The Line of Least Resistance
by Edith Wharton
MILLICENT was late — as usual. Mr. Mindon, returning unexpectedly
from an interrupted yacht-race, reached home with the legitimate hope
of finding her at luncheon; but she was still out. "Was she lunching
out then?" he asked the butler, who replied, with the air of making an
uncalled-for concession to his master's curiosity, that Mrs. Mindon had
given no orders about luncheon.
Mr. Mindon, on this negative information (it was the kind from
which his knowledge of his wife's movements was mainly drawn), sat down
to the grilled cutlet and glass of Vichy that represented his share in
the fabulous daily total of the chef's book. Mr. Mindon's annual
food-consumption probably amounted to about half of one per cent. on
his cook's perquisites, and of the other luxuries of his complicated
establishment he enjoyed considerably less than this fraction. Of
course, it was nobody's fault but his own. As Millicent pointed out,
she couldn't feed her friends on mutton-chops and Vichy because of his
digestive difficulty, nor could she return their hospitality by asking
them to play croquet with the children because that happened to be Mr.
Mindon's chosen pastime. If that was the kind of life he wanted to lead
he should have married a dyspeptic governess, not a young confiding
girl, who little dreamed what marriage meant when she passed from her
father's roof into the clutches of a tyrant with imperfect gastric
It was his fault, of course, but then Millicent had faults too, as
she had been known to concede when she perceived that the contemplation
of her merits was beginning to pall; and it did seem unjust to Mr.
Mindon that their life should be one long adaptation to Millicent's
faults at the expense of his own. Millicent was unpunctual — but that
gave a sense of her importance to the people she kept waiting; she had
nervous attacks — but they served to excuse her from dull dinners and
family visits; she was bad-tempered — but that merely made the
servants insolent to Mr. Mindon; she was extravagant — but that simply
necessitated Mr. Mindon's curtailing his summer holiday and giving a
closer attention to business. If ever a woman had the qualities of her
faults, that woman was Millicent. Like the legendary goose, they laid
golden eggs for her, and she nurtured them tenderly in return. If
Millicent had been a perfect wife and mother, she and Mr. Mindon would
probably have spent their summer in the depressing promiscuity of hotel
piazzas. Mr. Mindon was shrewd enough to see that he reaped the
advantages of his wife's imperfect domesticity, and that if her faults
were the making of her, she was the making of him. It was therefore
unreasonable to be angry with Millicent, even if she were late for
luncheon, and Mr. Mindon, who prided himself on being a reasonable man,
usually found some other outlet for his wrath.
On this occasion it was the unpunctuality of the little girls. They
came in with their governess some minutes after he was seated: two
small Millicents, with all her arts in miniature. They arranged their
frocks carefully before seating themselves and turned up their little
Greek noses at the food. Already they showed signs of finding fault
with as much ease and discrimination as Millicent; and Mr. Mindon knew
that this was an accomplishment not to be undervalued. He himself, for
example, though Millicent charged him with being a discontented man,
had never acquired her proficiency in depreciation; indeed, he
sometimes betrayed a mortifying indifference to trifles that afforded
opportunity for the display of his wife's fastidiousness. Mr. Mindon,
though no biologist, was vaguely impressed by the way in which that
accomplished woman had managed to transmit an acquired characteristic
to her children: it struck him with wonder that traits of which he had
marked the incipience in Millicent should have become intuitions in her
offspring. To rebuke such costly replicas of their mother seemed
dangerously like scolding Millicent — and Mr. Mindon's hovering
resentment prudently settled on the governess.
He pointed out to her that the children were late for luncheon.
The governess was sorry, but Gladys was always unpunctual. Perhaps
her papa would speak to her.
Mr. Mindon changed the subject. "What's that at my feet? There's a
dog in the room!"
He looked round furiously at the butler, who gazed impartially over
his head. Mr. Mindon knew that it was proper for him to ignore his
servants, but was not sure to what extent they ought to reciprocate his
The governess explained that it was Gwendolen's puppy.
"Gwendolen's puppy? Who gave Gwendolen a puppy?"
"Fwank Antwim," said Gwendolen through a mouthful of mushroom
"Mr. Antrim," the governess suggested, in a tone that confessed the
futility of the correction.
" We don't call him Mr. Antrim; we call him Frank; he likes us to,"
said Gladys icily.
"You'll do no such thing!" her father snapped.
A soft body came in contact with his toe. He kicked out viciously,
and the room was full of yelping.
"Take the animal out instantly!" he stormed: dogs were animals to
Mr. Mindon. The butler continued to gaze over his head, and the two
footmen took their cue from the butler.
"I won't — I won't — I won't let my puppy go!" Gwendolen
But she should have another, her father assured her — a much
handsomer and more expensive one; his darling should have a prize dog;
he would telegraph to New York on the instant.
"I don't want a pwize dog; I want Fwank's puppy!"
Mr. Mindon laid down his fork and walked out of the room, while the
governess, cutting up Gwendolen's nectarine, said, as though pointing
out an error in syntax, "You've vexed your papa again."
"I don't mind vexing papa — nothing happens," said Gwendolen,
hugging her puppy; while Gladys, disdaining the subject of dispute,
contemptuously nibbled caramels. Gladys was two years older than
Gwendolen and had outlived the first freshness of her enthusiasm for
Frank Antrim, who, with the notorious indiscrimination of the grown-up,
always gave the nicest presents to Gwendolen.
Mr. Mindon, crossing his marble hall between goddesses whose
dishabille was still slightly disconcerting to his traditions, stepped
out on the terrace above the cliffs. The lawn looked as expensive as a
velvet carpet woven in one piece; the flower-borders contained only
exotics; and the stretch of blue-satin Atlantic had the air of being
furrowed only by the keels of pleasure-boats. The scene, to Mr.
Mindon's imagination, never lost the keen edge of its costliness; he
had yet to learn Millicent's trick of regarding a Newport villa as a
mere pied ˆ terre; but he could not help reflecting that, after all, it
was to him she owed her fine sense of relativity. There are certain
things one must possess in order not to be awed by them, and it was he
who had enabled Millicent to take a Newport villa for granted. And
still she was not satisfied! She had reached the point where taking the
exceptional as a matter of course becomes in itself a matter of course;
and Millicent could not live without novelty. That was the worst of it:
she discarded her successes as rapidly as her gowns; Mr. Mindon felt a
certain breathlessness in retracing her successive manifestations. And
yet he had always made allowances: literally and figuratively, he had
gone on making larger and larger allowances, till his whole income, as
well as his whole point of view, was practically at Millicent's
disposal. But, after all, there was a principle of give and take — if
only Millicent could have been brought to see it! One of Millicent's
chief sources of strength lay in her magnificent obtuseness: there were
certain obligations that simply didn't exist for her, because she
couldn't be brought to see them, and the principle of give and take (a
favorite principle of Mr. Mindon's) was one of them.
There was Frank Antrim, for instance. Mr. Mindon, who had a high
sense of propriety, had schooled himself, not without difficulty, into
thinking Antrim a charming fellow. No one was more alive than Mr.
Mindon to the expediency of calling the Furies the Eumenides. He knew
that as long as he chose to think Frank Antrim a charming fellow,
everything was as it should be and his home a temple of the virtues.
But why on earth did Millicent let the fellow give presents to the
children? Mr. Mindon was dimly conscious that Millicent had been guilty
of the kind of failure she would least have liked him to detect — a
failure in taste, — and a certain exultation tempered his resentment.
To anyone who had suffered as Mr. Mindon had from Millicent's keenness
in noting such lapses in others, it was not unpleasant to find that she
could be "bad form." A sense of unwonted astuteness fortified Mr.
Mindon's wrath. He felt that he had every reason to be angry with
Millicent, and decided to go and scold the governess; then he
remembered that it was bad for him to lose his temper after eating,
and, drawing a small phial from his pocket, he took a pepsin tablet
Having vented his wrath in action, he felt calmer, but scarcely
more happy. A marble nymph smiled at him from the terrace; but he knew
how much nymphs cost, and was not sure that they were worth the price.
Beyond the shrubberies he caught a glimpse of domed glass. His
green-houses were the finest in Newport; but since he neither ate fruit
nor wore orchids, they yielded at best an indirect satisfaction. At
length he decided to go and play with the little girls; but on entering
the nursery he found them dressing for a party, with the rapt gaze and
fevered cheeks with which Millicent would presently perform the same
rite. They took no notice of him, and he crept downstairs again.
His study table was heaped with bills, and as it was bad for his
digestion to look over them after luncheon, he wandered on into the
other rooms. He did not stay long in the drawing-room: it evoked too
vividly the evening hours when he delved for platitudes under the
inattentive gaze of listeners who obviously resented his not being
somebody else. Much of Mr. Mindon's intercourse with ladies was clouded
by the sense of this resentment, and he sometimes avenged himself by
wondering if they supposed he would talk to them if he could help it.
The sight of the dining-room door increased his depression by recalling
the long dinners where, with the pantry-draught on his neck, he
languished between the dullest women of the evening. He turned away;
but the ball-room beyond roused even more disturbing associations: an
orchestra playing all night (Mr. Mindon crept to bed at eleven),
carriages shouted for under his windows, and a morrow like the day
after an earthquake.
In the library he felt less irritated but not more cheerful. Mr.
Mindon had never quite known what the library was for: it was like one
of those mysterious ruins over which archaeology endlessly disputes. It
could not have been intended for reading, since no one in the house
ever read, except an under-housemaid charged with having set fire to
her bed in her surreptitious zeal for fiction; and smoking was
forbidden there, because the hangings held the odor of tobacco. Mr.
Mindon felt a natural pride in being rich enough to permit himself a
perfectly useless room; but not liking to take the bloom from its
inutility by sitting in it, he passed on to Millicent's boudoir.
Here at least was a room of manifold purposes, the centre of
Millicent's complex social system. Mr. Mindon entered with the awe of
the modest investor treading the inner precincts of finance. He was
proud of Millicent's social activities and liked to read over her daily
list of engagements and the record of the invitations she received in a
season. The number was perpetually swelling, like a rising stock. Mr.
Mindon had a vague sense that she would soon be declaring an extra
dividend. After all, one must be lenient to a woman as hard-working as
Millicent. All about him were the evidences of her toil: her
writing-table disappeared under an avalanche of notes and cards; the
waste-paper basket overflowed with torn correspondence; and, glancing
down, Mr. Mindon saw a crumpled letter at his feet. Being a man of neat
habits, he was often tried by Millicent's genial disorder; and his
customary rebuke was the act of restoring the strayed object to its
He stooped to gather the bit of paper from the floor. As he picked
it up his eye caught a word; he smoothed the page and read on. . . .
HE seemed to be cowering on the edge of a boiling flood, watching
his small thinking faculty spin round out of reach on the tumult of his
sensations. Then a fresh wave of emotion swept the tiny object — the
quivering imperceptible ego — back to shore, and it began to reach out
drowned tentacles in a faint effort after thought.
He sat up and glanced about him. The room looked back at him,
coldly, unfamiliarly, as he had seen Millicent look when he asked her
to be reasonable. And who are you? the walls seemed to say. Who am I?
Mr. Mindon heard himself retorting. I'll tell you, by God! I'm the man
that paid for you — paid for every scrap of you: silk hangings, china
rubbish, glasses, chandeliers, — every Frenchified rag of you. Why, if
it weren't for me and my money you'd be nothing but a brick-and-plaster
shell, naked as the day you were built — no better than a garret or a
coal-hole. Why, you wouldn't be at all if I chose to tear you down. I
could tear the whole house down, if I chose.
He paused, suddenly aware that his eyes were on a photograph of
Millicent, and that it was his wife he was apostrophizing. Her lips
seemed to shape a "hush:" when he said things she didn't like she
always told him not to talk so loud. Had he been talking loud? Well,
who was to prevent him? Wasn't the house his and everything in it? Who
was Millicent, to bid him hush?
Mr. Mindon felt a sudden increase of stature. He strutted across
the room. Why, of course, the room belonged to him, the house belonged
to him, and he belonged to himself! That was the best of it! For years
he had been the man that Millicent thought him, the mere projection of
her disdain; and now he was himself.
It was odd how the expression of her photograph changed, melting,
as her face did, from contempt to cajolery, in one of those transitions
that hung him breathless on the skirts of her mood. She was looking at
him gently now, sadly almost, with the little grieved smile that seemed
always to anticipate and pardon his obtuseness. Ah, Millicent! The
clock struck and Mr. Mindon stood still. Perhaps she was smiling so now
— or the other way. He could have told the other fool where each of
her smiles led. There was a fierce enjoyment in his sense of lucidity.
He saw it all now. Millicent had kept him for years in bewildered
subjection to exigencies as inscrutable as the decrees of Providence;
but now his comprehension of her seemed a mere incident in his
His sudden translation to the absolute gave him a curious sense of
spectatorship: he seemed to be looking on at his own thoughts. His
brain was like a brightly lit factory, full of flying wheels and
shuttles. All the machinery worked with the greatest rapidity and
precision. He was planning, reasoning, arguing, with unimagined
facility: words flew out like sparks from each revolving thought. But
suddenly he felt himself caught in the wheels of his terrific logic,
and swept round, red and shrieking, till he was flung off into space.
The acuter thrill of one sobbing nerve detached itself against his
consciousness. What was it that hurt so? Someone was speaking: a voice
probed to the central pain, —
"Any orders for the stable, sir?"
And Mr. Mindon found himself the mere mouth-piece of a roving
impulse that replied, —
"No; but you may telephone for a cab for me — at once."
HE drove to one of the hotels. He was breathing more easily now,
restored to the safe level of conventional sensation. His late ascent
to the rarefied heights of the unexpected had left him weak and
exhausted; but he gained reassurance from the way in which his thoughts
were slipping back of themselves into the old grooves. He was feeling,
he was sure, just as a gentleman ought to feel; all the consecrated
phrases — "outraged honor," "a father's heart," "the sanctity of home"
— were flocking glibly at his call. He had the self-confidence that
comes of knowing one has on the right clothes. He had certainly done
the proper thing in leaving the house at once; but, too weak and tired
to consider the next step, he yielded himself to one of those soothing
intervals of abeyance when life seems to wait submissively at the door.
As his cab breasted the current of the afternoon drive he caught
the greeting of the lady with whom he and Millicent were to have dined.
He was troubled by the vision of that disrupted dinner. He had not yet
reached the point of detachment at which offending Mrs. Targe might
become immaterial, and again he felt himself jerked out of his grooves.
What ought he to do? Millicent, now, could have told him — if only he
might have consulted Millicent! He pulled himself together and tried to
think of his wrongs.
At the hotel, the astonished clerk led him upstairs, unlocking the
door of a room that smelt of cheap soap. The window had been so long
shut that it opened with a jerk, sending a shower of dead flies to the
carpet. Out along the sea-front, at that hour, the south-wind was
hurrying the waters, but the hotel stood in one of the sheltered
streets, where in midsummer there is little life in the air. Mr. Mindon
sat down in the provisional attitude of a visitor who is kept waiting.
Over the fireplace hung a print of the Landing of Columbus; a fly-blown
portrait of General Grant faced it from the opposite wall. The smell of
soap was insufferable, and hot noises came up irritatingly from the
street. He looked at his watch: it was just four o'clock.
He wondered if Millicent had come in yet, and if she had read his
letter. The occupation of picturing how she would feel when she read it
proved less exhilarating than he had expected, and he got up and
wandered about the room. He opened a drawer in the dressing-table, and
seeing in it some burnt matches and a fuzz of hair, shut it with
disgust; but just as he was ringing to rebuke the house-maid he
remembered that he was not in his own house. He sat down again,
wondering if the afternoon post were in, and what letters it had
brought. It was annoying not to get his letters. What would be done
about them? Would they be sent after him? Sent where? It suddenly
occurred to him that he didn't in the least know where he was going. He
must be going somewhere, of course; he hadn't left home to settle down
in that stifling room. He supposed he should go to town, but with the
heat at ninety the prospect was not alluring. He might decide on Lenox
or Saratoga; but a doubt as to the propriety of such a course set him
once more adrift on a chartless sea of perplexities. His head ached
horribly and he threw himself on the bed.
When he sat up, worn out with his thoughts, the room was growing
dark. Eight o'clock! Millicent must be dressing — but no; to-night at
least, he grimly reflected, she was condemned to the hateful necessity
of dining alone; unless, indeed, her audacity sent her to Mrs. Targe's
in the always-acceptable role of the pretty woman whose husband has
been "called away." Perhaps Antrim would be asked to fill his place!
The thought flung him on his feet, but its impetus carried him no
farther. He was borne down by the physical apathy of a traveller who
has a week's journey in his bones. He sat down and thought of the
little girls, who were just going to bed. They would have welcomed him
at that hour: he was aware that they cherished him chiefly as a
pretext, a sanctuary from bed-time and lessons. He had never in his
life been more than an alternative to anyone.
A vague sense of physical apprehension resolved itself into hunger
stripped of appetite, and he decided that he ought to urge himself to
eat. He opened his door on a rising aroma of stale coffee and fry.
In the dining-room, where a waiter offered him undefinable food in
thick-lipped saucers, Mr. Mindon decided to go to New York. Retreating
from the heavy assault of a wedge of pie, he pushed back his chair and
went upstairs. He felt hot and grimy in the yachting-clothes he had
worn since morning, and the Fall River boat would at least be cool.
Then he remembered the playful throngs that held the deck, the midnight
hilarity of the waltz-tunes, the horror of the morning coffee. His
stomach was still tremulous from its late adventure into the unknown,
and he shrank from further risks. He had never before realized how much
he loved his home.
He grew soft at the vision of his vacant chair. What were they
doing and saying without him? His little ones were fatherless — and
Millicent? Hitherto he had evaded the thought of Millicent, but now he
took a doleful pleasure in picturing her in ruins at his feet.
Involuntarily he found himself stooping to her despair; but he
straightened himself and said aloud, "I'll take the night-train, then."
The sound of his voice surprised him, and he started up. Was that a
footstep outside? — a message, a note? Had they found out where he
was, and was his wretched wife mad enough to sue for mercy? His
ironical smile gave the measure of her madness; but the step passed on,
and he sat down rather blankly. The impressiveness of his attitude was
being gradually sapped by the sense that no one knew where he was. He
had reached the point where he could not be sure of remaining
inflexible unless someone asked him to relent.
AT the sound of a knock he clutched his hat and bag.
"Mindon, I say!" a genial voice adjured him; and before he could
take counsel with his newly acquired dignity, which did not immediately
respond to a first summons, the door opened on the reassuring presence
of Laurence Meysy.
Mr. Mindon felt the relief of a sufferer at the approach of the
eminent specialist. Laurence Meysy was the past tense of a dangerous
man: though time-worn, still a favorite; a circulating-library romance,
dog-eared by many a lovely hand, and still perused with pleasure,
though, alas! no longer on the sly. He was said to have wrought much
havoc in his youth; and it being now his innocent pleasure to repair
the damage done by others, he had become the consulting physician of
injured husbands and imprudent wives.
Two gentlemen followed him: Mr. Mindon's uncle and senior partner,
the eminent Ezra Brownrigg, and the Reverend Doctor Bonifant, rector of
the New York church in which Mr. Mindon owned a pew that was almost as
expensive as his opera-box.
Mr. Brownrigg entered silently: to get at anything to say he had to
sink an artesian well of meditation; but he always left people
impressed by what he would have said if he had spoken. He greeted his
nephew with the air of a distinguished mourner at a funeral — the
mourner who consciously overshadows the corpse; and Doctor Bonifant did
justice to the emotional side of the situation by fervently exclaiming,
"Thank Heaven, we are not too late!"
Mr. Mindon looked about him with pardonable pride. The scene
suggested something between a vestry-meeting and a conference of
railway-directors; and the knowledge that he himself was its central
figure, that even his uncle was an accessory, an incident, a mere bit
of still-life brushed in by the artist Circumstance to throw Mr. Mindon
into fuller prominence, gave that gentleman his first sense of equality
with his wife. Equality? In another moment he towered above her,
picturing her in an attitude of vaguely imagined penance at Doctor
Bonifant's feet. Mr. Mindon had always felt about the clergy much as he
did about his library: he had never quite known what they were for;
but, with the pleased surprise of the pious naturalist, he now saw that
they had their uses, like every other object in the economy of nature.
"My dear fellow," Meysy persuasively went on, "we've come to have a
little chat with you."
Mr. Brownrigg and the Rector seated themselves. Mr. Mindon
mechanically followed their example, and Meysy, asking the others if
they minded his cigarette, cheerfully accommodated himself to the edge
of the bed.
From the life-long habit of taking the chair, Mr. Brownrigg coughed
and looked at Doctor Bonifant. The Rector leaned forward, stroking his
cheek with a hand on which a massive intaglio seemed to be rehearsing
the part of the episcopal ring; then his deprecating glance transferred
the burden of action to Laurence Meysy. Meysy seemed to be surveying
the case through the mitigating medium of cigarette-smoke. His view was
that of the professional setting to rights the blunders of two
amateurs. It was his theory that the art of carrying on a love affair
was very nearly extinct; and he had a far greater contempt for Antrim
than for Mr. Mindon.
"My dear fellow," he began, "I've seen Mrs. Mindon — she sent for
Mr. Brownrigg, peering between guarded lids, here interposed a
Of course Millicent had done the proper thing! Mr. Mindon could not
repress a thrill of pride at her efficiency.
"Mrs. Mindon," Meysy continued, "showed me your letter." He paused.
"She was perfectly frank — she throws herself on your mercy."
"That should be remembered in her favor," Doctor Bonifant murmured
in a voice of absolution.
"It's a wretched business, Mindon — the poor woman's crushed —
crushed. Your uncle here has seen her."
Mr. Brownrigg glanced suspiciously at Meysy, as though not certain
whether he cared to corroborate an unauthorized assertion; then he
said, "Mrs. Brownrigg has not."
Doctor Bonifant sighed: Mrs. Brownrigg was one of his most
"And the long and short of it is," Meysy summed up, "that we're
here as your friends — and as your wife's friends — to ask you what
you mean to do."
There was a pause. Mr. Mindon was disturbed by finding the
initiative shifted to his shoulders. He had been talking to himself so
volubly for the last six hours that he seemed to have nothing left to
"To do — to do?" he stammered. "Why, I mean to go away — leave
her — "
"Why, — y-yes — yes — "
Doctor Bonifant sighed again, and Mr. Brownrigg's lips stirred like
a door being cautiously unbarred.
Meysy knocked the ashes off his cigarette. "You've quite made up
your mind, eh?"
Mr. Mindon faltered another assent. Then, annoyed at the uncertain
sound of his voice, he repeated loudly, "I mean to divorce her."
The repetition fortified his resolve; and his declaration seemed to
himself against entreaty: their mere presence was a pedestal for his
wrongs. The words flocked of themselves, building up his conviction
like a throng of masons buttressing a weak wall.
Mr. Brownrigg spoke upon his first pause. "There's the publicity —
it's the kind of thing that's prejudicial to a man's business
An hour earlier the words would have turned Mr. Mindon cold; now he
brushed them aside. His business interests, forsooth! What good had his
money ever done him? What chance had he ever had of enjoying it? All
his toil hadn't made him a rich man — it had merely made Millicent a
Doctor Bonifant murmured, "The children must be considered."
"They've never considered me!" Mr. Mindon retorted — and turned
afresh upon his uncle. Mr. Brownrigg listened impassively. He was a
very silent man, but his silence was not a receptacle for the speech of
others — it was a hard convex surface on which argument found no
footing. Mr. Mindon reverted to the Rector. Doctor Bonifant's attitude
towards life was full of a benignant receptivity; as though, logically,
a man who had accepted the Thirty-nine Articles was justified in
accepting anything else that he chose. His attention had therefore an
absorbent quality peculiarly encouraging to those who addressed him. He
listened affirmatively, as it were.
Mr. Mindon's spirits rose. It was the first time that he had ever
had an audience. He dragged his hearers over every stage of his wrongs,
losing sight of the vital injury in the enumeration of incidental
grievances. He had the excited sense that at last Millicent would know
what he had always thought of her.
Mr. Brownrigg looked at his watch, and Doctor Bonifant bent his
head as though under the weight of a pulpit peroration. Meysy, from the
bed, watched the three men with the air of an expert who holds the
solution of the problem.
He slipped to his feet as Mr. Mindon's speech flagged.
"I suppose you've considered, Mindon, that it rests with you to
proclaim the fact that you're no longer — well, the chief object of
your wife's affection?"
Mr. Mindon raised his head irritably; interrogation impeded the
flow of his diatribe.
"That you — er — in short, create the situation by making it
known?" Meysy glanced at the Rector. "Am I right, Bonifant?"
The Rector took meditative counsel of his finger-tips; then slowly,
as though formulating a dogma, "Under certain conditions," he conceded,
"what is unknown may be said to be non-existent."
Mr. Mindon looked from one to the other.
"Damn it, man — before it's too late," Meysy followed up, "can't
you see that you're the only person who can make you ridiculous?"
Mr. Brownrigg rose, and Mr. Mindon had the desperate sense that the
situation was slipping out of his grasp.
"It rests with you," Doctor Bonifant murmured, "to save your
children from even the shadow of obloquy."
"You can't stay here, at any rate," said Mr. Brownrigg heavily.
Mr. Mindon, who had risen, dropped weakly into his chair. His three
counsellors were now all on their feet, taking up their hats with the
air of men who have touched the limit of duty. In another moment they
would be gone, and with them Mr. Mindon's audience, his support, his
confidence in the immutability of his resolve. He felt himself no more
than an evocation of their presence; and, in dread of losing the
identity they had created, he groped for a detaining word. "I sha'n't
leave for New York till to-morrow."
"To-morrow everything will be known," said Mr. Brownrigg, with his
hand on the door.
Meysy glanced at his watch with a faint smile. "It's to-morrow
now," he added.
He fell back, letting the older men pass out; but, turning as
though to follow, he felt a drowning clutch upon his arm.
"It's for the children," Mr. Mindon stammered.