“Eleanor’s mind,” Henry Houghton said, “is exactly like a drum—sound comes out of emptiness!”
“But Maurice seems to like the sound,” Mrs. Houghton reminded him; “and she loves him.”
“She wants to monopolize him,” her husband said; “I don’t call that love; I call it jealousy. It must be uncomfortable to be jealous,” he ruminated; “but the really serious thing about it is that it will bore any man to death. Point that out to her, Mary! Tell her that jealousy is self-love, plus the consciousness of your own inferiority to the person of whom you are jealous. And it has the same effect on love that water has on fire. My definition ought to be in a dictionary!” he added, complacently.
“What sweet jobs you do arrange for me!” she said; “and as for your definition, I can give you a better one—and briefer: ’Jealousy is Human Natur’! But I don’t believe Eleanor’s jealous, Henry; she’s only conscious, poor girl! of Maurice’s youth. But there is something I am going to tell her....”
She told her the day before the bridal couple (Edith still reveled in the phrase!) started for Mercer. “Come out into the orchard,” Mary Houghton called upstairs to Eleanor, “and help me gather windfalls for jelly.”
“I must pack Maurice’s things,” Eleanor called over the banisters, doubtfully; “he’s a perfect boy about packing; he put his boots in with his collars.”
“Oh, come along!” said Mrs. Houghton. And Eleanor yielded, scolding happily while she pinned her hat on before the mirror in the hall.
In the orchard they picked up some apples, then sat down on the bleached stubble of the mowed hillside and looked over at the dark mass of the mountain, behind which a red sun was trampling waist deep through leaden clouds. “How can I bring it in?” Mrs. Houghton thought; “it won’t do to just throw a warning at her!”
But she didn’t have to throw it; Eleanor invited it. “I’m glad we’re going to the hotel, just at first,” she said; “Auntie says I don’t know anything about keeping house, and I get worried for fear I won’t make Maurice comfortable. I tell him so all the time!”
“I wouldn’t put things into his head, Eleanor,” Mrs. Houghton said (beginning her “warning"); “I mean things that you don’t want him to feel. I remember when my first baby was coming—the little boy we lost—” she stopped and bit her lip; the “baby” had been gone for nearly twenty years, but he was still her little boy—“I was very forlorn, and I couldn’t do anything, or go anywhere; and Henry stayed at home with me like a saint. Well, I told my father that I had told Henry it was hard on him to ‘sit at home with an invalid wife.’ And father said, ‘If you tell him so often enough, he’ll agree with you,’ There’s a good deal in that, Eleanor?”
“I suppose there is,” Maurice’s wife said, vaguely.
“So, if I were you,” Mrs. Houghton said, still feeling her way, “I wouldn’t give him the idea that you are any—well, older than he is. A wife might be fifty years older than her husband, and if her spirit was young, years wouldn’t make a bit of difference!”