“I am going down to Thurston’s this morning, and order that piano sent up today,” he announced presently, in a casual way.
“Why, Theron, can we afford it?” the wife asked, regarding him with surprise.
“Oh, easily enough,” he replied light-heartedly. “You know they’ve increased my salary.”
She shook her head. “No, I didn’t. How should I? You don’t realize it,” she went on, dolefully, “but you’re getting so you don’t tell me the least thing about your affairs nowadays.”
Theron laughed aloud. “You ought to be grateful—such melancholy affairs as mine have been till now,” he declared—“that is, if it weren’t absurd to think such a thing.” Then, more soberly, he explained: “No, my girl, it is you who don’t realize. I am carrying big projects in my mind—big, ambitious thoughts and plans upon which great things depend. They no doubt make me seem preoccupied and absent-minded; but it is a wife’s part to understand, and make allowances, and not intrude trifles which may throw everything out of gear. Don’t think I’m scolding, my girl. I only speak to reassure you and—and help you to comprehend. Of course I know that you wouldn’t willingly embarrass my—my career.”
“Of course not,” responded Alice, dubiously; “but—but—”
“But what? Theron felt compelled by civility to say, though on the instant he reproached himself for the weakness of it.
“Well—I hardly know how to say it,” she faltered, “but it was nicer in the old days, before you bothered your head about big projects, and your career, as you call it, and were just a good, earnest, simple young servant of the Lord. Oh, Theron!” she broke forth suddenly, with tearful zeal, “I get sometimes lately almost scared lest you should turn out to be a—a backslider!”
The husband sat upright, and hardened his countenance. But yesterday the word would have had in it all sorts of inherited terrors for him. This morning’s dawn of a new existence revealed it as merely an empty and stupid epithet.
“These are things not to be said,” he admonished her, after a moment’s pause, and speaking with carefully measured austerity. “Least of all are they to be said to a clergyman—by his wife.”
It was on the tip of Alice’s tongue to retort, “Better by his wife than by outsiders!” but she bit her lips, and kept the gibe back. A rebuke of this form and gravity was a novelty in their relations. The fear that it had been merited troubled, even while it did not convince, her mind, and the puzzled apprehension was to be read plainly enough on her face.
Theron, noting it, saw a good deal more behind. Really, it was amazing how much wiser he had grown all at once. He had been married for years, and it was only this morning that he suddenly discovered how a wife ought to be handled. He continued to look sternly away into space for a little. Then his brows relaxed slowly and under the visible influence of melting considerations. He nodded his head, turned toward her abruptly, and broke the silence with labored amiability.