It had remained for Nancy to inform me that I had married a woman with a mind of her own. I had flattered myself that I should be able to control Maude, to govern her predilections, and now at the very beginning of our married life she was showing a disquieting tendency to choose for herself. To be sure, she had found my intimacy with the Peterses and Blackwoods already formed; but it was an intimacy from which I was growing away. I should not have quarrelled with her if she had not discriminated: Nancy made overtures, and Maude drew back; Susan presented herself, and with annoying perversity and in an extraordinarily brief time Maude had become her intimate. It seemed to me that she was always at Susan’s, lunching or playing with the children, who grew devoted to her; or with Susan, choosing carpets and clothes; while more and more frequently we dined with the Peterses and the Blackwoods, or they with us. With Perry’s wife Maude was scarcely less intimate than with Susan. This was the more surprising to me since Lucia Blackwood was a dyed-in-the-wool “intellectual,” a graduate of Radcliffe, the daughter of a Harvard professor. Perry had fallen in love with her during her visit to Susan. Lucia was, perhaps, the most influential of the group; she scorned the world, she held strong views on the higher education of women; she had long discarded orthodoxy for what may be called a Cambridge stoicism of simple living and high thinking; while Maude was a strict Presbyterian, and not in the least given to theories. When, some months after our homecoming, I ventured to warn her gently of the dangers of confining one’s self to a coterie—especially one of such narrow views—her answer was rather bewildering.
“But isn’t Tom your best friend?” she asked.
I admitted that he was.
“And you always went there such a lot before we were married.”
This, too, was undeniable. “At the same time,” I replied, “I have other friends. I’m fond of the Blackwoods and the Peterses, I’m not advocating seeing less of them, but their point of view, if taken without any antidote, is rather narrowing. We ought to see all kinds,” I suggested, with a fine restraint.
“You mean—more worldly people,” she said with her disconcerting directness.
“Not necessarily worldly,” I struggled on. “People who know more of the world—yes, who understand it better.”
“I do try, Hugh,—I return their calls,—I do try to be nice to them. But somehow I don’t seem to get along with them easily—I’m not myself, they make me shy. It’s because I’m provincial.”
“Nonsense!” I protested, “you’re not a bit provincial.” And it was true; her dignity and self-possession redeemed her.
Nancy was not once mentioned. But I think she was in both our minds....