Maurice stumbled out to the staircase, with little cold thrills running down his back. The experience of recognizing the significance of what he had done—the setting in motion that stupendous and eternal Exfoliating, called; Life; the seeing a Thing, himself, separated from himself! himself, going on in spite of himself!—brought a surge of engulfing horror. This elemental shock is not unknown to men who look for the first time at their first-born; instantly the feeling may disappear, swallowed up in love and pride. But where, as with Maurice, there is neither pride nor love, the shock remains. His organic dismay was so overwhelming that he said to himself he would never see Lily again—because he would not see It!—which was, in fact, “he,” instead of the girl Lily had wanted. But though his spiritual disgust for what he called, in his own mind, “the whole hideous business,” did not lessen, he did, later, through the pressure of those heavy words, “my own fault,” go to see Lily—she had taken a little house out in Medfield—just to put down on the table, awkwardly, an envelope with some bills in it. He didn’t inquire about It, and he got out of the house as quickly as possible.
Lily had no resentment at his lack of feeling for the child; the baby was so entirely hers that she did not think of it as his, too. This sense of possession, never menaced on Maurice’s part by even a flicker of interest in the little thing, kept them to the furtive and very formal acquaintance of giving and receiving what money he could spare—or, oftener, couldn’t spare! As a result, he thought of Jacky only in relation to his income. Every time some personal expenditure tempted him, he summed up the child’s existence in four disgusted and angry words, “I can’t afford it.” But it was for Lily’s sake, not Jacky’s, that he economized! He was wretchedly aware that if it had not been for Jacky, Lily might still be a “saleslady” at Marston’s, earning good wages. Instead, she was taking lodgers—and it was not easy to get them!—so that she could be at home and look after the baby.
Maurice aged ten years in that first winter of rigid and unexplainable penuriousness, and of a secrecy which meant perilous skirtings of downright lying; for Eleanor occasionally asked why they had so little money to spend? He had requested a raise—and not mentioned to Eleanor the fact that he had got it. When she complained because his salary was so low, he told her Weston was paying him all he was worth, and he wouldn’t strike for more! “So it’s impossible to go to housekeeping,” he said—for of course she continued to urge housekeeping, saying that she couldn’t understand why they had to be so economical! But he refused, patiently. To be patient, Maurice did not need, now, to remind himself of the mountain and her faithfulness to him; he had only to remind himself of the yellow-brick apartment house, and his faithlessness to her.