“Oh, yes; that is easy enough. Oh, dear me, Maurice, you always manage to get your own way with me; but you have given me a dreadfully hard task this time.”
“As if a woman of your known tact and savoir faire was not capable of any hard and impossible task!” answered her son, smiling, as he bent and kissed her soft white face.
The gentle flattery pleased her. The old lady sat smiling happily to herself, with her hands idle before her, for some minutes after he had left her.
How dear he was to her, how good, how upright, how thoroughly generous too, and unselfish to think so much of his brother’s troubles just now, in the midst of all his own happiness.
She got up and went to the window, and watched him as he strolled across the garden to join the ladies, smiling and kissing her hand to him when he looked back and saw her.
“Dear fellow, I hope he will be happy!” she said to herself, turning away with a half sigh. And then suddenly something brought back the ball at Shadonake to her recollection. There flashed back into her memory a certain scene in a cool, dimly-lit conservatory: two people whispering together under a high-swung Chinese lamp, and a background of dark-leaved shrubs behind them.
She had been puzzled that night. There had been something going on that she had not quite understood. And now again that feeling of unsatisfied comprehension came back to her. For the first time it struck her painfully that the son whom she idolized so much—whose life and character had been her one study and her one delight ever since the day of his birth—was nevertheless a riddle to her. That the secret of his inner self was as much hidden from her—his mother—as though she had been the merest stranger; that the life she had striven so closely to entwine with her own was nothing after all but a separate existence, in the story of whose soul she herself had no part. He was a man struggling single-handed in all the heat and turmoil of the battle of life, and she, nothing but a poor, weak old woman, standing feebly aside, powerless to help or even to understand the creature to whom she had given birth.
There fell a tear or two down upon her wrinkled little hands as she thought of it. She could not understand him; there was something in his life she could not fathom. Oh, what did it all mean?
Alas, sooner or later, is not that what comes to every mother concerning the child she loves best?
MR. PRYME’S VISITORS.
For courage mounteth with occasion.
Shakespeare, “King John.”
Mr. Herbert Pryme stood by a much ink-stained and littered table in his chambers in the Temple, with his hands in his trousers pockets, whistling a slow and melancholy tune.
It was Mr. Pryme’s habit to whistle when he was dejected or perplexed; and the whistling generally partook of the mournful condition of his feelings. Indeed, everything that this young man did was of a ponderous and solemn nature; there was always the inner consciousness of the dignity of the Bar vested in his own person, to be discerned in his outer bearing. Even in the strictest seclusion of the, alas! seldom invaded privacy of his chambers Mr. Pryme never forgot that he was a barrister-at-law.