Robert Tronge 28

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

Then Mr. Lanley knew how little his acceptance of the idea of divorce in general had reconciled him to the idea of the divorce of his own daughter--a Lanley--Mrs. Adelaide Lanley, Mrs. Adelaide Severance. His sense of fitness was shocked, though he pleaded with her first on the ground of duty, and then under the threat of scandal. With her beauty and Severance's popularity, for from his college days he had been extremely popular with men, the divorce excited uncommon interest. Severance's unconcealed grief, a rather large circle of devoted friends in whom he confided, and the fact that Adelaide had to go to Nevada to get her divorce, led most people to believe that she had simply found some one she liked better. Mr. Lanley would have believed it himself, but he couldn't. Farron had not appeared until she had been divorced for several years. Lanley still cherished an affection for Severance, who had very soon married again, a local belle in the Massachusetts manufacturing town where he now lived. She was said to resemble Adelaide. No, Mr. Lanley could not see that he had had anything to reproach himself with in regard to his daughter's first marriage. They had been young, of course; all the better. He had known the Severances for years; and Joe was handsome, hard working, had rowed on his crew, and every one spoke well of him. Certainly they had been in love--more in love than he liked to see two people, at least when one of them was his own daughter. He had suggested their waiting a year or two, but no one had backed him up. The Severances had been eager for the marriage, naturally. Mr. Lanley could still see the young couple as they turned from the altar, young, beautiful, and confident. He had missed his daughter terribly, not only her physical presence in the house, but the exercise of his influence over her, which in old times had been perhaps a trifle autocratic. He had hated being told what Joe thought and said; yet he could hardly object to her docility. That was the way he had brought her up. He did not reckon pliancy in a woman as a weakness; or if he had had any temptation to do so, it had vanished in the period when Joe Severance had taken to drink. In that crisis Adelaide had been anything but weak. Every one had been so grateful to her,--he and Joe and the Severances,--and then immediately afterward the crash came. Women! Mr. Lanley shook his head, still moving briskly northward with that quick jaunty walk of his. And this second marriage--what about that? They seemed happy. Farron was a fine fellow, but not, it seemed to him, so attractive to a woman as Severance. Could he hold a woman like Adelaide? He wasn't a man to stand any nonsense, though, and Mr. Lanley nodded; then, as it were, withdrew the nod on remembering that poor Joe had not wanted to stand any nonsense either. What in similar circumstances could Farron do? Adelaide always resented his asking how things were going, but how could he help being anxious? How could any one rest content on a hillside who had once been blown up by a volcano? He might not have been any more content if he had stayed to dinner at his son-in-law's, as he had been asked to do. The Farrons were alone. Mathilde was going to a dinner, with a dance after. She came into the dining-room to say good night and to promise to be home early, not to stay and dance. She was not allowed two parties on successive nights, not because her health was anything but robust, but rather because her mother considered her too young for such vulgar excess. When she had gone, Farron observed: "That child has a will of iron." "Vincent!" said his wife. "She does everything I suggest to her." "Her will just now is to please you in everything. Wait until she rebels." "But women don't rebel against the people they love. I don't have to tell you that, do I? I never have to manoeuver the child, never have to coax or charm her to do what I want." He smiled at her across the table. "You have great faith in those methods, haven't you?" "They work, Vin." He nodded as if no one knew that better than he. Soon after dinner he went up-stairs to write some letters. She followed him about ten o'clock. She came and leaned one hand on his shoulder and one on his desk. "Still working?" she said. She had been aware of no desire to see what he was writing, but she was instantly aware that his blotting-paper had fallen across the sheet, that the sheet was not a piece of note-paper, but one of a large pad on which he had been apparently making notes. Her diamond bracelet had slipped down her wrist and lay upon the blotting-paper; he slowly and carefully pushed it up her slim, round arm until it once more clung in place. "I've nearly finished," he said; and to her ears there was some under sound of pain or of constraint in his tone. A little later he strolled, still dressed, into her room. She was already in bed, and he came and sat on the foot of the bed, with one foot tucked under him and his arms folded. Her mind during the interval had been exclusively occupied with the position of that piece of blotting-paper. Could it be there was some other woman whose ghost-like presence she was just beginning to feel haunting their relation? The impersonality of Vincent's manner was an armor against such attacks, but this armor, as Adelaide knew, was more apparent than real. If one could get beyond that, one was at the very heart of the man. If some fortuitous circumstance had brought a sudden accidental intimacy between him and another woman--What woman loving strength and power could resist the sight of Vincent in action, Vincent as she saw him?