It was after this act of revealing and unnecessary courage, that the Houghton family entirely accepted Eleanor. There were a few days of anxiety about her, and about Maurice, too; for, though his slight concussion was not exactly alarming—yet, “Keep your shirt on,” Doctor Bennett cautioned him; “don’t get gay. And don’t talk to Mrs. Curtis.” So Maurice lay in his bed in another room, and entered, silently, into a new understanding of love, which, as soon as he was permitted to see Eleanor, he tried stumblingly to share with her.
Physically, she was terribly prostrated; but spiritually, feeding on those stumbling words, she rejoiced like a strong man to run a race! She saw no confession in the fact that everybody was astonished at what she had done; she was astonished herself. “I wasn’t afraid!” she said, wonderingly.
“It was because you liked Maurice more than you were scared,” Edith said; she offered this explanation the day that Maurice had been allowed to come across the hall, rather shakily, to adore his wife.
His first sight of her was a great shock.... The strain of that terrible night had blanched and withered her face; there were lines on her forehead that never left it.
Edith, sneaking in behind him, said under her breath: “Goodness! Don’t she look old!”
She did. But as Maurice fell on his knees beside her, it seemed as if she drank youth from his lips. Under his kisses her worn face bloomed with joy.
“It was nothing—nothing,” she insisted, stroking his thick hair with her trembling hand, and trying to silence his words of wondering worship.
“I was not worthy of it.... To think that you—” He hid his face on her shoulder.
Afterward, when he went back to his own room, she lay, smiling tranquilly to herself; her look was the look one sees on the face of a woman who, in that pallid hour after the supreme achievement of birth, has looked upon her child. She was entirely happy. From the open door of Maurice’s room came, now and then, the murmur of Edith’s honest little voice, or Maurice’s chuckle. They were talking about her, she knew, and the happy color burned in her cheeks. When he came in for his second visit, late that afternoon, she asked him, archly, what he and Edith had been talking about so long in his room?
“I believe you were telling her what a goose I am about thunderstorms,” she said.
“I was not!” he declared—and her eyes shone. But when she urged—
“Well, what were you talking about?” he couldn’t remember anything but a silly story of Edith’s hens. He repeated it, and Eleanor sighed; how could he be interested in anything so childish!
As it happened, he was not; he had scarcely listened to Edith. The only thing that interested Maurice now, was what Eleanor had done for him! Thinking of it, he brooded over her, silently, his cheek against hers, then Mrs. Houghton came in and banished him, saying that Eleanor must go to sleep; “and you and Edith must keep quiet!” she said.