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HOME > Short Stories > The Queen of Farrandale > CHAPTER V MRS. LUMBARD
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 Susanna Frink’s life had included little of the softer emotions. Of course, acquaintances and strangers had been voluble behind her back with suggestions as to what she ought to do. A woman, especially a rich woman, should have ties. Even the dignified, handsome, old-fashioned house she lived in had not been her family homestead, and it was declared an absurd purchase for a single woman when she moved into it nearly twenty years ago. The grounds, with their fine old trees, pleased her. The high iron fence, with the elaborate gates opening upon the driveway, pleased her. In the days of her restaurant—tea-house they would call it now—and candy-making, she had looked upon this house as fulfilling every idea she had ever had of elegance, and, when it fell to the possession of a globe-trotting bachelor who had no use for it, she bought it at a bargain as was her successful habit. Those early business days had been shared by another girl, gay Alice Ray, and to this partner of her joys and sorrows Susanna gave her heart. It almost broke when Allen Morehouse married[54] Alice and carried her off to the Far West. The two corresponded for years, but gradually the epistolary bond dissolved. Miss Frink grew more and more absorbed in business, and the courageous, cheery chum of her girlhood came seldom to her mind until one day she received a letter signed “Adèle Lumbard.” It enclosed a picture of Alice Ray similar to one in Miss Frink’s possession, and the writer claimed to be Alice’s granddaughter. She stated that she was alone in the world having been divorced after an unhappy marriage, and, not knowing which way to turn, had thought of the friend her grandmother had loved so devotedly, and wondered if for the sake of auld lang syne Miss Frink would be willing to see her and give her advice as to what to do.
Divorced! Susanna Frink’s eyebrows drew together. The lady of the old school had no patience with divorce. But here was Alice Ray’s granddaughter. Susanna looked at the picture, a smiling picture that through all the ups and downs of her life had stood on her dresser: an enlargement of it hung on her wall. There was no other picture in the room. Memories stirred. She had no sense of outgoing warmth toward the writer of the letter; but a divorce was a scandalous thing. What had the[55] girl done? Worse still, what was she likely to do if left to herself?
Miss Frink had no private charities. She gave through her secretary to the worthy organizations whose business it was to look after such matters, and troubled herself no further about them. Her secretary took care that the frequent letters of appeal should never reach her, but when he read Mrs. Lumbard’s, and saw the photograph, he knew that this did not come under the usual head; and so Miss Frink was now looking into Alice Ray’s sweet eyes, and the smile which seemed to express confidence that her good pal Susanna would not fail her.
Miss Frink sent for Adèle Lumbard, and that young woman’s heart bounded with relief and hope. She knew all about Miss Frink—indeed, so closely had she kept apprised of her reputation for cold shrewdness that she had grave doubts as to the reception of her letter, and the curt lines of invitation rejoiced her. The old photograph was returned to her without comment.
When she reached the big house, it was no surprise to have a maid show her to her room and tell her that Miss Frink would see her in the drawing-room in an hour.
A sensitive soul would have been chilled by such a reception. Adèle Lumbard’s soul was not sensitive, but her body was, and she wholly approved of the linen in her bathroom and on her bed, fine in texture and all monogrammed. She liked the chaise longue and the luxurious chairs. Her windows looked out on heavy-leafed maples and graceful birches rising from a perfectly kept lawn. A pergola and a fountain were charmingly placed.
“If she’ll only take a fancy to me!” thought Adèle.
Those piercing eyes of Miss Frink’s studied the pretty woman who entered the room at the appointed time. Perhaps there had been stirrings of hope that the newcomer might bring reminders of the one being she had loved with all her heart. If so, the hope died. Adèle’s dark eyes and ivory skin surmounted by the fluffy, snowy hair were striking, but as unlike the cheery brown and rose of sweet Alice Ray as it was possible to imagine.
Miss Frink’s cold dry hand gave the plump smooth one a brief shake.
“Be seated, Mrs. Lumbard!”
“Oh, must you say that!” was the impulsive response. “Do call me Adèle for Grandmother’s sake.”
“I am sorry you got a divorce. I am a woman of the old school,” was the uncompromising reply.
“You wouldn’t wish me to live with a bad man?” The dark eyes opened with childlike appeal.
“No; but you needn’t have divorced him.”
“If I didn’t, he would always be pestering me.”
“You talk like a Southerner.”
“Yes. Didn’t Grandmother tell you her son went South and married there?”
“Perhaps. I don’t remember. How old are you?”
“Twenty-eight. You’re looking at my hair. In a single night, Aunt Susanna—Oh, excuse me,” with apparently sudden shyness, “Grandmother always spoke of you to us all as our Aunt Susanna. We were taught to love your picture.”
Miss Frink felt slightly pitiful toward that “single night” statement and she kept the thought of her Alice in mind.
“I don’t like harrowing details,” she said curtly, “so I won’t ask for them.”
“Thank you so much”—with a pretty gesture of outgoing hands—“I do so loathe going over it.”
“No wonder. I’m glad to see you don’t paint your face or dye your hair.”
The dark eyebrows lifted in surprise. “That’s the way I was raised, Aunt Susanna,” was the meek reply.
“Well, you’d better stay on here a while,” said Miss Frink at last, “and we’ll think what it will be best for you to do. Let us see. How long ago did Alice—did your grandmother die?”
The dark eyes looked off in thought. “I was a little girl. It must be about fifteen years now.”
Miss Frink nodded.
“What an old Tartar!” thought Adèle that night as she went to bed; but she had landed, as she expressed it to herself, and possession was nine points of the law. She hugged herself for her cleverness in eschewing rosy cheeks and having nothing on her hands but the slender wedding ring.
In the careful study she had made of Miss Frink and her surroundings before coming here, she had learned about Leonard Grimshaw. The rumor was that, although Miss Frink had not really adopted him, he was the closest factor in her life; and when Adèle met him at dinner that first evening, and found that he was not a[59] guest, but living in the house, she realized still further his importance. Realized also that he might resent her claims, and so she set herself to win his regard; while he, hearing her call Miss Frink “Aunt Susanna” unrebuked, understood that she was to be accepted.
They quickly formed a tacit alliance. Adèle’s efforts to get on intimate terms with the Queen of Farrandale were steadily repulsed, but her pride was not hurt as she observed that Miss Frink treated everybody with the same brusqueness. She discerned that the one sentiment of her hostess’s life was still a living memory. The two pictures Miss Susanna kept near her proved it, and one day, a week after Adèle’s arrival, when the lawyer came and was closeted alone with Miss Frink for an hour, Mrs. Lumbard felt jubilantly certain that the visit was for the purpose of inserting her own name in the old lady’s will.
Adèle longed to become necessary in some way to her hostess. It was absurd for Leonard’s young cousin to be coming every day to read to her. She made an excuse to read something aloud one day, but Miss Frink interrupted her.
“I am blunt, Adèle. I don’t have time for beating about the bush, and your reading makes me nervous. It’s all vowels.”
“I’m sorry, Aunt Susanna,” returned the young woman meekly. “I do so wish I could do something for you—the little while I’m here.” The guest was always referring to the brevity of her visit, but weeks were slipping by. “Do you care for music?”
“Yes, moderately,” said Miss Frink carelessly. “There’s a Steinway grand down in the drawing-room. I don’t know when it has been touched.”
“I noticed that and was so tempted, but I didn’t want to play without your permission.”
“Oh, go ahead any evening. I don’t want a racket in the daytime.”
So that very evening Adèle, in the simple black georgette gown which made her white throat and arms dazzling, sat down at the piano in the empty drawing-room and had the triumph of seeing Miss Frink come through the portières in evident surprise, and sit down with folded hands to listen to the finished runs that were purling across the neglected keys.
It was two weeks after Adèle’s arrival that Rex and Regina ran away; and, in the excitement of Hugh’s illness, Mrs. Lumbard had sufficient adroitness not to risk irritating Miss Frink’s rasped nerves. The piano was closed and she effaced herself as much as possible.
The secretary’s exasperation at the intrusion of the young hero beneath their roof amused her. He confided to her the paralyzing proof of Miss Frink’s indulgence in the matter of the cigarettes.
“Oh, if she would only go around the family!” sighed Adèle.
Grimshaw gave her one look of surprise, then shrugged his shoulders.
“That would certainly be the shortest way out of the house for you,” he said dryly.
Adèle colored. “You know very well you’d like it, too.”
“If I did, that would be a very different matter. I’m disgusted with the women of to-day.”
The secretary was sitting at his desk, and Mrs. Lumbard was in the usual pose of hunting for a book which she always adopted in her visits to the study lest the lady of the old school should come in upon their interview. Grimshaw had a sort of fascination for her inasmuch as his position was certainly the one nearest the throne, and he had a large and undisputed authority in Miss Frink’s affairs. Adèle’s closest watch had never been able to discern any evidence of personal attachment in Miss Frink for her secretary, and he certainly had no[62] cause of jealousy for Adèle on that score. This fact, more than her physical attractiveness, caused him to accept her friendly overtures and even to relieve himself occasionally in an exasperated burst of confidence.
For the first five years of his employment by Miss Frink he had been youthfully docile, attentive, and devoted to learning her business affairs. At the end of that period she invited him for convenience to reside in her house, and from that time on he had been playing for the large stake which everybody believed he would win.
He learned her likes and dislikes, never allowed his devotion to lapse into servility, and, with apparent unconsciousness of catering to her, kept early hours, read a great deal, and played with her endless games of double solitaire.
She sometimes suggested that he seek a wider social life, but to such hints he always replied, with a demure dignity in amusing contrast to her brusque strength, that his manner of life suited him excellently, but that if she wished to entertain he was at her service. Miss Frink at times thought remotely that she should like to entertain. She had taken much interest in perfecting the details of her home, inside and[63] out; but, when she came up against the question of setting a definite date and issuing invitations, she was stirred with the same apprehensions a fish might be supposed to undergo if asked to take a stroll around the garden. She spoke of the matter sometimes, and her secretary bowed gravely and assured her that he was quite ready to take her orders; but the fish always turned away from such considerations and dived a little deeper into the congenial discussion of her business matters.
Leonard Grimshaw thought very highly of himself in the present, and had many secret plans for an important and powerful future.
He looked now scornfully at Adèle standing by the bookcase with her self-convicted blush.
“I am disgusted with the women of to-day,” he said.
“Why shouldn’t we smoke as well as you?” asked Adèle.
“I don’t,” he returned finally, his eyes fixed on the papers on his desk. “You try it once here, and you’ll find it will be a few degrees worse than Damaris bobbing her hair.”
“Poor youngster,” said Adèle. “I must say, Aunt Susanna—”
“Well, what?” said Miss Frink, suddenly coming into the room, “Aunt Susanna what?”—she[64] went to the desk and threw down some papers. “File those, Grim. Speak, and let the worst be known, Adèle.”
The secretary certainly admired his colleague as he rose to his feet. Without altering her pose, Adèle’s voice melted into the meek and childlike tone of her habit.
“I was speaking of what a marvel it is that you have had no reaction from the excitement of that dreadful day. That is what it is to be a thoroughbred, Aunt Susanna.”
“Thorough-nothing,” snorted the lady. “What was the use of my lying down and rolling over because I wasn’t hurt?”
“And Rex is all right again, isn’t he?” said Adèle.
“Yes, he’s got over his scratch, and the new coachman does you credit, Grim. He has decent ideas about a check rein. Order the horses for me at three. Dr. Morton says it will not hurt Mr. Stanwood to go for a short drive.”
Miss Frink hurried out of the room, and the two she left in it stared at each other. Adèle smothered a laugh behind a pretty hand, but the secretary had forgotten her smooth diplomacy in his annoyance.
“I wonder if she is going with him. The[65] nurse is quite enough,” he said, as if to himself.
“I wish she’d ask me to go,” said Adèle. “I haven’t had a glimpse of him since I saw him lifted out of the road.”
“Nor she, much,” said Grimshaw. “She has had the nurse make frequent reports, but she hasn’t been in the sick-room at all. Why should she be bothered?”
“No reason, of course. She is not exactly a mush of love and sympathy. What I was really going to say, Leonard, was that I don’t see how a young attractive man like you entombs himself away from his kind the way you do, and must have done for years.”
Grimshaw raised his eyebrows as one accepting his due, and brushed back his thin crest of hair, with a careless hand.
“I work pretty hard,” he said.
Adèle looked apprehensively toward the door, then back at him.
“Is it always like this?” she breathed in a hushed voice.
“Like what?”
“Days all alike. Evenings all alike.” Adèle clenched her hands. “Nobody coming, nobody going. Why haven’t you dried up and blown away!”
Grimshaw regarded her. She had undoubtedly[66] become somewhat of a safety-valve for his feelings, since the day when Miss Frink brought a foreign body into the ordered régime of the big silent house, but he could do without her. He would rather do without everybody. His eyes behind the owl spectacles had a slight inimical gleam.
“Why do you stay if you don’t like it?” he returned.
The young woman straightened up resentfully.
“For the same reason you do,” she retorted.
“That is a very silly remark,” he said coldly. “A business man stays by his business interests.”
She regarded him in silence, and her stiff posture relaxed. He was powerful and she was powerless. She had put herself in his power many times. He could undo her with Miss Frink any hour.
“I’m alone in the world, Leonard,” she said, suddenly becoming self-pitying. “I’m so glad to have found a friend in you. Don’t desert me. I’d love Aunt Susanna if she would let me.”
“Better not try it on,” returned the secretary dryly, and again seated himself at his desk.
“But I’m human!” she exclaimed, suddenly appealing, “and I’m young. Can’t we ever[67] have any fun? Aren’t there any trusties in this prison?”
“Adèle!” He looked up suddenly and his voice cracked. “Keep these ideas to yourself, if you please. This is no prison. You can go free any day.”
She caught her breath. She longed to tell him he was a cautious prig; but for the first time she felt afraid of him. He had confided in her somewhat in his irritation at the stranger upstairs, but that idea was no longer a novelty, and now she felt that he was safely withdrawing into his shell.

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