The Line of Least Resistance
by Edith Wharton
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returned home for lunch. His wife Millicent was not at home. The
did not know where she was.
Mister Mindon sat alone at the table in the garden. He ate a small piece
of meat and drank some mineral water. Mister Mindon always ate simple
meals, because he had problems with his stomach. Why then did he keep a
cook among his servants? Because his wife Millicent liked to invite her
friends to big dinners and serve them rare and expensive food and wine.
Mister Mindon did not enjoy his wife's parties. Millicent complained that
he did not know how to enjoy life. She did a lot of things that he did not
Millicent wasted Mister Mindon's money and was unpleasant to him. But he
never got angry with his wife.
After eating, Mister Mindon took a walk through his house. He did not stay
long in the living room. It reminded him of all the hours he had spent
there at his wife's parties. The sight of the formal dining room made him
feel even more uncomfortable. He remembered the long dinners where he had
to talk to his wife's friends for hours. They never seemed very interested
in what he was saying.
Mister Mindon walked quickly past the
ballroom where his wife danced with
her friends. He would go to bed after dinner. But he could hear the
orchestra playing until three in the morning.
Mister Mindon walked into the library. No one in the house ever read any
of the books. But Mister Mindon was proud to be rich enough to have a
perfectly useless room in his house.
He went into the sunny little room where his wife planned her busy days
and evenings. Her writing table was covered with notes and cards from all
her friends. Her wastepaper basket was full of empty envelopes that had
carried invitations to lunches, dinners, and theater parties.
Mister Mindon saw a letter crushed into a small ball on the floor. He bent
to pick it up. Just as he was about to throw it into the wastepaper
basket, he noticed that the letter was signed by his business partner,
Thomas Antrim. But Antrim's letter to Mister Mindon's wife was not about
As Mister Mindon read it, he felt as if his mind was spinning out of
control. He sat down heavily in the chair near his wife's little writing
Now the room looked cold and unfamiliar. "Who are you?" the walls seemed
to say. "Who am I?" Mister Mindon said in a loud voice. "I'll tell you who
I am! I am the man who paid for every piece of furniture in this room. If
it were not for me and my money, this room would be empty!" Suddenly,
Mister Mindon felt taller. He marched across his wife's room. It belonged
to him, didn't it? The house belonged to him, too. He felt powerful.
He sat at the table and wrote a letter to Millicent. One of the servants
came into the room. "Did you call, sir?" he asked. "No," Mister Mindon
replied. "But since you are here, please telephone for a taxi cab at
The taxi took him to a hotel near his bank. A clerk showed him to his
room. It smelled of cheap soap. The window in the room was open and hot
noises came up from the street. Mister Mindon looked at his watch. Four
o'clock. He wondered if Millicent had come home yet and read his letter.
His head began to ache, and Mister Mindon lay down on the bed. When he
woke up, it was dark. He looked at his watch. Eight o'clock. Millicent
must be dressing for dinner. They were supposed to go to Missus Targe's
house for dinner tonight. Well, Mister Mindon thought, Millicent would
have to go alone. Maybe she would ask Thomas Antrim to take her to the
Mister Mindon realized he was hungry. He left his room and walked down the
stairs to the hotel dining room. The air -- smelling of coffee and fried
food -- wrapped itself around his head.
Mister Mindon could not eat much of the food that the hotel waiter brought
him. He went back to his room, feeling sick. He also felt hot and dirty in
the clothing he had worn all day. He had never realized how much he loved
Someone knocked at his door. Mister Mindon jumped to his feet. "Mindon?" a
voice asked. "Are you there?" Mister Mindon recognized that voice. It
belonged to Laurence Meysy. Thirty years ago, Meysy had been very popular
with women -- especially with other men's wives. As a young man he had
interfered in many marriages. Now, in his old age, Laurence Meysy had
become a kind of "marriage doctor.” He helped husbands and wives save
Mister Mindon began to feel better as soon as Laurence Meysy walked into
his hotel room. Two men followed him. One was Mister Mindon's rich uncle,
Ezra Brownrigg. The other was the Reverend Doctor Bonifant, the minister
of Saint Luke's church where Mister Mindon and his family
Mister Mindon looked at the three men and felt very proud that they had
come to help him. For the first time in his married life, Mister Mindon
felt as important as his wife Millicent.
Laurence Meysy sat on the edge of the bed and lit a cigarette. "Misses Mindon sent for me," he said. Mister Mindon could not help feeling proud
of Millicent. She had done the right thing. Meysy continued. "She showed
me your letter. She asks you for
mercy." Meysy paused, and then said: "The
poor woman is very unhappy. And we have come here to ask you what you plan
Now Mister Mindon began to feel uncomfortable. "To do?" he asked. "To do?
Well…I, I plan to…to leave her."
Meysy stopped smoking his cigarette. "Do you want to divorce her?" he
"Why, yes! Yes!" Mister Mindon replied.
Meysy knocked the ashes from his cigarette. "Are you absolutely sure that
you want to do this?" he asked.
Mister Mindon nodded his head. "I plan to divorce her," he said loudly.
Mister Mindon began to feel very excited. It was the first time he had
ever had so many people sitting and listening to him. He told his audience
everything, beginning with his discovery of his wife's love affair with
his business partner, and ending with his complaints about her expensive
His uncle looked at his watch. Doctor Bonifant began
to stare out of the
hotel window. Meysy stood up. "Do you plan to dishonor yourself then?" he
asked. "No one knows what has happened. You are the only one who can
reveal the secret. You will make yourself look foolish.”
Mister Mindon tried to rise. But he fell back weakly. The three men picked
up their hats. In another moment, they would be gone. When they left,
Mister Mindon would lose his audience, and his belief in himself and his
decision. "I won't leave for New York until tomorrow," he whispered.
Laurence Meysy smiled.
"Tomorrow will be too late," he said. "Tomorrow everyone will know you are
here." Meysy opened the hotel room door. Mister Brownrigg and Doctor
Bonifant walked out of the room.
Meysy turned to follow them, when he felt Mister Mindon's hand
arm. "I…I will come with you," Mister Mindon sighed. "It's…it's…for the
children." Laurence Meysy nodded as Mister Mindon walked out of the room.
He closed the door gently.
Escucha la pronunciación y lee el texto de nuevo.
·Servant: a person who is employed in another person's house, doing
jobs such as cooking and cleaning, especially in the past
·Ballroom: a large room that is used for dancing
·Proud: feeling that you are better and more important than other
·Waste-paper basket (UK) wastebasket (USA): an open container which
stands on the floor inside buildings and is used for putting rubbish in,
·Crush: to press something very hard so that it is broken or its
shape is destroyed
·Pray: to speak to a god either privately or in a religious
ceremony in order to express love, admiration or thanks or in order to ask
·Edge: the outer or furthest point of something
·Mercy: kindness and forgiveness shown towards someone whom you
have authority over
·Ash: the soft grey or black powder
that is left after a substance, especially tobacco, coal or wood, has
·To stare: when you look at something or someone for a long time
·Grab: to take hold of something or someone suddenly and roughly
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