She looked a little frightened. “Oh, have I made you go to work?” She had never asked him about money; she had plunged into matrimony without the slightest knowledge of his income.
“I’ll chuck Bradley, and I’ll chuck college,” he announced, “I’ve got to! Of course, ultimately, I’ll have plenty of money. Mr. Houghton has dry-nursed what father left me, and he has done mighty well with it; but I can’t touch it till I’m twenty-five—worse luck! Father had theories about a fellow being kept down to brass tacks and earning his living, before he inherited money another man had earned—that’s the way he put it. Queer idea. So, I must get a job. Uncle Henry’ll help me. You may bet on it that Mrs. Maurice Curtis shall not wash dishes, nor yet feed the swine, but live on strawberries, sugar, and—What’s the rest of it?”
“I have a little money of my own,” she said; “six hundred a year.”
“It will pay for your hairpins,” he said, and put out his hand and touched her hair—black, and very soft and wavy “but the strawberries I shall provide.”
“I never thought about money,” she confessed.
“Of course not! Angels don’t think about money.”
* * * * *
“So they were married”; and in the meadow, fifty-four minutes later, the sun and wind and moving shadows, and the river—flowing—flowing—heralded the golden years, and ended the saying: “lived happy ever afterward.”
It was three days after the young husband, lying in the grass, his cheek on his wife’s hand, had made his careless prophecy about “whistling,” that Henry Houghton, jogging along in the sunshine toward Grafton for the morning mail, slapped a rein down on Lion’s fat back, and whistled, placidly enough.... (But that was before he reached the post office.) His wife, whose sweet and rosy bulk took up most of the space on the seat, listened, smiling with content. When he was placid, she was placid; when he wasn’t, which happened now and then, she was an alertly reasonable woman, defending him from himself, and wrenching from his hand, with ironic gayety, or rallying seriousness, the dagger of his discontent with what he called his “failure” in life—which was what most people called his success—a business career, chosen because the support of several inescapable blood relations was not compatible with his own profession of painting. All his training and hope had been centered upon art. The fact that, after renouncing it, an admirably managed cotton mill provided bread and butter for sickly sisters and wasteful brothers, to say nothing of his own modest prosperity, never made up to him for the career of a struggling and probably unsuccessful artist—which he might have had. He ran his cotton mill, and supported all the family undesirables until, gradually, death and marriage took the various millstones from around his neck; then he retired, as the saying is—although it was really setting sail again for life—to his studio (with a farmhouse attached) in the mountains. There had been a year of passionate work and expectation—but his pictures were dead. “I sold my birthright for a bale of cotton,” he said, briefly.