“No! Of course she doesn’t know—this! But one day she and I were taking a walk, and I was thinking what a devilish mess I was in.... And I suppose Edith saw I was down by the head, and she got to talking about you—”
“You let her talk about me!”
“She was saying how perfectly fine you had been about the mountain—”
“I don’t need Edith Houghton’s approval of my conduct, Maurice.” She was trembling, and her face was quite pale. He rushed in deeper than ever:
“I was only saying I felt so—badly, because I had failed to make you happy. Of course I didn’t say how! And she said, ’Don’t have any secrets from Eleanor!’”
“So it was Edith who made you—”
For a moment Maurice was too dismayed to speak; besides, he didn’t know what to say. What he did say was that she misunderstood him. “Good heavens! Eleanor, you didn’t think I’d tell Edith a thing like that? Or that I’d tell any woman, when I didn’t tell you? But Edith knew you better than I did; she said no matter what I’d done (I just happened to say I was a skunk), you loved me enough to forgive me. And you have forgiven me.”
“Yes,” she said, in a whisper; “I’ve forgiven you.”
She went over to the window, and stood perfectly silent. It was raining steadily; the river, a block away, was hidden in the yellow fog; down in the yard, the tables and chairs under the poplar dripped and dripped. As for Maurice, it was as if some dark finger had stretched out and touched a bubble.... She was the same Eleanor.
But he did not dwell upon this revealing moment; it was enough that at last he could stop lying, and that Eleanor would help him about Jacky! He called her back from the window and made her sit down again beside him, pretending not to see how her hands were trembling. Then he went on talking about Jacky.
“His latest achievement is an infernal mouth harmonicon.”
She said, listlessly, “I wish I could give him music lessons.”
“He’s crazy about music; trails hand organs all over Medfield!” Maurice said, with a great effort to be cheerfully casual; “but, Heaven knows, I’d be glad if you could give him lessons in anything! Manners, for instance. He hasn’t any. Or grammar; I told him not to say ‘ain’t,’ and, if you please! he told his mother she mustn’t say it! Lily got on her ear.”
She smiled faintly. “I wish I could see him,” she said.
She had urged this more than once, but it had not seemed practicable. “I can’t bring him here,” Maurice explained; “he’d blurt out to Lily where he’d been, and she’d get uneasy. Even as it is, I live in dread that she’ll pack up and clear out with him.”
“She shan’t take him away!” Eleanor said; she was eager again;—after all, Edith, for all her impertinence in advising Maurice how to treat his wife!—Edith could not break in upon an intimacy like this!