His wife laughed, and he, too, gave a reluctant chuckle. “I suppose I’ve got to?” he groaned.
“Of course, you’ve got to!” she said.
The rest of the ride back to the old stone house among its great trees, halfway up the mountain, was silent. Mrs. Houghton was thinking what room she would give the bride and groom—for the little room Maurice had had in all his vacations since he became her husband’s ward was not suitable. “Edith will have to let them have her room,” she thought. She knew she could count on Edith not to make a fuss. “It’s such a comfort that Edith has sense,” she ruminated aloud.
But her husband was silent; there was no more whistling for Henry Houghton that day.
Edith and her fourteen-year-old neighbor, Johnny Bennett, had climbed into the old black-heart cherry tree—(Johnny always conceded that Edith was a good climber—“for a girl.”) But when they saw Lion, tugging up the road, Edith, who was economical with social amenities, told her guest to go home. “I don’t want you any longer,” she said; “father and mother are coming!” And with that she rushed around to the stable door, just in time to meet the returning travelers, and ask a dozen questions—the first:
“Did you get a letter from Maurice?”
But when her father threw the reins down on Lion’s back, and said, briefly, “Can’t you unharness him yourself, Buster?” she stuck out her tongue, opened her eyes wide, and said nothing except, “Yes, father.” Then she proceeded, with astonishing speed, to put Lion into his stall, run the buggy into the carriage house, and slam the stable door, after which she tore up to her mother’s room.
“Mother! Something has bothered father!”
“Well, yes,” Mrs. Houghton said; “a little. Maurice is married.”
Edith’s lips fell apart; “Maurice? Married? Who to? Did she wear a veil? I don’t see why father minds.”
Mrs. Houghton, standing in front of her mirror, said, dryly: “There are things more important than veils, when it comes to getting married. In the first place, they eloped—”
“Oh, how lovely! I am going to elope when I get married!”
“I hope you won’t have such bad taste. Of course they ought not to have got married that way. But the thing that bothers your father, is that the lady Maurice has married is—is older than he.”
“How much older?” Edith demanded; “a year?”
“I don’t just know. Probably twenty years older.”
Edith was silent, rapidly adding up nineteen and twenty; then she gasped, “Thirty-nine!”
“Well, about that; and father is sorry, because Maurice can’t go back to college. He will have to go into business.”
Edith saw no cause for regret in this. “Guess he’s glad not to have to learn things! But why weren’t we invited to the wedding? I always meant to be Maurice’s bridesmaid.”