Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories

Mother And Daughter

From: Jewel

Dr. Ballard had gone, and his hostesses were awaiting the summons to
dinner. Mrs. Evringham regarded her daughter critically as the girl sat
at the piano, idly running her fingers over the keys.

The listlessness expressed in the fresh face and rounded figure brought
a look of disapproval into the mother's eyes.

"You must practice that nocturne," she said. "You played it badly just
now, and there is no excuse for it, Eloise."

"If you will let me give lessons I will," responded the girl promptly,
without turning her graceful, drooping head.

The unexpected reply was startling.

"What are you talking about?" asked Mrs. Evringham.

"Oh, I'm so tired of it all," replied the girl wearily.

A frown contracted her mother's forehead. "Tired of what? Turn around
here!" She rose and put her hands on the pretty shoulders and turned her
child until the clear gray eyes met hers. "Now then, tired of what?"

Eloise smiled slightly, and sighed. "Of playing nocturnes to Dr.

"And he is quite as tired of hearing you, I dare say," was the retort.
"It seems to me you always stumble when you play to the doctor, and he
adores Chopin."

Eloise continued to meet her mother's annoyed gaze, her hands fallen in
her lap, all the lines of her nut-brown hair, her exquisite face, and
pliable, graceful figure so many silent arguments, as they always were,
against any one's harboring annoyance toward her.

"You say he does, mother, and you have assured him of it so often that
the poor man doesn't dare to say otherwise; but really, if you'd let him
have the latest Weber and Field hit, I think he would be so grateful."

"Learn it then!" returned Mrs. Evringham.

Eloise laughed lazily. "Intrepid little mother!" Then she added, in a
different tone, "Don't you think there is any danger of our being too
obliging? I'm not the only girl in town whose mother wishes her to
oblige Dr. Ballard. May we not overreach ourselves?"

"Eloise!" Mrs. Evringham's half-affectionate, half-remonstrating grasp
fell from her child's shoulders. "That remark is in very bad taste."

The girl shook her head slowly. "I never can understand why it is any
satisfaction to you to pretend. You find comfort in pretending that
Mr. Evringham likes to have us here, likes us to use his carriages, to
receive his friends, and all the rest of it. We've been here seven weeks
and three days, and that little game of pretending is satisfying you
still. You are like the ostrich with its head in the sand."

Mrs. Evringham drew her lithe figure up. "Well, Eloise, I hope there are
limits to this. To call your own mother an--an ostrich!"

"Don't speak so loud," returned the girl, rising and patting her
mother's hand. "Grandfather has returned from his ride. I just heard him
come in. It is too near dinner time for a scene. There is no need of our
pretending to each other, is there? You have always put me off and put
me off, but surely you mean to bring this to an end pretty soon?"

"You could bring it to an end at once if you would!" returned Mrs.
Evringham, her voice lowered. "Dr. Ballard has nothing to wait for. I
know all about his circumstances. There never was such a providence as
father's having a friend like him ready to our hand--so suitable, so
attractive, so rich!"

"Yes," responded the girl low and equably, "it is just five weeks and
two days that you have been throwing me at that man's head."

"I have done nothing of the kind, Eloise Evringham."

"Yes you have," returned the girl without excitement, "and grandfather
sneering at us all the time under his mustache. He knows that there are
other girls and other mothers interested in Dr. Ballard more desirable
than we are. Oh! how easy it is to be more desirable than we are!"

"There isn't one girl in five hundred so pretty as you," returned Mrs.
Evringham stoutly.

"I wish my prettiness could persuade you into my way of thinking."

"What do you mean?" The glance of the older woman was keen and

"We would take a cheap little apartment to-morrow," said the girl

Mrs. Evringham gave an ejaculation of impatience. "And do all our own
work and live like pigs!" she returned petulantly.

Eloise shrugged her shoulders. "I may flatter myself, but I fancy I
should keep it rather clean."

"You wouldn't mind your hands then." Mrs. Evringham regarded the hands
worthy to be imitated by a sculptor's art, and the girl raised them
and inspected the rose-tints of their tips. "I've read something about
rubber gloves," she returned vaguely.

"You'd better read something else then. How do you suppose you would get
on without a carriage?" asked her mother with exasperation. "You have
never had so much as a taste of privation in any form. Your suggestion
is the acme of foolishness."

"I think I could do something if you would let me," rejoined the girl
as calmly as before. "I think I could teach music pretty well, and keep
house charmingly. If I had any false pride when we came out here, the
past six weeks have purified me of it. Will you let me try, mother? I'm
asking it very seriously."

"Certainly not!" hotly. "There are armies of music teachers now, and you
would not have a chance."

"I think I could dress hair well," remarked Eloise, glancing at the
reflection in a mirror of her own graceful coiffure.

"I dare say!" responded Mrs. Evringham with sarcastic heat, "or I'm sure
you could get a position as a waitress. The servant problem is growing
worse every year."

"I'd like to be your waitress, mother." For the first time the girl lost
her perfect poise, and the color fluctuated in her cheek. She clasped
her hands. "It would be heaven compared with the feeling, the sickening,
appalling suspicion, that we are becoming akin to the adventuresses we
read of, the pretty, luxurious women who live by their wits."

"Silence!" commanded Mrs. Evringham, her eyes flashing and her effective
black-clothed figure drawn up.

Eloise sighed again. "I didn't expect to accomplish anything by this
talk," she said, relapsing into listlessness.

"What did you expect then? Merely to be disagreeable? I hope you may be
as successful in worthier undertakings. Now listen. Some of the plans
you have suggested at various times might be sensible if you were a
plain girl. Your beauty is as tangible an asset as money would be; but
beauty requires money. You must have it. Your poor father might have
left it to you, but he didn't; so you will marry it--not unsuitably,"
meeting an ominous look in her child's eyes, "not without love or under
any circumstances to make a martyr of you, but according to common
sense; and as a certain young man is evidently more and more certain of
himself every time he comes"--she paused.

"You think there is no need for him to grow more certain of me?" asked

"You might have saved us the disagreeables of this interview. And
one thing more," impressively, "you evidently are not taking into
consideration, perhaps you never knew, that it was your grandfather's
confidence in a certain course which induced your poor father to take
that last fatal flyer. Your grandfather feels--I'm sure he feels--that
much reparation is due us. The present conditions are easier for him
than a separate suitable home would be, therefore"--Mrs. Evringham waved
her hand. "It is strange," she added, "that so young a girl should not
repose more trust in her mother's judgment. And now that we are on the
subject, I wish you would make more effort with your grandfather. Don't
be so silent at table and leave all the talking to me. A man of his
age likes to have merry young people about. Chat, create a cheerful
atmosphere. He likes to look at you, of course, but you have been so
quiet and lackadaisical of late, it is enough to hurt his feelings as

"He has never shown any symptoms of anxiety," remarked Eloise.

"Well, he is a very self-contained man."

"He is indeed, poor grandfather; I don't know how you will manage,
mother, when you have to play the game of 'pretend' all alone. He is
growing tired of it, I can see. His courtesy is wearing very thin. I'm
sorry to make it harder for you by taking away what must have been a
large prop and support, but I heard papa say to himself more than once
in those last sad days, 'If I had only taken my father's advice.'"

"Eloise," very earnestly, "you misunderstood, you certainly

The girl shook her head wearily. "No, alas! I neither misunderstand nor
forget, when it would be most convenient to do so."

Mrs. Evringham's fair brow contracted as she regarded her daughter with
exasperation. "And you are only nineteen! One would think it was you
instead of me to whom the next birthday would bring that detested

The girl looked at her mother, whose youthful face and figure betrayed
the source of her own heritage of physical charm.

"I long ago gave up the hope of ever again being as young as you are,"
she returned sadly. "Oh!" with a rare and piteous burst of feeling,
"if dear papa could have stayed with us, and we could have had a right

Mrs. Evringham threw her arms about the young creature, welcoming the
softened mood. "You know I took you right to my own people, Eloise," she
said gently. "We stayed as long as I thought was right; they couldn't
afford to keep us." A sound at the door caused her to turn. The erect
form of her father-in-law had just entered the room.

"Ah, good evening, father," she said in tones whose sadness was not
altogether feigned, even though she secretly rejoiced that Eloise should
for once show such opportune emotion. "Pardon this little girl. She was
just feeling overwhelmed with a pang of homesickness for her father."

"Indeed!" returned Mr. Evringham. "Will you walk out? Mrs. Forbes tells
me that dinner is served."

Eloise, hastily drawing her handkerchief across her eyes, passed the
unbending figure, her cheeks stinging. His hard voice was in her ears.

That she was not his son's child hurt her now as often before in the
past two months, but that he should have discovered her weeping at a
moment when he might have been expected to enter was a keen hurt to her
pride, and her heart swelled with a suspicion of his unspoken thoughts.
She had never been effusive, she had never posed. He had no right to
suspect her.

With her small head carried high and her cheeks glowing, she passed
him, following her mother, who floated on before with much satisfaction.
These opportune tears shed by her nonconforming child should make their
stay good for another two months at least.

"You must have had a beautiful ride, father," said Mrs. Evringham as
they seated themselves at table. She spoke in the tone, at once assured
and ingratiating, which she always adopted toward him. "I noticed you
took an earlier start than usual."

The speaker had never had the insight to discover that her father-in-law
was ungrateful for proofs that any of his long-fixed, solitary habits
were now observed by feminine eyes.

"I did take a rather longer ride than usual," he returned. "Mrs. Forbes,
I wish you would speak to the cook about the soup. It has been served
cool for the last two days."

Mrs. Forbes flushed as she stood near his chair in her trim black gown
and white apron.

"Yes, sir," she replied, the flush and quiet words giving little
indication of the tumult aroused within her by her employer's
criticism. To fail to please Mr. Evringham at his meals was the deepest
mortification life held for her.

"I'm sure it tastes very good," said Mrs. Evringham amiably, "although I
like a little more salt than your cook uses."

"You can reach it I hope," remarked the host, casting a glance at the
dainty solitaire salt and pepper beside his daughter's plate.

"But don't you like it cooked in?" she asked sweetly.

"Not when I want to get it out," he answered shortly.

"How can mother, how can mother!" thought Eloise helplessly.

"There is decided spring in the air to-day," said Mrs. Evringham. "I
remember of old how charmingly spring comes in the park."

"You have a good memory," returned Mr. Evringham dryly.

"Why do you say that?" asked the pretty widow, lifting large, innocent

"It is some years since you accompanied Lawrence in his calls upon me, I

"Poor father!" thought Mrs. Evringham, "how unpleasantly blunt he has
grown, living here alone!"

"I scarcely realize it," she returned suavely. "My recollection of the
park is always so clear. It is surprising, isn't it, how relatives can
live as near together as we in New York and you out here and see one
another so seldom! Life in New York," sighing, "was such a rush for
us. Here amid the rustle of the trees it seems to be scarcely the same
world. Lawrence often said his only lucid intervals were during the
rides he took with Eloise in Central Park. Do you always ride alone,

"Always," was the prompt rejoinder, while Eloise cast a glance full of
appeal at her mother.

The latter continued archly, "If you could see Eloise on a horse you
would not blame me for trying to screw up my courage, as I have been
doing for days past, to ask you if she might take a canter on Essex Maid
in the morning, sometimes, while you are away. Fanshaw assured me that
she would be perfectly safe."

Mr. Evringham's cold eyes stared, and then the enormity of the
proposition appeared to move him humorously.

"Which maid did Fanshaw say would be safe?" he inquired, while Eloise
glowed with mortification.

"Well, if you think Eloise can't ride, try her some time!" exclaimed
the widow gayly. It had been a matter of surprise and afterward of
resentment that Mr. Evringham could remain deaf to her hints so long,
and she had determined to become frank. "Or else ask Dr. Ballard," she
went on; "he has very kindly provided Eloise with a horse several times,
but the child likes a solitary ride, sometimes, as well as you do."

The steely look returned to the host's eyes. "No one rides the Maid but
myself," he returned coldly.

"I beg you to believe, grandfather, that I don't wish to ride her," said
Eloise, her customary languor of manner gone and her voice hard. "Mother
is more ambitious for me than I am for myself. I should be very much
obliged if she would allow me to ask favors when I want them."

Mrs. Forbes's lips were set in a tight line as she filled Mrs.
Evringham's glass.

That lady's heart was beating a little fast from vexation, and also from
the knowledge that a time of reckoning with her child was coming.

"Oh, very well," she said airily. "No wonder you are careful of that
beautiful creature. I caught Eloise with her arms around the mare's neck
the other day, and I couldn't help wishing for a kodak. You feed her
with sugar, don't you Eloise?"

"I hope not, I'm sure!" exclaimed Mr. Evringham sternly.

"I'll not do it again, grandfather," said the girl, her very ears

Mrs. Evringham sighed and gave one Parthian shot. "The poor child does
love horses so," she murmured softly.

The host scowled and fidgeted in his chair with a brusque gesture to
Mrs. Forbes to remove the course.

"Harry has turned up again," he remarked, to change the subject.

"Really?" returned his daughter-in-law languidly. "For how long I

"He thinks it is permanent."

"He is still in Chicago?"

"Yes, for a day or two. He and his wife sail for Europe immediately."

"Indeed!" with a greater show of interest. Then, curiously, "Are you
sending them, father?"

"Scarcely! They are going on business."

"Oh," relapsing into indifference. "They have a child, I believe."

"Yes, a girl. I should think perhaps you might have remembered it."

"I hardly see why, if Harry didn't--a fact he plainly showed by
deserting the poor creature." The insolence of the speaker's tone was
scarcely veiled. Her extreme disapproval of her father-in-law sometimes
welled to the surface of her suave manner.

Mr. Evringham's thoughts had fled to Chicago. "Harry proposed leaving
the girl here while they are gone," he said.

Mrs. Evringham straightened in her chair and her attention concentrated.
"With you? What assurance! How like Harry!" she exclaimed.

The words were precisely those which her host had been saying to
himself; but proceeding from her lips they had a strange effect upon

"You find it so?" he asked. The clearer the proposition became to Mrs.
Evringham's consciousness the more she resented it. To have the child
in the house not only would menace her ease and comfort, but meant
a possibility that the grandfather might take an interest in Harry's
daughter which would disturb Eloise's chances.

"Of course it does. I call it simply presumptuous," she declared with

"After all, Harry has some rights," rejoined Mr. Evringham slowly.

"His wife is a dressmaker," went on the other. "I had it directly from
a Chicago friend. Harry has scarcely been with the child since she was
born. And to saddle a little stranger like that on you! Now Eloise and
her father were inseparable."

There was an ominous glitter in Mr. Evringham's eyes. "Eloise's father!"
he returned slowly. "I did not know that she remembered him."

The hurt of his tone and words sank deep into the heart of the girl, but
she looked up courageously.

"Your son was my father in every best sense," she said. "We were
inseparable. You must have known it."

"You appeared to be separable when your father made his visits to
Bel-Air Park," was the rejoinder. "Pardon me if I knew very little
of what took place in his household. A telegraph blank, please, Mrs.
Forbes, and tell Zeke to be ready to go to the office."

There was a vital tone in the usually dry voice. Mrs. Evringham looked
apprehensively at her daughter; but Eloise gave her no answering glance;
her eyes were downcast and her pretense of eating continued, while her
pulses beat.

Next: Father And Son

Previous: The Chicago Letter

Add to Informational Site Network

Viewed 431