“Nobody wants to turn you out of the house, you know,” said Mr. Lanley in a conciliatory tone, “but the engagement is at an end.”
“If you do turn him out, I’ll go with him,” said Mathilde, and she took his hand and held it in a tight, moist clasp.
They looked so young and so distressed as they stood there hand in hand that Lanley found himself relenting.
“We don’t say that your marriage will never be possible,” he said. “We are asking you to wait—consent to a separation of six months.”
“Six months!” wailed Mathilde.
“With your whole life before you?” her grandfather returned wistfully.
“I’m afraid I am asking a little more than that, Papa,” said Adelaide. “I have never been enthusiastic about this engagement, but while I was watching and trying to be cooperative, it seems Mr. Wayne intended to run off with my daughter. I know Mathilde is young and easily influenced, but I don’t think, I don’t really think,”—Adelaide made it evident that she was being just,—“that any other of all the young men who come to the house would have tried to do that, and none of them would have got themselves into this difficulty. I mean,”—she looked up at Wayne,—“I think almost any of them would have had a little better business judgment than you have shown.”
“Mama,” put in her daughter, “can’t you see how honest it was of Pete not to go, anyhow?”
Adelaide smiled ironically.
“No; I can’t think that an unusually high standard, dear.”
This seemed to represent the final outrage to Mathilde. She turned.
“O Pete, wouldn’t your mother take me in?” she asked.
And as if to answer the question, Pringle opened the door and announced Mrs. Wayne.
In all the short, but crowded, time since Lanley had first known Mrs. Wayne he had never been otherwise than glad to see her, but now his heart sank. It seemed to him that an abyss was about to open between them, and that all their differences of spirit, stimulating enough while they remained in the abstract, were about to be cast into concrete form.
Mathilde and Pete were so glad to see her that they said nothing, but looked at her beamingly. Whatever Adelaide’s feelings may have been, she greeted her guest with a positive courtesy, and she was the only one who did.
Mrs. Wayne nodded to her son, smiled more formally at Mr. Lanley, and then her eyes falling upon Mathilde, she realized that she had intruded on some sort of conference. She had a natural dread of such meetings, at which it seemed to her that the only thing which she must not do was the only thing that she knew how to do, namely, to speak her mind. So she at once decided to withdraw.
“Your man insisted on my coming in, Mrs. Farron,” she said. “I came to ask about Mr. Farron; but I see you are in the midst of a family discussion, and so I won’t—”