Edith’s first winter in Mercer went pretty well; she was not fussy about what she had to eat; “I can always stoke on bread and butter,” she said, cheerfully; and she was patient with the aging Bingo’s yapping jealousies; “The smaller a dog is, the more jealous he is!” she said, with good-humored contempt; and she didn’t mind Eleanor’s speechlessness. “I talk!” Edith said. But Maurice?... “I love him next to father and mother,” Edith thought; but, all the same, she didn’t know what to make of Maurice! He had very little to say to her—which made her feel annoyingly young, and made him seem so old and stern that sometimes she could hardly realize that he was the Maurice of the henhouse, and the camp, and the squabbles. Instead, he was the Maurice of that night on the river, the “Sir Walter Raleigh” Maurice! Once in a while she was quite shy with him. “He’s awfully handsome,” she thought, and her eyes dreamed. “What a clod Johnny is, compared to him!” ... As for Eleanor, Edith, being as unobservant as most sixteen-year-old girls, saw only the lovely dark eyes and the beautiful brow under the ripple of soft black hair, Eleanor’s sterile silences did not trouble her, and she never knew that the traces of tears meant a helpless consciousness that dinner had been a failure. The fact was, she never noticed Eleanor’s looks! She merely thought Maurice’s wife was old, and didn’t “get much fun out of life—she just plays on the piano!” Edith thought. Pain of mind or body was, to Edith—as probably it ought to be to Youth—unintelligible; so she had no sympathy. In fact, being sixteen, she had still the hard heart of a child.
It may have been the remembrance of Sir Walter Raleigh that made her, one night, burst into reminiscent questions:
“Maurice! Do you remember the time that boat upset, and that girl—all painted, you know—flopped around in the water?”
Maurice said, briefly, why, yes; he believed he remembered.
“I remember that girl, too,” Eleanor said; “Maurice told me about her.”
“Well, what do you suppose?” Edith said; “I saw her to-day.”
Maurice, pushing back his chair, got up and went into the little room opening into the dining room, which they called the library. At his desk, his pen in his hand, his jaw set, he sat listening—listening! What in hell would she say next? What she said was harmless enough:
“Yes, I saw her. I was walking home, and on Maple Street who should I see going into a house but this woman! She was lugging a flower pot, and a baby. And,—now, isn’t this funny?—she sort of stumbled at the gate, right by me! And I grabbed her, and kept the child from falling; and I said—” In the library Maurice’s face was white—“I said, ’Why, I saw you once—you’re Miss Dale. Your boat upset,’ And she said, ’You have the advantage of me.’ Of course she isn’t a lady, you know.”