Of course, he felt grateful to his brother William and to his brother's wife for all they had done for him since that sad time. Still, in the depths of his heart, Mr. Tapster felt entitled to blame and sometimes almost to hate his kind brother and sister. To them both, or rather, to Maud, he really owed the break-up of his life; for, when all was said and done, it had to be admitted (though Maud did not like him to remind her of it), that Flossy had met the villain while staying with the William Tapsters at Boulogne. Respectable London people should have known better than to take a furnished house at a disreputable French watering-place, a place full of low English!
Sometimes it was only by a great exercise of self-control that he, James Tapster, could refrain from telling Maud what he thought of her conduct in this matter, the more so that she never seemed to understand how greatly she—and William—had been to blame. On one occasion Maud had even said how surprised she had been that James had cared to go away to America, leaving his pretty young wife alone for as long as three months. Why hadn't she said so at the time, then? Of course, he had thought that he could leave Flossy to be looked after and kept out of mischief by Maud and William. But he had been, in more than one sense, alas! bitterly deceived.
Still, it's never any use crying over spilt milk, so Mr. Tapster got up from his chair and walked around the room, looking absently, as he did so, at the large Landseer engravings, of which he was naturally proud. If only he could forget, put out of his mind forever, the whole affair! Well, perhaps with the Decree being made Absolute would come oblivion.
He sat down again before the fire. Staring at the hot embers, he reminded himself that Flossy, wicked, ungrateful Flossy, had disappeared out of his life. This being so, why think of her? The very children had at last left off asking inconvenient questions about their mama.
By the way, would Flossy still be their mama after the Decree had been made Absolute? So Mr. Tapster now suddenly asked himself. He hesitated, perplexed. But, yes, the Decree being made Absolute would not undo, or even efface, that fact. The more so—though surely here James Tapster showed himself less logical than usual—the more so that Flossy, in spite of what Maud had always said about her, had been a loving and, in her own light-hearted way, a careful mother. But, though Flossy would remain the mother of his children,—odd that the Law hadn't provided for that contingency—she would soon be absolutely nothing, and less than nothing, to him, the father of those children. Mr. Tapster was a great believer in the infallibility of the Law, and he subscribed whole-heartedly to the new reading, "What Law has put asunder, let no man join together."
To-night Mr. Tapster could not help looking back with a certain complacency to his one legal adventure. Nothing could have been better done or more admirably conducted than the way the whole matter had been carried through. His brother William, and William's solicitor,
Mr. Greenfield, had managed it all so very nicely. True, there had been a few uncomfortable moments in the witness-box, but every one, including the judge, had been most kind. As for his counsel, the leading man who makes a specialty of these sad affairs, not even James Tapster himself could have put his own case in a more delicate and moving fashion. "A gentleman possessed of considerable fortune—" so had he justly been described; and counsel, without undue insistence on irrelevant detail, had drawn a touching and a true picture of Mr. Tapster's one romance, his marriage eight years before to the twenty-year-old daughter of an undischarged bankrupt. Even the Petitioner had scarcely seen Flossy's dreadful ingratitude in its true colors till he had heard his counsel's moderate comments on the case.