I turned to Maude, who stood beside me, watching them.
“But you haven’t looked on the tree yourself,” I reminded her.
She gave me an odd, questioning glance, and got up and set down the doll. As she stood for a moment gazing at the lights, she seemed very girlish in her dressing-gown, with her hair in two long plaits down her back.
“Oh, Hugh!” She lifted the pendant from the branch and held it up. Her gratitude, her joy at receiving a present was deeper than the children’s!
“You chose it for me?”
I felt something like a pang when I thought how little trouble it had been.
“If you don’t like it,” I said, “or wish to have it changed—”
“Changed!” she exclaimed reproachfully. “Do you think I’d change it? Only—it’s much too valuable—”
I smiled.... Miss Allsop deftly undid the clasp and hung it around Maude’s neck.
“How it suits you, Mrs. Paret!” she cried....
This pendant was by no means the only present I had given Maude in recent years, and though she cared as little for jewels as for dress she seemed to attach to it a peculiar value and significance that disturbed and smote me, for the incident had revealed a love unchanged and unchangeable. Had she taken my gift as a sign that my indifference was melting?
As I went downstairs and into the library to read the financial page of the morning newspaper I asked myself, with a certain disquiet, whether, in the formal, complicated, and luxurious conditions in which we now lived it might be possible to build up new ties and common interests. I reflected that this would involve confessions and confidences on my part, since there was a whole side of my life of which Maude knew nothing. I had convinced myself long ago that a man’s business career was no affair of his wife’s: I had justified that career to myself: yet I had always had a vague feeling that Maude, had she known the details, would not have approved of it. Impossible, indeed, for a woman to grasp these problems. They were outside of her experience.
Nevertheless, something might be done to improve our relationship, something which would relieve me of that uneasy lack of unity I felt when at home, of the lassitude and ennui I was wont to feel creeping over me on Sundays and holidays....
I find in relating those parts of my experience that seem to be of most significance I have neglected to tell of my mother’s death, which occurred the year before we moved to Grant Avenue. She had clung the rest of her days to the house in which I had been born. Of late years she had lived in my children, and Maude’s devotion to her had been unflagging. Truth compels me to say that she had long ceased to be a factor in my life. I have thought of her in later years.