“Good heavens, Buster! You haven’t said that before Eleanor?”
“Ha! I got a rise out of you!” Edith said, joyfully; “I haven’t mentioned it, yet; but I shall make a point of doing so unless you order two pounds of candy for me, at once. Well, I suppose what you meant was that Eleanor is stupid?”
“Mary,” said Henry Houghton, “your blackmailing daughter is displaying a glimmer of intelligence.”
“I’m only reminding you of your own remark,” Edith said, “to explain why I want to be in one of the dormitories next winter. Eleanor is stupid—though she’s never fed me on stalled ox! And I think she sort of doesn’t like it because I’m not awfully fond of music.”
“You are an absolute heathen about music,” her father said.
“Well, it bores me,” Edith explained, cheerfully; “though I adore Maurice’s playing. Maurice is a lamb, and I adore just being in the house with him! But she’s nasty to him sometimes. And when she is, I’d like to choke her!”
“Edith—Edith—” her mother remonstrated. And her father reminded her that she must not lose her temper.
“Let your other parent be a warning to you as to the horrors of an uncontrolled temper,” said Henry Houghton; “I have known your mother, in one of her outbursts of fury, so far forget herself as to say, ’Oh, my!’”
Edith grinned, but insisted, “Eleanor is dull as all get out!”
“Consider the stars,” Mrs. Houghton encouraged her.
But Mr. Houghton said, “Mary, you’ve got to do something about this girl’s English! ... You miss John Bennett?” he asked Edith (Johnny was taking a special course in an Eastern institute of technology).
“He did well enough to fill in the chinks,” Edith said, carelessly; “but it’s Maurice’s being away that takes the starch out of me. He’s everlastingly tearing off on business. And when he’s at home—” Edith was suddenly grave—“of course Maurice is always ’the boy stands on the burning deck’; but you can’t help seeing that he’s fed up on poor old Eleanor! Sometimes I wonder he ever does come home! If I were in his place, when she gets to nagging I’d go right up in the air! I’d say, well,—something. But he keeps his tongue between his teeth.”
That evening, when Henry Houghton was alone with his wife, he said what he thought about Maurice: “He is standing on the burning deck of this pathetic marriage of his, magnificently. He never bats an eyelash! (Your daughter’s slang is vulgar.)”
“Eleanor is the pathetic one,” Mary Houghton said, sadly; “Maurice has grown cynical—which is a sort of protection to him, I suppose. Yes; I’m afraid Edith is right; she’d better be out at the school next winter. It isn’t well for a girl to see differences between a husband and wife.... Henry, you shan’t have another cigar! That’s the third since supper! Dear, what is the trouble about Maurice?”