As for Eleanor, she confided her alarm to Maurice. “She mustn’t go to see that woman!”
His instant horrified agreement was a satisfaction to her: “Of course not!”
“She won’t listen to me,” Eleanor complained; “you’ll have to tell her she mustn’t.”
“I will,” he said, grimly.
And the very next day he did. He happened (as it seemed) to start for his office just as Edith started for school, so they walked along together.
“Edith,” he said, the moment they were clear of his own doorway and Eleanor’s ears; “that Mrs. Dale; I’d keep away from her, if I were you.”
“Goodness!” said Edith; “did you suppose I was going to fall into her arms? Why should I have anything to do with her?”
“Eleanor said you said—”
“Oh, I just said that because Eleanor was down on her, and that made me mad. I couldn’t go and see her, if I was dying to—’cause I don’t know where she lives—unless it was that house she was going into? Do you know, Maurice?”
“Great Scott! How should I know where she lives?”
“’Course not,” said Edith.
But it was many days before Maurice’s alarm quieted down sufficiently to let him drift back into the furtive security of knowing that neither Edith nor Eleanor could, by any possibility, get on Lily’s track. “And, besides, Lily’s too good a sport to give anything away. Pretty neat in her to ‘forget’ that coat! But she ought to be careful not to forget her husband’s name!—it seems to be Henry, now.”
A moody Maurice, who puzzled her, and a faultfinding Eleanor, whom she was too generous to understand, drove the sixteen-year-old Edith into a real appreciation of Johnny Bennett. With him, she was still in the stage of unsentimental frankness that pierced ruthlessly to what she conceived to be the realities; and because she was as unselfconscious as a tree, she was entirely indifferent to the fact that Johnny was a boy and she was a girl, Johnny, however, nearsighted and in enormous shell-rimmed spectacles, and still inarticulate, was quite aware of it; more definitely so every week,—for he saw her on Saturdays and Sundays. “And it’s the greatest possible relief to talk to you!” Edith told him.
Johnny accepted the tribute as his due. They had been coasting, and now, on the hilltop, were sitting on their sleds, resting. “Gosh! it’s hot!” Johnny said: he had taken off his red sweater and tied its sleeves around his neck; “zero? You try pulling both those sleds up here, and you’ll think it’s the Fourth of July,” Johnny said, adjusting his spectacles with a mittened hand. He frequently reverted to the grumpy stage—yet now, looking at Edith, grumpiness vanished. She was breathless from the long climb, and her white teeth showed between her parted, panting lips: her cheeks were burning with frosty pink. Johnny looked, and looked away, and sighed.