His wife complained that he was out of sympathy with her, and he could not deny it. She resented this, and charged him with neglecting her. No man will stand such a charge, and Norman defended himself hotly.
“I do not think it lies in your mouth to make such a charge,” he said, with a flash in his eye. “I am nearly always at home when I am not necessarily absent. You can hardly say as much. I do not think my worst enemy would charge me with that. Even Ferdy Wickersham would not say that.”
She fired at the name.
“You are always attacking my friends,” she declared. “I think they are quite as good as yours.”
Norman turned away. He looked gloomily out of the window for a moment, and then faced his wife again.
“Louise,” he said gravely, “if I have been hard and unsympathetic, I have not meant to be. Why can’t we start all over again? You are more than all the rest of the world to me. I will give up whatever you object to, and you give up what I object to. That is a good way to begin.” His eyes had a look of longing in them, but Mrs. Wentworth did not respond.
“You will insist on my giving up my friends,” she said.
“Your friends? I do not insist on your giving up any friend on earth. Mrs. Nailor and her like are not your friends. They spend their time tearing to pieces the characters of others when you are present, and your character when you are absent. Wickersham is incapable of being a friend.”
“You are always so unjust to him,” said Mrs. Wentworth, warmly.
“I am not unjust to him. I have known him all my life, and I tell you he would sacrifice any one and every one to his pleasure.”
Mrs. Wentworth began to defend him warmly, and so the quarrel ended worse than it had begun.
MRS. CREAMER’S BALL
The next few years passed as the experience of old Rawson had led him to predict. Fortunes went down; but Fortune’s wheel is always turning, and, as the old countryman said, “those that could stick would come up on top again.”
Keith, however, had prospered. He had got the Rawson mine to running again, and even in the hardest times had been able to make it pay expenses. Other properties had failed and sold out, and had been bought in by Keith’s supporters, when Wickersham once more appeared in New Leeds affairs. It was rumored that Wickersham was going to start again. Old Adam Rawson’s face grew dark at the rumor. He said to Keith:
“If that young man comes down here, it’s him or me. I’m an old man, and I ain’t got long to live; but I want to live to meet him once. If he’s got any friends, they’d better tell him not to come.” He sat glowering and puffing his pipe morosely.
Keith tried to soothe him; but the old fellow had received a wound that knew no healing.