, no one will."

"I will," she answered, with beaming good nature, "and I pretty near
think so, too. But I can't dine with you, Pete. Wouldn't you like to go
to my meeting?"

"I should perfectly hate to," he answered, and went off crossly, to
dine at his college's local club. Here he found an old friend, who most
fortunately said something derogatory of the firm of Benson & Honaton.
The opinion coincided with certain phases of Wayne's own views, but he
contradicted it, held it up to ridicule, and ended by quoting incidents
in the history of his friend's own firm which, as he said, were
probably among the crookedest things that had ever been put over in
Wall Street. Lily would not have distracted his mind more completely.
He felt almost cheerful when he went home about ten o'clock. His mother
was still out, and there was no letter from Mathilde. He had been
counting on finding one.

Before long his mother came in. She was looking very fine. She had on a
new gray dress that she had had made for her by a fallen woman from an
asylum, but which had turned out better than such ventures of Mrs.
Wayne's usually did.

She had supposed she and Mr. Lanley were to dine alone, an idea which
had not struck her as revolutionary. Accustomed to strange meals in
strange company--a bowl of milk with a prison chaplain at a dairy
lunch-room, or even, on one occasion, a supper in an Owl Lunch Wagon with
a wavering drunkard,--she had thought that a quiet, perfect dinner with
Mr. Lanley sounded pleasant enough. But she was not sorry to find it had
been enlarged. She liked to meet new people. She was extremely
optimistic, and always hoped that they would prove either spiritually
rewarding, or practically useful to some of her projects. When she saw
Mrs. Baxter, with her jetty hair, jeweled collar, and eyes a trifle too
saurian for perfect beauty, she at once saw a subscription to the
working-girl's club. The fourth person Mr. Wilsey, Lanley's lawyer, she
knew well by reputation. She wondered if she could make him see that his
position on the eight-hour law was absolutely anti-social.

Mr. Lanley enjoyed a small triumph when she entered. He had been so
discreet in his description of her to Mrs. Baxter, he had been so careful
not to hint that she was an illuminating personality who had suddenly
come into his life, that he knew he had left his old friend with the
general impression that Mrs. Wayne was merely the mother of an
undesirable suitor of Mathilde's who spent most of her life in the
company of drunkards. So when she came in, a little late as usual, in her
long, soft, gray dress, with a pink rose at her girdle, looking far more
feminine than Mrs. Baxter, about whom Adelaide's offensive adjective
"upholstered" still clung, he felt the full effect of her appearance. He
even enjoyed the obviously suspicious glance which Mrs. Baxter
immediately afterward turned upon him.

At dinner things began well. They talked about people and events of which
Mrs. Wayne knew nothing, but her interest and good temper made her not an
outsider, but an audience. Anecdotes which even Mr. Lanley might have
felt were trivial gossip became, through her attention to them, incidents
of the highest human interest. Such an uncritical interest was perhaps
too stimulating.

He expected nothing dangerous when, during the game course, Mrs. Baxter
turned to him and asked how Mathilde had enjoyed what she referred to as
"her first winter."

Mr. Lanley liked to talk about Mathilde. He described, with a little
natural exaggeration, how much she had enjoyed herself and how popular
she had been.

"I hope she hasn't been bitten by any of those modern notions," said
Mrs. Baxter.

Mr. Wilsey broke in.

"Oh, these modern, restless young women!" he said. "They don't seem able
to find their natural contentment in their own homes. My daughter came to
me the other day with a wonderful scheme of working all day long with
charity organizations. I said to her, 'My dear, charity begins at home.'
My wife, Mrs. Baxter, is an old-fashioned housekeeper. She gives out all
supplies used in my house; she knows where the servants are at every
minute of the day, and we have nine. She--"

"Oh, how is dear Mrs. Wilsey?" said Mrs. Baxter, perhaps not eager for
the full list of her activities.

"Well, at present she is in a sanatorium," replied her husband, "from
overwork, just plain overwork."

Mr. Lanley, catching Mrs. Wayne's twinkling eye, could only pray that
she would not point out that a sojourn in a sanatorium was not
complete contentment in the home; but before she had a chance, Mrs.
Baxter had gone on.

"That's so like the modern girl--anything but her obvious duty. She'll
help any one but her mother and work anywhere but in the home. We've had
a very painful case at home lately. One of our most charming young girls
has suddenly developed an absolutely morbid curiosity about the things
that take place in the women's courts. Why, as her poor father said to
me, 'Mrs. Baxter, old as I am, I hear things in those courts so shocking
I have hard work forgetting them; and yet Imogen wants me to let her go
into those courts day after day--'"

"Oh, that's abnormal, almost perverted," said Mr. Wilsey, judicially.
"The women's courts are places where no--" he hesitated a bare instant,
and Mrs. Wayne asked:

"No woman should go?"

"No girl should go."

"Yet many of the girls who come there are under sixteen."

Mr. Wilsey hid a slight annoyance under a manner peculiarly bland.

"Ah, dear lady," he said, "you must forgive my saying that that remark is
a trifle irrelevant."

"Is it?" she asked, meaning him to answer her; but he only looked
benevolently at her, and turned to listen to Mrs. Baxter, who was saying:

"Yes, everywhere we look nowadays we see women rushing into things they
don't understand, and of course we all know what women are---"

"What are they?" asked Mrs. Wayne, and Lanley's heart sank.

"Oh, emotional and inaccurate and untrustworthy and spiteful."

"Mrs. Baxter, I'm sure you're not like that."

"My dear Madam!" exclaimed Wilsey.

"But isn't that logical?" Mrs. Wayne pursued. "If all women are so, and
she's a woman?"

"Ah, logic, dear lady," said Wilsey, holding up a finger--"logic, you
know, has never been the specialty of your sex."

"Of course it's logic," said Lanley, crossly. "If you say all Americans
are liars, Wilsey, and you're an American, the logical inference is that
you think yourself a liar. But Mrs. Baxter doesn't mean that she thinks
all women are inferior--"

"I must say I prefer men," she answered almost coquettishly.

"If all women were like you, Mrs. Baxter, I'd believe in giving them the
vote," said Wilsey.

"Please don't," she answered. "I don't want it."

"Ah, the clever ones don't."

"I never pretended to be clever."

"Perhaps not; but I'd trust your intuition where I would pay no attention
to a clever person."

Lanley laughed.

"I think you'd better express that a little differently, Wilsey," he
said; but his legal adviser did not notice him.

"My daughter came to me the other day," he went on to Mrs. Baxter, "and
said, 'Father, don't you think women ought to have the vote some day?'
and I said, 'Yes, my dear, just as soon as men have the babies.'"

"There's no answer to that," said Mrs. Baxter.

"I fancy not," said Wilsey. "I think I put the essence of it in that

"If ever women get into power in this country, I shall live abroad."

"O Mrs. Baxter," said Mrs. Wayne, "really you don't understand women--"

"I don't? Why, Mrs. Wayne, I am a woman."

"All human beings are spiteful and inaccurate and all those things you
said; but that isn't _all_ they are. The women I see, the wives of my
poor drunkards are so wonderful, so patient. They are mothers and
wage-earners and sick nurses, too; they're not the sort of women you
describe. Perhaps," she added, with one of her fatal impulses toward
concession, "perhaps your friends are untrustworthy and spiteful, as
you say--"

Mrs. Baxter drew herself up. "My friends, Mrs. Wayne," she said--"my
friends, I think, will compare favorably even with the wives of your

Mr. Lanley rose to his feet.

"Shall we go up-stairs?" he said. Mr. Wilsey offered Mrs. Baxter his
arm. "An admirable answer that of yours," he murmured as he led her from
the room, "admirable snub to her perfectly unwarranted attack on you and
your friends."

"Of course you realize that she doesn't know any of the people I know,"
said Mrs. Baxter. "Why should she begin to abuse them?"

Mr. Wilsey laughed, and shook his finger.

"Just because she doesn't know them. That, I'm afraid, is the rub. That's
what I usually find lies behind the socialism of socialists--the sense of
being excluded. This poor lady has evidently very little _usage du
monde_. It is her pitiful little protest, dear Madam, against your charm,
your background, your grand manner."

They sank upon an ample sofa near the fire, and though the other end of
the large room was chilly, Lanley and Mrs. Wayne moved thither with a
common impulse.

Mrs. Wayne turned almost tearfully to Lanley.

"I'm so sorry I've spoiled your party," she said.

"You've done much worse than that," he returned gravely.

"O Mr. Lanley," she wailed, "what have I done?"

"You've spoiled a friendship."

"Between you and me?"

He shook his head.

"Between them and me. I never heard people talk such nonsense, and yet
I've been hearing people talk like that all my life, and have never taken
it in. Mrs. Wayne, I want you to tell me something frankly--"

"Oh, I'm so terrible when I'm frank," she said.

"Do I talk like that?"

She looked at him and looked away again.

"Good God! you think I do!"

"No, you don't talk like that often, but I think you feel that way a
good deal."

"I don't want to," he answered. "I'm sixty-four, but I don't ever want to
talk like Wilsey. Won't you stop me whenever I do?"

Mrs. Wayne sighed.

"It will make you angry."

"And if it does?"

"I hate to make people angry. I was distressed that evening on the pier."

He looked up, startled.

"I suppose I talked like Wilsey that night?"

"You said you might be old-fashioned but--"

"Don't, please, tell me what I said, Mrs. Wayne." He went on more
seriously: "I've got to an age when I can't expect great happiness from
life--just a continuance of fairly satisfactory outside conditions; but
since I've known you, I've felt a lightening, a brightening, an
intensifying of my own inner life that I believe comes as near happiness
as anything I've ever felt, and I don't want to lose it on account of a
reactionary old couple like that on the sofa over there."

He dreaded being left alone with the reactionary old couple when
presently Mrs. Wayne, very well pleased with her evening, took her
departure. He assisted her into her taxi, and as he came upstairs with a
buoyant step, he wished it were not ridiculous at his age to feel so

He saw that his absence had given his guests an instant of freer
criticism, for they were tucking away smiles as he entered.

"A very unusual type, is she not, our friend, Mrs. Wayne?" said Wilsey.

"A little bit of a reformer, I'm afraid," said Mrs. Baxter.

"Don't be too hard on her," answered Lanley.

"Oh, very charming, very charming," put in Wilsey, feeling, perhaps, that
Mrs. Baxter had been severe; "but the poor lady's mind is evidently
seething with a good many undigested ideas."

"You should have pointed out the flaws in her reasoning, Wilsey,"
said his host.

"Argue with a woman, Lanley!" Mr. Wilsey held up his hand in protest.
"No, no, I never argue with a woman. They take it so personally."

"I think we had an example of that this evening," said Mrs. Baxter.

"Yes, indeed," the lawyer went on. "See how the dear lady missed the
point, and became so illogical and excited under our little discussion."

"Funny," said Lanley. "I got just the opposite impression."


"I thought it was you who missed the point, Wilsey."

He saw how deeply he had betrayed himself as the others exchanged a
startled glance. It was Mrs. Baxter who thought of the correct reply.

"_Were_ there any points?" she asked.

Wilsey shook his finger.

"Ah, don't be cruel!" he said, and held out his hand to say good night;
but Lanley was smoking, with his head tilted up and his eyes on the
ceiling. What he was thinking was, "It isn't good for an old man to get
as angry as I am."

"Good night, Lanley; a delightful evening."

Mr. Lanley's chin came down.

"Oh, good night, Wilsey; glad you found it so."

When he was gone, Mrs. Baxter observed that he was a most agreeable

"So witty, so amiable, and, for a leader at the bar, he has an
extraordinarily light touch."

Mr. Lanley had resumed his position on the hearth-rug and his
contemplation of the ceiling.

"Wilsey's not a leader at the bar," he said, with open crossness.

He showed no disposition to sit and chat over the events of the evening.


Early the next morning, in Mrs. Baxter's parlance,--that is to say, some
little time before the sun had reached the meridian,--she was ringing
Adelaide's door-bell, while she minutely observed the curtains, the
door-mat, the ivy plants in the vestibule, and the brightness of the
brass knobs on the railing. In this she had a double motive: what was
evil she would criticize, what was good she would copy.

Adelaide was sitting with her husband when her visitor's name was brought
up. Since she had discovered that she was to be nothing but a sort of
super-nurse to him, she found herself expert at rendering such service.
She had brought in his favorite flowers, chosen a book for his bedside,
and now sat gossiping beside him, not bringing him, as she said to
herself, any of her real troubles; that would not be good for him. How
extraordinarily easy it was to conceal, she thought. She heard her own
tones, as gay and intimate as ever, as satisfactory to Vincent; and yet
all the time her mind was working apart on her anxieties about
Mathilde--anxieties with which, of course, one couldn't bother a poor
sick creature. She smoothed his pillow with the utmost tenderness.

"Oh, Pringle," she said, in answer to his announcement that Mrs. Baxter
was down-stairs, "you haven't let her in?"

"She's in the drawing-room, Madam." And Pringle added as a clear
indication of what he considered her duty, "She came in Mr. Lanley's

"Of course she did. Well, say I'll be down," and as Pringle went away
with this encouraging intelligence, Adelaide sank even farther back in
her chair and looked at her husband. "What I am called upon to sacrifice
to other people's love affairs! The Waynes and Mrs. Baxter--I never have
time for my own friends. I don't mind Mrs. Baxter when you're well, and I
can have a dinner; I ask all the stupid people together to whom I owe
parties, and she is so pleased with them, and thinks they represent the
most brilliant New York circle; but to have to go down and actually talk
to her, isn't that hard, Vin?"

"Hard on me," said Farron.

"Oh, I shall come back--exhausted."

"By what you have given out?"

"No, but by her intense intimacy. You have no idea how well she knows me.
It's Adelaide this and Adelaide that and 'the last time you stayed with
me in Baltimore.' You know, Vin, I never stayed with her but once, and
that only because she found me in the hotel and kidnapped me.
However,"--Adelaide stood up with determination,--"one good thing is, I
have begun to have an effect on my father. He does not like her any more.
He was distinctly bored at the prospect of her visit this time. He did
not resent it at all when I called her an upholstered old lady. I really
think," she added, with modest justice, "that I am rather good at
poisoning people's minds against their undesirable friends." She paused,
debating how long it would take her to separate Mathilde from the Wayne
boy; and recalling that this was no topic for an invalid, she smiled at
him and went down-stairs.

"My dear Adelaide!" said Mrs. Baxter, enveloping her in a powdery

"How wonderfully you're looking, Mrs. Baxter," said Adelaide, choosing
her adverb with intention.

"Now tell me, dear," said Mrs. Baxter, with a wave of a gloved hand,
"what are those Italian embroideries?"

"Those?" Adelaide lifted her eyebrows. "Ah, you're in fun! A collector
like you! Surely you know what those are."

"No," answered Mrs. Baxter, firmly, though she wished she had selected
something else to comment on.

"Oh, they are the Villanelli embroideries," said Adelaide, carelessly,
very much as if she had said they were the Raphael cartoons, so that Mrs.
Baxter was forced to reply in an awestruck tone:

"You don't tell me! Are they, really?"

Adelaide nodded brightly. She had not actually made up the name. It
was that of an obscure little palace where she had bought the
hangings, and if Mrs. Baxter had had the courage to acknowledge
ignorance, Adelaide would have told the truth. As it was, she
recognized that by methods such as this she could retain absolute
control over people like Mrs. Baxter.

The lady from Baltimore decided on a more general scope.

"Ah, your room!" she said. "Do you know whose it always reminds me
of--that lovely salon of Madame de Liantour's?"

"What, of poor little Henrietta's!" cried Adelaide, and she laid her hand
appealingly for an instant on Mrs. Baxter's knee. "That's a cruel thing
to say. All her good things, you know, were sold years ago. Everything
she has is a reproduction. Am I really like her?"

Getting out of this as best she could on a vague statement about
atmosphere and sunshine and charm, Mrs. Baxter took refuge in inquiries
about Vincent's health, "your charming child," and "your dear father."

"You know more about my dear father than I do," returned Adelaide,
sweetly. It was Mrs. Baxter's cue.

"I did not feel last evening that I knew anything about him at all. He
is in a new phase, almost a new personality. Tell me, who is this
Mrs. Wayne?"

"Mrs. Wayne?" Mrs. Baxter must have felt herself revenged by the complete
surprise of Adelaide's tone.

"Yes, she dined at the house last evening. Apparently it was to have been
a tete-a-tete dinner, but my arrival changed it to a _partie carree_."
She talked on about Wilsey and the conversation of the evening, but it
made little difference what she said, for her full idea had reached
Adelaide from the start, and had gathered to itself in an instant a
hundred confirmatory memories. Like a picture, she saw before her Mrs.
Wayne's sitting-room, with the ink-spots on the rug. Who would not wish
to exchange that for Mr. Lanley's series of fresh, beautiful rooms?
Suddenly she gave her attention back to Mrs. Baxter, who was saying:

"I assure you, when we were alone I was prepared for a formal

It was not safe to be the bearer of ill tidings to Adelaide.

"An announcement?" she said wonderingly. "Oh, no, Mrs. Baxter, my father
will never marry again. There have always been rumors, and you can't
imagine how he and I have laughed over them together."

As the indisputable subject of such rumors in past times, Mrs. Baxter
fitted a little arrow in her bow.

"In the past," she said, "women of suitable age have not perhaps been
willing to consider the question, but this lady seems to me
distinctly willing."

"More than willingness on the lady's part has been needed," answered
Adelaide, and then Pringle's ample form appeared in the doorway. "There's
a man from the office here, Madam, asking to see Mr. Farron."

"Mr. Farron can see no one." A sudden light flashed upon her. "What is
his name, Pringle?"

"Burke, Madam."

"Oh, let him come in." Adelaide turned to Mrs. Baxter. "I will show
you," she said, "one of the finest sights you ever saw." The next
instant Marty was in the room. Not so gorgeous as in his
wedding-attire, he was still an exceedingly fine young animal. He was
not so magnificently defiant as before, but he scowled at his
unaccustomed surroundings under his dark brows.

"It's Mr. Farron I wanted to see," he said, a soft roll to his r's. At
Mrs. Wayne's Adelaide had suffered from being out of her own
surroundings, but here she was on her own field, and she meant to make
Burke feel it. She was leaning with her elbow on the back of the sofa,
and now she slipped her bright rings down her slim fingers and shook them
back again as she looked up at Burke and spoke to him as she would have
done to a servant.

"Mr. Farron cannot see you."

Cleverer people than Burke had struggled vainly against the poison of
inferiority which this tone instilled into their minds.

"That's what they keep telling me down-town. I never knew him sick


"It wouldn't take five minutes."

"Mr. Farron is too weak to see you."

Marty made a strange grating sound in his throat, and Adelaide asked
like a queen bending from the throne:

"What seems to be the matter, Burke?"

"Why,"--Burke turned upon her the flare of his light, fierce eyes,--"they
have it on me on the dock that as soon as he comes back he means to
bounce me."

"To bounce you," repeated Adelaide, and she almost smiled as she thought
of that poor exhausted figure up-stairs.

"I don't care if he does or not," Marty went on. "I'm not so damned stuck
on the job. There's others."

"There are maidens in Scotland more lovely by far," murmured Adelaide.

Again he scowled, feeling the approach of something hostile to him.

"What's that?" he asked, surmising that she was insulting him.

"I said I supposed you could get a better job if you tried."

He did not like this tone either.

"Well, whether I could or not," he said, "this is no way. I'm losing my
hold of my men."

"Oh, I can't imagine your doing that, Burke."

He turned on her to see if she were really daring to laugh at him, and
met an eye as steady as his own.

"I guess I'm wasting my time here," he said, and something intimated that
some one would pay for that expenditure.

"Shall I take a message to Mr. Farron for you?" said Adelaide.

He nodded.

"Yes. Tell him that if I'm to go, I'll go to-day."

"I see." She rose slowly, as if in response to a vague, amusing caprice.
"Just that. If you go, you'll go to-day."

For the first time Burke, regaining his self-confidence, saw that she was
not an enemy, but an appreciative spectator, and his face broke up in a
smile, queer, crooked, wrinkled, but brilliant.

"I guess you'll get it about right," he said, and no compliment had ever
pleased Adelaide half so much.

"I think so," she confidently answered, and then at the door she
turned. "Oh, Mrs. Baxter," she said, "this is Marty Burke, a very
important person."

Importance, especially Adelaide Farron's idea of importance, was a
category for which Mrs. Baxter had the highest esteem, so almost against
her will she looked at Burke, and found him looking her over with such a
shrewd eye that she looked away, and then looked back again to find that
his gaze was still upon her. He had made his living since he was a child
by his faculty for sizing people up, and at his first glimpse of Mrs.
Baxter's shifting glance he had sized her up; so that now, when she
remarked with an amiability at once ponderous and shaky that it was a
very fine day, he replied in exactly the same tone, "It is that," and
began to walk about the room looking at the pictures. Presently a low,
but sweet, whistle broke from his lips. He made her feel uncommonly
uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that she was driven to conversation.

"Are you fond of pictures, Burke?" she asked. He just looked at her over
his shoulder without answering. She began to wish that Adelaide would
come back.

Adelaide had found her husband still accessible. He received in silence
the announcement that Burke was down-stairs. She told the message
without bias.

"He says that they have it on him on the dock that he is to be bounced.
He asked me to say this to you: that if he is to go, he'll go to-day."

"What was his manner?"

Adelaide could not resist a note of enjoyment entering into her tone as
she replied:

"Insolent in the extreme."

She was leaning against the wall at the foot of his bed, and though she
was not looking at him, she felt his eyes on her.

"Adelaide," he said, "you should not have brought me that message."

"You mean it is bad for your health to be worried, dearest?" she asked
in a tone so soft that only an expert in tones could have detected
something not at all soft beneath it. She glanced at her husband under
her lashes. Wasn't he any more an expert in her tones?

"I mean," he answered, "that you should have told him to go to the

"Oh, I leave that to you, Vin." She laughed, and added after a second's
pause, "I was only a messenger."

"Tell him I shall be downtown next week."

"Oh, Vin, no; not next week."

"Tell him next week."

"I can't do that."

"I thought you were only a messenger."

"Your doctor would not hear of it. It would be madness."

Farron leaned over and touched his bell. The nurse was instantly in
the room, looking at Vincent, Adelaide thought, as a water-dog looks
at its master when it perceives that a stick is about to be thrown
into the pond.

"Miss Gregory," said Vincent, "there's a young man from my office
down-stairs. Will you tell him that I can't see him to-day, but that I
shall be down-town next week, and I'll see him then?"

Miss Gregory was almost at the door before Adelaide stopped her.

"You must know that Mr. Farron cannot get down-town next week."

"Has the doctor said not?"

Adelaide shook her head impatiently.

"I don't suppose any one has been so insane as to ask him," she answered.

Miss Gregory smiled temperately.

"Oh, next week is a long time off," she said, and left the room. Adelaide
turned to her husband.

"Do you enjoy being humored?" she asked.

Farron had closed his eyes, and now opened them.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I didn't hear."

"She knows quite well that you can't go downtown next week. She takes
your message just to humor you."

"She's an excellent nurse," said Farron.

"For babies," Adelaide felt like answering, but she didn't. She said
instead, "Anyhow, Burke will never accept that as an answer." She was
surprised to hear something almost boastful in her own tone.

"Oh, I think he will."

She waited breathlessly for some sound from down-stairs or even for the
flurried reentrance of Miss Gregory. There was a short silence, and
then came the sound of the shutting of the front door. Marty had
actually gone.

Vincent did not even open his eyes when Miss Gregory returned; he did not
exert himself to ask how his message had been received. Adelaide waited
an instant, and then went back to Mrs. Baxter with a strange sense of
having sustained a small personal defeat.

Mrs. Baxter was so thoroughly ruffled that she was prepared to attack
even the sacrosanct Adelaide. But she was not given the chance.

"Well, how did Marty treat you?" said Adelaide.

Mrs. Baxter sniffed.

"We had not very much in common," she returned.

"No; Marty's a very real person." There was a pause. "What became of him?
Did he go?"

"Yes, your husband's trained nurse gave him a message, and he went away."

"Quietly?" The note of disappointment was so plain that Mrs. Baxter asked
in answer:

"What would you have wanted him to do?"

Adelaide laughed.

"I suppose it would have been too much to expect that he would drag you
and Miss Gregory about by your hair," she said, "but I own I should have
liked some little demonstration. But perhaps," she added more brightly,
"he has gone back to wreck the docks."

At this moment Mathilde entered the room in her hat and furs, and
distracted the conversation from Burke. Adelaide, who was fond of
enunciating the belief that you could tell when people were in love by
the frequency with which they wore their best clothes, noticed now how
wonderfully lovely Mathilde was looking; but she noticed it quite
unsuspiciously, for she was thinking, "My child is really a beauty."

"You remember Mrs. Baxter, my dear."

Mathilde did not remember her in the least, though she smiled
sufficiently. To her Mrs. Baxter seemed just one of many dressy old
ladies who drifted across the horizon only too often. If any one had told
her that her grandfather had ever been supposed to be in danger of
succumbing to charms such as these, she would have thought the notion an
ugly example of grown-up pessimism.

Mrs. Baxter held her hand and patted it.

"Where does she get that lovely golden hair?" she asked. "Not from you,
does she?"

"She gets it from her father," answered Adelaide, and her expression
added, "you dreadful old goose."

In the pause Mathilde made her escape unquestioned. She knew even before
a last pathetic glance that her mother was unutterably wearied with her
visitor. In other circumstances she would have stayed to effect a
rescue, but at present she was engaged in a deed of some recklessness on
her own account. She was going to meet Pete Wayne secretly at the
Metropolitan Museum.


In all her life Mathilde had never felt so conspicuous as she did going
up the long flight of stairs at the Fifth Avenue entrance of the museum.
It seemed to her that people, those walking past in the sunshine on the
sidewalk, and the strangers in town seeing the sights from the top of the
green busses, were saying to one another as they looked at her, "There
goes a New York girl to meet her lover in one of the more ancient of the
Egyptian rooms."

She started as she heard the voice of the guard, though he was saying
nothing but "Check your umbrella" to a man behind her. She sped across
the marble floor of the great tapestry hall as a little, furry wild
animal darts across an open space in the woods. She was thinking that she
could not bear it if Pete were not there. How could she wait many minutes
under the eyes of the guards, who must know better than any one else that
no flesh-and-blood girl took any real interest in Egyptian antiquities?
The round, unambitious dial at the entrance, like an enlarged
kitchen-clock, had pointed to the exact hour set for the meeting. She
ought not to expect that Pete, getting away from the office in business
hours, could be as punctual as an eager, idle creature like herself.

She had made up her mind so clearly that when she entered the night-blue
room there would be nothing but tombs and mummies that when she saw Pete
standing with his overcoat over his arm, in the blue-serge clothes she
particularly liked, she felt as much surprised as if their meeting were

She tried to draw a long breath.

"I shall never get used to it," she said. "If we had been married a
thousand years, I should always feel just like this when I see you."

"Oh, no, you won't," he answered. "I hope the very next time we meet you
will say, quite in a wife's orthodox tone: 'My dear, I've been waiting
twenty minutes. Not that I mind at all; only I was afraid I must have
misunderstood you.'"

"You hope? Oh, I hope we shall never be like that."

"Really? Why, I enjoy the idea. I shall enjoy saying to total strangers,
'Ah, gentlemen, if my wife were ever on time--' It makes me feel so
indissolubly united to you."

"I like it best as we are now."

"We might try different methods alternate years: one year we could be
domestic, and the next, detached, and so on."

By this time they had discovered that they were leaning on a mummy-case,
and Mathilde drew back with an exclamation. "Poor thing!" she said. "I
suppose she once had a lover, too."

"And very likely met him in the room of Chinese antiquities in the Temple
Museum," said Pete, and then, changing his tone, he added: "But come
along. I want to show you a few little things which I have selected to
furnish our home. I think you'll like them."

Pete was always inventing games like this, and calling on her to enter in
without the slightest warning. One of them was about a fancy ball he was
giving in the main hall of the Pennsylvania Station. But this new idea,
to treat the whole museum as a sort of super-department store, made her
laugh in a faint, dependent way that she knew Pete liked. She believed
that such forms of play were peculiar to themselves, so she guarded them
as the deepest kind of secret; for she thought, if her mother ever found
out about them, she would at once conclude that the whole relation was
childish. To all other lovers Mathilde attributed a uniform seriousness.

It took them a long time to choose their house-furnishings: there was a
piece of black-and-gold lacquer; a set of painted panels; a Persian rug,
swept by the tails of two haughty peacocks; some cloud-gray Chinese
porcelains; a set of Du Barry vases; a crystal-and-enamel box, designed
probably for some sacred purpose, but contributed by Pete as an excellent
receptacle for chocolates at her bedside. "The Boy with the Sword" for
the dining-room, Ver Meer's "Women at the Window," the small Bonnington,
and then, since Mathilde wanted the portrait of Mrs. Fitzherbert, and
Wayne felt a faint weariness with the English school, a compromise was
effected by the selection of Constable's landscape of a bridge. Wayne
kept constantly repeating that he was exactly like Warren Hastings,
astonished at his own moderation. They had hardly begun, indeed, before
Mathilde felt herself overcome by that peculiar exhaustion that overtakes
even the robust in museums.

Wayne guided her to a little sofa in a room of gold and jade.

"How beautifully you know your way about here!" she said. "I suppose
you've brought lots of girls here before me."

"A glorious army," said Pete, "the matron and the maid. You ought to see
my mother in a museum. She's lost before she gets well inside the

But Mathilde was thinking.

"How strange it is," she observed, "that I never should have thought
before about your caring for any one else. Pete, did you ever ask any one
else to marry you?"

Wayne nodded.

"Yes; when I was in college. I asked a girl to marry me. She was having
rather a rotten time."

"Were you in love with her?"

He shook his head, and in the silence shuffling and staccato footsteps
were heard, announcing the approach of a youthful art class and their
teacher. "Jade," said the voice of the lady, "one of the hardest of known
substances, has yet been beautifully worked from time immemorial--"

More pairs of eyes in that art class were fixed on the obviously guilty
couple in the corner than on the beautiful cloudy objects in the cases,
and it was not until they had all followed their guide to the armor-room,
and had grouped themselves about the casque of Joan of Arc, that Wayne
went on as if no interruption had occurred:

"If you want to know whether I have ever experienced anything like my
feeling for you since the first moment I saw you, I never have and never
shall, and thereto I plight thee my troth."

Mathilde turned her full face toward him, shedding gratitude and
affection as a lamp sheds light before she answered:

"You were terribly unkind to me yesterday."

"I know. I'm sorry."

"I shall never forget the way you kissed me, as if I were a rather
repulsive piece of wood."

Pete craned his neck, and met the suspicious eye of a guard.

"I don't think anything can be done about it at the moment," he said;
and added in explanation, "You see, I felt as if you had suddenly
deserted me."

"Pete, I couldn't ever desert you--unless I committed suicide."

Presently he stood up, declaring that this was not the fitting place for
arranging the details of their marriage.

"Come to one of the smaller picture galleries," he said, "and as we go
I'll show you a portrait of my mother."

"Your mother? I did not know she had had a portrait done. By whom?"

"A fellow called Bellini. He thought he was doing the Madonna."

When they reached the picture, a figure was already before it. Mr.
Lanley was sitting, with his arms folded and his feet stretched out far
before him, his head bent, but his eyes raised and fixed on the picture.
They saw him first, and had two or three seconds to take in the profound
contemplation of his mood. Then he slowly raised his eyes and
encountered theirs.

There is surely nothing compromising in an elderly gentleman spending a
contemplative morning alone at the Metropolitan Museum. It might well be
his daily custom; but the knowledge that it was not, the consciousness of
the rarity of the mood that had brought him there, oppressed Mr. Lanley
almost like a crime. He felt caught, outraged, ashamed as he saw them.
"That's the age which has a right to it," he said to himself. And then as
if in a mirror he saw an expression of embarrassment on their faces, and
was reminded that their meeting must have been illicit, too. He stood up
and looked at them sternly.

"Up-town at this hour, Wayne?" he said.

"Grandfather, I never knew you came here much," said Mathilde.

"It's near me, you know," he answered weakly, so weakly that he felt
impelled to give an explanation. "Sometimes, my dear," he said, "you will
find that even the most welcome guest rather fills the house."

"You need not worry about yours," returned Mathilde. "I left her
with Mama."

Mr. Lanley felt that his brief moment of peace was indeed over. He could
imagine the impressions that Mrs. Baxter was perhaps at that very moment
sharing with Adelaide. He longed to question his granddaughter, but did
not know how to put it.

"How was your mother looking?" he finally decided upon.

"Dreary," answered Mathilde, with a laugh.

"Does this picture remind you of any one?" asked Wayne, suddenly.

Mr. Lanley looked at him as if he hadn't heard, and frowned.

"I don't know what you mean," he said.

"Don't you think there's a look of my mother about it?"

"No," said Mr. Lanley, rather loudly, and then added, "Well, I see what
you mean, though I shouldn't--" He stopped and turning to them with some
sternness, he asked them how they accounted for their presence in the
museum at such an hour and alone.

There was nothing to do but to tell him the truth. And when Wayne had
finished, Mathilde was surprised at her grandfather's question. She
thought he would ask what her mother thought of it. If they had been
alone, she would have told him that Adelaide thought Wayne a commonplace
young man with stubby hands; but as it was, she had resolved to put her
mother's opposition on a more dignified plane. Only Mr. Lanley did not
ask the question of her. It was to Wayne he was speaking, when he said:

"What does your mother think of it?"

"Oh, my mother," answered Pete. "Well, she thinks that if she were a girl
she'd like to go to China."

Mr. Lanley looked up, and they both smiled with the most perfect

"She would," said the older man, and then he became intensely serious.
"It's quite out of the question," he said.

"O Grandfather," Mathilde exclaimed, clasping her hands about his
arm, "don't talk like that! It wouldn't be possible for me to let him
go without me. O Grandfather, can't you remember what it was like to
be in love?"

A complete silence followed this little speech--a silence that went on
and on and seemed to be stronger than human power. Perhaps for the first
time in his life Lanley felt hostile toward the girl beside him. "Oh,
dear," Mathilde was thinking, "I suppose I've made him remember my
grandmother and his youth!" "Can love be remembered," Pete was saying to
himself, "or is it like a perfume that can be recognized, but not

Lanley turned at last to Wayne.

"It's out of the question," he said, "that you should take this child to
China at two weeks' notice. You must see that."

"I see perfectly that many people will think it so. But you must see that
to us it is the inevitable thing to do."

"If every one else agreed, I should oppose it."

"O Grandfather!" wailed Mathilde. "And you were our great hope--you and
Mrs. Wayne!"

"In a matter like this I shall stand by your mother, Mathilde," he said,
and Mathilde imagined he meant as opposed to herself. But he was making
an even greater renunciation.

Adelaide was surprised and not pleased when Mathilde came home late for
lunch, bringing the Wayne boy with her. It was not that she had expected
her one little phrase about Wayne's hands to change her daughter's love
into repugnance,--that sentence had been only the first drop in a
distillation that would do its poisonous work gradually,--but she had
supposed that Mathilde would be too sensitive to expose Pete to further
criticism. Indeed, there seemed something obtuse, if not actually
indelicate, in being willing to create a situation in which every one
was bound to suffer. Obtuseness was not a defect with which Adelaide had
much patience.

Mathilde saw at once that her mother was going to be what in the family
slang was called "grand." The grandeur consisted in a polite inattention;
it went with a soft voice and immobile expression. In this mood Adelaide
answered you about three seconds later than you expected, and though she
answered you accurately, it was as if she had forced her mind back from a
more congenial ether. She seemed to be wrapped in an agreeable cloud
until you gave her some opening, and then she came out of her cloud like
a flash of lightning.

Wayne, who had lived his life so far with a woman who did not believe in
the use of force in human relations, viewed these symptoms of coercion
with the utmost indifference; but Mathilde had not so far freed herself
as to ignore them. She was not afraid, but easy conversation under the
menace was beyond her. She couldn't think of anything to say.

Adelaide was accustomed by these methods to drive the inexperienced--and
she considered Pete pitifully inexperienced in social fine points--into a
state of conversational unrest in which they would finally ask
recklessly, "Have you been to the theater lately?" and she would question
gently, "The theater?" as much as to say, "I've heard that word
somewhere before," until the conscientious conversationalist, rushing
from futility to futility, would be finally engulfed in some yawning
banality and sink out of sight forever.

But Wayne resisted this temptation, or, rather, he did not feel it. He
had the courage to be unafraid of silences, and he ate his luncheon and
thought about the pictures he had been seeing, and at last began to talk
to Mathilde about them, while Adelaide made it clear that she was not
listening, until she caught a phrase that drove her grandeur away.

"Near where we met my grandfather?" Mathilde asked.

By this time Adelaide had gathered that the two had been in the museum,
and the knowledge annoyed her not only as a mother, but as an
aristocrat. Without being clear about it, she regarded the love of
beauty--artificial beauty, that is--as a class distinction. It seemed to
her possible enough that the masses should love mountains and moonlight
and the sea and sunsets; but it struck her as unfitting that any one but
the people she knew, and only a few of them, should really care for
porcelains and pictures. As she held herself aloof from the conversation
she was annoyed at noticing that Wayne was showing a more
discriminating taste than her own carefully nurtured child. But all such
considerations were driven away by the mention of her father, for Mr.
Lanley had been in her mind ever since Mrs. Baxter had taken her
unimpeded departure just before luncheon.

"Your grandfather?" she said, coming out of the clouds. "Was he in the

"Yes," said Mathilde, thankful to be directly addressed. "Wasn't it
queer? Pete was taking me to see a picture that looks exactly like Mrs.
Wayne, only Mrs. Wayne hasn't such a round face, and there in front of it
was grandpapa."

Adelaide rose very slowly from table, lunch being fortunately over. She
felt as if she could have borne almost anything but this--the idea of her
father vaporing before a picture of the Madonna. Phrases came into her
head: silly old man, the time has come to protect him against himself;
the Wayne family must be suppressed.

Her silence in the drawing-room was of a more concentrated sort, and when
she had taken her coffee and cigarette she said to Mathilde:

"My dear, I promised to go back to Vincent at this time. Will you go
instead? I want to have a word with Mr. Wayne."

Adelaide had never entered any contest in her life, whether it was a
dispute with a dressmaker or a quarrel with her husband, without
remembering the comfortable fact that she was a beauty. With men she did
not neglect the advantage that being a woman gave her, and with the
particular man now before her she had, she knew, a third line of defense;
she was the mother of his love, and she thought she detected in him a
special weakness for mothers. But it would have been better if he had
respected women and mothers less, for he thought so highly of them that
he believed they ought to play fair.

Sitting in a very low chair, she looked up at him.

"Mathilde has been telling me something about a plan of yours to take her
to China with you. We could not consent to that, you know."

"I'm sorry," said Pete. The tone was pleasant. That was the trouble;
it was too pleasant a tone for a man relinquishing a cherished hope.
It sounded almost as if he regretted the inevitable disappointment of
the family.

Adelaide tried a new attack.

"Your mother--have you consulted her?"

"Yes, I've told her our plans."

"And she approves?"

Wayne might choose to betray his mother in the full irresponsibility of
her attitude to so sympathetic a listener as Mr. Lanley, but he had no
intention of giving Mrs. Farron such a weapon. At the same time he did
not intend to be untruthful. His answer was this:

"My mother," he said, "is not like most women of her age. She
believes in love."

"In all love, quite indiscriminately?"

He hesitated an instant.

"I put it wrong," he answered. "I meant that she believes in the
importance of real love."

"And has she a spell by which she tells real love?"

"She believes mine to be real."

"Oh, yours! Very likely. Perhaps it's maternal vanity on my part, Mr.
Wayne, but I must own I can imagine a man's contriving to love my
daughter, so gentle, so intelligent, and so extraordinarily lovely to
look at. I was not thinking of your feelings, but of hers."

"You can see no reason why she should love me?"

Adelaide moved her shoulders about.

"Well, I want it explained, that's all, from your own point of view. I
see my daughter as an unusual person, ignorant of life, to whom it seems
to me all things are possible. And I see you, a very nice young man. But
what else? I ask to be told why you fulfil all possibilities. Don't
misunderstand me. I am not mercenary. Mathilde will have plenty of money
of her own some day. I don't want a millionaire. I want a _person_."

"Of course, if you ask me why Mathilde should love me--"

"Don't be untruthful, Mr. Wayne. I thought better of you. If you should
come back from China next year to find her engaged to some one else, you
could tell a great many reasons why he was not good enough for her. Now
tell me some of the reasons why you are. And please don't include
because you love her so much, for almost any one would do that."

Pete fought down his panic, reminding himself that no man living could
hear such words without terror. His egotism, never colossal, stood
feebly between him and Mrs. Farron's estimate of him. He seemed to sink
back into the general human species. If he had felt inclined to detail
his own qualities, he could not have thought of one. There was a long
silence, while Adelaide sat with a look of docile teachableness upon her
expectant face.

At last Wayne stood up.

"It's no use, Mrs. Farron," he said "That question of yours can't be
answered. I believe she loves me. It's my bet against yours."

"I won't gamble with my child's future," she returned. "I did with my
own. Sit down again, Mr. Wayne. You have heard, I suppose, that I have
been married twice?"

"Yes." He sat down again reluctantly.

"I was Mathilde's age--a little older. I was more in love than she. And
if he had been asked the question I just asked you, he could have
answered it. He could have said: 'I have been a leader in a group in
which I was, an athlete, an oarsman, and the most superb physical
specimen of my race'--brought up, too, he might have added, in the same
traditions that I had had. Well, that wasn't enough, Mr. Wayne, and that
was a good deal. If my father had only made me wait, only given me time
to see that my choice was the choice of ignorance, that the man I thought
a hero was, oh, the most pitifully commonplace clay--Mathilde shan't make
my mistake."

Wayne's eyes lit up.

"But that's it," he said. "She wouldn't make your mistake. She'd choose
right. That's what I ought to have said. You spoke of Mathilde's spirit.
She has a feeling for the right thing. Some people have, and some people
are bound to choose wrong."

Adelaide laid her hand on her breast.

"You mean me?" she asked, too much interested to be angry.

He was too absorbed in his own interests to give his full
attention to hers.

"Yes," he answered. "I mean your principles of choice weren't right
ones--leaders of men, you know, and all that. It never works out.
Leaders of men are the ones who always cry on their wives' shoulders, and
the martinets at home are imposed on by every one else." He gave out this
dictum in passing: "But don't trouble about your responsibility in this,
Mrs. Farron. It's out of your hands. It's our chance, and Mathilde and I
mean to take it. I don't want to give you a warning, exactly, but--it's
going to go through."

She looked at him with large, terrified eyes. She was repeating, 'they
cry on their wives' shoulders,' or, he might have said, 'on the
shoulders of their trained nurses.' She knew that he was talking to her,
saying something. She couldn't listen to it. And then he was gone. She
was glad he was.

She sat quite still, with her hands lying idly, softly in her lap. It was
possible that what he said was true. Perhaps all these people who made
such a show of strength to the world were those who sucked double
strength by sapping the vitality of a life's companion. It had been true
of Joe Severance. She had heard him praised for the courage with which
he went forth against temptation, but she had known that it was her
strength he was using. She looked up, to see her daughter, pale and
eager, standing before her.

"O Mama, was it very terrible?"

"What, dear?"

"Did Pete tell you of our plan?"

Adelaide wished she could have listened to those last sentences of his;
but they were gone completely.

She put up her hand and patted the unutterably soft cheek before her.

"He told me something about putting through your absurd idea of an
immediate marriage," she said.

"We don't want to do it in a sneaky way, Mama."

"I know. You want to have your own way and to have every one approve of
you, too. Is that it?"

Mathilde's lips trembled.

"O Mama," she cried, "you are so different from what you used to be!"

Adelaide nodded.

"One changes," she said. "One's life changes." She had meant this
sentence to end the interview, but when she saw the girl still standing
before her, she said to herself that it made little difference that she
hadn't heard the plans of the Wayne boy, since Mathilde, her own
tractable daughter, was still within her power. She moved into the corner
of the sofa. "Sit down, dear," she said, and when Mathilde had obeyed
with an almost imperceptible shrinking in her attitude, Adelaide went on,
with a sort of serious ease of manner:

"I've never been a particularly flattering mother, have I? Never thought
you were perfect just because you were mine? Well, I hope you'll pay the
more attention to what I have to say. You are remarkable. You are going
to be one of the most attractive women that ever was. Years ago old Count
Bartiani--do you remember him, at Lucerne?"

"The one who used scent and used to look so long at me?"

"Yes, he was old and rather horrid, but he knew what he was talking
about. He said then you would be the most attractive woman in Europe. I
heard the same thing from all my friends, and it's true. You have
something rare and perfect---"

These were great words. Mathilde, accustomed all her life to receive
information from her mother, received this; and for the first time felt
the egotism of her beauty awake, a sense of her own importance the more
vivid because she had always been humble-minded. She did not look at her
mother; she sat up very straight and stared as if at new fields before
her, while a faint smile flickered at the corners of her mouth--a smile
of an awakening sense of power.

"What you have," Adelaide went on, "ought to bring great happiness,
great position, great love; and how can I let you throw yourself away
at eighteen on a commonplace boy with a glib tongue and a high opinion
of himself? Don't tell me that it will make you happy. That would be
the worst of all, if you turned out to be so limited that you were
satisfied,--that would be a living death. O my darling, I give you my
word that if you will give up this idea, ten years from now, when you
see this boy, still glib, still vain, and perhaps a little fat, you
will actually shudder when you think how near he came to cutting you
off from the wonderful, full life that you were entitled to." And then,
as if she could not hope to better this, Adelaide sprang up, and left
the girl alone.

Mathilde rose, too, and looked at herself in the glass. She was stirred,
she was changed, she was awakened, but awakened to something her mother
had not counted on. Almost too gentle, too humble, too reasonable, as she
had always been, the drop of egotism which her mother had succeeded in
instilling into her nature served to solidify her will, to inspire her
with a needed power of aggression.

She nodded once at her image in the mirror.

"Well," she said, "it's my life, and I'm willing to take the


When Mathilde emerged from the subway into the sunlight of City Hall
Park, Pete was nowhere to be seen. She had spent several minutes
wandering in the subterranean labyrinth which threatened to bring her to
Brooklyn Bridge and nowhere else, so she was a little late for her
appointment; and yet Pete was not there. He had promised to be waiting
for her. This was a more important occasion than the meeting in the
museum and more terrifying, too.

Their plans were simple. They were going to get their marriage license,
they were going to be married immediately, they were then going to inform
their respective families, and start two days later for San Francisco.

Mathilde stared furtively about her. A policeman strolled past, striking
terror to a guilty heart; a gentleman of evidently unbroken leisure
regarded her with a benevolent eye completely ringed by red. Crowds were
surging in and out of the newspaper offices and the Municipal Building
and the post office, but stare where she would, she couldn't find Pete.

She had ten minutes to think of horrors before she saw him rushing across
the park toward her, and she had the idea of saying to him those words
which he himself had selected as typically wifely, "Not that I mind at
all, but I was afraid I must have misunderstood you." But she did not get
very far in her mild little joke, for it was evident at once that
something had happened.

"My dear love," he said, "it's no go. We can't sail, we can't be married.
I think I'm out of a job."

As they stood there, her pretty clothes, the bright sun shining on her
golden hair and dark furs and polished shoes, her beauty, but, above all,
their complete absorption in each other, made them conspicuous. They were
utterly oblivious.

Pete told her exactly what had happened. Some months before he had been
sent to make a report on a coal property in Pennsylvania. He had made it
under the assumption that the firm was thinking of underwriting its
bonds. He had been mistaken. As owners Honaton & Benson had already
acquired the majority of interest in it. His report,--she remembered his
report, for he had told her about it the first day he came to see
her,--had been favorable except for one important fact. There was in that
district a car shortage which for at least a year would hamper the
marketing of the supply. That had been the point of the whole thing. He
had advised against taking the property over until this defect could be
remedied or allowed for. They had accepted the report.

Well, late in the afternoon of the preceding day he had gone to the
office to say good-by to the firm. He could not help being touched by the
friendliness of both men's manner. Honaton gave him a silver
traveling-flask, plain except for an offensive cat's-eye set in the top.
Benson, more humane and practical, gave him a check.

"I think I've cleared up everything before I leave," Wayne said, trying
to be conscientious in return for their kindness, "except one thing.
I've never corrected the proof of my report on the Southerland coal

For a second there was something strange in the air. The partners
exchanged the merest flicker of a look, which Wayne, as far as he thought
of it at all, supposed to be a recognition on their part of his
carefulness in thinking of such a detail.

"You need not give that another thought," said Benson. "We are not
thinking of publishing that report at present. And when we do, I have
your manuscript. I'll go over the proof myself."

Relieved to be spared another task, Wayne shook hands with his employers
and withdrew. Outside he met David.

"Say," said David, "I am sorry you're leaving us; but, gee!" he added,
his face twisting with joy, "ain't the firm glad to have you go!"

It had long been Wayne's habit to pay strict attention to the
impressions of David.

"Why do you think they are glad?" he asked.

"Oh, they're glad all right," said David. "I heard the old man say
yesterday, 'And by next Saturday he will be at sea.' It was as if
he was going to get a Christmas present." And David went on about
other business.

Once put on the right track, it was not difficult to get the idea. He
went to the firm's printer, but found they had had no orders for printing
his report. The next morning, instead of spending his time with his own
last arrangements, he began hunting up other printing offices, and
finally found what he was looking for. His report was already in print,
with one paragraph left out--that one which related to the shortage of
cars. His name was signed to it, with a little preamble by the firm,
urging the investment on the favorable notice of their customers, and
spoke in high terms of the accuracy of his estimates.

To say that Pete did not once contemplate continuing his arrangements as
if nothing had happened would not be true. All he had to do was to go.
The thing was dishonest, clearly enough, but it was not his action. His
original report would always be proof of his own integrity, and on his
return he could sever his connection with the firm on some other pretext.
On the other hand, to break his connection with Honaton & Benson, to
force the suppression of the report unless given in full, to give up his
trip, to confess that immediate marriage was impossible, that he himself
was out of a job, that the whole basis of his good fortune was a fraud
that he had been too stupid to discover--all this seemed to him more than
man could be asked to do.

But that was what he decided must be done. From the printer's he
telephoned to the Farrons, but found that Miss Severance was out. He knew
she must have already started for their appointment in the City Hall
Park. He had made up his mind, and yet when he saw her, so confident of
the next step, waiting for him, he very nearly yielded to a sudden
temptation to make her his wife, to be sure of that, whatever else might
have to be altered.

He had known she wouldn't reproach him, but he was deeply grateful to her
for being so unaware that there was any grounds for reproach. She
understood the courage his renunciation had required. That seemed to be
what she cared for most.

At length he said to her:

"Now I must go and get this off my chest with the firm. Go home, and I'll
come as soon as ever I can."

But here she shook her head.

"I couldn't go home," she answered. "It might all come out before you
arrived, and I could not listen to things that"--she avoided naming her
mother--"that will be said about you, Pete. Isn't there somewhere I can
wait while you have your interview?"

There was the outer office of Honaton & Benson. He let her go with him,
and turned her over to the care of David, who found her a corner out of
the way, and left her only once. That was to say to a friend of his in
the cage: "When you go out, cast your eye over Pete's girl. Somewhat of a

In the meantime Wayne went into Benson's office. There wasn't a flicker
of alarm on the senior partner's face on seeing him.

"Hullo, Pete!" he said, "I thought you'd be packing your bags."

"I'm not packing anything," said Wayne. "I've come to tell you I can't go
to China for you. Mr. Benson."

"Oh, come, come," said the other, very paternally, "we can't let you off
like that. This is business, my dear boy. It would cost us money, after
having made all our arrangements, if you changed your mind."

"So I understand."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean just what you think I mean, Mr. Benson."

Wayne would have said that he could never forget the presence under any
circumstances of his future wife, waiting, probably nervously, in the
outer office; but he did. The interest of the next hour drove out
everything else. Honaton was sent for from the exchange, a lawsuit was
threatened, a bribe--he couldn't mistake it--offered. He was told he
might find it difficult to find another position if he left their firm
under such conditions.

"On the contrary," said Peter, firmly, "from what I have heard, I believe
it will improve my standing."

That he came off well in the struggle was due not so much to his
ability, but to the fact that he now had nothing to lose or gain from the
situation. As soon as Benson grasped this fact he began a masterly
retreat. Wayne noticed the difference between the partners: Honaton, the
less able of the two, wanted to save the situation, but before everything
else wanted to leave in Wayne's mind the sense that he had made a fool of
himself. Benson, more practical, would have been glad to put Pete in jail
if he could; but as he couldn't do that, his interest was in nothing but
saving the situation. The only way to do this was to give up all idea of
publishing any report. He did this by assuming that Wayne had simply
changed his mind or had at least utterly failed to convey his meaning in
his written words. He made this point of view very plausible by quoting
the more laudatory of Wayne's sentences; and when Pete explained that the
whole point of his report was in the sentence that had been omitted,
Benson leaned back, chuckling, and biting off the end of his cigar.

"Oh, you college men!" he said. "I'm afraid I'm not up to your
subtleties. When you said it was the richest vein and favorably situated,
I supposed that was what you meant. If you meant just the opposite, well,
let it go. Honaton & Benson certainly don't want to get out a report
contrary to fact."

"That's what he has accused us of," said Honaton.

"Oh, no, no," said Benson; "don't be too literal, Jack. In the heat of
argument we all say things we don't mean. Pete here doesn't like to have
his lovely English all messed up by a practical dub like me. I doubt if
he wants to sever his connection with this firm."

Honaton yielded.

"Oh," he said, "I'm willing enough he should stay, if--"

"Well, I'm not," said Pete, and put an end to the conversation by walking
out of the room. He found David explaining the filing system to Mathilde,
and she, hanging on his every word, partly on account of his native
charm, partly on account of her own interest in anything neat, but most
because she imagined the knowledge might some day make her a more
serviceable wife to Pete.

Pete dreaded the coming interview with Mrs. Farron more than that with
the firm--more, indeed, than he had ever dreaded anything. He and
Mathilde reached the house about a quarter before one, and Adelaide was
not in. This was fortunate, for while they waited they discovered a
difference of intention. Mathilde saw no reason for mentioning the fact
that they had actually been on the point of taking out their marriage
license. She thought it was enough to tell her mother that the trip had
been abandoned and that Pete had given up his job. Pete contemplated
nothing less than the whole truth.

"You can't tell people half a story," he said. "It never works."

Mathilde really quailed.

"It will be terrible to tell mama that," she groaned. "She thinks
failure is worse than crime."

"And she's dead right," said Pete.

When Adelaide came in she had Mr. Lanley with her. She had seen him
walking down Fifth Avenue with his hat at quite an outrageous angle, and
she had ordered the motor to stop, and had beckoned him to her. It was
two days since her interview with Mrs. Baxter, and she had had no good
opportunity of speaking to him. The suspicion that he was avoiding her
nerved her hand; but there was no hint of discipline in her smile, and
she knew as well as if he had said it that he was thinking as he came to
the side of the car how handsome and how creditable a daughter she was.
"Come to lunch with me," she said; "or must you go home to your guest?"

"No, I was going to the club. She's lunching with a mysterious relation
near Columbia University."

"Don't you know who it is? Tell him home."

"Home, Andrews. No, she never says."

"Don't put your stick against the glass, there's an angel. I'll tell you
who it is. An elder sister who supported and educated her, of whom she's
ashamed now."

"How do you know? It wouldn't break the glass."

"No; but I hate the noise. I don't know; I just made it up because it's
so likely."

"She always speaks so affectionately of you."

"She's a coward; that's the only difference. She hates me just as much."

"Well, you've never been nice to her, Adelaide."

"I should think not."

"She's not as bad as you think," said Mr. Lanley, who believed in
old-fashioned loyalty.

"I can't bear her," said Adelaide.

"Why not?" As far as his feelings went, this seemed a perfectly safe
question; but it wasn't.

"Because she tries so hard to make you ridiculous. Oh, not intentionally;
but she talks of you as if you were a _Don Juan_ of twenty-five. You
ought to be flattered, Papa dear, at having jealous scenes made about you
when you are--what is it?--sixty-five."

"Four," said Mr. Lanley.

"Yes; such a morning as I had! Not a minute with poor Vincent because you
had had Mrs. Wayne to dine. I'm not complaining, but I don't like my
father represented as a sort of comic-paper old man, you poor
dear,"--and she laid her long, gloved hand on his knee,--"who have always
been so conspicuously dignified."

"If I have," said her father, "I don't know that anything she says can
change it."

"No, of course; only it was horrible to me to hear her describing you in
the grip of a boyish passion. But don't let's talk of it. I hear," she
said, as if she were changing the subject, "that you have taken to going
to the Metropolitan Museum at odd moments."

He felt utterly stripped, and said without hope:

"Yes; I'm a trustee, you know."

Adelaide just glanced at him.

"You always have been, I think." They drove home in silence.

One reason why she was determined to have her father come home was that
it was the first time that Vincent was to take luncheon downstairs, and
when Adelaide had a part to play she liked to have an audience. She was
even glad to find Wayne in the drawing-room, though she did wonder to
herself if the little creature had entirely given up earning his living.
It was a very different occasion from Pete's last luncheon there; every
one was as pleasant as possible. As soon as the meal was over, Adelaide
put her hand on her husband's shoulder.

"You're going to lie down at once, Vin."

He rose obediently, but Wayne interposed. It seemed to him that it would
be possible to tell his story to Farron.

"Oh, can't Mr. Farron stay a few minutes?" he said. "I want so much to
speak to you and him together about--"

Adelaide cut him short.

"No, he can't. It's more important that he should get strong than
anything else is. You can talk to me all you like when I come down.
Come, Vin."

When they were up-stairs, and she was tucking him up on his sofa, he
asked gently:

"What did that boy want?"

Adelaide made a little face.

"Nothing of any importance," she said.

Things had indeed changed between them if he would accept such an answer
as that. She thought his indifference like the studied oblivion of the
debtor who says, "Don't I owe you something?" and is content with the
most non-committal reply. He lay back and smiled at her. His expression
was not easy to read.

She went down-stairs, where conversation had not prospered. Mr. Lanley
was smoking, with his cigar drooping from a corner of his mouth. He felt
very unhappy. Mathilde was frightened. Wayne had recast his opening
sentence a dozen times. He kept saying to himself that he wanted it to be
perfectly simple, but not infantile, and each phrase he thought of in
conformity with his one rule sounded like the opening lines of the stage
child's speech.

In the crisis of Adelaide's being actually back again in the room he
found himself saying:

"Mrs. Farron, I think you ought to know exactly what has been happening."

"Don't I?" she asked.

"No. You know that I was going to San Francisco the day after

"Oh dear," said Adelaide, regretfully, "is it given up?"

He told her rather slowly the whole story. The most terrible moment was,
as he had expected, when he explained that they had met, he and Mathilde,
to apply for their marriage license. Adelaide turned, and looked full at
her daughter.

"You were going to treat me like that?" Mathilde burst into tears. She
had long been on the brink of them, and now they came more from nerves
than from a sense of the justice of her mother's complaint. But the sound
of them upset Wayne hopelessly. He couldn't go on for a minute, and Mr.
Lanley rose to his feet.

"Good Lord! good Lord!" he said, "that was dishonorable! Can't you see
that that is dishonorable, to marry her on the sly when we trusted her to
go about with you--"

"O Papa, never mind about the dishonorableness," said Adelaide. "The
point is"--and she looked at Wayne--"that they were building their
elopement on something that turned out to be a fraud. That doesn't make
one think very highly of your judgment, Mr. Wayne."

"I made a mistake, Mrs. Farron."

"It was a bad moment to make one. You have worked three years with this
firm and never suspected anything wrong?"

"Yes, sometimes I have--"

Adelaide's eyebrows went up.

"Oh, you have suspected. You had reason to think the whole thing might be
dishonest, but you were willing to run away with Mathilde and let her get
inextricably committed before you found out--"

"That's irresponsible, sir," said Lanley. "I don't suppose you
understood what you were doing, but it was utterly irresponsible."

"I think," said Adelaide, "that it finally answers the question as to

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