The Vehement Flame eBook

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

When Maurice saw his wife the next morning, it was with Mrs. Houghton’s warning—­emphasized by the presence of a nurse—­that he must not excite her.  So he sat at her bedside and told her about his trip, and how he had got ahead of the Greenleaf heirs, and how he rushed back to Mercer the minute those dispatches came saying that she was ill—­and he never asked her why she was ill, or what took her out to the river in the cold dusk of that March afternoon.  She didn’t try to tell him.  She was very warm and drowsy—­and she held in her hand, under the bedclothes, that letter which proved how much she loved him, and which, some time, when she got well, she would show him.  All that day the household outside her closed door was very much upset; but Eleanor, in the big bed, was perfectly placid.  She lay mere watching the tarnished gilt pendulum swing between the black pillars of the clock on the mantelpiece, thinking—­thinking.  “You’ll be all right to-morrow!” Maurice would say; and she would smile silently and go on thinking.  “When I get well,” she thought, “I will do—­so and so.”  By and by, still with the letter clutched in her hot hand, she began to say to herself, “If I get well.”  She had ceased worrying over how she was going to explain the “accident” to Maurice; that "if" left a door open into eternal reticence.  So, instead of worrying, she made plans for Jacky:  “He must see a dentist,” she told Maurice.  On the third day she stopped saying, “If I get well,” and thought, “When I die.”  She said it very tranquilly, “When I die Maurice must get him a bicycle.”  She thought of this happily, for dying meant that she had not failed.  She would not be ridiculous to Maurice—­she would be his wife, giving him a child—­a son!  So she lay with her eyes closed, thinking of the bicycle and many little, pleasant things; and with the old, slipping inexactness of mind she told herself that she had not “done anything wrong”; she had not drowned herself!  She had just caught a bad cold.  But she would die, and Maurice would love her for giving him Jacky.  Toward evening, however, an uneasy thought came to her:  if Maurice knew that, to give him Jacky, she had even tried to get drowned, it might distress him?  She wished she hadn’t written the letter!  It would hurt him to see it....  Well, but he needn’t see it!  She held out the crumpled envelope.  “Miss Ryan,” she said to the nurse, huskily, “please burn this.”

“Yes, indeed!” said Miss Ryan....

There was a burst of flame in the fireplace, and the little, pitiful letter, with its selfishness and pain and sacrifice, vanished—­as Lily’s handkerchief had vanished, and the braided ring of blossoming grass—­all gone, as the sparks that fly upward.  Nobody could ever know the scented humiliation of the handkerchief, or the agony of the faded ring, or the renouncing love which had written the poor foolish letter.  Maurice wouldn’t be pained.  As for her gift to him of Jacky, she would just tell him she wanted him to marry Lily, so he could have his child....  And Edith?  Oh, he would never think of Edith!

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The Vehement Flame from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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