The Vehement Flame eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 508 pages of information about The Vehement Flame.

“If I were dead, he could marry Lily.”

At first this was just one of those vague thoughts that blew through her mind, as straws and dead leaves blow down a dreary street.  But this straw caught, so to speak, and more straws gathered and heaped about it.  The idea lodged, and another idea lodged with it:  If, to get his child, he married Jacky’s mother, Edith would never reach him!  And if, by dying, Eleanor gave Maurice his child, he would always love her for her gift; she would always be “wonderful.”  And Edith?  Why, he couldn’t, he couldn’t—­if his wife died to give him Jacky—­think of Edith again!  Jacky, Eleanor thought, viciously, “would slam the door in Edith’s face!”

Perhaps, if Maurice had been at home, instead of being obliged to prolong that western business trip, the sanity of his presence would have swept the straws and dead leaves away and left Eleanor’s mind bleak, of course, with disappointment about Jacky and dread of Edith—­but sound.  As it was, alone in her melancholy, uncomfortable house, tiny innumerable “reasons” for considering the one way by which Maurice could get Jacky, heaped and heaped above common sense:  ten years ago Mrs. Newbolt said that if Eleanor had not “caught” Maurice when he was young, he would have taken Edith; that was a straw.  Two years ago a woman in the street car offered her a seat, because she looked as old as her mother.  Another straw!  Lily supposed she was Maurice’s mother!  A straw....  Edith admitted—­had impudently flung into Eleanor’s face!—­the confession that she was “in love with him!”—­and Edith was to be in town for three months.  Oh, what a sheaf of straws!  Edith would see him constantly.  She would “look at him”!  Could Maurice stand that?  Wouldn’t what little love he felt for his old wife go down under the wicked assault of those “looks"?—­unless he had Jacky!  Jacky would “slam the door.”

Eleanor said things like this many times a day.  Straws!  Straws!  And they showed the way the wind was blowing.  Sometimes, in the suffocating dust of fear that the wind raised she even forgot her purpose of making Maurice happy, in a violent urge to make it impossible for Edith Houghton to triumph over her.  But the other thought—­the crazy, nobler thought!—­was, on the whole, dominant:  “Maurice would be happy if he had a child.  I couldn’t give him a child of my own, but I can give him Jacky.”  Yet once in a while she balanced the advantages and disadvantages of the one way in which Jacky could be given:  Lily?  Could Maurice endure Lily?  She thought of that parlor, of Lily’s vulgarity, of the raucous note in her voice when those flashes of anger pierced like claws through the furry softness of her good nature; she thought of the reek of scent on the handkerchief.  Could he endure Lily?  Yet she was efficient; she would make him comfortable.  “I never made him comfortable,” she thought.  “And he doesn’t love her; so I wouldn’t so terribly mind her being here—­any more than I’d mind a housekeeper.  But I wouldn’t want her to call him ‘Maurice.’  I think I’ll put that into my letter to him.  I’ll say that I will ask, as a last favor, that he will not let her call him ‘Maurice.’”

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The Vehement Flame from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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