They preserved the gentle fiction

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Senior Member
‘Say, would you like to wax that front banister for me after you have your breakfast, Weasel? You got time?’ They both preserved the gentle fiction that he did these things as favors, and not as pay for his fourteen-dollar-a-week upstairs room.
‘Sure would, Eva.’
Source: Salem's Lot by Stephen King

What does the bolded phrase mean?

In this scene, Weasel is a boarder at Eva's rooming house.

Thank you.
  • sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Collins Concise English Dictionary © HarperCollins Publishers::

    fiction /ˈfɪkʃən/n
    1. literary works invented by the imagination, such as novels or short stories
    2. an invented story or explanation; lie
    3. the act of inventing a story or explanation
    4. something assumed to be true for the sake of convenience, though probably false


    Senior Member
    English - England
    In addition to sdgraham's point, "The both preserved the gentle fiction that he did these things as favors", means:

    "They both pretended that he did these things as favors", even though he was actually doing them in lieu of rent. It is called "a gentle fiction", because it was easier for them both to deal with it in this easy-going way, rather than for Eva to officially give him a fixed set of jobs and treat him like an employee.
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