They went to bed, and in their bedroom Constance, as she stood close to Samuel, suddenly dropped the pretence, and with eyes and voice of anguish said:
“You must let me look at him.”
They faced each other. For a brief instant Cyril did not exist for Constance. Samuel alone obsessed her, and yet Samuel seemed a strange, unknown man. It was in Constance’s life one of those crises when the human soul seems to be on the very brink of mysterious and disconcerting cognitions, and then, the wave recedes as inexplicably as it surged up.
“Why, of course!” said Mr. Povey, turning away lightly, as though to imply that she was making tragedies out of nothing.
She gave an involuntary gesture of almost childish relief.
Cyril slept calmly. It was a triumph for Mr. Povey.
Constance could not sleep. As she lay darkly awake by her husband, her secret being seemed to be a-quiver with emotion. Not exactly sorrow; not exactly joy; an emotion more elemental than these! A sensation of the intensity of her life in that hour; troubling, anxious, yet not sad! She said that Samuel was quite right, quite right. And then she said that the poor little thing wasn’t yet five years old, and that it was monstrous. The two had to be reconciled. And they never could be reconciled. Always she would be between them, to reconcile them, and to be crushed by their impact. Always she would have to bear the burden of both of them. There could be no ease for her, no surcease from a tremendous preoccupation and responsibility. She could not change Samuel; besides, he was right! And though Cyril was not yet five, she felt that she could not change Cyril either. He was just as unchangeable as a growing plant. The thought of her mother and Sophia did not present itself to her; she felt, however, somewhat as Mrs. Baines had felt on historic occasions; but, being more softly kind, younger, and less chafed by destiny, she was conscious of no bitterness, conscious rather of a solemn blessedness.
“Now, Master Cyril,” Amy protested, “will you leave that fire alone? It’s not you that can mend my fires.”
A boy of nine, great and heavy for his years, with a full face and very short hair, bent over the smoking grate. It was about five minutes to eight on a chilly morning after Easter. Amy, hastily clad in blue, with a rough brown apron, was setting the breakfast table. The boy turned his head, still bending.
“Shut up, Ame,” he replied, smiling. Life being short, he usually called her Ame when they were alone together. “Or I’ll catch you one in the eye with the poker.”
“You ought to be ashamed of yourself,” said Amy. “And you know your mother told you to wash your feet this morning, and you haven’t done. Fine clothes is all very well, but—”