12. Chapter XII.
It was on his lips to exclaim: "My poor child--far
more harm than anywhere else!" Instead, he answered,
in a voice that sounded in his ears like Mr. Letterblair's:
"New York society is a very small world compared
with the one you've lived in. And it's ruled, in spite of
appearances, by a few people with--well, rather old-fashioned ideas."
She said nothing, and he continued: "Our ideas about
marriage and divorce are particularly old-fashioned.
Our legislation favours divorce--our social customs
"Well--not if the woman, however injured, however
irreproachable, has appearances in the least degree
against her, has exposed herself by any unconventional
action to--to offensive insinuations--"
She drooped her head a little lower, and he waited
again, intensely hoping for a flash of indignation, or at
least a brief cry of denial. None came.
A little travelling clock ticked purringly at her elbow,
and a log broke in two and sent up a shower of sparks.
The whole hushed and brooding room seemed to be
waiting silently with Archer.
"Yes," she murmured at length, "that's what my
family tell me."
He winced a little. "It's not unnatural--"
"OUR family," she corrected herself; and Archer
coloured. "For you'll be my cousin soon," she continued
"I hope so."
"And you take their view?"
He stood up at this, wandered across the room,
stared with void eyes at one of the pictures against the
old red damask, and came back irresolutely to her side.
How could he say: "Yes, if what your husband hints is
true, or if you've no way of disproving it?"
"Sincerely--" she interjected, as he was about to