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Buchen, Walther (ed.) / The Wisconsin magazine
Vol. VII, No. 8 (May 1910)

Corbett, Elizabeth F.
The gray mare,   pp. 24-26

Page 24

The Gray Mare
  "It is the worst kind of mother-in-law
problem," said Agatha. "She's not only
my future mother-in-law, but she's your
step-mother, and so fearfully distinguished
too. And every time I talk to you I have
another set of virtues unfolded to me.
Don't you see how complicated it all be-
  They had halted on the terrace on their
return from their walk, and now stood
looking down over the river. Sid turned
his head at Agatha's words and looked at
her with that illuminating smile of his.
"It's a good thing that she is distin-
guished," he said. "We should be a flat
family without her, I am afraid. And if
her being my step-mother doesn't worry
me, why should it you ?"
   Agatha dropped her head until the roses
on her hat hid her face from his view.
There were moments when Sid's total lack
of sentimental complication irritated her.
He could hardly be said to resemble his
stepmother in this, for she had a more re-
fined intellectual grasp of things than Sid,
and could understand even where she was
incapable of experiencing; but it was more
like her than like his father, his hand-
some, charming, sympathetic father, whom
Agatha had loved from the~ first moment
that she saw him. Sid heightened the
contrast by his next remark. "You like
mother, don't You?" he asked.
   "Oh, of course I like her," said Agatha,
 forcing herself to look up at him. She
 turned then, as the possibilities of the sub-
 ject were exhausted so far as Sid was con-
 cerned, and started toward the house. He
 turned with her, and at that moment Mrs.
 Carleton appeared in the doorway.
   To Aflatha her coming was singularly
 opportune. She might have been painted
 just as she stood before them, in a gown
 at once perfectly modish and highly char-
 acteristic, with her superb carriage and
 her distinguished air. She would, it oc-
 curred to Agatha, make a magnificent fam-
ily portrait; and one of the advantages of
family portraits was that one could keep
them on the wall and did not have to en-
ter into personal relationship with them.
Sid, however, took a vastly different view
of her, as was evident from his remark
when they met.
  '1Mother," he said, "won't you give Aga-
tha her tea in your study? She goes to-
morrow, you know, and you've hardly seen
her alone."
  "I should like it above all things," said
Mrs. Carleton. "Will vou come, Agatha?"
  Agatha went meekly; her small size and
delicate, winsome little face gave an air
of meekness and youth to all that she did,
and on this occasion hid inner rebellion.
Of course, as Agatha had repeatedly told
herself, it was all right for her to make
the introductory visit to Sid's parents,
especially as she had no people of her own.
But she felt at this moment as if she were
bearding the lion in his den; every article
in Mrs. Carleton's study, from the signed
photograph of George Meredith above the
mantel and the shelves of favorite books
all uniformly bound in grey morocco with
a silver "H. C." on the cover, to the yel-
lowing antique statuette flanked by a
slender glass filled with lilies of the valley
and maidenhair fern, placed where they
would make a study in ivorv and green
for Mrs. Carleton's delectation whenever
she locked up from her writing-every
article in the study reflected its owner's
personality and celebrity. It was giving
her too much of an advantage to meet her
thus completely on her own ground.
   Mrs. Carleton, however, seemed quite
 unconscious that she had any advantage,
 or that there was any conflict raging that
 made advantage desirable. She sat and
 sipped her tea and talked to Agatha about
 her work and her plans for the future.
   "And it's only three months now," she
 said presently, "until you'll be taking my
 boy away from me."

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