He was so contrite that, tiptoeing to his own room, he told poor faithful Edith her voice was too loud: “You disturb Eleanor. So dry up, Skeezics!”
As he grew stronger, and was able to go downstairs, Edith felt freer to talk to him—for down on the porch, or out in the garden, her eager young voice would not reach those languid ears. Then, suddenly, all her chances to talk stopped: “What’s the matter with Maurice?” she pondered, crossly; “he’s backed out of helping me. Why can’t he go on shingling the chicken coop?” For it was while this delightful work was under way that it, and “talk,” came to an abrupt end.
The shingling, begun joyously by the big boy and the little girl on Monday, promised several delightfully busy mornings.... Of course the setting out for Mercer had been postponed; there was no possibility of moving Eleanor for the present; so Maurice’s “business career,” as he called it, with grinning pomposity, had to be delayed—Eleanor turned white at the mere suggestion of convalascing at Green Hill without him! Consequently Maurice, when not worshiping his wife, had nothing to do, and Edith had seized the opportunity to make him useful.... “We’ll shingle my henhouse,” she had announced. Maurice liked the scheme as much as she did. The September air, the smell of the fresh shingles, the sitting with one leg doubled under you, and the other outstretched on the hot slope of the roof, the tap-tapping of the hammers, the bossing of Edith, the trying to talk of Eleanor, and thunderstorms, while you hold eight nails between your lips; then the pause while Edith climbs down the ladder and runs to the kitchen for hot cookies; all these things would be a delightful occupation for any intelligent person!
“It’ll take three mornings to do it,” Edith said, importantly; and Maurice said:
“It will, because you keep putting the wrong end up! I wish Eleanor was well enough to do it,” he said—and then burst into self-derisive chuckles: “Imagine Eleanor straddling that ridgepole! It would scare her stiff!”
It was after this talk that Maurice “backed out” on the job—but Edith never knew why. She saw no connection between the unfinished roof, and the fact that that same afternoon, sitting on the floor in the Bride’s room, she had, in her anxiety to be entertaining, repeated Maurice’s remark about the ridgepole. Eleanor, who had had an empty morning, listening to the distant tapping of hammers, had drooped a weary lip.
“I should hate it. Horrid, dirty work!”
“Oh no! It’s nice, clean work,” Edith corrected her.
“But you wouldn’t like it, of course,” she said, with satisfaction; “you’d be scared! You’re scared of everything, Maurice says. You were scared to death, up on the mountain.”
Eleanor was silent.
“He thinks it’s lovely for you to be scared; it’s funny about Maurice,” said Edith, thoughtfully; “he doesn’t like it when I’m scared—not that I ever am, now, but I used to be when I was a child.”