“No, thank you,” she said; and sometimes, to herself, she added, “He keeps me out.” The jealous woman always says this, never realizing the deeper truth, which is that she keeps herself out! Maurice did not notice how, all that winter, Eleanor was keeping herself out. She was steadily retreating into some inner solitude of her own. No one noticed it, except Mrs. O’Brien—and perhaps fat, elderly, snarling Bingo, who must sometimes, when his small pink tongue lapped her cheek, have tasted tears. By another year, Eleanor’s mind had so utterly diverged from Maurice’s that not even his remorse (which he had grown used to, as one grows used to some encysted thing) could achieve for them any unity of living. She bored him, and he hurt her; she loved him and tried to please him; he didn’t love her, but tried to be polite; he was not often angry with her, he wasn’t fond enough of her to be angry! So, forgetful of that security of the Stars—Truth!—to which he had once aspired, he grew dully used to the arid safety of untruth,—though sometimes he swore softly to himself at the tiresome irony of the office nickname which, with an occasional gilt hatchet, still persisted. He would remember that evening of panic at the Mortons’, and think, lazily, “She can’t possibly get on Lily’s track!” So Lily lived in anxious thriftiness at 16 Maple Street; and Maurice, no longer acutely afraid of her, and only seeing her two or three times a year, was more or less able to forget her, in his growing pleasure in Edith’s presence in his house—a pleasure quite obvious to Eleanor.
As for Edith, she used to wonder, sometimes, why Eleanor was so “up stage”? (that was her latest slang); but it did not trouble her much, for she was too generous to put two and two together. “Eleanor has nervous prostration,” she used to tell herself, with good-natured excuse for some especial coldness; and she even tried, once in a while, “to make things pleasant for poor old Eleanor!” “I lug her in,” she told Johnny.