Maurice was silent; he suddenly felt old. These two—these children!—believing in love, and in each other, were in a world of their own; a world which knew no hidden household in the purlieus of Mercer; no handsome, menacing, six-year-old child; no faded, jealous woman, overflowing with wearisome caresses! In this springtime world was Edith—vigorous, and sweet, and supremely reasonable;—and never temperamental! And this young man, loving her.... Maurice turned over on his face in the grass; but he did not kiss the earth’s “perfumed garment”; he bit his own clenched fist.
He was very silent for the rest of their day in the field for one thing, they had to work at a high pitch, for then were blue-black clouds in the west! At a little after three Edith came out again, but not to help.
“I had to put on my glad rags,” she said, sadly, “because some people are coming to tea. I hate ’em—I mean the rags.”
Maurice stopped long enough to turn and look at her, and say, “They’re mighty pretty!” And so, indeed, they were—a blue organdie, with white ribbons around the waist, and a big white hat with a pink rose in a knot of black velvet on the brim. “How’s Eleanor?” he said, beginning to skewer a bale of hay on to his pitchfork.
“She’s afraid there’s going to be a thunderstorm,” Edith said; “that’s why I came out here. She wants you, Maurice.”
“All right,” he said, briefly; and struck his fork down in the earth. “I’ve got to go, Johnny.”
To do one’s duty without love is doubtless better than to fail in doing one’s duty, but it has its risks. Maurice’s heartless “kindness” to his wife was like a desert creeping across fertile earth; the eager generosity of boyhood had long ago hardened into the gray aridity of mere endurance.
Edith turned and walked back with him; they were both silent until Maurice said, “You’ve got Johnny’s scalp all right, Skeezics.”
“Don’t be silly!” she said; her annoyance made her look so mature that he was apologetic; was she in love with the cub? He was suddenly dismayed, though he could not have said why. “I don’t like jokes like that,” Edith said.
“I beg your pardon, Edith. I somehow forget you’re grown up,” he said, and sighed.
She laughed. “Eleanor and you have my age on your minds! Eleanor informed me that I was too old to be rampaging round making hay with you two boys! And she thinks I ‘flatter’ you,” Edith said, grinning. “I trust I’m not injuring your immortal soul, Maurice, and making you vain of your muscle?”
Instantly he was angry. Eleanor, daring to interfere between himself and Edith? He was silent for the rest of the walk home; and he was still silent when he went up to his wife’s room and found her lying on her bed, old Bingo snoozing beside her—windows closed, shades down. “Oh, Maurice!” she said, with a gasp of relief; “I was so afraid you would get caught in a thunderstorm!”