That whole evening was entire bliss—as much to Maurice as to Eleanor; to him, it was escape from the bog of secrecy in which, soiled with self-disgust, he had walked for nearly nine years; and with the clean sense of touching the bedrock of Truth was an upspringing hope for his little boy, who “noticed Beauty”! He would be able to see Jacky, and train him, and gain his affection, and make a man of him. He had a sudden vision of companionship. “He’ll be in business with me.” But that made him smile at himself. “Well, we’ll go to ball games, anyway!”
To Eleanor, the evening was a mountain peak; from the sun-smitten heights of a forgiveness that knew itself to be Love, and forgot that it forgave, she looked out, and saw—not that grave where Truth and Pride were buried, but a new heaven and a new earth; Maurice’s complete devotion. And his child,—whom she could love.
Those next weeks were full of plans and hopes on Eleanor’s part, and gratitude on Maurice’s part. But she would not let him say that he was grateful, or that she was generous; he had told her, of course, how Mrs. Houghton had guessed long ago what had happened, and how she had urged him to trust his wife’s nobility—but Eleanor would not let him call her “noble”; “Don’t say it! And don’t be ‘grateful,’ I just love you,” she said; “and if you only knew what it means to me to be able to do anything for you! It’s so long since you’ve needed me, Maurice.”
The pathos of her sense of uselessness made his eyes sting. “I couldn’t get along without you,” he told her.
Once, on a rainy April Sunday morning, when they were talking about Jacky (Maurice had gone to see him the day before, and was gnashing his teeth over some cheerful obliquity on the part of Lily)—Maurice said, emphatically: “Gosh! Nelly, I don’t know what I’d do without you!”
She, sitting on a stool at his side (and looking, poor woman! old enough to be his mother), was radiant.
“And you don’t enjoy talking to Lily?” she said—just for the happiness of hearing, again, his horrified protest, “I should say not! There’s nothing she can talk about.”
“She doesn’t know about books and things? She hasn’t—brains?”
“Brains? She probably never read anything in her life! She has lots of sense, but no intellect. She hasn’t an idea beyond food and flowers—and Jacky.”
“I wish I had her idea about food,” Eleanor said, simply.
It was her fairness toward Lily that amazed him; it made him reproach himself for his stupidity in not having confessed to her long ago! “Why was I such a fool, Eleanor, as not to know that you were a big woman? Mrs. Houghton knew it. Why, even Edith knew it! She told me you’d forgive anything.”
“What!” She rose abruptly and stood looking at him with suddenly angry eyes. “Does Edith know?” she said.