Robert Tronge 27

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

When he had gone, Vincent looked at his wife and smiled, but smiled without approval. She twisted her shoulders. "Oh, I suppose so," she said; "but I do so hate to be scolded about the way I bring up Mathilde." "Or about anything else, my dear." "I don't hate to be scolded by you," she returned. "In fact, I sometimes get a sort of servile enjoyment from it. Besides," she went on, "as a matter of fact, I bring Mathilde up particularly well, quite unlike these wild young women I see everywhere else. She tells me everything, and I have perfectly the power of making her hate any one I disapprove of. But you'll try and find out something about this young man, won't you, Vin?" "We'll have a full report on him to-morrow. Do you know what his first name is?" "At the moment I don't recall his last. Oh, yes--Wayne. I'll ask Mathilde when we go up-stairs." From her own bedroom door she called up. "Mathilde, what is the name of your young friend?" There was a little pause before Mathilde answered that she was sorry, but she didn't know. Mrs. Farron turned to her husband and made a little gesture to indicate that this ignorance on the girl's part did not bear out his theory; but she saw that he did not admit it, that he clung still to his impression. "And Vincent's impressions--" she said to herself as she went in to dress. CHAPTER III Mr. Lanley was ruffled as he left his daughter's drawing-room. "As if I had wanted her to marry at eighteen," he said to himself; and he took his hat crossly from Pringle and set it hard on his head at the slight angle which he preferred. Then reflecting that Pringle was not in any way involved, he unbent slightly, and said something that sounded like: "Haryer, Pringle?" Pringle, despite his stalwart masculine appearance, had in speaking a surprisingly high, squeaky voice. "I keep my health, thank you, sir," he said. "Anna has been somewhat ailing." Anna was his wife, to whom he usually referred as "Mrs. Pringle"; but he made an exception in speaking to Mr. Lanley, for she had once been the Lanleys' kitchen-maid. "Your car, sir?" No, Mr. Lanley was walking--walking, indeed, more quickly than usual under the stimulus of annoyance. Nothing had ever happened that made him suffer as he had suffered through his daughter's divorce. Divorce was one of the modern ideas which he had imagined he had accepted. As a lawyer he had expressed himself as willing always to take the lady's side; but in the cases which he actually took he liked to believe that the wife was perfect and the husband inexcusable. He could not comfort himself with any such belief in his daughter's case. Adelaide's conduct had been, as far as he could see, irreproachable; but, then, so had Severance's. This was what had made the gossip, almost the scandal, of the thing. Even his sister Alberta had whispered to him that if Severance had been unfaithful to Adelaide--But poor Severance had not been unfaithful; he had not even become indifferent. He loved his wife, he said, as much as on the day he married her. He was extremely unhappy. Mr. Lanley grew to dread the visits of his huge, blond son-in-law, who used actually to sob in the library, and ask for explanations of something which Mr. Lanley had never been able to understand. And how obstinate Adelaide had been! She, who had been such a docile girl, and then for many years so completely under the thumb of her splendid-looking husband, had suddenly become utterly intractable. She would listen to no reason and brook no delay. She had been willing enough to explain; she had explained repeatedly, but the trouble was he could not understand the explanation. She did not love her husband any more, she said. Mr. Lanley pointed out to her that this was no legal grounds for a divorce. "Yes, but I look down upon him," she went on. "On poor Joe?" her father had asked innocently, and had then discovered that this was the wrong thing to say. She had burst out, "Poor Joe! poor Joe!" That was the way every one considered him. Was it her fault if he excited pity and contempt instead of love and respect? Her love, she intimated, had been of a peculiarly eternal sort; Severance himself was to blame for its extinction. Mr. Lanley discovered that in some way she considered the intemperance of Severance's habits to be involved. But this was absurd. It was true that for a year or two Severance had taken to drinking rather more than was wise; but, Mr. Lanley had thought at the time, the poor young man had not needed any artificial stimulant in the days when Adelaide had fully and constantly admired him. He had seen Severance come home several times not exactly drunk, but rather more boyishly boastful and hilarious than usual. Even Mr. Lanley, a naturally temperate man, had not found Joe repellent in the circumstances. Afterward he had been thankful for this weakness: it gave him the only foundation on which he could build a case not for the courts, of course, but for the world. Unfortunately, however, Severance had pulled up before there was any question of divorce. That was another confusing fact. Adelaide had managed him so beautifully. Her father had not known her wonderful powers until he saw the skill and patience with which she had dealt with Joe Severance's drinking. Joe himself was eager to own that he owed his cure entirely to her. Mr. Lanley had been proud of her; she had turned out, he thought, just what a woman ought to be; and then, on top of it, she had come to him one day and announced that she would never live with Joe again. "But why not?" he had asked. "Because I don't love him," she had said.