“He’s just married; he doesn’t want a divorce yet,” she said, simply; and her husband laughed, in spite of his consternation.
“Oh, lord, I wish I was asleep! I’ve always been afraid he’d go high-diddle-diddling off with some shady girl;—but I swear, that would have been better than marrying his grandmother! Mary, what I can’t understand, is the woman. He’s a child, almost; and vanity at having a woman of forty fall in love with him explains him. And, besides, Maurice is no Eurydice; music would lead him into hell, not out of it. It’s the other fool that puzzles me.”
His wife sighed; “If her mind keeps young, it won’t matter so much about her body.”
“My dear,” he said, dryly, “human critters are human critters. In ten years it will be an impossible situation.”
But again she contradicted him: “No! Unhappiness is possible; but not inevitable!”
“Dear Goose, may a simple man ask how it is to be avoided?”
“By unselfishness,” she said; “no marriage ever went on the rocks where both ‘human critters’ were unselfish! But I hope this poor, foolish woman’s mind will keep young. If it doesn’t, well, Maurice will just have to be tactful. If he is, it may not be so very bad,” she said, with determined optimism.
“Kit, when a man has to be ‘tactful’ with his wife, God help him!—or a woman with her husband,” he added in a sudden tender afterthought. “We’ve never been ‘tactful’ with each other, Mary?” She smiled, and put her cheek against his shoulder. “‘Tactfulness’ between a husband and wife,” said Henry Houghton, “is confession that their marriage is a failure. You may tell ’em so, from me.”
“You may tell them yourself!” she retorted. “What are they going to live on?” she pondered “Can his allowance be increased?”
“It can’t. You know his father’s will. He won’t get his money until he’s twenty-five.”
“He’ll have to go to work,” she said; “which means not going back to college, I suppose?”
“Yes,” he said, grimly; “who would support his lady-love while he was in college? And it means giving up his music,” he added.
“If he makes as much out of his renunciation as you have out of yours,” she said, calmly, “we may bless this poor woman yet.”
“Oh, you old humbug,” he told her—but he smiled.
Then she repeated to him an old, old formula for peace; “’Consider the stars,’ Henry, and young foolishness will seem very small. Maurice’s elopement won’t upset the universe.”
They were both silent for a while; then Mary Houghton said, “I’ll write the invitation to them; but you must second it when you answer his letter.”
“Invitation? What invitation?”
“Why, to come and stay at Green Hill until you can find something for him to do.”
“I’ll be hanged if I invite her! I’ll have nothing to do with her! Maurice can come, of course; but he can’t bring—”