“Very well. Of course, if you think it wrong to leave her in ignorance about it, you must tell her. I myself see no reason for your mentioning the fact, unless you choose to. You are a mature and independent woman: she is old and childish. The relation between you is really reversed. You are the mother, and she the child. Suppose she had become a writer when you were a little girl: would it have been her duty to tell you of it?” replied Mr. Allen.
“I don’t care! I shall tell her! I never have kept the least thing from her yet, and I don’t believe I ever will,” said Mercy. “You’ll never make me think it’s right, Mr. Allen. What a good Jesuit you’d have made, wouldn’t you?”
Mr. Allen colored. “Oh, child, how unjust you are!” he exclaimed. “But it must be all my stupid way of putting things. One of these days, you’ll see it all differently.”
And she did. Firm as were her resolutions to tell her mother every thing, she could not find courage to tell her about the verses and the price paid for them. Again and again she had approached the subject, and had been frightened back,—sometimes by her own unconquerable dislike to speaking of her poetry; sometimes, as in the instance above, by an outbreak on her mother’s part of indignation at the bare suggestion of her earning money. After that conversation, Mercy resolved within herself to postpone the day of the revelation, until there should be more to tell and more to show.
“If ever I have a hundred dollars, I’ll tell her then,” she thought. “So much money as that would make it seem better to her. And I will have a good many verses by that time to read to her.” And so the secret grew bigger and heavier, and yet Mercy grew more used to carrying it, until she herself began to doubt whether Mr. Allen were not right, after all; and if it would not be a pity to trouble the feeble old heart with a needless perplexity and pain.
When Stephen White saw his new tenants’ first preparations for moving into his house, he was conscious of a strangely mingled feeling, half irritation, and half delight. Four weeks had passed since the unlucky evening on which he had taken Mercy to his mother’s room, and he had not seen her face again. He had called at the hotel twice, but had found only Mrs. Carr at home. Mercy had sent a messenger with only a verbal message, when she wished the key of the house.
She had an undefined feeling that she would not come into any relation with Stephen White, if it could be avoided. She was heartily glad that she had not been in the house when he called. And yet, had she been in the habit of watching her own mental states, she would have discovered that Stephen White was very much in her thoughts; that she had come to wondering why she never met him in her walks; and, what was still more significant, to mistaking other men for him, at a distance. This is one of the