Robert Tronge 32

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robert tronge
Robert Tronge

He glanced at her. He had been prepared to explain to her about love; and now it occurred to him for the first time that she knew all about it. He decided to ask her the great question which had been occupying his mind as a lover of a scientific habit of thought. "Mother," he said, "how much dependence is to be placed on love--one's own, I mean?" "Goodness, Pete! What a question to ask!" "Well, you might take a chance and tell me what you think. I have no doubts. My whole nature goes out to this girl; but I can't help knowing that if we go on feeling like this till we die, we shall be the exception. Love's a miracle. How much can one trust to it?" The moment he had spoken he knew that he was asking a great deal. It was torture to his mother to express an opinion on an abstract question. She did not lack decision of conduct. She could resolve in an instant to send a drunkard to an institution or take a trip round the world; but on a matter of philosophy of life it was as difficult to get her to commit herself as if she had been upon the witness-stand. Yet it was just in this realm that he particularly valued her opinion. "Oh," she said at last, "I don't believe that it's possible to play safe in love. It's a risk, but it's one of those risks you haven't much choice about taking. Life and death are like that, too. I don't think it pays to be always thinking about avoiding risks. Nothing, you know," she added, as if she were letting him in to rather a horrid little secret, "is really safe." And evidently glad to change the subject, she went on, "What will her family say?" "I can't think they will be pleased." "I suppose not. Who are they?" Wayne explained the family connections, but woke no associations in his mother's mind until he mentioned the name of Farron. Then he was astonished at the violence of her interest. She sprang to her feet; her eyes lighted up. "Why," she cried, "that's the man, that's the company, that Marty Burke works for! O Pete, don't you think you could get Mr. Farron to use his influence over Marty about Anita?" "Dear mother, do you think you can get him to use his influence over Mrs. Farron for me?" Marty Burke was the leader of the district and was reckoned a bad man. He and Mrs. Wayne had been waging a bitter war for some time over a young inebriate who had seduced a girl of the neighborhood. Mrs. Wayne was sternly trying to prosecute the inebriate; Burke was determined to protect him, first, by smirching the girl's name, and, next, by getting the girl's family to consent to a marriage, a solution that Mrs. Wayne considered most undesirable in view of the character of the prospective husband. Pete felt her interest sweep away from his affairs, and it had not returned when the telephone rang. He came back from answering it to tell his mother that Mr. Lanley, the grandfather of his love, was asking if she would see him for a few minutes that afternoon or evening. A visit was arranged for nine o'clock. "What's he like?" asked Mrs. Wayne, wrinkling her nose and looking very impish. "He seemed like a nice old boy; hasn't had a new idea, I should say, since 1880. And, Mother dear, you're going to dress, aren't you?" She resented the implication. "I shall be wonderful," she answered with emphasis. "And while he's here, I think you might go down and tell this news to Lily, yourself. Oh, I don't say she's in love with you--" "Lily," said Pete, "is leading far too exciting a life to be in love with any one." Punctually at nine, Mr. Lanley rang the bell of the flat. He had paused a few minutes before doing so, not wishing to weaken the effect of his mission by arriving out of breath. Adelaide had come to see him just before lunch. She pretended to minimize the importance of her news, but he knew she did so to evade reproach for the culpable irresponsibility of her attitude toward the young man's first visit. "And do you know anything more about him than you did yesterday?" he asked. She did. It appeared that Vincent had telephoned her from down town just before she came out. "Tiresome young man," she said, twisting her shoulders. "It seems there's nothing against him. His father was a doctor, his mother comes of decent people and is a respected reformer, the young man works for an ambitious new firm of brokers, who speak highly of him and give him a salary of $5000 a year." "The whole thing must be put a stop to," said Mr. Lanley. "Of course, of course," said his daughter. "But how? I can't forbid him the house because he's just an average young man." "I don't see why not, or at least on the ground that he's not the husband you would choose for her." "I think the best way will be to let him come to the house,"--she spoke with a sort of imperishable sweetness,--"but to turn Mathilde gradually against him." "But how can you turn her against him?" Adelaide looked very wistful. "You don't trust me," she moaned. "I only ask you how it can be done." "Oh, there are ways. I made her perfectly hate one of them because he always said, 'if you know what I mean.' 'It's a very fine day, Mrs. Farron, if you know what I mean.' This young man must have some horrid trick like that, only I haven't studied him yet. Give me time." "It's risky." Adelaide shook her head. "Not really," she said. "These young fancies go as quickly as they come. Do you remember the time you took me to West Point? I had a passion for the adjutant. I forgot him in a week." "You were only fifteen." "Mathilde is immature for her age."