July 1. It was several days after the festival before the news of the Latham divorce was made definitely public by a paragraph under the heading of “Society News,” in one of the New York papers, though of course the rumour had crept into every house on the Bluffs, by way of the back stairs.
Miss Lavinia was greatly distressed, and yet did not know exactly how to act in the matter; for though Mrs. Latham was seen driving by, as usual, Sylvia made no sign.
We may read of such cases often enough, and yet when the blow falls in the immediate neighbourhood, one must feel the reflex of the shock. While sympathy for Sylvia keeps the thing ever present, like a weight upon the chest, I find myself wondering if anything could have been done to avert the disaster, and we all rove about in a half unsettled condition. Half a dozen times a day Lavinia Dorman starts up with the determination of calling upon Sylvia, but this morning decided upon writing her a letter instead, and having sent it up by Timothy Saunders, is now sitting out in the arbour, while Martin Cortright is reading to her from his manuscript; but her attention is for the first time divided, and she is continually glancing up the road as if expecting a summons,—a state of things that causes an expression of mild surprise and disappointment to cross Martin’s countenance at her random and inapropos criticisms. I see that in my recent confusion I have forgotten to record the fact that Miss Lavinia has fallen into the role of critic for Martin’s book, and that for the last ten days, as a matter of course, he reads to her every afternoon the result of his morning’s work, finding, as he says, that her power of condensation is of the greatest help in enabling him to eliminate much of the needless detail of his subject that blocked him, and to concentrate his vitality upon the rest.
This all looks promising, to my romantic mind; for the beginning of all kinds of affection, physical, mental, and spiritual, that are huddled together in varying proportions as component parts of love, has its origin in dependence. Father declares independence, selfishness, and aloofness to be the trinity of hell. Now Martin Cortright has come to depend upon Lavinia Dorman’s opinion, and she is beginning not only to realize and enjoy his dependence, but to aid and abet it. Is not this symptomatic?
When I approach father upon the Latham affair, he says that he thinks the rupture was inevitable from the point of view and conditions that existed. He feels, from the evidence that long experience with the inner life of households has given him, that though a thoughtless woman may be brought to realize, and a woman with really bad inherited instincts reclaimed, through love, the wholly selfish woman of Mrs. Latham’s type remains immovable to word of God or man, and is unreachable, save through the social code of the class that forms her world, and this code sanctions both the marriage and the divorce of convenience, and receives the results equally with open arms.