Homes for nervous cases are all very well in their way; but I think our good Hermann Rothe went to extremes when he sent her to one. He is furious with me, because I told him what I thought in plain words. Naturally he did not in the least understand what I was driving at. But I think I made him see that Lillie had never been faithless to him in the physiological meaning of the word—and that is all that matters to men of his stamp.
I am convinced that Lillie would not have suffered half so much if she had really been unfaithful in the ordinary sense.
But to return to me and my affairs.
You cannot imagine what a wonderful business-woman the world has lost in me. Not only have I made both ends meet—I, who used to dread my Christmas bills—but I have so much to the good in solid coin of the realm that I could fill a dozen pairs of stockings. And I keep my accounts—think of that, Richard! Every Monday morning Torp appears with her slate and account-book, and they must balance to a farthing.
I bathe once or twice a day from my cosey little hut at the end of the garden, and in the evening I row about in my little white boat. Everything here is so neat and refined that I am sure your fastidious soul would rejoice to see it. Here I never bring in any mud on my shoes, as I used to do in the country, to your everlasting worry. And here the books are arranged tidily in proper order on the shelves. You would not be able to find a speck of dust on the furniture.
Of course the gardener from Frijsenborg, about whom I have already told you, is now courting Torp, and I am expecting an invitation to the wedding one of these next days. Otherwise he is very competent, and my vegetables are beyond criticism.
Personally, I should have liked to rear chickens, but Torp is so afflicted at the idea of poultry-fleas that she implored me not to keep fowls. Now we get them from the schoolmaster who cannot supply us with all we want.
I have an idea which will please you, Richard.
What if you paid me a short visit? Without committing either of us—you understand? Just a brief, friendly meeting to refresh our pleasant and unpleasant memories?
I am dying for somebody to speak to, and who could I ask better than yourself?
But, just to please me, come without saying a word to anyone. Nobody need know that you are on a visit to your former wife, need they? We are free to follow our own fancies, but there is no need to set people gossiping.
Who knows whether the time may not come when I may take my revenge and keep the promise I made you the last evening we spent together? When two people have lived together as long as we have, separation is a mere figure of speech. People do not separate after twenty-two years of married life, even if each goes a different road for a time.
But why talk of the future. The present concerns us more nearly, and interests me far more.