“I don’t understand how a woman can care so much about seeing pretty dresses,” he said, not unkindly, but with a slight inflection of amused scorn.
“No,” said his mother, “I don’t suppose you can, dear. I don’t suppose any man can.” And it was as if she regarded him from feminine heights. At that moment the longing, never quite stilled in her breast, for a daughter, a child of her own kind, who would have understood her, who would have gone with her to this wedding, and been to the full as disappointed as she was to have missed it, was strong upon her. She was very fond of her son, but at the moment she saw him with alien eyes. “No, dear, I don’t suppose you can understand,” she repeated; “you are a man.”
“If you had really cared so much, mother—if I had understood,” he said, gently, “you might have gone. You could have gone with the Egglestons.”
“There was no reason why we could not have gone by ourselves,” said she, “and sat with the invited guests, where we could have seen everything nicely, since we had an invitation.”
Anderson opened his mouth to tell his mother of the true source of the invitation; then he hesitated. He had a theory that it was foolish, in view of the large alloy of bitterness in the world, to destroy the slightest element of sweet by a word. It was quite evident that his mother, for some occult reason, took pleasure in the invitation. Why destroy it? So he repeated that she might have gone, had she cared so much; and feeling that he was showing a needless humility in his own scruples, he added that he would have gone with her. Then his mother declared that she did not, after all, really care, that it was a warm night and she would have been obliged to dress, and after fanning herself a little while, went in the house and to bed, leaving him marvelling at the ways of women. The problem as to whether his mother had really wished very much to go to the wedding and whether he had been selfish and foolish in opposing her wish or not, rather agitated him for some minutes. Then he gave it up, and relegated women to a place with the fourth dimension on the shelf of his understanding. The moon was now fairly aloft, sailing triumphant in a fleet of pale gold and rosy clouds. The night was very hot, the night insects were shrieking in their persistent dissonances all over the street. Shadows waved and trembled over the field of silver radiance cast by the moon. No one passed. He could not see a window-light in any of the houses. Everybody had gone to the wedding, and the place was like a deserted village. Anderson felt unutterably lonely. He felt outside of all the happy doors and windows of life. Discontent was not his failing, but all at once the evil spirit swept over him. He seemed to realize that instead of moving in the broad highway trod by humanity he was on his own little side-path to the tomb, and injury and anger seized him. He thought of the man who