Lottie began to cry with vexation as she whipped out of the room, and Boyne, who felt himself drawn to her side again, said, very seriously: “Well, it ain’t the thing in New York, you know, momma; and anybody can see what a jay Bittridge is. I think it’s too bad to let her.”
“It isn’t for you to criticise your mother, Boyne,” said Mrs. Kenton, but she was more shaken than she would allow. Her own traditions were so simple that the point of etiquette which her children had urged had not occurred to her. The question whether Ellen should go with Bittridge at all being decided, she would, of course, go in New York as she would go in Tuskingum. Now Mrs. Kenton perceived that she must not, and she had her share of humiliation in the impression which his mother, as her friend, apparently, was making with her children’s acquaintances in the hotel. If they would think everybody in Tuskingum was like her, it would certainly be very unpleasant, but she would not quite own this to herself, still less to a fourteen-year-old boy. “I think what your father and I decide to be right will be sufficient excuse for you with your friends.”
“Does father know it?” Boyne asked, most unexpectedly.
Having no other answer ready, Mrs. Kenton said, “You had better go to bed, my son.”
“Well,” he grumbled, as he left the room, “I don’t know where all the pride of the Kentons is gone to.”
In his sense of fallen greatness he attempted to join Lottie in her room, but she said, “Go away, nasty thing!” and Boyne was obliged to seek his own room, where he occupied himself with a contrivance he was inventing to enable you to close your door and turn off your gas by a system of pulleys without leaving your bed, when you were tired of reading.
Mrs. Kenton waited for her husband in much less comfort, and when he came, and asked, restlessly, “Where are the children?” she first told him that Lottie and Boyne were in their rooms before she could bring herself to say that Ellen had gone to the theatre with Bittridge.
It was some relief to have him take it in the dull way he did, and to say nothing worse than, “Did you think it was well to have her!”
“You may be sure I didn’t want her to. But what would she have said if I had refused to let her go? I can tell you it isn’t an easy matter to manage her in this business, and it’s very easy for you to criticise, without taking the responsibility.”
“I’m not criticising,” said Kenton. “I know you have acted for the best.”
“The children,” said Mrs. Kenton, wishing to be justified further, “think she ought to have had a chaperon. I didn’t think of that; it isn’t the custom at home; but Lottie was very saucy about it, and I had to send Boyne to bed. I don’t think our children are very much comfort to us.”
“They are good children,” Kenton said, said—provisionally.
“Yes, that is the worst of it. If they were bad, we wouldn’t expect any comfort from them. Ellen is about perfect. She’s as near an angel as a child can be, but she could hardly have given us more anxiety if she had been the worst girl in the world.”