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Mother   By: (1860-1938)

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MOTHER

By Owen Wister

To My Favourite Broker With The Earnest Assurance That Mr. Beverly Is Not Meant For Him

NOTE

IN 1901, this story appeared anonymously as the ninth of a sequence of short stories by various authors, in a volume entitled A House Party. It has been slightly remodelled for separate publication.

June 7, 1907, OWEN WISTER

MOTHER

When handsome young Richard Field he was very handsome and very young announced to our assembled company that if his turn should really come to tell us a story, the story should be no invention of his fancy, but a page of truth, a chapter from his own life, in which himself was the hero and a lovely, innocent girl was the heroine, his wife at once looked extremely uncomfortable. She changed the reclining position in which she had been leaning back in her chair, and she sat erect, with a hand closed upon each arm of the chair.

"Richard," she said, "do you think that it is right of you to tell any one, even friends, anything that you have never yet confessed to me?"

"Ethel," replied Richard, "although I cannot promise that you will be entirely proud of my conduct when you have heard this episode of my past, I do say that there is nothing in it to hurt the trust you have placed in me since I have been your husband. Only," he added, "I hope that I shall not have to tell any story at all."

"Oh, yes you will!" we all exclaimed together; and the men looked eager while the women sighed.

The rest of us were much older than Richard, we were middle aged, in fact; and human nature is so constructed, that when it is at the age when making love keeps it busy, it does not care so much to listen to tales of others' love making; but the more it recedes from that period of exuberance, and ceases to have love adventures of its own, the greater become its hunger and thirst to hear about this delicious business which it can no longer personally practice with the fluency of yore. It was for this reason that we all yearned in our middle aged way for the tale of love which we expected from young Richard. He, on his part, repeated the hope that by the time his turn to tell a story was reached we should be tired of stories and prefer to spend the evening at the card tables or in the music room.

We were a house party, no brief "week end" affair, but a gathering whose period for most of the guests covered a generous and leisurely ten days, with enough departures and arrivals to give that variety which is necessary among even the most entertaining and agreeable people. Our skilful hostess had assembled us in the country, beneath a roof of New York luxury, a luxury which has come in these later days to be so much more than princely. By day, the grounds afforded us both golf and tennis, the stables provided motor cars and horses to ride or drive over admirable roads, through beautiful scenery that was embellished by a magnificent autumn season. At nightfall, the great house itself received us in the arms of supreme comfort, fed us sumptuously, and after dinner ministered to our middle aged bodies with chairs and sofas of the highest development.

The plan devised by our hostess, Mrs. Davenport, that a story should be told by one of us each evening, had met with courtesy, but not I with immediate enthusiasm. But Mrs. Davenport had chosen her guests with her usual wisdom, and after the first experiment, story telling proved so successful that none of us would have readily abandoned it. When the time had come for Richard Field to entertain the company with the promised tale from his life experience, his hope of escaping this ordeal had altogether vanished.

Mrs. Field, it had been noticed as early as breakfast time, was inclined to be nervous on her husband's account. Five years of married life had not cured her of this amiable symptom, and she made but a light meal. He, on the other hand, ate heartily and without signs of disturbance. Apparently he was not even conscious of the glances that his wife so frequently stole at him... Continue reading book >>




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