“O thou with dewy locks who lookest down!”
The next fall, however, the boarding did come to an end, and they went to housekeeping. It was Mrs. Houghton who brought this about. Edith was to enter Fern Hill School in the fall, and her mother had an inspiration: “Let her board with Eleanor and Maurice! The trolley goes right out to Medfield, and it will be very convenient for her. Also, it will help them with expenses,” Mrs. Houghton said, comfortably.
“But why can’t she live at the school?” Edith’s father objected, with a troubled look; somehow, he did not like the idea of his girl in that pathetic household, which was at once so conscious and so unconscious of its own instability! “Why does she have to be with Eleanor and Maurice?” Henry Houghton said.
“Eleanor has the refinement that a hobbledehoy like Edith needs,” Mrs. Houghton explained; “and I think the child will have better food than at Fern Hill. School food is always horrid.”
“But won’t Eleanor’s dullness afflict Buster?” he said, doubtfully; then—because at that moment Edith banged into the room to show her shuddering mother a garter snake she had captured—he added, with complacent subtlety, “as for food, I, personally, prefer a dinner of herbs with an interesting woman, than a stalled ox and Eleanor.”
Which caused Edith to say, “Is Eleanor uninteresting, father?”
“Good heavens, no!” said Mr. Houghton, with an alarmed look; “of course she isn’t! What put such an idea into your head?” And as Buster and her squirming prize departed, he told his Mary that her daughter was destroying his nervous system. “She’ll repeat that to Eleanor,” he groaned.
His wife had no sympathy for him; “You deserve anything you may get!” she said, severely; and proceeded to write to Eleanor to make her proposition. If they cared to take Edith, she said, they could hire a house and stop boarding—“which is dreadful for both of your digestions; and I will be glad if this plan appeals to you, to feel that Edith is with anyone who has such gentle manners as you.”
Eleanor, reading the friendly words at the boarding-house breakfast table, said quickly to herself, “I don’t want her... She would monopolize Maurice!” Then she hesitated; “He would be more comfortable in a house of his own... But Edith? Oh, I don’t want her!”