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Wayne saw it all in an instant.
"Oh, yes, I see. We'll talk of that later."
But Adelaide had seen, too.
"No; do go on, Mrs. Wayne. You don't approve of the way my daughter has been brought up."
"I don't think she has been brought up to be a poor man's wife."
"No. I own I did not have that particular destiny in mind."
"And when I heard you assuming just now that every one was always concerned about money, and when I realized that the girl must have been brought up in that atmosphere and belief—”
Mathilde rushed away to her own room, and Adelaide and her father were left alone. She turned to him with one of her rare caresses.
"Dear Papa," she said, "what a comfort you are to me! What should I do without you? You'll never desert me, will you?" And she put her head on his shoulder. He patted her with an absentminded rhythm, and then he said, as if he were answering some secret train of thought:
"I don't see what else I could have done."
"You could n't have done anything else," replied his daughter, still nestling against him. "But Mrs. Baxter had frightened me with her account of your sentimental admiration for Mrs. Wayne, and I thought you might want to make
"I see. You thought she was not quite yourself agreeable to her at the expense of the right wife for your son?"
"But I would try so hard," said Mathilde. "I would learn; I—”
"Mathilde," interrupted her mother, "when a lady tells you you are not good enough for her son, you must not protest."
"Come, come, Adelaide, there is no use in being disagreeable," said Mr. Lanley.
"Disagreeable!" returned his daughter. "Mrs. Wayne and I are entirely agreed. She thinks her son too good for my daughter, and I think my daughter too good for her son. Really, there seems nothing more to be said. Good-by, Mr. Wayne." She held out her long, white hand to him. Mrs. Wayne was trying to make her position clearer to Mathilde, but Pete thought this an undesirable moment for such an attempt.
Partly as an assertion of his rights, partly because she looked so young and helpless, he stooped and kissed her.
"I'll come and see you about half-past ten to-morrow morning," he said very clearly, so that every one could hear. Adelaide looked blank; she was thinking that on Pringle she could absolutely depend. Wayne saw his mother and Lanley bow to each other, and the next moment he had contrived to get her out of the house.
my poor child."
She felt his shoulder heave with a longer breath.
"I can't imagine putting anything before Mathilde's happiness," he said, and after a pause he added: "I really must go home. Mrs. Baxter will think me a neglectful host."
"Don't you want to bring her to dine here to-night? I'll try and get some one to meet her. Let me see. She thinks Mr. Wilsey—”
"Oh, I can't stand Wilsey," answered her father, crossly.
"Well, I'll think of some one to sacrifice on the altar of your friendship. I certainly don't want to dine alone with Mathilde. And, by the way, Papa, I have n't mentioned any of this to Vincent."
He thought it was admirable of her to bear her anxieties alone so as to spare her sick husband.
"Poor girl!" he said. "You 've had a lot of trouble lately."
In the meantime Wayne and his mother walked slowly home.
"I suppose you 're furious at me, Pete," she said.
"Not a bit," he answered. "For a moment, when I saw what you were going
to say, I was terrified. But no amount of tact would have made Mrs. Farron feel differently, and I think they might as well know what we really think and feel. I was only sorry if it hurt Mathilde.”
"Oh dear, it's so hard to be truthful!" exclaimed his mother. He laughed, for he wished she sometimes found it harder; and she went on:
"Poor little Mathilde! You know I would n't hurt her if I could help it. It's not her fault. But what a terrible system it is, and how money does blind people! They can't see you at all as you are, and yet if you had fifty thousand dollars a year, they'd be more aware of your good points than I am. They can't see that you have resolution and charm and a sense of honor. They don't see the person, they just see the lack of income."
"A person is all Mrs. Farron says she asks for her daughter."
"She does not know a person when she sees one."
"She knew one when she married Farron."
Mrs. Wayne sniffed.
"Perhaps he married her," she replied. Her son thought this likely, but he did. not answer, for she had given him an idea -to see Farron. Farron would at least understand the situation. His mother approved of the suggestion.
"Of course he 's not Mathilde's father." "He 's not a snob."
They had reached the house, and Pete was fishing in his pocket for his keys.
"Do you think Mr. Lanley is a snob?" he asked.
As usual Mrs. Wayne evaded the direct
"I got an unfavorable impression of him this afternoon."
They walked up their four flights in silence, and then Wayne remembered to ask something that had been in his mind. several times.
"By the way, Mother, how did you happen to come to the Farrons at all?"
She laughed rather self-consciously. "I hoped perhaps Mr. Farron might be well enough to see me a moment about Marty. The truth is, Pete, Mr. Farron is the real person in that whole family."
That evening he wrote Farron a note, asking him to see him the next morning at half-past ten about "this trouble of which, of course, Mrs. Farron has told you." He added a request that he would tell Pringle of his intention in case he could give the interview, because Mrs. Farron had been quite frank in saying that she would give orders not to let him in.
Farron received this note with his breakfast. Adelaide was not there. He had had no hint from her of any crisis. He had not come down to dinner the evening before to meet Mrs. Baxter and the useful people asked to entertain her, but he had seen Mathilde's tear-stained face, and in a few minutes with his father-in-law had encountered one or two evident evasions. Only Adelaide had been unfathomable.
After he had read the letter and thought over the situation, he sent for Pringle, and gave orders that when Mr. Wayne came he would see him.
Pringle did not exactly make an objection, but stated a fact when he replied that Mrs. Farron had given orders that Mr. Wayne was not to be allowed to see Miss Severance.
"Exactly," said Farron. "Show him here." Here was his own study.
As it happened, Adelaide was sitting with him, making very good invalid's talk,
"For failing to see that I was a king when Pringle announced, "Mr. Wayne." among men ?"
"For backing up every stupid thing his daughter said."
"Loyalty is a fine quality."
"Justice is better," answered his mother. "Oh, well, he 's old," said Wayne, dismissing the whole subject.
"Pringle, I told you-" Adelaide began, but her husband cut her short.
"He has an appointment with me, Adelaide."
"You don't understand, Vin. You must n't see him."
Wayne was by this time in the room.
"But I wish to see him, my dear Adelaide, and," Farron added, "I wish to see him alone."
"No," she answered, with a good deal of excitement; "that you cannot. This is my affair, Vincent-the affair of my child."
He looked at her for a second, and then opening the door into his bedroom, he said to Wayne:
"Will you come in here?" The door was closed and locked behind the two men. Wayne was not a coward, although he had dreaded his interview with Adelaide; it was his very respect for Farron that kept him from feeling even nervous.
"Perhaps I ought not to have asked you to see me," he began.
"I'm very glad to see you," answered Farron. "Sit down, and tell me the story as you see it from the beginning."
It was a comfort to tell the story at last to an expert. Wayne, who had been trying for twenty-four hours to explain what underwriting meant, what were the responsibilities of brokers in such matters, what was the function of such a report as his, felt as if he had suddenly groped his way out of a fog as he talked, with hardly an interruption but a nod or a lightening. eye from Farron. He spoke of Benson. "I know the man," said Farron; of Honaton, "He was in my office once." Wayne told how Mathilde, and then he himself, had tried to inform Mrs. Farron of the definiteness of their plans to be married. "How long has this been going on?" Farron asked.
"At least ten days."
Farron nodded. Then Wayne told of the discovery of the proof at the printer's and his hurried meeting in the park to tell Mathilde. Here Farron stopped him suddenly.
"And you did n't do it?"
"It was n't consideration for her family that held me back."
"What was it?"
Pete found a moral scruple was a difficult motive to avow.
"It was Mathilde herself. That would not have been treating her as an equal." "You intend always to treat her as an equal?"
Wayne was ashamed to find how difficult it was to answer truthfully. The tone of the question gave him no clue to the speaker's own thoughts.
"Yes, I do," he said; and then blurted out hastily, "Don't you believe in treating a woman as an equal?"
"I believe in treating her exactly as she wants to be treated."
"But every one wants to be treated as an equal, if they 're any good." Farron smiled, showing those blue-white teeth for an instant, and Wayne, feeling he was not quite doing himself justice, added, "I call that just ordinary respect, you know, and I could not love any one I did n't respect. Could you?"
The question was, or Farron chose to consider it, a purely rhetorical one.
"I suppose," he observed, "that they are. to be counted the most fortunate who love and respect at the same time." "Of course," said Wayne. Farron nodded.
"And yet perhaps they miss a good deal."
"I don't know what they miss," answered Wayne, to whom the sentiment was as shocking as anything not understood can be.
"No; I'm sure you don't," answered his future step-father-in-law. "Go on with your story."
Wayne went on, but not as rapidly as
"What was it kept you from going he had expected. Farron kept him a long through with it just the same?"
"You 're the first person who has asked me that," answered Pete.
"Perhaps you did not even think of such a thing?"
"No one could help thinking of it who saw her there—”
time on the interview of the afternoon before, and particularly on Mrs. Farron's part, just the point Wayne did not want to discuss for fear of betraying the bitterness he felt toward her. But again and again Farron made him quote her. words wherever he could remember them;
and then, as if this had not been clear enough, he asked:
"You think my wife has definitely made up her mind against the marriage?"
"Irrevocably?" Farron questioned more as if it were the sound of the word than the meaning that he was doubting.
"Ah, you've been rather out of it lately, sir," said Wayne. "You have n't followed, perhaps, all that 's been going on." "Perhaps not."
Wayne felt he must be candid.
"If it is your idea that your wife's opposition could be changed, I 'm afraid I must tell you, Mr. Farron-" He paused, meeting a quick, sudden look; then Farron turned his head, and stared, with folded arms, out of the window. Wayne had plenty of time to wonder what he was going to say. What he did say was surprising.
"I think you are an honest man, and I should be glad to have you working for me. I could make you one of my secretaries, with a salary of six thousand dollars."
In the shock Pete heard himself saying the first thing that came into his head: "That's a large salary, sir."
"Some people would say large enough jerk and start and her mind dart and to marry on."
Wayne drew back.
"Don't you think you ought to consult Mrs. Farron before you offer it to me?"
"Don't carry honesty too far. No, I don't consult my wife about my office appointments."
"It is n't honesty; but I could n't stand having you change your mind when-"
"When my wife tells me to? I promise you not to do that."
Wayne found that the interview was over, although he had not been able to express his gratitude.
"I know what you are feeling," said Farron. "Good-by."
faint. Then she had foreseen loss through the fate common to humanity; now she foresaw it through the action of her own tyrannical contempt for anything that seemed to her weak.
She had never rebelled against coercion from Vincent. She had even loved it, but she had loved it when he had seemed to her a superior being; coercion from one who only yesterday had been under the dominion of nerves and nurses was intolerable to her. She was at heart a courtier, would do menial service to a king, and refuse common civility to an inferior. She knew how St. Christopher had felt at seeing his satanic captain tremble at the sign of the cross; and though, unlike the
"I can't understand why you are doing saint, she had no intention of setting out it, Mr. Farron; but-"
"It need n't matter to you. Good-by." With a sensation that in another instant
to discover the stronger lord, she knew that he might now any day appear.
From any one not an acknowledged