“It’s not inconvenient to have company,” Eleanor said.
Edith stopped short. ("What a dead give-away!” she thought; “she dislikes me!”) Then she tried, generously, to cover the “give-away” up: She said something about guests and servants: “We’re having an awful time at Green Hill—servants are the limit! When a maid stays six weeks, we call her an old family retainer!”
Eleanor said, “I have no difficulty with maids. That is not why I prefer not to have ... company.”
By this time, of course, Edith’s one thought was to get away, with dignity; but dignity, when you’ve had your face slapped, is almost impossible. So Edith (being Edith!) chose Truth, and didn’t trouble herself with dignity! “Eleanor,” she said, “I know it’s me you don’t want. I felt it last night. I’m afraid I’ve done something that has offended you. Have I? Truly, Eleanor, I haven’t meant to! What is it? Let’s talk it out. Eleanor, what have I done?” She put her hands down on Eleanor’s, clasped rigidly on the table.
“Please!” Eleanor said, and drew her hands away.
“Oh,” Edith said, pitifully, “you are troubled!”
Eleanor said, with a gasp: “Not at all ... Edith, I am afraid I must ask you to ... excuse me. I’m busy.”
Edith was too amazed to speak; she could not, indeed, think of anything to say! This wasn’t “dislike.” “Why, she hates me!” she thought. “Why does she hate me? Shall I not notice it? Shall I talk about something else?” But she could not talk of anything else; she could only speak her swift, honest thought: “Eleanor, why do you dislike me? Maurice and I have been friends—we have been like brother and sister—ever since I can remember. Oh, Eleanor, I want you to like me, too! Please don’t keep me away from you and Maurice!”
Eleanor said, rapidly: “He’s not your brother; and it would be difficult to keep you away from him. You go to his office to find him.”
There was a dead silence. Edith grew very pale. At last she understood. Eleanor was jealous ... Of her! They looked at each other, the angry woman and the dumfounded girl. “Jealous? Of me?” Edith thought. “Why me? Maurice only cares for me as if I was his sister! ... And I don’t do Eleanor any harm by—loving him.” ... Eleanor was gasping out a torrent of assailing words:
“Girls are different from what they were in my day. Then, they didn’t openly run after men! Now, apparently, they do. Certainly you do. You always have. I’m not blind, Edith. I have known what was going on; when you were living with us and I had a headache, you used to talk to him, and try and be clever—to make him think I was dull, when it was only that—I was too ill to talk! And you kept him down in the garden until midnight, when he might have been sitting with me on the porch. And you made him go skating. And now you look at him! I know what that means. A girl doesn’t look that way at a man, unless—”