His sense of her purity pleased her; the harem idea is, at bottom, pleasing to women; they may resent it with their intellect, but they all of them like to feel they are too precious for the wind of evil realities to blow upon. So, honestly enough, and with the childlike joy of the woman in love, she played up to the harem instinct, shrinking a little and asking timid questions, and making innocent eyes; and was kissed, and assured she was a lovely goose; for Maurice played up to his part, too, with equal honesty (and youth)—the part of the worldly-wise protector. It was the fundamental instinct of the human male; he resents with his intellect the idea that his woman is a fool; but the more foolish she is (on certain lines) the more important he feels himself to be! So they were both very contented, until Maurice happened to say again that he was sorry to have disappointed Edith about the ice cream.
“She’s a greedy little thing,” Eleanor said from her pillows; her voice was irritated.
“What nonsense!” Maurice said; “as for ice cream, all youngsters like it. I know I do!”
“I saw her hang on to your arm as you went down the street,” Eleanor said. “Mrs. Houghton ought to tell her that nice girls don’t paw men!”
“Eleanor! She’s nothing but a child, and I’m her brother—”
“You are not her brother.”
“Oh, Eleanor, don’t be so—” he paused; oh, that dreadful word which must not be spoken!—“so unreasonable,” he ended, wearily. He lay down beside her in the darkness, and by and by he heard her crying, very softly. “Oh, lord!” he said; and turned over and went to sleep.
Thus do the clouds return after rain. Yet each day the sun rises again....
At breakfast Eleanor, with a pitying word for the “poor thing,” reminded her husband that he must go and get his coat.
He said, “Gosh! I’d forgotten it!” and added that he liked his eggs softer. He would have “played up” again, and smiled at her innocence, if he had thought of it, but he was really concerned about his eggs, “Hannah seems to think I like brickbats,” he said, good-naturedly.
Eleanor winced; “Poor Hannah is so stupid! But she’s getting deafer every day, so I can’t send her away!” Added to her distress at the scorched soup of the night before, was this new humiliation of “brickbats;” naturally she forgot the “poor thing.”
Maurice almost forgot her himself; but as he left the office in the afternoon he did remember the coat. At the address which the red-cheeked lady had given him, he found her card—“Miss Lily Dale”—below a letter box in the tiled, untidy vestibule of a yellow-brick apartment house, where he waited, grinning at the porcelain ornateness about him, for a little jerking elevator to take him up to the fourth floor. There, in a small, gay, clean parlor of starched lace curtains, and lithographs, and rows of hyacinth bulbs just started in blue and purple glasses on the window sill, he found the red-cheeked young lady, rather white-cheeked. Indeed, there were traces of hastily wiped-away tears on her pretty face.