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"Mama, this is Mr. Wayne," said Mathilde. Here was another tremendous moment crowding upon her--the introduction of her beautiful mother to this new friend, but even more, the introduction to her mother of this wonderful new friend, whose flavor of romance and interest no one, she supposed, could miss. Yet Mrs. Farron seemed to be taking it all very calmly, greeting him, taking his chair as being a trifle more comfortable than the others, trying to cover the doubt in her own mind whether she ought to recognize him as an old acquaintance. Was he new or one of the ones she had seen a dozen times before? There was nothing exactly artificial in Mrs. Farron's manner, but, like a great singer who has learned perfect enunciation even in the most trivial sentences of every-day matters, she, as a great beauty, had learned the perfection of self-presentation, which probably did not wholly desert her even in the dentist's chair. She drew off her long, pale, spotless gloves. "No tea, my dear," she said. "I've just had it," she added to Wayne, "with an old aunt of mine. Aunt Alberta," she threw over her shoulder to Mathilde. "I am very unfortunate, Mr. Wayne; this town is full of my relations, tucked away in forgotten oases, and I'm their only connection with the vulgar, modern world. My aunt's favorite excitement is disapproving of me. She was particularly trying to-day." Mrs. Farron seemed to debate whether or not it would be tiresome to go thoroughly into the problem of Aunt Alberta, and to decide that it would; for she said, with an abrupt change, "Were you at this party last night that Mathilde enjoyed so much?" "Yes," said Wayne. "Why weren't you?" "I wasn't asked. It isn't the fashion to ask mothers and daughters to the same parties any more. We dance so much better than they do." She leaned over, and rang the little enamel bell that dangled at the arm of her daughter's sofa. "You can't imagine, Mr. Wayne, how much better I dance than Mathilde." "I hope it needn't be left to the imagination." "Oh, I'm not sure. That was the subject of Aunt Alberta's talk this afternoon--my still dancing. She says she put on caps at thirty-five." Mrs. Farron ran her eyebrows whimsically together and looked up at her daughter's visitor. Mathilde was immensely grateful to her mother for taking so much trouble to be charming; only now she rather spoiled it by interrupting Wayne in the midst of a sentence, as if she had never been as much interested as she had seemed. Pringle had appeared in answer to her ring, and she asked him sharply: "Is Mr. Farron in?" "Mr. Farron's in his room, Madam." At this she appeared to give her attention wholly back to Wayne, but Mathilde knew that she was really busy composing an escape. She seemed to settle back, to encourage her visitor to talk indefinitely; but when the moment came for her to answer, she rose to her feet in the midst of her sentence, and, still talking, wandered to the door and disappeared. As the door shut firmly behind her Wayne said, as if there had been no interruption: "It was love you were speaking of, you know." "But don't you think my mother is marvelous?" she asked, not content to take up even the absorbing topic until this other matter had received due attention. "I should say so! But one isn't, of course, overwhelmed to find that your mother is beautiful." "And she's so good!" Mathilde went on. "She's always thinking of things to do for me and my grandfather and Mr. Farron and all these old, old relations. She went away just now only because she knows that as soon as Mr. Farron comes in he asks for her. She's perfect to every one." He came and sat down beside her again. "It's going to be much easier for her daughter," he said: "you have to be perfect only to one person. Now, what was it you were going to say about love?" Again they looked at each other; again Miss Severance had the sensation of drowning, of being submerged in some strange elixir. She was rescued by Pringle's opening the door and announcing: "Mr. Lanley." Wayne stood up. "I suppose I must go," he said. "No, no," she returned a little wildly, and added, as if this were the reason why she opposed his departure. "This is my grandfather. You must see him." Wayne sat down again, in the chair on the other side of the tea-table. CHAPTER II Mathilde had been wrong in telling Wayne that her mother had gone upstairs in obedience to an impulse of kindness. She had gone to quiet a small, gnawing anxiety that had been with her all the day, a haunting, elusive, persistent impression that something was wrong between her and her husband. All the day, as she had gone about from one thing to another, her mind had been diligently seeking in some event of the outside world an explanation of a slight obscuration of his spirit; but her heart, more egotistical, had stoutly insisted that the cause must lie in her. Did he love her less? Was she losing her charm for him? Were five years the limit of a human relation like theirs? Was she to watch the dying down of his flame, and try to shelter and fan it back to life as she had seen so many other women do? Or was the trouble only that she had done something to wound his aloof and sensitive spirit, seldom aloof to her? Their intimate life had never been a calm one. Farron's interests were concentrated, and his temperament was jealous. A woman couldn't, as Adelaide sometimes had occasion to say to herself, keep men from making love to her; she did not always want to. Farron could be relentless, and she was not without a certain contemptuous obstinacy. Yet such conflicts as these she had learned not to dread, but sometimes deliberately to precipitate, for they ended always in a deeper sense of unity, and, on her part, in a fresh sense of his supremacy.