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

At last it was all said, and he had not skulked behind his wife.  He had told everything, except those explaining things that could not be told.

When the story was ended there was silence.  The older man, guessing the untold things, could not trust himself to speak his pity and anger and dismay.  But in that moment of silence the comfort of confession made the tears stand in the boy’s eyes; he said, impulsively, “Uncle Henry, I thought you’d kick me out of the house!”

Henry Houghton blew his nose, and spoke with husky harshness.  “Eleanor has no suspicions?” (He, too, was choking down references to Eleanor which must not be spoken.)

“No.  Do you think I ought to—­to tell—?”

“No!  No!  With some women you could make a clean breast...  I know a woman—­her husband hadn’t a secret from her; and I know he was a fool before his marriage!  He made a clean breast of it, and she married him.  But she knew the soul of him, you see?  She knew that this sort of rotten foolishness was only his body.  So he worshiped her.  Naturally.  Properly.  She meant God to him...  Mighty few women like that!  Candidly, I don’t think your wife is one of them.  Besides, this is after marriage.  That’s different, Maurice.  Very different.  It isn’t a square deal.”

Maurice made a miserable shamed sound of agreement.  Then he said, huskily, “Of course I won’t lie; I’ll just—­not tell her.”

“The thing for us to do,” said Mr. Houghton, “is to get you out of this mess.  Then you’ll keep straight?  Some fellows wouldn’t.  You will, because—­” he paused; Maurice looked at him with scared eyes—­“because if a man is sufficiently aware of having been a damned fool, he’s immune.  I’ll bet on you, Maurice.”

CHAPTER XII

Yet Henry Houghton had moments of fearing that he would lose his bet, for Maurice was such a very damned fool!  One might have guessed as much when he would not admit that Lily was lying.  She might be blackmailing him, he said; she might be a “crow”; but she wasn’t lying.  When his guardian had talked it all out with him, and written a letter which Maurice was to take to a lawyer ("she’ll want to get rid of the child; they always want to get rid of the child; so she may let you off easier if you say you’ll see that it is cared for; and we’ll have Hayes put it in black and white”) when all these arrangements had been made, Maurice almost dished the whole thing (so Mr. Houghton expressed it) by saying—­again as if the words burst up from some choked well of truthfulness: 

“Uncle Henry, it isn’t blackmail; and—­and I’ve got to be half decent!”

Down from the upper hall came a sweet, anxious voice:  “Maurice, darling!  It’s twelve o’clock!  What are you doing?”

Mr. Houghton called back:  “We’re talking business, Eleanor.  I’ll send him up in a quarter of an hour.  Don’t lose your beauty sleep, my dear.  (Mary must tell her not to be such an idiot!)” Then he looked at Maurice:  “My boy, you can’t be decent with a leech.  You’ve got to leave this to Hayes.”

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