“Fifty-four minutes,” he had said....
So they sat there and planned for the endless future—the “fifty-four years.”
“When we have our golden wedding,” he said, “we shall come back here, and sit under this tree—” He paused; he would be—let’s see: nineteen, plus fifty, makes sixty-nine. He did not go farther with his mental arithmetic, and say thirty-nine plus fifty; he was thinking only of himself, not of her. In fifty years he would be, he told himself, an old man.
And what would happen in all these fifty golden years? “You know, long before that time, perhaps it won’t be—just us?” he said.
The color leaped to her face; she nodded, finding no words in which to expand that joyous “perhaps,” which touched the quick in her. Instantly that sum in addition which he had not essayed in his own mind, became unimportant in hers. What difference did the twenty severing years make, after all? Her heart rose with a bound—she had a quick vision of a little head against her bosom! But she could not put it into words. She only challenged, him:
“I am not clever like you. Do you think you can love a stupid person for fifty years?”
“For a thousand years!—but you’re not stupid.”
She looked doubtful; then went on confessing: “Auntie says I’m a dummy, because I don’t talk very much. And I’m awfully timid. And she says I’m jealous.”
“You don’t talk because you’re always thinking; that’s one of the most fascinating things about you, Eleanor,—you keep me wondering what on earth you’re thinking about. It’s the mystery of you that gets me! And if you’re ’timid’—well, so long as you’re not afraid of me, the more scared you are, the better I like it. A man,” said Maurice, “likes to feel that he protects his—his wife.” He paused and repeated the glowing word ... “his wife!” For a moment he could not go on with their careless talk; then he was practical again. That word “protect” was too robust for sentimentality. “As for being jealous, that, about me, is a joke! And if you were, it would only mean that you loved me—so I would be flattered. I hope you’ll be jealous! Eleanor, promise me you’ll be jealous?” They both laughed; then he said: “I’ve made up my mind to one thing. I won’t go back to college.”
He was very matter of fact. “I’m a married man; I’m going to support my wife!” He ran his fingers through his thick blond hair in ridiculous pantomime of terrified responsibility. “Yes, sir! I’m out for dollars. Well, I’m glad I haven’t any near relations to get on their ear, and try and mind my business for me. Of course,” he ruminated, “Bradley will kick like a steer, when I tell him he’s bounced! But that will be on account of money. Oh, I’ll pay him, all same,” he said, largely. “Yes; I’m going to get a job.” His face sobered into serious happiness. “My allowance won’t provide bones for Bingo! So it’s business for me.”