“Better come when he’s not going out, so he can be at home and amuse Edith!” said Mrs. Newbolt. “Eleanor, my dear father used to say that women were puffect fools, because they never could realize that if they left the door open, a cat would put on his slippers and sit by the fire and knit; if they locked it, he’d climb up the chimney, but what he’d feel free to prowl on the roof!”
Eleanor preferred to “lock the door”; and certainly during that next winter Edith’s gay interest in every topic under heaven was a roof on which Maurice prowled whenever he could! Sometimes he stayed at home in the evening, just to talk to her! When he did, those “brains” which Eleanor resented, made him indifferent to many badly cooked dinners—during which Eleanor sat at the table and saw his enjoyment, and felt that dislike of their “boarder,” which had become acute the day of the picnic, hardening into something like hatred. She wondered how he endured the girl’s chatter? Sometimes she hinted as much, but Edith never knew she was being criticized! She was too generous to recognize the significance of what she called (to herself) Eleanor’s grouch, and Maurice’s delight in such unselfconsciousness helped to keep her ignorant, for he held his tongue—with prodigious effort!—even when Eleanor hit Edith over his shoulder. If he defended her, he told himself, the fat would be in the fire! So, as no one pointed out to Edith what the grouch meant, she had not the faintest idea that Eleanor was saying to herself, “Oh, if I could only get rid of her!” And as no one pointed out to Eleanor that the way to hold Maurice was not to get rid of Edith, but to “open the door,” that corrosive thing the girl had called “Bingoism” kept the anger of the day in the field smoldering in her mind. It was like a banked fire eating into her deepest consciousness; it burned all that winter; it was still burning even when the summer vacation came and Edith went home. Her departure was an immense relief to Eleanor; she told Maurice she didn’t want her to come back, ever!
“Why not?” he said, sharply; “I like having her here. Besides, think of telling Uncle Henry we didn’t want Edith next winter! If you have the nerve for that, I haven’t.” Eleanor had not the nerve; so when, at the end of June, Edith rushed home, it was understood that she would be with Maurice and Eleanor during the next term.... That was the summer that marked the seventh year of their marriage—and the fourth year of Jacky, over in the little frame house on Maple Street. But it was the first year of a knowledge, surprisingly delayed!—which came to Edith; namely, that Johnny Bennett was “queer.”
It may have been this “queerness” which made her attach herself to Eleanor, who, in August, went to Green Hill for the usual two weeks’ visit. Maurice had to go away on office business three or four times during that fortnight, but he came up for one Sunday. He had insisted upon Eleanor’s going, because, he said, she needed the change. “Can’t you come?” she pleaded. “Do take some extra time from the office!”