Johnny Bennett, in Buenos Aires, reading a letter from his father, said: “Poor Eleanor!” ... Then he grew a little pale under his tan, and added something which showed his opinion—not, perhaps, of what Maurice ought to do, but of what he would do! “I might as well make it a three-years’ contract,” Johnny said, bleakly, “instead of one. Of course there 11 be no use going back home. Eleanor’s death settles my hash.”
Even Mrs. O’Brien, informed by kitchen leakage as to what had happened, had something to say: “He ought to make an honest woman of the little fellow’s mother. But to think of him treating Miss Eleanor that way!”
And now, in the studio, the Houghtons also were saying what Maurice ought—and ought not!—to do: “I’m afraid he’s thinking of marrying her,” Mr. Houghton had said; and his wife had said, quickly, “I hope so—for the sake of his child!”
“But, Mary,” he protested, “look at it from the woman’s point of view; this ‘Lily’ would be wretched if she had to live Maurice’s kind of life!”
Edith, standing with her back to her father and mother, staring down into the ashes of the empty fireplace, said, over her shoulder, “Maurice may marry somebody who will help him with Jacky—just as Eleanor would have done, if she had lived.”
“My dear,” her father said, quickly, “he has had enough of your sex to last his lifetime! As a mere matter of taste, I think Maurice won’t marry anybody.”
“I don’t see why, just because he—did wrong ten years ago,” Edith said, “he has got to sidestep happiness for the rest of his life! But as for marrying that Mrs. Dale, it would be a cat-and-dog life.”
“Edith,” said her father, “when you agree with me I am filled with admiration for your intelligence! Your sex has, generally, mere intuition—a nice, divine thing, and useful in its way. But indifferent to logic. My sex has judgment; so when you, a female, display judgment, I, as a parent, am gratified. ‘Cat-and-dog life’ is a mild way of putting it;—a quarrelsome home is hell,—and hell is a poor place in which to bring up a child! Mary, my darling, you can derail any train by putting a big enough obstacle on the track; the fact that the obstacle is pure gold, like your idealism, wouldn’t prevent a domestic wreck—in which Jacky would be the victim! But in regard to Maurice’s marrying anybody else”—he paused and looked at his daughter—“that seems to me undesirable.”
Edith’s face hardened. “I don’t see why,” she said; then added, abruptly, “I must go and write some letters,” and went quickly out of the room.
They looked after her, and then at each other.
“You see?” Mary Houghton said; “she cares for him!”
“I couldn’t face it!” her husband said; “I couldn’t have Edith in such a mess. Morally speaking, of course he has a right to marry; but he can’t have my girl! Let him marry some other man’s girl—and I’ll give them my blessing. He’s a dear fellow—but he can’t have our Edith.”