“No! Of course not! It wasn’t that.” She came quickly and knelt beside him. “Of course it wasn’t that! It was—” She could not say what it was; perhaps she did not quite know that her annoyance at Maurice’s delight in Edith was the inarticulate pain of recognizing that he might have more in common with a child, eight years his junior, than he could have with a woman twenty years his senior. Her eyes were suddenly bright with frightened tears. In a whisper, that fear which, in these days of complete belief in her own happiness, she had forgotten even to deny, came back: “What really upset me was the letters. The Houghtons are angry because I am—” she flinched, and would not utter the final word which was the hidden reason of her annoyance at Edith; so, instead of uttering it, she said, “because we eloped.”
As for Maurice, he rallied her, and pretended to scold her, and tasted her tears salt upon his lips. He felt very old and protecting.
“Nonsense!” he said. “Mrs. Houghton and Uncle Henry are old, and of course they can’t understand love. But the romance of it will touch them!”
And again Love cast out Fear; Eleanor, her face hidden on his shoulder, told herself that it really didn’t matter what the Houghtons thought of ... an elopement.
The cloud of their first difference had blown over almost before they felt its shadow, and the sky of love was as clear as the lucid beryl of the summer night. Yet even the passing shadow of the cloud kept both the woman and the boy repentant and a little frightened; he, because he thought he had offended her by some lack of delicacy; she, because she thought she had shocked him by what he might think was harshness to a child. Even a week afterward, as they journeyed up to Green Hill in a dusty accommodation train, there was an uneasy memory of that cloud—black with Maurice’s dullness, and livid with the zigzag flash of Eleanor’s irritation—and then the little shower of tears! ... What had brought the cloud? Would it ever return? ... As for those twenty dividing years, they never thought of them!
In the train they held each other’s hands under the cover of a newspaper; and sometimes Maurice’s foot touched hers, and then they looked at each other, and smiled—but each was wondering: his wonder was, “What made her offended at Edith?” And hers was, “How can he like to be with an eleven-year-old child!” Their talk, however, confessed no wonderings! It was the happy commonplace of companionship: Mrs. Newbolt and her departure for Europe; would Mrs. O’Brien be good to Bingo? what Maurice’s business should be. Then Maurice yawned, and said he was glad that the commencement exercises at Fern Hill were over; and she said she was glad, too; she had danced, she said, until she had a pain in her side! After which he read his paper, and she looked out of the window at the flying landscape. Suddenly she said: