The Vehement Flame eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 364 pages of information about The Vehement Flame.
him.  How could he have been so wrought up about it?  He looked off over the valley—­saw the steely sickle of the river; saw a cloud shadow touch the shoulder of a mountain and move down across the gracious bosom of its forests.  Below him, chestnuts twinkled and shimmered in the sun, and there were dusky stretches of hemlocks, then open pastures, vividly green from the August rains....  “It ought to be set to music,” he thought; the violins would give the flicker of the leaves—­“and the harps would outline the river.  Eleanor’s voice is lovely ... she looks fifty.  How,” he pondered, interested in the mechanics of it, “did she ever get me into that wagon?” Then, again, he was sorry for her, and said, “Poor girl!” Then he was sorry for himself.  He knew that he was tired to death of Eleanor—­tired of her moods and her lovemaking.  He was not angry with her; he did not hate her;—­he had injured her too much to hate her; he was simply unutterably tired of her—­what he did hate, was this business of lugging a secret around!  “I feel,” he said to himself, “like a dog that’s killed a hen, and had the carcass tied around his neck.”  His face twitched with disgust at his own simile.  But as for Eleanor, he had been contemptibly mean to her, and, “By God!” he said to himself, “at least I’ll play the game.  I’ll treat her as well as I can.  Other fools have married jealous women, and put up with them.  But, good Lord!” he thought, with honest perplexity, “can’t the women see how they push you into the very thing they are afraid of, because they bore you so infernally?  If I look at a woman, Eleanor’s on her ear....  Queer,” he pondered; “she’s good.  Look how kind she is to old O’Brien’s lame child.  And she can sing.”  He hummed to himself a lovely Lilting line of one of Eleanor’s songs.  “Confound it! why did I meet Lily?  Eleanor is a million times too good for me....”

Far off he heard a sound and, frowning, looked toward the road:  yes; somebody was coming!  “Can’t a man get a minute to himself?” Maurice thought, despairingly.  It was the mild-eyed and spectacled Johnny Bennett, and behind him, Edith, panting and perspiring, and smiling broadly.

“Hello!” she called out, in cheerful gasps; “thought we’d come up and walk home with you!”

“’Lo,” Maurice said.

The boy and girl achieving the rocky knoll on which Maurice was sitting, his hands locked about his knees, his eyes angry and ashamed, staring over the treetops, sat down beside him.  Johnny pulled out his pipe, and Edith took off her hat and fanned herself.  “Mother and Eleanor went for a ride.  I thought I’d rather come up here.”

“Um—­” Maurice said.

“Two letters for you,” she said.  “Eleanor told me to bring ’em up.  Might be business.”

As she handed them to him, his eye caught the address on one of them, and a little cold tingle suddenly ran down his spine.  Lily had never written to him, but some instinct warned him that that cramped handwriting on the narrow lavender envelope, forwarded from the office, could only be hers.  A whiff of perfumery made him sure.  He had a pang of fright.  At what?  He could not have said; but even before he opened the purple envelope he knew the taste of fear in his mouth....

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The Vehement Flame from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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