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The Other Woman
by [?]

“I suppose,” he said, as softly as though he were speaking to himself, “that I should have known this; I suppose that I should have been better prepared to hear it. But it is one of those things which men put off–I mean those men who have children, put off–as they do making their wills, as something that is in the future and that may be shirked until it comes. We seem to think that our daughters will live with us always, just as we expect to live on ourselves until death comes one day and startles us and finds us unprepared.” He took down his hand and smiled gravely at the younger man with an evident effort, and said, “I did not mean to speak so gloomily, but you see my point of view must be different from yours. And she says she loves you, does she?” he added, gently.

Young Latimer bowed his head and murmured something inarticulately in reply, and then held his head erect again and waited, still watching the bishop’s face.

“I think she might have told me,” said the older man; “but then I suppose this is the better way. I am young enough to understand that the old order changes, that the customs of my father’s time differ from those of to-day. And there is no alternative, I suppose,” he said, shaking his head. “I am stopped and told to deliver, and have no choice. I will get used to it in time,” he went on, “but it seems very hard now. Fathers are selfish, I imagine, but she is all I have.”

Young Latimer looked gravely into the fire and wondered how long it would last. He could just hear the piano from below, and he was anxious to return to her. And at the same time he was drawn toward the older man before him, and felt rather guilty, as though he really were robbing him. But at the bishop’s next words he gave up any thought of a speedy release, and settled himself in his chair.

“We are still to have a long talk,” said the bishop. “There are many things I must know, and of which I am sure you will inform me freely. I believe there are some who consider me hard, and even narrow on different points, but I do not think you will find me so, at least let us hope not. I must confess that for a moment I almost hoped that you might not be able to answer the questions I must ask you, but it was only for a moment. I am only too sure you will not be found wanting, and that the conclusion of our talk will satisfy us both. Yes, I am confident of that.”

His manner changed, nevertheless, and Latimer saw that he was now facing a judge and not a plaintiff who had been robbed, and that he was in turn the defendant. And still he was in no way frightened.

“I like you,” the bishop said, “I like you very much. As you say yourself, I have seen a great deal of you, because I have enjoyed your society, and your views and talk were good and young and fresh, and did me good. You have served to keep me in touch with the outside world, a world of which I used to know at one time a great deal. I know your people and I know you, I think, and many people have spoken to me of you. I see why now. They, no doubt, understood what was coming better than myself, and were meaning to reassure me concerning you. And they said nothing but what was good of you. But there are certain things of which no one can know but yourself, and concerning which no other person, save myself, has a right to question you. You have promised very fairly for my daughter’s future; you have suggested more than you have said, but I understood. You can give her many pleasures which I have not been able to afford; she can get from you the means of seeing more of this world in which she lives, of meeting more people, and of indulging in her charities, or in her extravagances, for that matter, as she wishes. I have no fear of her bodily comfort; her life, as far as that is concerned, will be easier and broader, and with more power for good. Her future, as I say, as you say also, is assured; but I want to ask you this,” the bishop leaned forward and watched the young man anxiously, “you can protect her in the future, but can you assure me that you can protect her from the past?”