“My friend, Mr. Batty, said I upset the boat,” she said, taking the coat out of the wardrobe and brushing it briskly with a capable little hand.
The coat reeked with perfumery, and Maurice said, “Phew!” to himself; but threw it over his arm, and said that Mr. Batty had only himself to blame. “A man ought to know enough not to let a lady move about in a rowboat!”
“Won’t you be seated?” Lily said; she lighted a cigarette, and shoved the box over to him, across the varnished glitter of the table top.
Maurice, introducing himself—“My name’s Curtis";—and, taking in all the details of the comfortable, vulgar little room, sat down, took a cigarette, and said it was a warm day for October; she said she hated heat, and he said he liked winter best.... Then he saw a bruise on her wrist and said: “Why, you gave yourself a dreadful knock, didn’t you? Was it on the rowlock?”
Her face dropped into sullen lines: “It wasn’t the boat did it.”
Maurice, with instant discretion, dropped the subject. But he was sorry for her; she made him think of a beaten kitten. “You must take care of that wrist,” he said, his blue eyes full of sympathy. When he went away he told himself he had spotted the big man as a brute the minute he saw him. The “kitten” seemed to him so pathetic that he forgot Eleanor’s exquisiteness, and told her about the bruised wrist and the reeking coat, and how pretty the girl was.
“I don’t know anything vulgarer than perfumery!” his wife said, with a delicate shrug.
Maurice agreed, adding, with a grin, that he had noticed that when ladies were short on the odor of sanctity, they were long on the odor of musk.
“I always keep dried rose leaves in my bureau drawers,” Eleanor said; and he had the presence of mind to say, “You are a rose yourself!”
A husband’s “presence of mind” in addressing his wife is, of course, a confession; it means they are not one—for nobody makes pretty speeches to oneself! However, Maurice’s “rose” made no such deduction.
It was after Mr. Houghton had swallowed the scorched soup and meditated infanticide, that boarding became inevitable. Several times that winter Maurice said that Hannah “was the limit; so let’s board?”
And toward spring, in spite of the cavorting lambs and waddling ducks in the little waiting, empty room upstairs, Eleanor yielded. “We can go to housekeeping again,” she thought, “if—”
So the third year of their marriage opened in a boarding house. They moved (Bingo again banished to Mrs. O’Brien), on their wedding anniversary, and instead of celebrating by going out to “their river,” they spent a hot, grimy day settling down in their third-floor front.
“If people come to see us,” said Maurice, ruefully, standing with his hands in his pockets surveying their new quarters, “they’ll have to sit on the piano!”