Robert Tronge 24

     <--Previous Page          Main Robert Tronge Menu           Next Page-->     

robert tronge
Robert Tronge

If he had been like most of the men she knew, she would have assumed that something had gone wrong in business. With her first husband she had always been able to read in his face as he entered the house the full history of his business day. Sometimes she had felt that there was something insulting in the promptness of her inquiry, "Has anything gone wrong, Joe?" But Severance had never appeared to feel the insult; only as time went on, had grown more and more ready, as her interest became more and more lackadaisical, to pour out the troubles and, much more rarely, the joys of his day. One of the things she secretly admired most about Farron was his independence of her in such matters. No half-contemptuous question would elicit confidence from him, so that she had come to think it a great honor if by any chance he did drop her a hint as to the mood that his day's work had occasioned. But for the most part he was unaffected by such matters. Newspaper attacks and business successes did not seem to reach the area where he suffered or rejoiced. They were to be dealt with or ignored, but they could neither shadow or elate him. So that not only egotism, but experience, bade her look to her own conduct for some explanation of the chilly little mist that had been between them for twenty-four hours. As soon as the drawing-room door closed behind her she ran up-stairs like a girl. There was no light in his study, and she went on into his bedroom. He was lying on the sofa; he had taken off his coat, and his arms were clasped under his head; he was smoking a long cigar. To find him idle was unusual. His was not a contemplative nature; a trade journal or a detective novel were the customary solace of odd moments like this. He did not move as she entered, but he turned his eyes slowly and seriously upon her. His eyes were black. He was a very dark man, with a smooth, brown skin and thick, fine hair, which clung closely to his broad, rather massive head. He was clean shaven, so that, as Adelaide loved to remember a friend of his had once suggested, his business competitors might take note of the stern lines of his mouth and chin. She came in quickly, and shut the door behind her, and then dropping on her knees beside him, she laid her head against his heart. He put out his hand, touched her face, and said: "Take off this veil." The taking off of Adelaide's veil was not a process to be accomplished ill-advisedly or lightly. Lucie, her maid, had put it on, with much gathering together and looking into the glass over her mistress's shoulder, and it was held in place with shining pins and hair-pins. She lifted her head, sank back upon her heels, and raised her arms to the offending cobweb of black meshes, while her husband went on in a tone not absolutely denuded of reproach: "You've been in some time." "Yes,"--she stuck the first pin into the upholstery of the sofa,--"but Pringle told me Mathilde had a visitor, and I thought it was my duty to stop and be a little parental." "A young man?" "Yes. I forget his name--just like all these young men nowadays, alert and a little too much at his ease, but amusing in his way. He said, among other things--" But Farron, it appeared, was not exclusively interested in the words of Mathilde's visitor; for at this instant, perceiving that his wife had disengaged herself from her veil, he sat up, caught her to him, and pressed his lips to hers. "O Adelaide!" he said, and it seemed to her he spoke with a sort of agony. She held him away from her. "Vincent, what is it?" she asked. "What is what?" "Is anything wrong?" "Between us?" Oh, she knew that method of his, to lead her on to make definite statements about impressions of which nothing definite could be accurately said. "No, I won't be pinned down," she said; "but I feel it, the way a rheumatic feels it, when the wind goes into the east." He continued to look at her gravely; she thought he was going to speak when a knock came at the door. It was Pringle announcing the visit of Mr. Lanley. Adelaide rose slowly to her feet, and, walking to her husband's dressing-table, repinned her hat, and caught up the little stray locks which grew in deep, sharp points at the back of her head. "You'll come down, too?" she said. Farron was looking about for his coat, and as he put it on he observed dryly: "The young man is seeing all the family." "Oh, he won't mind," she answered. "He probably hasn't the slightest wish to see Mathilde alone. They both struck me as sorry when I left them; they were running down. You can't imagine, Vin, how little romance there is among all these young people." "They leave it to us," he answered. This was exactly in his accustomed manner, and as they went down-stairs together her heart felt lighter, though the long, black, shiny pin stuck harmlessly into the upholstery of the sofa was like a mile-stone, for afterward she remembered that her questions had gone unanswered. Wayne was still in the drawing-room, and Mathilde, who loved her grandfather, was making a gentle fuss over him, a process which consisted largely in saying: "O Grandfather! Oh, you didn't! O _Grandfather_!" Mr. Lanley, though a small man and now over sixty, had a distinct presence. He wore excellent gray clothes of the same shade as his hair, and out of this neutrality of tint his bright, brown eyes sparkled piercingly.