Lapham stopped. His wife, who at first had listened with mystification, and then dawning incredulity, changing into a look of relief that was almost triumph, lapsed again into severity. "Silas Lapham, if you was to die the next minute, is this what you started to tell me?"
"Why, of course it is. What did you suppose I started to tell you?"
"And — look me in the eyes! — you haven't got anything else on your mind now?"
"No! There's trouble enough, the Lord knows; but there's nothing else to tell you. I suppose Pen gave you a hint about it. I dropped something to her. I've been feeling bad about it, Persis, a good while, but I hain't had the heart to speak of it. I can't expect you to say you like it. I've been a fool, I'll allow, and I've been something worse, if you choose to say so; but that's all. I haven't hurt anybody but myself — and you and the children."
Mrs. Lapham rose and said, with her face from him, as she turned towards the door, "It's all right, Silas. I shan't ever bring it up against you."
She fled out of the room, but all that evening she was very sweet with him, and seemed to wish in all tacit ways to atone for her past unkindness.
She made him talk of his business, and he told her of Corey's offer, and what he had done about it. She did not seem to care for his part in it, however; at which Lapham was silently disappointed a little, for he would have liked her to praise him.
"He did it on account of Pen!"
"Well, he didn't insist upon it, anyway," said Lapham, who must have obscurely expected that Corey would recognise his own magnanimity by repeating his offer. If the doubt that follows a self-devoted action — the question whether it was not after all a needless folly — is mixed, as it was in Lapham's case, with the vague belief that we might have done ourselves a good turn without great risk of hurting any one else by being a little less unselfish, it becomes a regret that is hard to bear. Since Corey spoke to him, some things had happened that gave Lapham hope again.
"I'm going to tell her about it," said his wife, and she showed herself impatient to make up for the time she had lost. "Why didn't you tell me before, Silas?"
"I didn't know we were on speaking terms before," said Lapham sadly.
"Yes, that's true," she admitted, with a conscious flush. "I hope he won't think Pen's known about it all this while."