It was an amazing moment; he said to himself: “Mrs. Houghton was right. Edith was right. How I have misjudged her!” He went on, Eleanor still kneeling beside him, sometimes holding his hand to her lips, sometimes pressing her wet cheek against his; once her graying hair fell softly across his eyes ... “Then,” he said, “then ... the baby was born.”
“Oh, we had no children!”
His arms comforted her. “I didn’t care. I have never cared. I hated the idea of children, because of ... this child.”
“Is his name Jacky?”
“That’s what she called him. I never really noticed him, until winter before last; then I kind of—” He paused, then rushed on; it was to be Truth henceforward between them! “I sort of—got fond of him.” He waited, holding his breath; but there was no “explosion”! She just pressed his hand against her breast.
“He was sick and she sent for me—”
“I know. That’s how I knew. The telegram came, and I—Oh,” she interrupted herself, “I wasn’t prying!” She was like a dog, shrinking before an expected blow.
The fright in her face went to his heart; what a brute he must have been to have made her so afraid of him!
“It was all right to open it! I’m glad you opened it. Well, he was pretty sick, and I had to get him into the hospital; and after that I began to get sort of—interested in him. But now I’m worried to death, because—” Then he told why he was worried; he told her almost with passion!... “For he’s an awfully fine little chap! But she’s ruining him.” It was amazing how he was able to pour himself out to her! His anxiety about Jacky, his irritation at Lily—yet his appreciation of Lily; he wouldn’t go back on Lily! “She wasn’t bad—ever. Just unmoral.”
“Oh, Eleanor, to be able to talk to you, and tell you!” So he went on telling her: he told her of his faint, shy pride in his little son; told her a funny speech, and she laughed. Told her Jacky had seen a rainbow in the gutter and said it was “handsome.” “He really notices Beauty!” Told her of Lily’s indignation at the Sunday-school teacher, and his own effort to make Jacky tell the truth, “I have a tremendous influence over him. He’ll do anything for me; only, I see him so seldom that I can’t counteract poor old Lily’s influence. She hasn’t any idea of our way of looking at things.”
“You must counteract her! You must see him all the time.”
“Eleanor,” he said, “I have never known you!”
He tried to lift her and hold her in his arms, but she was terrified about his knee.
“No! Don’t move! You’ll hurt your knee. Maurice, can’t I see him?”
“What! Do you really want to?” he said, amazed “Eleanor, you are wonderful!”