From the Relief Society Magazine, September 1954 –
No Secrets Between Them
By Dorothy Boys Kilian
Mrs. Thatcher sat down in her favorite rocker by the back parlor window and adjusted across her slender shoulders the beautiful shawl her daughter had recently sent her from India.
“A lovely thing,” she said softly for the hundredth time. “But, oh, if it could only have been Julie herself that came across the water instead …”
She stopped abruptly and looked apprehensively across at her white-haired, kind-faced husband who was reading in his big leather chair. Had she said too much? Would he realize that she was thinking she might never see their child again, at least in this world?
Mr. Thatcher looked up from his paper and said soothingly, “Only a year now, Mary, until it’s time for her to come home again.”
“Yes, only a year,” Mrs. Thatcher repeated slowly. I have succeeded in keeping it from him, she thought to herself. He doesn’t have the faintest idea.
Far from feeling triumphant, however, the taste of her success was a great bitterness in her mouth.
She had never before, in all their forty-seven years of married life, tried to keep anything important from her husband. But when the doctor had told her – apparently he had seen that she was determined to know the truth – that she might go any time now, her first instinct had been to protect Jonathan from all unnecessary sorrow. She had had a long, full, rich life; there should be no real sadness over the fact that her course was almost run. But he might not be able to see it that way. The anguish of uncertainty might be much harder for him to bear than for her. Why not spare him?
So she had bravely reasoned.
But day by day unaccustomed burden of the secret had grown heavier on her heart. She had come to feel that she was cheapening their last days together by refusing to share everything with him, that, in effect, she had been doing him the injustice of believing him to be more cowardly than she. She longed to tell him the truth, but the longer she waited, the more difficult it became to broach the subject.
Mrs. Thatcher looked out the window toward her beloved garden, as if hoping to find strength in its awakening beauty. Her eyes focused on its newest addition, a shiny green camellia plant, now bursting with buds.
I knew that one would bear bountifully, she thought warmly, the minute I saw it. In a few weeks it will be a riot of color.
The new plant in full bloom! How fast time was passing. She must not allow another day to go by with this shadow of deception between her and her husband.
“Jonathan,” she said quickly, feeling the blood drain from her face. “I must tell you something.”
“Yes, Mary?” Mr. Thatcher put down his paper with startling suddenness.
Mrs. Thatcher cleared her throat. “It’s hard,” she half whispered. “The telling of it is almost harder than the thing itself.” She forced herself to continue. “Jon, remember when you took me to the doctor’s about two months ago?”
Mr. Thatcher leaned forward and laid his wrinkled brown hand on hers. “You don’t have to tell me, my dear – I know,” he said softly.
There was a moment of deep, searching silence between them.
“You know, Jonathan?” Mrs. Thatcher asked incredulously, even as a great wave of relief swept over her. “But how? I thought I had been so careful not to …”
Her husband smiled tenderly. “You have been careful, Mary. At what cost I will never know. And since you seemed to want it that way, I have kept silent.”
“What made you realize, Jon? Did that doctor say anything to you? If he did,” Mrs. Thatcher’s gentle voice rose to an unnatural crescendo, “I’ll never trust his word again!”
“No, no, it wasn’t Dr. Jolby, Mary,” Mr. Thatcher said hastily. “It – it was the camellias.”
“The camellias?” his wife echoed blankly.
“Yes,” he said. “You remember how we stopped at the nursery on the way home from the doctor’s office that day, to buy a new camellia plant for the back garden?”
“I remember,” Mrs. Thatcher answered. “It was that lovely full-bodied one that’s bursting with promise right this minute.” She looked out the window as if to verify her statement.
“They’re going to have multi-colored blossoms, too, just as the man said,” she added enthusiastically. “This morning I saw some slivers of deep pink and white peeping out from the swirls of the green buds.” She seemed almost to have forgotten the burden of their conversation.
“How you love camellias!” Mr. Thatcher said. “They quite take you out of yourself, don’t they?”
“Yes, Jonathan, they’re very dear to my heart.” She paused, and her husband saw the solemn shadow of reality come back into her eyes. “That’s why I …” she began impulsively, then stopped in confusion.
“Exactly so.” Mr. Thatcher’s voice was deep with emotion. “That’s how I knew, Mary, what you’ve been trying to tell me this afternoon.”
Mrs. Thatcher raised her eyebrows questioningly.
“You love flowers so much, Mary,” her husband explained slowly, “that you’ve always wanted to watch them grow from the very beginning. If it was a choice between seeds and plants, as with zinnias, you always took seeds. Maybe you felt your eye on them would make them grow straighter and fuller than they would have in a nursery,” he added teasingly.
“Oh, come now, Jon,” Mrs. Thatcher chuckled. “But you see, don’t you?” she added seriously. “It’s kind of like wanting to adopt a tiny baby from a foundling home instead of a half-grown child, if you had the choice, so you could have the joy of watching and shaping its development from the first.”
Mr. Thatcher nodded understandingly. “And by the same token,” he said, “when it came to shrubs or trees, whereas most folks wanted ones that would bear blossoms or fruit right away, you’d always buy the tiniest bush, the smallest tree.”
“Patience costs nothing, Jon, and I’ve always had plenty.”
“Always, until this time,” her husband said softly. “On that last trip to the nursery, when I confidently pointed out to you the smallest, puniest plant in the place …” Mr. Thatcher smiled with infinite love and compassion as he reached over once more and put her hand in his. “This time,” he went on, “you said quietly, ‘No, Jonathan, let’s take a large one, one that will be sure to bloom well this very season.’ … And then I knew.”