The Vehement Flame eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 508 pages of information about The Vehement Flame.
his sort, he told Edith, and it was evident that their bachelor habits appealed to him, for he dined out frequently; and when he did, he was careful not to tell Eleanor where he was going, because once or twice, when he had told her, she had called up the club or house on the telephone about midnight to inquire if “Mr. Curtis had started home?” ...  “I was worried about you, it was so late,” she defended herself against his irritated mortification.  He used to report these stag parties to Edith, telling her some of the stories he had heard; it didn’t occur to him to tell any stories to Eleanor, because, as Henry Houghton had once said, Maurice and his wife didn’t “have the same taste in jokes.”  When Edith chuckled over this or that witticism (or frowned at any opinion contrary to Maurice’s opinion!) Eleanor sat in unsmiling silence.  It was about this time Maurice fell into the way of saying “we” to Edith:  “We” will have tea in the garden; “we” will put in a lot of bulbs on each side of the brick path; “we” will go down to the square and hear the election returns.  Occasionally he remembered to say, “Why don’t you come along, Eleanor?”

“No, thank you,” she said; and sometimes, to herself, she added, “He keeps me out.”  The jealous woman always says this, never realizing the deeper truth, which is that she keeps herself out!  Maurice did not notice how, all that winter, Eleanor was keeping herself out.  She was steadily retreating into some inner solitude of her own.  No one noticed it, except Mrs. O’Brien—­and perhaps fat, elderly, snarling Bingo, who must sometimes, when his small pink tongue lapped her cheek, have tasted tears.  By another year, Eleanor’s mind had so utterly diverged from Maurice’s that not even his remorse (which he had grown used to, as one grows used to some encysted thing) could achieve for them any unity of living.  She bored him, and he hurt her; she loved him and tried to please him; he didn’t love her, but tried to be polite; he was not often angry with her, he wasn’t fond enough of her to be angry!  So, forgetful of that security of the Stars—­Truth!—­to which he had once aspired, he grew dully used to the arid safety of untruth,—­though sometimes he swore softly to himself at the tiresome irony of the office nickname which, with an occasional gilt hatchet, still persisted.  He would remember that evening of panic at the Mortons’, and think, lazily, “She can’t possibly get on Lily’s track!” So Lily lived in anxious thriftiness at 16 Maple Street; and Maurice, no longer acutely afraid of her, and only seeing her two or three times a year, was more or less able to forget her, in his growing pleasure in Edith’s presence in his house—­a pleasure quite obvious to Eleanor.

As for Edith, she used to wonder, sometimes, why Eleanor was so “up stage”? (that was her latest slang); but it did not trouble her much, for she was too generous to put two and two together.  “Eleanor has nervous prostration,” she used to tell herself, with good-natured excuse for some especial coldness; and she even tried, once in a while, “to make things pleasant for poor old Eleanor!” “I lug her in,” she told Johnny.

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The Vehement Flame from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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