“So glad,” he said.
The next morning, as Eleanor, rather white and shaky, was dressing, she said, “Edith doesn’t seem to realize that she is too old to be so free and easy with Johnny Bennett—and you.”
“She’s getting mighty good looking,” Maurice said.
“She has too much color,” Eleanor said, quickly.
Maurice was right. During Edith’s second winter in Mercer she grew prettier all the time; poor, speechless Johnny, looking at her through his spectacles, was quite miserable. He told some of his intimate friends that life was a bad joke.
“I shall never marry; just do some big work, and then get out. There is nothing really worth while. Mere looks in a woman don’t attract me,” Johnny said.
But that Maurice found “looks” attractive, began to be obvious to Eleanor, who, night after night, at the dinner table, watched the smiling, shining, careless thing—Youth!—sitting there on Maurice’s right, and felt herself withering in the dividing years. As a result, the annoyance which, when Edith was a child, she had felt at her childishness, began to harden into irritation at her womanliness. “I wish I could get her out of the house!” she used to think, helplessly.
She felt this irritation especially when they all went, one night, to dine with Tom Morton, who had just married and gone to housekeeping. It was a somewhat looked-forward-to event, although Eleanor thought Edith too young to dine out, and also the shabbiness of Maurice’s evening clothes was on her mind. “Do get a new dress suit!” she urged; and he gave the stereotyped answer: “Can’t afford it.”
They started for the Mortons’ gayly enough; but Maurice’s gayety went out like a candle in the wind when, as he followed Eleanor and Edith into the parlor, he saw, and after a puzzled moment recognized, the third man in the Morton dinner of six—the man who had stood in Lily’s little hall and said that the child would “pull through.” ... The spiritual squalor of that scene flashed back in sharp visualization: the doctor; Lily, her amber eyes overflowing with tears, kissing his hand; Jacky’s fretful cry from upstairs.... Here he was! that same kindly medical man, “getting off some guff to Mrs. Morton,” Maurice told himself, in agonized uncertainty as to what he had better do. Should he recognize him? Or pretend not to know him? It galloped through his mind that if he did “know” him, Eleanor would ask questions. Oh, he knew Eleanor’s questions! But if he didn’t “know” him, Doctor Nelson would know that questions might be asked. The instant’s hesitation between the two risks was decided by Doctor Nelson. He put out his hand and said, “Oh, how are you?” So Maurice said, “Oh, how are you?” as carelessly as anybody else.
Eleanor, when the doctor was introduced, said, a little surprised, “You know my husband?”
“I think I’ve met Mr. Curtis somewhere,” Doctor Nelson said, vaguely.