John came, with leaps and bounds, so to speak, and Maurice said, grumpily:
“What do you lug Johnny in for?”
So, during the rest of her visit (with John Bennett as Maurice’s chaperon!) Eleanor merely ached with dislike of Edith; but, even so, she had the small relief of not having to say to herself: “Is he seeing Mrs. Dale, now? ... Did he go to her house yesterday?” Of course, as soon as she went back to Mercer those silent questions began again; and her audible question nagged Maurice whenever he was in the house: “Did you go to the theater last night? ... Yes? Did you go alone? ... Will you be home to-night to dinner? ... No? Where are you going?”
Maurice, answering with bored patience, thought, with tender amusement, of Edith’s advice, “Tell Eleanor.” How little she knew!
He did not see Edith very often that next winter, “which is just as well,” he thought. But his analysis stopped there; he did not ask himself why it was just as well. She made flying visits to Mercer, for shopping or luncheons, so he had glimpses of her, and whenever he saw her he was conscious of a little wistful change in her, for she was shy with him—Edith, shy!—and much gentler. When they discussed the Eternities or the ball game, she never pounded his arm with an energetic and dissenting fist, nor was there ever the faintest suggestion of the sexless “rough-house” of their old jokes! As for coming to town, she explained that she was too busy; she had taken the burden of housekeeping from her mother, and she was doing a good deal of hard reading preparatory to a course of technical training in domestic science, to which she was looking forward when she could find time for it. But whenever she did come to Mercer, she did her duty by rushing in to see Eleanor! Eleanor’s criticisms of her, when she rushed out again, always made Maurice silently, but deeply, irritated. The criticisms lessened in the fall, because Eleanor had the pitiful preoccupation of watching poor Don O’Brien fade out of the world; and when he had gone she had to push her own misery aside while his grandmother’s heart broke into the meager tears of age upon her “Miss Eleanor’s” breast. But, besides that, she did not have the opportunity to criticize Edith, for the Houghtons went abroad.
So the rest of that year went dully by. To Eleanor, it was a time of spasmodic effort to regain Maurice’s love; spasmodic, because when she had visions—hideous visions! of Maurice and the “other woman,”—then, her aspirations to regain his love, which had been born in that agony of recognized complicity in his faithlessness, would shrivel up in the vehement flame of jealousy. To Maurice, it was a time of endurance; of vague thoughts of Edith, but of no mental disloyalty to his wife. Its only brightness lay in those rare visits to Medfield, when Jacky looked at him like a worshiping puppy, and asked forty thousand questions