The Vehement Flame eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 364 pages of information about The Vehement Flame.

“Maurice, you want something?  What is it?”

“Oh, Nelly!” he said; “I want—­” And the thing tumbled from his lips in six words:  “I want you to forgive me.”

Eleanor put her hand to her throat; then she said, “I know, Maurice.”

Silence tingled between them.  Maurice said, “You know?”

She nodded.  He was too stunned to ask how she knew; he only said, “I’ve been a hound.”

Instantly, as though some locked and bolted door had been forced, her heart was open to him.  “Maurice!  I can bear it—­if only you don’t lie to me!”

“I have lied,” he said; “but I can’t go on lying any more!  It’s been hell.  Of course you’ll never forgive me.”

Instantly she was on her knees beside him, and her lips trembled against his cheek; but she was silent.  She was agonizing, not for herself, but for him; he had suffered.  And when that thought came, Love rose like a wave and swept jealousy away!  It was impossible for her to speak.  Over in his basket old Bingo growled.

“It was years ago,” he said, very low; “I haven’t—­had anything to do with her since; but—­”

She said, gasping, “Do you ... love her still?”

“Good God! no; I never loved her.”

“Then,” she said, “I don’t mind.”

His arms went about her, his head dropped on her shoulder.  The little dog, unnoticed, barked angrily.  For a few minutes neither of them could speak.  To him, the unexpectedness of forgiveness was an absolute shock.  Eleanor, her cheek against his hair, wept.  Happy tears!  Then she whispered: 

“There is ... a child?”

He nodded speechlessly.

“Maurice, I will love it—­”

He was too overcome to speak.  Here she was, this irritating, foolish, faithful woman, coming, with outstretched, forgiving arms—­to rescue him from his long deceit!

“I have known it,” she said, “for nearly two years.”

“And you never spoke of it!”

“I couldn’t.”

“I want to tell you everything, Eleanor.  It was—­that Dale woman.”

She pressed very close to him:  “I know.”

He wondered swiftly how she knew, but he did not stop to ask; his words rushed out; it was as if the jab of a lancet had opened a hidden wound:  “I never cared a copper for her.  Never!  But—­it happened.  I was angry about something, and,—­Oh, I’m not excusing myself.  There isn’t any excuse!  But I met her, and somehow—­Oh, Eleanor!”

“Maurice, ... what does she call you?”

“Call me?  What do you mean?”

“What name?”

“Why, ‘Mr. Curtis,’ of course.”

“Not ‘Maurice’?  Oh—­I’m so glad!  Go on.”

“Well, I never saw her again until she wrote to me about ... this child.  Eleanor!  I tried to tell you.  Do you remember?  One night in the boarding house—­the night of the eclipse?  I thought you’d never forgive me, but I tried to tell you ...  Oh, Star, you are wonderful!”

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The Vehement Flame from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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