Eleanor protested: “It was nothing at all.” Maurice, in his own mind, was saying, “I wish she’d left me there!”
When the ladies left the gentlemen to their cigars, Edith was bubbling over with anxiety to confide to Mrs. Morton the joke about the “lady’s cheeks coming off,” and that gave the married women the chance to express melancholy convictions as to the wickedness of the world, to which Edith listened with much interest.
“I think my painted lady lives in Medfield,” she said.
“Why, how do you know?” Eleanor exclaimed, surprised.
“Why, don’t you remember the time I saw her, with that blue-eyed baby? She was just going into a house on Maple Street.”
It was at this moment that the gentlemen entered, so there was no further talk of painted ladies; and, besides, Maurice was alert to catch Eleanor’s eye, and go home! “Edith is capable of saying anything!” he was thinking, desperately.
However, Edith said nothing alarming, and Maurice was able to get her safely away from the powder magazine in the shape of the amiable doctor, who, following them a few minutes later, was saying to himself: “How scared he was! Yet he looks like a good fellow at bottom. A rum world—a rum world!”
The “good fellow” hurried his womenkind down the street in angry preoccupation. As soon as he and Eleanor were alone, he said, “When does Edith graduate?”
“She has two years more.”
“Oh, Lord!” Maurice said, despairingly; “has she got to be around for two years?” Eleanor’s face lightened, but Maurice was instantly repentant. “I ought to be ashamed of myself for saying that! Edith’s fine; and she has brains; but—”
“She monopolized the conversation to-night,” Eleanor said; “Maurice, it is very improper for her to keep talking all the time about that horrid woman!”
The sharpness of his agreement made her look at him in surprise. “She mustn’t talk about Mrs. Dale!” he said, angrily.
“Dale? Is that her name?” said Eleanor.
“I don’t know. I think so; didn’t Edith call her that? Well, anyway, she mustn’t keep talking about her!”
His irritation was so marked, that Eleanor’s heart warmed; but she said, wearily, “I’ll be glad myself when she graduates.”
Edith, reflecting upon her first dinner party, wished Johnny had seen her, all dressed up. Then she pondered the possibilities of her allowance: If she was “going out,” oughtn’t she to have a real evening dress? But this daring thought faded very soon, for there didn’t seem to be any dinner parties ahead. Mrs. Newbolt’s supper table was, as Maurice said, sarcastically, the extent of the “Curtises’ social whirl”—a fact which did not trouble him in the least! He had his own social whirl. He had made a man-circle for himself; some of the fellows in the office were