She reviewed her past dependences. Her youth, with its dependence on her father, particularly in matters of dress. She recalled her early photographs with a shudder. Had she really dressed so badly or was it only the change of fashion? And then her dependence on Joe Severance. What could be more ridiculous than for a woman of her intelligence to allow herself to be guided in everything by a man like Joe, who had nothing himself but a certain shrewd masculinity? And now Vincent. She was still under the spell of his superiority, but perhaps she would come to judge him too. She had learned much from him. Perhaps she had learned all he had to teach her. Her face looked as if it were carved out of some smooth white stone.
After she had gone up-stairs, Mathilde went down again to telephone Pete that she had made her decision. She went boldly snapping electric switches, for her going was a sort of assertion of her right to independent action. She would have hesitated even less if she had known how welcome her news was, how he had suffered since their parting.
On going home from his interview with her, he found his mother dressing to dine with Mr. Lanley, a party arranged before the unexpected arrival of Mrs. Baxter. The only part of dressing that delayed Mrs. Wayne was her hair, which was so long that the brushing of it took time. In this process she was engaged when her son, in response to her answer, came into her room.
“How is Mr. Farron?” she asked at once, and he, rather touched at the genuineness of her interest, answered her in detail before her next exclamation betrayed that it was entirely for the employer of Marty Burke that she was solicitous. “Isn’t it too bad he was taken ill just now?” she said.
The bitterness and doubt from which Wayne was suffering were not emotions that disposed him to confidence. He did not want to tell his mother what he was going through, for the obvious and perhaps unworthy reason that it was just what she would have expected him to go through. At the same time a real deceit was involved in concealing it, and so, tipping his chair back against her wall, he said:
“The firm has asked me to go to China for them.”
His mother turned, her whole face lit up with interest.
“To China! How interesting!” she said. “China is a wonderful country. How I should like to go to China!”
“Come along. I don’t start for two weeks.”
She shook her head.
“No, if you go, I’ll make a trip to that hypnotic clinic of Dr. Platerbridge’s; and if I can learn the trick, I will open one here.”
The idea crossed Wayne’s mind that perhaps he had not the power of inspiring affection.
“You don’t miss people a bit, do you, Mother?” he said.
“Yes, Pete, I do; only there is so much to be done. What does Mathilde say to you going off like this? How long will you be gone?”