“That girl you danced with last night—you danced with her three times!” she said, with sweet reproach—“didn’t know we were married!—she wasn’t a Fern Hill girl. She told me she had been dancing with my ‘nephew.’”
“Did she?... Eleanor, look at that elm tree, standing all alone in the field, like—like a wineglass full of summer!”
For a moment she didn’t understand his readiness to change the subject—then she had a flash of instinct: “I believe she said the same thing to you!”
“Oh, she got off some fool thing.” The annoyance in his voice was like a rapier thrust of certainty.
“I knew it! But I don’t care. Why should I care?”
“You shouldn’t. Besides, it was only funny. I was tremendously amused.”
She turned and looked out of the window.
Maurice lifted the paper which had been such a convenient shelter for clasping hands, and seemed to read for a while. Then he said, abruptly, “I only thought it was funny for her to make such a mistake.”
She was silent.
“Eleanor, don’t be—that way!”
“What ‘way’? You mean”—her voice trembled—“feel hurt to have you dance three times, with a girl who said an uncomplimentary thing about me?”
“But it wasn’t uncomplimentary! It was just a silly mistake anyone might make—” He stopped abruptly, for there were tears in her eyes—and instantly his tenderness infolded her like sunshine. But even while he was making her talk of other things—the heat, or the landscape—he was a little preoccupied; he was trying to explain this tiny, ridiculous, lovely unreasonableness, by tracking it back to some failure of sensitiveness on his own part. It occurred to him that he could do this better if he were by himself—not sitting beside her, faintly conscious of her tenseness. So he said, abruptly, “Star, if you don’t mind, I’ll go and have a smoke.”
“All right,” she said; “give me the paper; I haven’t looked at the news for days!” She was trembling a little. The mistake of a silly girl had had, at first, no significance, it was just, as it always is to the newly married woman, amusing to be supposed not to be married! But that Maurice, knowing of the mistake, had not mentioned its absurdity, woke an uneasy consciousness that he had thought it might annoy her! Why should it annoy her?—unless the reason of the mistake was as obvious to him as to the girl?—whom he had found attractive enough to dance with three times! It was as if a careless hand had pushed open a closed door, and given Maurice’s wife a glimpse of a dark landscape, the very existence of which her love had so vehemently denied.