The Mother entered the boudoir of her daughter and closed the door behind her.
Then she seated herself facing the Girl with a Dream in her eyes, and took her hand.
"I want a little talk with you this morning," she began. "Will you listen?"
A faint shadow crossed the face of the Girl, and the Dream in her eyes fled affrighted.
But she answered with a single acquiescing and perhaps appealing monosyllable. "Yes," she said.
"It is about Paul," the Mother continued. "I think he comes here too often; you are so young--too young to have men calling to see you. It is foolish to distract your mind from music and studies, with the nonsense which men talk to girls."
"The Girl leaned forward, but her glance reached beyond her Mother's chair, and she seemed to listen to some sound other than her Mother's voice.
"Pardon me, Mother," she said, "but I am sure some one knocked at the door."
The Mother went to the door, opened it, and peered into the corridor.
"There is no one in sight," she said, and resumed her seat. "Paul is a fine fellow, I know," she continued, "but he, too, is wasting time in calling on you so often. He should be thinking of his future, and of the work he is given to do in life, and he should be applying himself seriously to it."
"But, Mother, he often talks to me of just these things; and he says he always goes away stirred with new and noble ambition after he has seen me. I am an encouragement to him."
The Mother frowned. "That is an old platitude,"
she said. "Men have talked that way to women since the world began; it
means nothing, my child. It is a waste of your time to listen to such things."
Again the Girl leaned forward. "Mother, there is surely some one trying to enter the door."
"There is no one, I tell you," repeated the
Mother impatiently, "and you must listen to me until I have finished.
The time you sacrifice to Paul would make you proficient in French or on the
piano; for you not only give him time when he calls, but you read his notes,
and you dress for him, and you are growing idle and dreamy when he is not
here. I really must insist that you ask Paul to remain away, and that you
return to your old habits of study."
The Girl touched her Mother's arm, and her eyes were dilated. "Some one came into the room just then," she said. "Some one is behind you, Mother."
The Mother turned with a start, but saw nothing. "You are trying to distract me, but I shall finish what I came to say;" and her voice grew stern. "Men from the cradle to the grave have always been in the habit of encroaching on woman's time, without apology. They expect her to bestow sympathy, diversion, and amusement, and they never think they are obliged to give anything in return. You must learn to understand them at their real value, and to direct your life accordingly."
"But Paul gives me his society, in return for mine," the Girl replied, "and I enjoy him; he is interesting and attractive."
The Mother's frown deepened; there was asperity in her tone. "That is mere sentimental nonsense. You are too young to know whether a man is interesting or attractive. You should not think of such things; you should be thinking only of your studies at this age."
"Mother, there is, there is some one--some thing--behind you."
The Mother rose. "You need a specialist for nervous disorders," she said. "Your brain has become visionary. Your nerves are affected. I will see the doctor to-day about you. You must be in bed at nine o'clock hereafter, and you must stop all this sentimental folly."
"Mother, turn quickly," the Girl cried, "and you will see what is behind you. A vague, shadowy form, but very, very beautiful; and, Mother, it is trying to whisper in your ear."
And then the Mother turned, and lo! there stood the Spirit of her Lost Youth, and she looked straight in its eyes. "Why, I had quite forgotten you," she said very gently, after a silence.
"I thought so," replied the Phantom; "that is why I came. But I will not detain you. I only wanted to be remembered." And with a smile at the young Girl, the Phantom waved its hand and was gone.
And the Mother smiled, too, and went over and kissed her Daughter, and said, "Well, one can be young but once, and Paul is a good boy, after all." And she went out softly.
And the Dream came back in the Girl's eyes.
Lippincott's Monthly Magazine 83 (Jan/June 1909): 458-9.