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A Poor Wise Man

"I simply feel," she said, "that you can do more with her than we can, and that if
something isn't done she will ruin her life. She is too fine and wonderful to have
her do that."
To picture Lily as willfully going her own gait at that period would be most unfair.
She was suffering cruelly; the impulse that led her to meet Louis Akers against
her family's wishes was irresistible, but there was a new angle to her visits to the
Doyle house. She was going there now, not so much because she wished to go,
as because she began to feel that her Aunt Elinor needed her.
There was something mysterious about her Aunt Elinor, mysterious and very
sad. Even her smile had pathos in it, and she was smiling less and less. She sat
in those bright little gatherings, in them but not of them, unbrilliant and very quiet.
Sometimes she gave Lily the sense that like Lily herself she was waiting. Waiting
for what?
Lily had a queer feeling too, once or twice, that Elinor was afraid. But again,
afraid of what? Sometimes she wondered if Elinor Doyle was afraid of her
husband; certainly there were times, when they were alone, when he dropped his
unctuous mask and held Elinor up to smiling contempt.
"You can see what a clever wife I have," he said once. "Sometimes I wonder,
Elinor, how you have lived with me so long and absorbed so little of what really
counts."
"Perhaps the difficulty," Elinor had said quietly, "is because we differ as to what
really counts."
Lily brought Elinor something she needed, of youth and irresponsible chatter, and
in the end the girl found the older woman depending on her. To cut her off from
that small solace was unthinkable. And then too she formed Elinor's sole link with
her former world, a world of dinners and receptions, of clothes and horses and
men who habitually dressed for dinner, of the wealth and panoply of life. A world
in which her interest strangely persisted.
"What did you wear at the country club dance last night?" she would ask.
"A rose-colored chiffon over yellow. It gives the oddest effect, like an Ophelia
rose."
Or:
"At the Mainwarings? George or Albert?"
"The Alberts."
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