“Yes, I know,” she admitted. “But I cannot think that happiness will ever grow out of unhappiness.”
“But Maude will not be unhappy,” I insisted. “She will be happier, far happier, now that she has taken the step.”
“Oh, I wish I thought so,” Nancy exclaimed. “Hugh, you always believe what you want to believe. And the children. How can you bear to part with them?”
I was torn, I had a miserable sense of inadequacy.
“I shall miss them,” I said. “I have never really appreciated them. I admit I don’t deserve to have them, and I am willing to give them up for you, for Maude...”
We had made one of our favourite drives among the hills on the far side of the Ashuela, and at six were back at Nancy’s house. I did not go in, but walked slowly homeward up Grant Avenue. It had been a trying afternoon. I had not expected, indeed, that Nancy would have rejoiced, but her attitude, her silences, betraying, as they did, compunctions, seemed to threaten our future happiness.
One evening two or three days later I returned from the office to gaze up at my house, to realize suddenly that it would be impossible for me to live there, in those great, empty rooms, alone; and I told Maude that I would go to the Club—during her absence. I preferred to keep up the fiction that her trip would only be temporary. She forbore from contradicting me, devoting herself efficiently to the task of closing the house, making it seem, somehow, a rite,—the final rite in her capacity as housewife. The drawing-room was shrouded, and the library; the books wrapped neatly in paper; a smell of camphor pervaded the place; the cheerful schoolroom was dismantled; trunks and travelling bags appeared. The solemn butler packed my clothes, and I arranged for a room at the Club in the wing that recently had been added for the accommodation of bachelors and deserted husbands. One of the ironies of those days was that the children began to suggest again possibilities of happiness I had missed—especially Matthew. With all his gentleness, the boy seemed to have a precocious understanding of the verities, and the capacity for suffering which as a child I had possessed. But he had more self-control. Though he looked forward to the prospect of new scenes and experiences with the anticipation natural to his temperament, I thought he betrayed at moments a certain intuition as to what was going on.
“When are you coming over, father?” he asked once. “How soon will your business let you?”
He had been brought up in the belief that my business was a tyrant.
“Oh, soon, Matthew,—sometime soon,” I said.
I had a feeling that he understood me, not intellectually, but emotionally. What a companion he might have been!.... Moreton and Biddy moved me less. They were more robust, more normal, less introspective and imaginative; Europe meant nothing to them, but they were frankly delighted and excited at the prospect of going on the ocean, asking dozens of questions about the great ship, impatient to embark.....