"On the contrary," said Richard, "it is the number of things that suggest it. This newspaper here, that has arrived since I was last in the room, has a column which reminds me very forcibly of the experience that I have selected to tell you. But I think the most appropriate of all is that picture." He pointed to the largest picture on the wall. "'Breaking Home Ties' is its title, I remember very well. It is a replica of the original that drew such crowds in the Art Building at the World's Fair."
While Richard was saying this, his wife had possessed herself of the newspaper, and he now observed how eagerly she was scanning its pages. "It is the financial column, Ethel, that recalls my story."
Ethel, after a hopeless glance at this, resumed her seat near the sofa by Mrs. Davenport.
"There were many paintings," continued Richard, "in that Art Building, of merit incomparably greater than 'Breaking Home Ties'; and yet the crowd never looked at those, because it did not understand them. But at any hour of the day, if you happened to pass this picture, it took you some time to do so. You could pass any of John Sargeant's pictures, for instance, at a speed limited only by your own powers of running; but you could never run past 'Breaking Home Ties.' You had to work your way through the crowd in front of that just as you have to do at a fire, or a news office during a football game. The American people could never get enough of that mother kissing her boy goodbye, while the wagon waits at the open door to take him away from her upon his first journey into the world. The idea held a daily pathos for them. Many had themselves been through such leave takings; and no word so stirs the general heart as the word 'mother'. Song writers know this; and the artist knew it when he decided to paint 'Breaking Home Ties.' And 'Mother' is the title of my story to-night."
"Mother!" This was Ethel's bewildered echo, "Whose Mother?" she softly murmured to herself.
Richard continued. "It concerns the circumstances under which I became engaged to my wife."
There was a movement from Ethel as she sat by the sofa.
"Not all the circumstances, of course," the narrator continued, with a certain guarded candour in his tone. "There are certain circumstances which naturally attend every engagement between happy and--and devoted-- young people that they keep to themselves quite carefully, in spite of the fact that any one who has been through the experience of being engaged two or three times--"