MOTHER looked up as I entered the room, with my white cape falling from my shoulders. Her eyeglasses lay on a book in her lap. I think she had been asleep in her chair.

“ Did you have a good time ? ” she asked.

“Yes,” I answered, “ better than usual. It was very informal; more talking than dancing. Every one walked home.”

“ I thought I heard some one’s voice,” said Mother. She did not ask whose.

“ Mr. De Forest walked up the hill with me.”

“You like him?” asked Mother, twirling her eyeglasses in her fingers.

“He is interesting. He has been telling me about his life in Paris, while he was an art student there.”

Now that reminded Mother of Trilby, which she read through to see “ how it came out,” and called a queer book, very. What struck me so forcibly in it — its intolerance of intolerance—escaped her. Mother prefers novels in which the characters are labeled good, bad, or indifferent, so that she may know where she is, and where the author is. No untrodden paths for her, thank you ! I wonder why I did not tell her what Mr. De Forest had said of his bitter struggles and his first gleams of success, of the sickness that brought him once to the Hôtel Dieu, and the joy under it all to be living the life he was made for. “ I don’t know when I have talked so much about myself, Miss Wynne,” he had said ; “ but something in your atmosphere makes me want you to see me as I am.”

Was I glad ? Oh, I do like a man who toils, and achieves, and is willing to suffer for his ideals. But I did not repeat his words to Mother; instead, I tossed a couple of ornate favors into her lap. “ Mr. Davenport sent them to you. He says I am not so handsome as you were at my age.”

Mother blushed, and opened her eyes wide in an odd, expressive way she has. “ I was well enough,” she said. “ That organdie is very becoming, Florence. I like it better so than the way the dressmaker wanted it.”

“ It suits my style better.”

“When I was a girl,” said Mother, “ I never talked about my ‘ style.’ I had things made in the fashion.”

Never were two persons more unlike than Mother and I. Or is it that everything is different? At twenty-four she had been married four years. I am older and younger than she was then. It makes a break in the continuity of experience. I do not go to Mother for advice about anything that really concerns me ; for she has always given me readymade opinions, and sometimes they were worn transparent. I have had to think things out for myself; but a girl wants some companionship on that road.

As a child I questioned everything. If Mother punished me, instead of crying I reasoned with her. Then I went off alone and cried, where she would not see me. When she told me once that I ought to be ashamed of speaking disrespectfully to my mother, I asked her if it was any better for her to speak disrespectfully to her daughter. I tell her sometimes now that the last generation could have improved upon the way they brought up their children. She says her children have turned out pretty well. That is nice, — n’est-ce pas ? — but it’s no answer !

Mother acted absent-minded to-day. I found her looking over her bureau, where she keeps all sorts of old things, and there was a tear in her eye as she said she had no errand for me. It was dull downtown, — no one out. Billy Fairchild drove up behind me. “ Let me drive you home, Miss Florence ? ” he asked. I could not refuse my old playmate very well. He took me around by the river road. Just as we passed the lower bridge we met Mr. De Forest climbing up the bank, with his sketching traps under his arm. His face is very grave in repose. I bowed. “ Oh, it’s that painter fellow ! ” said Billy. “ Would I be an ‘ artust ’ — oh ! ” I dislike Billy’s mind, it is so commercial. If he were not his father’s secretary in their big paper mill, he would probably be a drummer, and the men on the road would call him “ Billy,” just as every one does now.

Mother was at the door as we drove up. “ I ’ve brought her home, you see, Mrs. Wynne ! ” cried Billy.

“ Yes, I see,” replied Mother.

She tried to have me talk about him, this evening. I wish she would ask straight questions, and not make those tentative approaches. Finally she said, “ Billy has improved lately, has n’t he ? ”

“ Oh yes ; about as much as he ever will.”

“ Have you ever thought that Billy cared a good deal about you ? ”

“ Lots of times. He is nothing but a boy, Mother, so don’t worry.”

“ He is twenty-six.”

“ I mean he has never experienced anything! ” I answered impatiently. “ He has a good head for business, and he will step into his father’s shoes, and be able to build a house on that corner lot of his for his wife, and get a bald spot on top of his head at forty, — and that’s the end of Billy Fairchild.”

“Well, you mustn’t slight your old schoolmate; he has no bad habits,” said Mother.

“ ‘ No bad habits ’ is a negative outfit to marry on,” I replied, clasping my hands behind my head. “ Give me a few positive qualities, please.”

Mother sighed. She has heard some one say that Florence Wynne is not likely to marry, she is so critical. She does not want me not to marry, but every new acquaintance she turns over nervously in her mind. Nor is it individual fitness that would have weight with her, but general qualities, — family, good habits, ability to support a wife. Marriage must have been simpler in her day. If I were to tell her what I really think about such things, she would be scandalized. What is it like to have one’s mother see one from the inside ? Sometimes — once — twice — I have seen that, and it makes me feel commonplace ; I go down before it. “ That,” I say to myself, “ is a family life that I have never known, and shall never know.”

I remember now why Mother was sad to-day. It is the birthday of my little brother, who died years before I was born. He would have been thirty-seven, if he had lived. Those were his baby clothes she had. With all the suffering in the world, it seems as if she would have wanted some poor little child to have them ; but she never likes to give things away. The soul is free, and beyond all earthly need.

Our Club met this morning, for the first time since June. We are going on with the study of modern Europe. Last season I felt that I was gaining broader views of history, but at times the feeling will creep over me that it is all a selfseeking in the name of culture. Are we to go on absorbing just for ourselves ? After hearing any one speak of a strenuous, aspiring life, as Mr. De Forest did the other night, I long for a more active stake in existence. But Mother would not like me to leave her ; we talked about that once. I bring home all the anecdotes to tell her. Mother is interested in persons, not in tendencies; she likes to read about great events, not to trace the influences underneath which shaped their channels.

While I was on the veranda, this afternoon, Mr. De Forest strolled up to the gate. “ May I come in ? ” he asked. He seated himself on the steps, below me. He has a good face, — strong, sensitive, manly. I like the crisp look his dark hair has at the roots. I listened in a dream while he talked of Italy as he had seen it in the early summer, sea and sky and vineyards drenched with color. “ Drenched ” was his word. He talks in snatches, with eyes and hands; suddenly his eyes twinkled. “ Then my money gave out! ” he said. I was afraid he had no humor. I don’t know why I say I was afraid ; I like people who can laugh with themselves. “ Italy was Browning’s great find,” he went on. “ Do you know his Old Pictures in Florence ? ” It made me feel for a second as if he had called me by name.

“ The poet says what the artist feels, but can express only through his own medium,” I ventured.

“ That’s it. Few painters write well about art, and the poet can’t paint; but he knows how a conception comes to one, to torment and baffle him, in seizing its essence.

Must fumble for the whole, once fixing on a part
However poor, surpass the fragment, and aspire
To reconstruct thereby the ultimate entire.’

‘ The ultimate entire ! ’ ” he repeated, throwing out his nervous hand ; his eyes were all aglow. “I’d give my life for that! daily ” —

Just then Mother came out, in her quiet, almost shy way. He sprang up, and I drew forward a chair. I wanted him to go on, and to have her join in. What I said was, “ We were talking of one of Browning’s poems, Mother.”

“ Do you enjoy Browning, Mrs. Wynne ? ” asked Mr. De Forest.

“ Not particularly,” Mother answered. “ I know he is very highly spoken of, but I have never read many of his poems.”

We went on talking, but no more of art, — little, easy, commonplace things.

Mr. De Forest seemed glad to stay to tea. Mother has such a charming way at our own table, although she hates formal “functions.” Ours is not one of the large old colonial houses, but I saw our guest’s eyes rest on our old mahogany and our two or three bits of Revolutionary silver.

“ Mother will not join the D. A. R., Mr. De Forest,” said I, “ because she thinks that the gray-haired ladies she finds grubbing away over genealogies at the town library ought to have cared for their ancestors earlier. She says that people may remember what part her great-grandfather took in the Revolution without a framed certificate in the front hall.”

“ And with good reason ! ” said Mother proudly. We all laughed at that.

Mr. De Forest has asked if he may make a sketch of me. Marion Lowe hoped he would paint her, — she is rather posée, — but he says he does not care about “ mere prettiness.”

The study is nearly finished, and is like me with one difference : I am not beautiful, but the picture is. It fascinates me to see any one working with a sure touch. We love it in literature, but there we cannot watch the process. Mother came in to-day. “ It is a good likeness,” she said; “but you have made her eyebrows alike. The left one is a bit higher in the middle.”

“ So it is, and it adds character, too. You are a close observer, Mrs. Wynne.”

“ I think I ought to know how my own child looks,” replied Mother.

Mr. De Forest goes on to Chicago soon, to establish himself. I suppose it has been just another “ subject ” to him.

— No, no, it was not! He loves me, — he loved me from the first; but he had his own future to make, and he was afraid I would not — But it was all too strong for him ; I must do with him what I would.

“ Do you think I can help you reach your ‘ultimate entire’?” I asked at last.

“ I shall never reach it without you,” he answered.

Never mind what I said. I led him in by the hand to Mother, and when she saw us her hand went up to her throat. “ Mother, he is your boy now,” I said.

“ I ’ve lost my daughter.”

“No, Mrs. Wynne,” said Jack. “Be good to me — I — I want her !

It thrilled me unspeakably. How could she help loving him ? She gave him a quick, maternal peck. Mother’s kisses are like lightning ; they never hit you as you expect. She thinks he is perfect now, because he is her boy.

Carrie has come home with the children for a visit. It is good of her to help me. She thinks I might have managed my affairs better, and she is disappointed because I will not have her Dick and Frank’s Reggie as pages at my wedding. I dislike to see children made a picturesque adjunct to grown people’s occasions. I am to have a quiet morning wedding, with a few of our best friends. Mother says it will be “ very suitable.” She thinks a great deal about me lately, I know. This afternoon, as we sat sewing, I saw that there was something on her mind. Of all her experiences, had she nothing for me now ? Since I have known that Jack wants me I wish I could live my life over and make up for lost time. Finally she said, “ Florence ? ”

“ Yes, Mother dear.”

“ I have been thinking that, after all, it would be better to send to New York for the white-silk samples.”

I shall never tell her that I cried tonight. Mothers seem to me so helpless ! Oh, if girls had a richer emotional life at home, they would be happier; they would not feel so on the outside ! I have been happy as things go, but if ever — why should I not say it ? — if I should ever have children, I would not call them “ queer.” I would try to befriend their inner life, and not think that because they were my children there was no more to be said.

Mother nearly broke down when I came away. She looked so sweet in the silvery gray silk I chose to match her hair. “ I ’ll write to-morrow,” I said. Everything around me seemed distant and unreal. I have not been such a good daughter that she should miss me much. Besides, I shall come home sometimes, as Carrie does.

Jack grasped me by both hands as the carriage drove off. “ Mine, — my own ! ” he said. He could n’t wait a minute to appropriate me, could he? I wonder if a man ever realizes what it means to a woman, — that it is a break with all the old life.

Our little interior in one of the tallest of tall buildings is cosily contrived. We have a large studio with an admirable light, a bedroom and kitchen across a tiny hall. We get our own French breakfasts, and sometimes dinners, too. Jack says it is Paris—with a difference. I am the difference. It was great fun to choose hangings and cushions for the studio. His eye for colors and textures comes high ; but our compromises show taste, at least. Mother writes to ask if I am happy in my “ atmosphere.” That is clever of her, to quote Jack’s pet phrases at me.

Jack sold a picture at the last exhibition, and has several orders for portraits. On our reception day his chums gather around my tea table in the corner, where I make tea in the silver samovar the Club girls gave me. They are clever fellows ; not quite like Jack. Sometimes, after they have gone, Jack comes over to me, saying, “ When I look at you across the room, and think that I am going to have you all the time ”— Yes, it is all the time; we two, and the multitude. So the months pass.

I dream dreams all day long now, but not for myself alone. Life is so full, now that I am looking forward to my child’s birth. I wrote a long letter to Mother, and she has written to tell me not to overdo, and that she is glad I am expecting. Dear Mother, how shocked she must have been at my more open speech ! Here I am glorying in the laws of life that are my wings, and all she can find to say to me is that hushed, diffident little phrase which has come down from a half-developed generation. Why will parents be conventional with their children ? It is truth they want.

Jack is painting Mrs. Desha’s portrait, and it ought to make him immortal. She sits to him in a wonderful pinky-pearl velvet, with lace like hoarfrost, and pale roses that melt into the tints of her skin. Once she forgot them when she went. I told Jack it was Beauty laying an offering at the shrine of Genius ; he grinned. She is one of those women who must needs strike the personal note with any man worth speaking to. It is not enough to please ; they must influence. Her manner to me is gracious, self - assured. I am “ that clever young artist’s wife,” and she sends me cards to her (next largest) teas. Why did she give me that pitying glance, this morning? Oh, I know. Does she think I mind that ? My dear woman, those are fascinating ways you have, and if I were Jack I might forget for a moment that I had a wife in the next room ; but when you go any deeper, you strike something made up of the thousand supple fibres of a common experience — and a common hope ; and if you do not know how strong it is, it is because you have never proved it yourself.

I told Jack this, looking over his shoulder. “ She is a stunning creature ! ” he exclaimed. “ Did you notice that droop to her eyelids ? ” He drew them. “ She has a sensuous mouth with a scornful curve.” He drew it. “ Women of that type want mental excitement ; they like to dabble in emotions, to exploit men. Let her try her wiles on me; it gives me more chance to study her.”

“ You know too much about women ! ” said I.

Jack went on drawing. “When a man makes it his business to study the human face, he is likely to learn a good deal of the soul,” he answered. “ Now here is a different type, — look.” It was my own face, — in his memory like that. “ Broad forehead, mouth with a firm little line at the corner, eyes too deep for soundings, — that ’s your soul! ”

“ Then if my soul did n’t have that face, you would n’t care for me?”

“It can’t help having that face.”

“But if I were ugly ? ”

“ You might start out with an ugly face, but you would make it plastic to you in the end.” Jack has such dear, funny little theories.

My wee bit laddie is four weeks old. I wandered a day and a night in a faroff world of pain. For myself I would not have struggled any longer, but it was for my child, — I had to live. Peace wrapped me round at last. I saw Jack’s face through a wreath of mist; it was white. His lips brushed mine as gently as a butterfly’s wing. “ Little mother! ” he whispered.

I suppose men take it as a matter of course that their children shall be born.

I asked for my child, and they brought him to me. His soft baby hand was warm, alive. I went to sleep holding it.

When they told me I was not strong enough to nurse him, I turned my face to the pillow. It has often repelled me, the gloating way some women have with their children. It seemed too physical, too instinctive ; it reminded me of Amelia in Vanity Fair. I always thought her a low type of motherhood. I do still, only —

Only it ’s the same tincture in us all, thank Heaven! I am linked with the race. Mother’s letters are under my pillow. She says it is so strange to think of her little girl with a baby. Mother cannot realize that I am a grown woman, twenty-six years old. She was very anxious. She would have come to me, only it makes her ill to travel. Jack got a lecture from her for not mentioning the color of Laddie’s eyes. “ They don’t have much color until they ’re older, do they?” he asked.

“ Yes,” said I; “ they are clear light brown, like yours, — look ! ” (We are just like other “ parients; ” is n’t it amusing ?)

“ He squints so, I can’t see. Come here, my son.” To see Laddie in his father’s arms makes my heart swell. I’m going to have your confidence, my boy, do you hear ? I’m going to grow for your sake.

Jack is making a picture of Laddie and me. He works as if he were inspired. I wear a gown of old blue that he loves. This morning he was in such a hurry to have me sit for him that he came to get Laddie himself.

“ You’ve put him on my right arm,” said I.

“ What difference does it make ? ”

“ No difference when I am sitting, but I carry him in the left arm, to have the right one free to protect him. Did n’t you know that, you painter of humanity ? Look at your old Madonnas ! ”

“ Never thought of it before. The Sistine Madonna is n’t so.”

“ No; Raphael was childless, or he would not have given his Granduca Madonna that self-absorbed expression, and no grip in her limp hands. DagnanBouveret knew better.”

“ I must tell that to Thurston. He raves about you. He thinks you are a sort of Madonna yourself, you know.”

“What nonsense!” said I, coloring up to the roots of my hair.

“ Well, I think so, too,” said Jack; and putting his lips out toward me he kissed the air. Men worship women easily, don’t they ? This is a queer world.

Laddie acted less playful than usual to-day. Perhaps it is the smell of the paint. The heat tries him. Jack wanted to send ns into the country, but we cannot afford it.

We called Dr. Ames in again to see Laddie, to-day. The little fellow is not well. The doctor asked about his food ; he said he was not well nourished. He might as well have told us we were starving him, — starving him, my poor little boy! Jack rushed out for the other food, and watched him take it. “ He likes it better, does n’t he ? ” he asked, with a long breath of relief. He is a very frail baby, but if I can only get him through the summer —

Laddie has meningitis. I know that the doctor has no hope of saving him, but I have not told Jack. The heat outside is like a blast from an oven, and men are prostrated every day. I cannot feel for them; my thoughts are bound up in the poor little life that is ebbing away. Each morning I darken the studio, and Jack sits in his shirt sleeves by the window, holding Laddie until his arm is numb, while I fan them. His playful ways are all hushed; his eyes look so old, so piteous ! His feeble cry pierces me. I hope it may end soon.

Laddie tried to smile at me, this morning.

Laddie died in Jack’s arms four nights ago. He was too sick to heed us ; his life went out with only a flutter of his eyelids.

Death is such a solitary thing!

“ It is over,” I said.

Jack laid him down, and turned to me. “ Cry, dear.”

“ I don’t want to cry. I am glad he is dead.” Jack did not understand.

I went about the house, putting all in order. A light breeze had sprung up, — too late. When I went back, Jack was on the floor by the bed, with his face buried in Laddie’s dress. I knelt beside him, and he turned his head to my shoulder, just as Laddie does — did, I mean. His hands were hot and damp. I felt years older than he. “ God has been very merciful to him,” I said. “He will never have any more pain.”

“ I am glad if you can take it that way! ” said Jack, with a great sob.

I held him until he was quiet. I led him into the studio and made him lie down on the sofa, — how flippant those “ stage properties ” of ours looked ! He asked me to kiss him. When I looked back from the door he was lying very still, with his hand over his eyes. I left him there, — my other child. Then I sat in the dark by my little laddie, and smoothed his cold hand, and asked him to forgive me. It seemed as if he must have heard me. Had n’t God children enough without taking my firstborn ? But I have no right to complain ; if I had taken better care of him, he might have lived.

The gray dawn turned bright in the east before I went into the kitchen softly, not to wake Jack, and lighted the gas stove. The baker’s boy brought up the rolls, whistling. “ !Nice morning ; going to be cooler,” he said.

“ Yes, it’s a nice morning,” I answered.

Jack said he was not hungry; but I made his coffee strong, as he liked it in Paris, and it did him good. He tied an apron around his neck, to help me afterward. He laughed over it, and then turned his face away. By and by I found him looking out of the studio window listlessly.

“ Jack, do you think you could make a sketch of Laddie ? We should be glad to have it — in future.”

“ I don’t know whether I have the heart for it. Do you want me to do it ? ”

“ If you feel able. I have dressed him, and he looks very sweet.”

I let in more light as he wanted it. In spite of himself he became interested. He brought me the sketch to see if I was pleased. There are no affected mannerisms in his brushwork. He had caught the way the tip of the thumb was bent back from the fingers. I used to think Laddie would be an artist, too, some day, his thumb had so much individuality. “ It is a beautiful drawing, dear ; thank you.”

There was a cool lake breeze next day. Laddie would have felt a little better, if he had lived. Dr. Burroughs was away, and Jack had to hunt up a stranger. He was a young man. He looked surprised to see only us two. I should have known he had children by the way he put his hand out on the coffin as he spoke. I do not remember what he said.

We locked the door, and went down in the lift together. The minister came in the carriage with us. He seemed like an old friend. Jack’s eyes regarded me with remote tenderness. Jack ! precious father ! with your little dead boy on your knees and your arm over him, — I love you so !

It was all sweet and quiet, just as I would have had it. We sat in the dark, that evening. I laid my face against Jack’s arm, and he held my hands. It was so good to have him ! “ After all,

it was a terrible tussle for the poor little chap,” he said. It is beginning to be “ after ” with Jack.

Four days ago, and I have not heard from Mother yet. It takes nearly two days to go, and two to come. I know she would write as soon as she could.

The letter came the evening after. Mother’s hand shook when she wrote. The bottom of the page was blotted. “ Dear little daughter — I am so grieved — I can’t write any more.” Mother has lost children, too. I am sorry, sorry.

I overheard Jack say to Dr. Ames that I had borne it better than he was afraid I would. I do not tell him that I wake every night at the same time, and put my hand out before I remember, to see if Laddie is warm — and he is not there. It is a piece of myself that has gone from me. I want it, — I want him ! It seems as if my struggle would disturb Jack. No, he does not wake. Jack is dear and kind, but he does not know unless I tell him. He works very hard, these days ; we are short of money. A fine line comes out on his forehead at times. I am cheerful with him ; and when he quotes poetry to me I try not to wince, but everything jars on me.

One day he asked me if I would like to walk along the lake shore. I saw that he wanted me to go. I put on the black gown I had altered by taking out the pale gold-colored front he called so artistic. He said it brought out the undertints of gold in my hair. It is not because I wish to look sombre that I tie a thick veil over my hat. I need something that I can get behind. I see so many children everywhere. Jack ran after one little fellow, and tossed him up to his shoulder. The boy squealed with delight. “ You ’re fond of children, sir?” said a woman standing by.

“Very,” answered Jack, raising his hat and walking on quickly. I saw the hurt quiver under his mustache. No, Jack has not forgotten.

When I went into the studio, a week ago, Jack was looking at the picture he had made of Laddie and me. He turned it to the wall quickly. “You need n’t do that,” said I.

“ I did n’t know but perhaps ” — He replaced it on the easel, and stepped back, “ It is one of the best things I have ever done.”

“ Why don’t you finish it ? It is nearly finished, is it not ? ”

“ The face is. The background and draperies need a few hours’ work.”

“ I will sit for you, if you like.”

“ Do you care to do it ? I don’t want you to tire yourself.”

“ I am not tired.”

His eyes brightened as I returned in the blue gown. He hates gloomy things ; he loves warmth and color. He got on the floor to arrange the folds of my skirt. Bending his head, he kissed my knee. “You are so beautiful!” he said.

We had the afternoon to ourselves. Jack whistled at his work. “ I am progressing famously,” he declared. “ Bring your hand around a bit more, please. I don’t get those folds quite right, with nothing in your lap ” —

I was on my feet in the middle of the room. I think I struck my breast with my hand. The hot blood rushed to my face and ears. I felt flooded, suffocated. “Don’t! Don’t!” I gasped. “ I can’t bear it, — it is killing me ! ”

He sprang toward me, and I pressed my face against him. “ What a brute I am ! ” he exclaimed. “ I would n’t have said one word — I ought not to have let you sit so long. Ames told me to look out for your health, but you said you were perfectly well.”

“Jack, I want Mother! Take me home to Mother ! ”

He looked troubled. The fine line came out on his forehead. “ I wish I could, but I don’t see how to manage it. We have had so many extras ” —

“ Then let me go by myself. I must see Mother! You are dear and kind, but you are a man, and you do not understand.”

He left the room silently. I knelt beside his chair, and had my bead on my arms. “ 0 God, my hands are so empty ! ” I cried. “ I hear him crying in the night, and it wakes me ! What dost Thou know of these throes of the flesh ? ”

By and by I raised my head, and the picture confronted me on the easel. It looked so beautiful, so radiant with life, that it smote me. “Was that I?” I thought.

Jack laid a check for forty-five dollars in my lap, when he returned. “ Too late to cash it to-day,”he said.

“ From Mr. Cowles? Has he bought that little figure study ? I thought you said you would not let it go for less than a hundred.”

“ I offered it to him at his own price. He would have screwed me down more, if he could, because he saw my need, but I held out.”

It hurts him to haggle for money. I felt as if he had bought that check with his blood.

I walked up from the station, carrying my hand bag. I did not care to leave it with the expressman. The streets were quiet. It seemed for a moment as if it were all a dream, and I was coming home from an afternoon call. The screen door was unlocked. I stepped in softly. Mother stood before the sitting - room fireplace, her sewing hanging from one hand. Jack’s picture and mine were on the mantel. I set down my bag. Mother looked around. She gave a great start, and ran to me.

“ Oh, Mother! ” I said, and put my hands up to my face.

Mother’s arms went right around me; her cheek was wet. “ My poor little girl ! ” she said, — “ my poor, brave little girl ! She’s come home to Mother! Mother knows all about it! ”

“ It’s six weeks and two days. Mother ! ” I said, crying.

“ I know. Six weeks to-day since I got the letter.”

She took off my hat, and led me across the room, for I could not see. I held her hands. Mother’s hands are bent with rheumatism, but they are as soft as roseleaves inside. I told her everything. I used to wonder why people wanted to “ talk it over.” I thought it showed lack of self-control. I did not know then what it meant to lead a stifled life for another’s sake.

Mother made me lie down on the sofa. “ Don’t take so many steps for me, you troublesome woman,” said I. She only looked about for another cushion. “ Never mind my steps,” she said ; “ I ’ll do what I like, now I have my little girlie home.”

Jack looks up to me lately, and it makes me feel quite old; but to Mother I am just her little girlie, home from school again with a headache.

The room was the same as ever ; only that wretched “ hand - painted ” lamp shade aunt Caroline sent us was gone. I had a quarrel once with Mother about keeping it, and she said she wanted some things as she liked. The picture over the mantel hung half an inch out of the true. Hannah always had a crooked eye. I meant to get up and straighten it in a minute —

I think I must have slept, for I did not know Mother had come in until I felt her hand on my forehead. She gave me my tea in the Royal Worcester cup I bought when I began to care for pretty china. She had made the biscuit herself.

It gave me a sick pang to see my room, to-night. All was the same: it is only I who have changed. People always said my room looked just like me. I had so many notions when I was a girl. The smell of dried lemon verbena in the linen was home. “ You are lovely to me, Mother, and I was such a trying girl! ”

“ Hush ! ” answered Mother. “ You were the best child that ever was. I miss you every day.”

Well, if I had a daughter, I should miss her, too.

I made Mother sit down in my easychair. I knelt beside her, and opened my bag. “ You never saw his little things,” I said. “ I have brought some of them to show you, and I wish you would keep them for me in the drawer where I kept my party things. Marion made this sack ; was n’t it sweet of her ? ”

“ She does beautiful work.”

“ This was his first short dress, and these are the last socks he wore. They slipped off from his poor, wasted feet. Oh, he suffered so, — he suffered so ! I shall never get over it.”

Mother’s eyes were full. “ No, you never will.”

Mother understands.

It is a September evening, and some young people are going home in the moonlight. They must have been having a doorstep party somewhere, for one of the men is carrying a mandolin. Their voices sound gay. I can see the white birch on the lawn, and the great pine beyond. Those two trees are a part of my life. How many times I have looked out at them, and thought my long, long thoughts ! I used to think I should like to be a grande dame in society, but I did not really care for it. What I wanted was to learn the meaning of life.

Somewhere in a light as pure as that my little laddie is happy. God may have him to take care of for a time, but he will always be my child. Jack, dear heart, it was selfish in me to make you sacrifice your picture, and then come home and leave you; but I had to do it, — I had to see my mother. Mother knows.

Margaret L. Knapp.