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The Other Woman
by [?]

Young Latimer stood on one of the lower steps of the hall stairs, leaning with one hand on the broad railing and smiling down at her. She had followed him from the drawing-room and had stopped at the entrance, drawing the curtains behind her, and making, unconsciously, a dark background for her head and figure. He thought he had never seen her look more beautiful, nor that cold, fine air of thorough breeding about her which was her greatest beauty to him, more strongly in evidence.

“Well, sir,” she said, “why don’t you go?”

He shifted his position slightly and leaned more comfortably upon the railing, as though he intended to discuss it with her at some length.

“How can I go,” he said, argumentatively, “with you standing there– looking like that?”

“I really believe,” the girl said, slowly, “that he is afraid; yes, he is afraid. And you always said,” she added, turning to him, “you were so brave.”

“Oh, I am sure I never said that,” exclaimed the young man, calmly. “I may be brave, in fact, I am quite brave, but I never said I was. Some one must have told you.”

“Yes, he is afraid,” she said, nodding her head to the tall clock across the hall, “he is temporizing and trying to save time. And afraid of a man, too, and such a good man who would not hurt any one.”

“You know a bishop is always a very difficult sort of a person,” he said, “and when he happens to be your father, the combination is just a bit awful. Isn’t it now? And especially when one means to ask him for his daughter. You know it isn’t like asking him to let one smoke in his study.”

“If I loved a girl,” she said, shaking her head and smiling up at him, “I wouldn’t be afraid of the whole world; that’s what they say in books, isn’t it? I would be so bold and happy.”

“Oh, well, I’m bold enough,” said the young man, easily; “if I had not been, I never would have asked you to marry me; and I’m happy enough– that’s because I did ask you. But what if he says no,” continued the youth; “what if he says he has greater ambitions for you, just as they say in books, too. What will you do? Will you run away with me? I can borrow a coach just as they used to do, and we can drive off through the Park and be married, and come back and ask his blessing on our knees–unless he should overtake us on the elevated.”

“That,” said the girl, decidedly, “is flippant, and I’m going to leave you. I never thought to marry a man who would be frightened at the very first. I am greatly disappointed.”

She stepped back into the drawing-room and pulled the curtains to behind her, and then opened them again and whispered, “Please don’t be long,” and disappeared. He waited, smiling, to see if she would make another appearance, but she did not, and he heard her touch the keys of the piano at the other end of the drawing-room. And so, still smiling and with her last words sounding in his ears, he walked slowly up the stairs and knocked at the door of the bishop’s study. The bishop’s room was not ecclesiastic in its character. It looked much like the room of any man of any calling who cared for his books and to have pictures about him, and copies of the beautiful things he had seen on his travels. There were pictures of the Virgin and the Child, but they were those that are seen in almost any house, and there were etchings and plaster casts, and there were hundreds of books, and dark red curtains, and an open fire that lit up the pots of brass with ferns in them, and the blue and white plaques on the top of the bookcase. The bishop sat before his writing-table, with one hand shading his eyes from the light of a red-covered lamp, and looked up and smiled pleasantly and nodded as the young man entered. He had a very strong face, with white hair hanging at the side, but was still a young man for one in such a high office. He was a man interested in many things, who could talk to men of any profession or to the mere man of pleasure, and could interest them in what he said, and force their respect and liking. And he was very good, and had, they said, seen much trouble.