“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.
Ever since he could remember, he and his mother had lived in the happiest comradeship. His father, a promising young doctor, had died within a few years of his marriage. Pete had been brought up by his mother, but he had very little remembrance of any process of molding. It seemed to him as if they had lived in a sort of partnership since he had been able to walk and talk. It had been as natural for him to spend his hours after school in stamping and sealing her large correspondence as it had been for her to pinch and arrange for years so as to send him to the university from which his father had been graduated. She would have been glad, he knew, if he had decided to follow his father in the study of medicine, but he recoiled from so long a period of dependence; he liked to think that he brought to his financial reports something of a scientific inheritance.