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"I dare say he is, poor Joe." Adelaide paused. "Well, my dear, that was the reason of our parting. One can pity a son or a brother, but not a husband. Weakness kills love. A woman cannot be the leader, the guide, and keep any romance. O Mathilde, I never want you to feel the humiliation of finding yourself stronger than the man you love. That is why I left your father, and my justification is his present happiness. This inferior little person he has married, she does as well. Any one would have done as well." Mathilde was puzzled by her mother's evident conviction that the explanation was complete. She asked after a moment: "But what was it that made you think at first that you did love him, Mama?" "Just what makes you think you love this boy--youth, flattery, desire to love. He was magnificently handsome, your father. I saw him admired by other men, apparently a master; I was too young to judge, my dear. You shan't be allowed to make that mistake; you shall have time to consider." Mathilde smiled. "I don't want time," she said. "I did not know I did." "I don't think I feel about love as you do," said the girl, slowly. "Every woman does." Mathilde shook her head. "It's just Pete as he is that I love. I don't care which of us leads." "But you will." The girl had not yet reached a point where she could describe the very essence of her passion; she had to let this go. After a moment she said: "I see now why you chose Mr. Farron." "You mean you have never seen before?" "Not so clearly." Mrs. Farron bit her lips. To have missed understanding this seemed a sufficient proof of immaturity. She rose. "Well, my darling," she said in a tone of extreme reasonableness, "we shall decide nothing to-night. I know nothing against Mr. Wayne. He may be just the right person. We must see more of him. Do you know anything about his family?" Mathilde shook her head. "He lives alone with his mother. His father is dead. She's very good and interested in drunkards." "In _drunkards_?" Mrs. Farron just shut her eyes a second. "She has a mission that reforms them." "Is that his profession, too?" "Oh, no. He's in Wall Street--quite a good firm. O Mama, don't sigh like that! We know we can't be married at once. We are reasonable. You think not, because this has all happened so suddenly; but great things do happen suddenly. We love each other. That's all I wanted to tell you." "Love!" Adelaide looked at the little person before her, tried to recall the fading image of the young man, and then thought of the dominating figure in her own life. "My dear, you have no idea what love is." She took no notice of the queer, steady look the girl gave her in return. She went down-stairs. She had been gone more than an hour, and she knew that Vincent would have been long since asleep. He had, and prided himself on having, a great capacity for sleep. She tiptoed past his door, stole into her own room, and then, glancing in the direction of his, was startled to see that a light was burning. She went in; he was reading, and once again, as his eyes turned toward her, she thought she saw the same tragic appeal that she had felt that afternoon in his kiss. Trembling, she threw herself down beside him, clasping him to her. "O Vincent! oh, my dear!" she whispered, and began to cry. He did not ask her why she was crying; she wished that he would; his silence admitted that he knew of some adequate reason. "I feel that there is something wrong," she sobbed, "something terribly wrong." "Nothing could go wrong between you and me, my darling," he answered. His tone comforted, his touch was a comfort. Perhaps she was a coward, she said to herself, but she questioned him no further. Wayne was not so prompt as Mathilde in making the announcement of their engagement. He and his mother breakfasted together rather hastily, for she was going to court that morning to testify in favor of one of her backsliding inebriates, and Wayne had not found the moment to introduce his own affairs. That afternoon he came home earlier than usual; it was not five o'clock. He passed Dr. Parret's flat on the first floor--Dr. Lily MacComb Parret. She was a great friend of his, and he felt a decided temptation to go in and tell her the news first; but reflecting that no one ought to hear it before his mother, he went on up-stairs. He lived on the fifth floor. He opened the door of the flat and went into the sitting-room. It was empty. He lighted the gas, which flared up, squeaking like a bagpipe. The room was square and crowded. Shelves ran all the way round it, tightly filled with books. In the center was a large writing-table, littered with papers, and on each side of the fireplace stood two worn, but comfortable, arm-chairs, each with a reading-lamp at its side. There was nothing beautiful in the furniture, and yet the room had its own charm. The house was a corner house and had once been a single dwelling. The shape of the room, its woodwork, its doors, its flat, white marble mantelpiece, belonged to an era of simple taste and good workmanship; but the greatest charm of the room was the view from the windows, of which it had four, two that looked east and two south, and gave a glimpse of the East River and its bridges. Wayne was not sorry his mother was out. He had begun to dread the announcement he had to make. At first he had thought only of her keen interest in his affairs, but later he had come to consider what this particular piece of news would mean to her. Say what you will, he thought, to tell your mother of your engagement is a little like casting off an old love.