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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 25


THE GRAY MARE
25
  Agatha scanned hex face for a trace
of emotion, found none, and answered
smartly, "It is rather a mean thing to
do."
  "He's been mine so long," said Mrs.
Carlton, "that I feel as if all proprietary
rights in him belonged to me."
  Agatha wondered why Mrs. Carleton
confined her claim of proprietary rights
to Sid. "You've had years of him that
I shant have," she said.
  "Have you ever seen my picture of him
taken when his father and I were first
married ?" asked  Mrs. Carleton.  She
opened a drawer in her desk and took out
a small photograph.
  Agatha bent over it. "He was a dear
boy,' she said.
  Mrs. Carleton looled steadily at her
drooping profile. "Agatha," she said sud-
denly, "You don't like me. You're jealous
of mv influence in Sid's past, and you
wish that I'd remember that I'm only his
stepmother."
  Agatha sat up flushing. "Mrs. Carle-
ton," she said, "Sid thinks everything of
you, and you've done everything for him,
and I'm glad that he feels as he does
toward vou. I can say all that fairly and
if I can't say anything more-"
  Mrs. Carleton nodded, her eyes looking
far away at nothing. "The gods have been
very good to you," she said slowly. "There
are two kinds of strength in this world,
man's strength and woman's strength;
you have the one, and Sid has the other.
It's bad when one has to have it for
both."
  Agatha recalled stray hints of gossip
that she had once heard from an acquaint-
ance of the Carletons'; she remembered
her own impression, which was that in
their particular double harness the grey
mare was decidedly the better horse; then
she looked at Mrs. Carleton, as she sat with
her head against the back of her chair and
her fine hands folded in her lap, and it
seemed to her that the atmosphere of the
roon suddenly became oppressive.  This
woman's everlasting strength and efficiency
must be hard on Carleton; he might be
ineffective, but then, perhaps Mrs. Carle-
ton never had given him the chance to be
anything else.
  Mars. Carleton leaned over presently and
took up the picture of Sid. Agatha
watched her as she bent over to study it,
and suddenly her hard young judgment
softened. After all, here was a woman
who had struggled and endured all her
life for what Agatha herself called
"fearful distinction" and the love of an-
other woman's son; now the son was be-
ing taken away from her, and the distinc-
tion seemed a bit cold and lonely. If Mrs.
Carleton would only look always as she
looked at that moment-but unfortunate-
ly she raised her eyes from the picture a
minute later, and the muscles of her face
adjusted themselves as if she were being
photographed for publication.
  "Time to dress for dinner," she said
rising. "It's too bad that the Ingersolls
are here on the last day of your visit, but
after all while you are taking your family-
in-law you might as well take them all,
Sid's aunt and her husband as well as
Sid's papa and stepmother."
  Agatha, alone in her own room, was able
to throw off the incubus of mother-in-law
that threatened to become a night-mare to
her. She dressed slowly, and then, as she
still had some time left before dinner,
seated herself at the open window. The
river below was grey in the lessening light;
a clump of willows at its margin were ab-
solutely still. Agatha sat and looked at
them and smiled. Once she interrupted
her reverie to say half aloud, "That's the
difference between Mrs. Carleton and me;
she never sits and smiles to herself and
thinks how happy she is. That's the dif-
ference between people anyway, I sup-
pose."
  She left her room a few minutes be-
fore dinner-time, expecting to walk on the
terrace. In the corridor she met Mrs.
Carleton, coming hastily from the direc-
tion of her own room, with a servant be-
hind her. "Will you go back to your own
troom, Agatha, please ?" she requested when
she caught sight of the girl. "Stay there
till I send for you."
  Agatha went back into her room and re-
sumed her station by the window. She
saw the motor start for town, with Sid
in it; presently it returned with another
man, who went into the house. A maid
knocked at her door with some dinner for
her on a tray. Agatha would have scorned


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