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   Chapter 4 No.4

The Vehement Flame By Margaret Wade Campbell Deland Characters: 28927

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


In spite of his declaration of indifference to the feelings of his guardian, the married boy was rapidly acquiring that capacity for "worry" which Mr. Houghton desired to develop in him. What would the mail bring him from Green Hill? It brought nothing for a week-a week in which he experienced certain bad moments which encouraged "worry" to a degree that made his face distinctly older than on that morning under the locust tree, when he had been married for fifty-four minutes. The first of these educating moments came on Monday, when he went to see his tutor, to say that he was-well, he was going to stop grinding.

"What?" said Mr. Bradley, puzzled.

"I'm going to chuck college, sir," Maurice said, and smiled broadly, with the rollicking certainty of sympathy that a puppy shows when approaching an elderly mastiff.

"Chuck college! What's the matter?" the mastiff said, putting a protecting hand over his helpless leg, for Maurice's restlessness-tramping about, his hands in his pockets-was a menace to the plastered member.

"I'm going into business," the youngster said; "I-Well; I've got married, and-"

"What!"

"-so, of course, I've got to go to work."

"See here, what are you talking about?"

The uneasy color sprang into Maurice's face, he stood still, and the grin disappeared. When he said explicitly what he was "talking about," Mr. Bradley's angry consternation was like the unexpected snap of the old dog; it made Eleanor's husband feel like the puppy. "I ought to have rounded him up," Mr. Bradley was saying to himself; "Houghton will hold me responsible!" And even while making unpleasant remarks to the bridegroom, he was composing, in his mind, a letter to Mr. Houghton about the helplessness incidental to a broken leg, which accounted for his failure in "rounding up." "I couldn't get on to his trail!" he was exonerating himself.

When Maurice retreated, looking like a schoolboy, it took him a perceptible time to regain his sense of age and pride and responsibility. He rushed back to the hotel-where he had plunged into the extravagance of the "bridal suite,"-to pour out his hurt feelings to Eleanor, and while she looked at him in one of her lovely silences he railed at Bradley, and said the trouble with him was that he was sore about money! "He needn't worry! I'll pay him," Maurice said, largely. And then forgot Bradley in the rapture of kissing Eleanor's hand. "As if we cared for his opinion!" he said.

"We don't care!" she said, joyously. Her misgivings had vanished like dew in the hot sun. Old Mrs. O'Brien had done her part in dissipating them. While Maurice was bearding his tutor, Eleanor had gone across town to her laundress's, to ask if Mrs. O'Brien would take Bingo as a boarder-. "I can't have him at the hotel," she explained, and then told the great news:-"I'm going to live there, because I-I'm married,"-upon which she was kissed, and blessed, and wept over! "The gentleman is a little younger than I am," she confessed, smiling; and Mrs. O'Brien said:

"An' what difference does that make? He'll only be lovin' ye hotter than an old fellow with the life all gone out o' him!"

Eleanor said, laughing, "Yes, that's true!" and cuddled the baby grandson's head against her breast.

"You'll be happy as a queen!" said Mrs. O'Brien; and "in a year from now you'll have something better to take care of than Bingo-he'll be jealous!"

But she hardly heeded Mrs. O'Brien and her joyful prophecy of Bingo's approaching jealousy; having taken the dive, she had risen into the light and air, and now she forgot the questioning depths! She was on the crest of contented achievement. She even laughed to think that she had ever hesitated about marrying Maurice. Absurd! As if the few years between them were of the slightest consequence! Mrs. O'Brien was right.... So she smoothed over Maurice's first bad moment with an indifference as to Mr. Bradley's opinion which was most reassuring to him. (Yet once in a while she thought of Mr. Houghton, and bit her lip.)

The next bad moment neither she nor Maurice could dismiss so easily; it came in the interview with her astounded aunt, whose chief concern (when she read the letter which Eleanor had left on her pincushion) was lest the Houghtons would think she had inveigled the boy into marrying her niece. To prove that she had not, Mrs. Newbolt told the bride and groom that she would have nothing more to do with Eleanor! It was when the fifty-four minutes had lengthened into three days that they had gone, after supper, to see her. Eleanor, supremely satisfied, with no doubts, now about the wisdom of what she had done, was nervous only as to the effect of her aunt's temper upon Maurice; and he, full of a bravado of indifference which confessed the nervousness it denied, was anxious only as to the effect of the inevitable reproaches upon Eleanor. Their five horrid minutes of waiting in the parlor for Mrs. Newbolt's ponderous step on the stairs, was broken by Bingo's dashing, with ear-piercing barks, into the room: Eleanor took him on her knee, and Maurice, giving the little black nose a kindly squeeze, looked around in pantomimic horror of the obese upholstery, and Rogers groups on the tops of bookcases full of expensively bound and unread classics.

"How have you stood it?" he said to his wife; adding, under his breath, "If she's nasty to you, I'll wring her neck!"

She was very nasty. "I'm not a party to it," Mrs. Newbolt said; she sat, panting, on a deeply cushioned sofa, and her wheezy voice came through quivering double chins; her protruding pale eyes snapped with anger. "I shall tell you exactly what I think of you, Eleanor, for, as my dear mother used to say, if I have a virtue it is candor; I think you are a puffect fool. As for Mr. Curtis, I no more thought of protectin' him than I would think of protectin' a baby in a perambulator from its nursemaid! Bingo was sick at his stomach this mornin'. You've ruined the boy's life." Eleanor cringed, but Maurice was quite steady:

"We will not discuss it, if you please. I will merely say that I dragged Eleanor into it; I made her marry me. She refused me repeatedly. Come, Eleanor."

He rose, but Mrs. Newbolt, getting heavily on to her small feet, and talking all the time, walked over to the doorway and blocked their retreat. "You needn't think I'll do anything for you!" she said to her niece; "I shall write to Mr. Houghton and tell him so. I shall tell him he isn't any more disgusted with this business than I am. And you can take Bingo with you!"

"I came to get him," Eleanor said, faintly.

"Come, Eleanor," Maurice said; and Mrs. Newbolt, puffing and talking, had to make way for them. As they went out of the door she called, angrily:

"Here! Stop! I want to give Bingo a chocolate drop!"

They didn't stop. In the street on the way to Bingo's new home, Eleanor, holding her little dog in her arms, was blind with tears, but Maurice effervesced into extravagant ridicule. His opinion of Mrs. Newbolt, her parlor, her ponderosity, and her missing g's, exhausted his vocabulary of opprobrious adjectives; but Eleanor was silent, just putting up a furtive handkerchief to wipe her eyes. It was dark, and he drew her hand through his arm and patted it.

"Don't worry, Star. Uncle Henry is white! She can write to him all she wants to! I'm betting that we'll get an invitation to come right up to Green Hill."

She said nothing, but he knew she was trembling. As they entered Mrs. O'Brien's alley, they paused where it was dark enough, halfway between gaslights, for a man to put his arm around his wife's waist and kiss her. (Bingo growled.)

"Eleanor! I've a great mind to go back to that hell-cat, and tell her what I think of her!"

"No. Very likely she's right. I-I have injured you. Oh, Maurice, if I have-"

"You'd have injured me a damn sight more if you hadn't married me!" he said.

But for the moment her certainty that her marriage was a glorious and perfect thing, collapsed; her voice was a broken whisper:

"If I've spoiled your life-she says I have;-I'll ... kill myself, Maurice." She spoke with a sort of heavy calmness, that made a small, cold thrill run down his back; he burst into passionate protest:

"All I am, or ever can be, will be because you love me! Darling, when you say things like-like what you said, I feel as if you didn't love me-"

Of course the reproach tautened her courage; "I do! I do! But-"

"Then never say such a wicked, cruel thing again!"

It was when Bingo had been left with Mrs. O'Brien that, on their way back to the hotel, Maurice, in a burst of enthusiasm, invited his third bad moment: "I am going to have a rattling old dinner party to celebrate your escape from the hag! How about Saturday night?"

She protested that he was awfully extravagant; but she cheered up. After all, what difference did it make what a person like Auntie thought! "But who will you ask?" she said. "I suppose you don't know any men here? And I don't, either."

He admitted that he had only two or three acquaintances in Mercer-"but I have a lot in Philadelphia. You shan't live on a desert island, Nelly!"

"Ah, but I'd like to-with you! I don't want anyone but you, in the world," she said, softly.

He thrilled at the wonder of that: she would be contented, with him,-on a desert island! Oh, if he could only always be enough for her! He vowed to himself, in sudden boyish solemnity, that he would always be enough for her. Aloud, he said he thought he could scratch up two or three fellows.

Then Eleanor's apprehension spoke: "What will Mr. Houghton say?"

"Oh, he's all right," Maurice said, resolutely hiding his own apprehension. He could hide it, but he could not forget it. Even while arranging for his dinner party, and plunging into the expense of a private dining room, he was thinking, of his guardian; "Will he kick?" Aloud he said, "I've asked three fellows, and you ask three girls."

"I don't know many girls," she said, anxiously.

"How about that girl you spoke to on the street yesterday? (If Uncle Henry could only see her, he'd be crazy about her!)"

"Rose Ellis? Well, yes; but she's rather young."

"Oh, that's all right," Maurice assured her. "(I wish I hadn't told him she is older than I am. Trouble with me is, I always plunk out the truth!) The fellows like 'em young," he said. Then he told her who the fellows were: "I don't know 'em very well; they're just boys; not in college. Younger than I am, except Tom Morton. Mort's twenty, and the brainiest man I know. And Hastings has a bag of jokes-well, not just for ladies," said Maurice, grinning, "and you'll like Dave Brown. You rake in three girls. We'll have a stunning spread, and then go to the theater." He caught her in his arms and romped around the room with her, then dropped her into a chair, and watched her wiping away tears of helpless laughter.

"Yes-I'll rake in the girls!" she gasped.

She wasn't very successful in her invitations. "I asked Rose, but I had to ask her mother, too," she said; "and one of the teachers at the Medfield school."

Maurice looked doubtful. Rose was all right; but the other two? "Aren't they somewhat faded flowers?"

"They're about my age," Eleanor teased him. As for Maurice, he thought that it didn't really matter about the ladies, faded or not; they were Eleanor's end of the shindy. "Spring chickens are Mort's meat," he said...

The three rather recent acquaintances who were Maurice's end of the shindy, had all gaped, and then howled, when told that the dinner was to celebrate his marriage. "I got spliced kind of in a hurry," he explained; "so I couldn't have any bachelor blow-out; but my-my-my wife, Mrs. Curtis, I mean-and I, thought we'd have a spree, to show I am an old married man."

The fellows, after the first amazement, fell on him with all kinds of ragging: Who was she? Was she out of baby clothes? Would she come in a perambulator?

"Shut up!" said the bridegroom, hilariously. He went home to Eleanor tingling with pride. "I want you to be perfectly stunning, Star! Of course you always are; but rig up in your best duds! I'm going to make those fellows cross-eyed with envy. I wonder if you could sing, just once, after dinner? I want them to hear you! (Mr. Houghton will love her voice!)"

Eleanor-who had stopped counting the minutes of married life now, for, this being the sixth day of bliss, the arithmetic was too much for her-was as excited about the dinner as he was. Yet, like him, under the excitement, was a little tremor: "They will be angry because-because we eloped!" Any other reason for anger she would not formulate. Sometimes her anxiety was audible: "Do you suppose Auntie has written to Mr. Houghton?" And again: "What will he say?" Maurice always replied, with exuberant indifference, that he didn't know, and he didn't care!

"I care, if he is horrid to you!" Eleanor said "He'll probably say it was wicked to elope?"

Mr. Houghton continued to say nothing; and the "care" Maurice denied, dogged all his busy interest in his dinner-for which he had made the plans, as Eleanor, until the term ended, was obliged to go out to Medfield to give her music lessons; besides, "planning" was not her forte! But in the thrill of excitement about the dinner and in the mounting adventure of being happy, she was able to forget her fear that Mr. Houghton might be "horrid" to Maurice. If the Houghtons didn't like an elopement, it would mean that they had no romance in them! She was absorbed in her ardent innocent purpose of "impressing" Maurice's friends, not from vanity, but because she wanted to please him. As she dressed that evening, all her self-distrust vanished, and she smiled at herself in the mirror for sheer delight, for his sake, in her dark, shining eyes, and the red loveliness of her full lip. In this wholly new experience of feeling, not only happy, but important,-she forgot Mrs. Newbolt, sailing angrily for Europe that very day, and was not even anxious about the Houghtons! After all, what difference did it make what such people thought of elopements? "Fuddy-duddies!" she said to herself, using Maurice's slang with an eager sense of being just as young as he was.

When the guests arrived and they all filed into the private and very expensive dining room, Eleanor looked indeed quite "stunning"; her shyness did not seem shyness, but on

ly a sort of proud beauty of silence, which might cover Heaven knows what deeps of passion and of knowledge! Little Rose was glowing and simpering, and the two older ladies were giving each other significant glances. Maurice's "fellows," shepherded by their host, shambled speechlessly along in the background. The instant that they saw the bride they had fallen into dumbness. Brown said, under his breath to Hastings, "Gosh!" And Hastings gave Morton a thrust in the ribs, which Morton's dignity refused to notice; later, when he was at Eleanor's right, the flattery of her eagerly attentive silence instantly won him. Maurice had so expatiated to her upon Morton's brains, that she was really in awe of him-of which, of course, Morton was quite aware! It was so exhilarating to his twenty years that he gave his host a look of admiring congratulation-and Maurice's pride rose high!-then fell; for, somehow, his dinner wouldn't "go"! He watched the younger men turn frankly rude shoulders to the older ladies, who did their best to be agreeable. He caught stray words: Eleanor's efforts to talk as Rose talked-Rose's dog was "perfectly sweet," but "simply awful"; then a dog story; "wasn't that killing?" And Eleanor: she once had a cat-"perfectly frightfully cunning!" said Eleanor, stumbling among the adverbs of adolescence.

At Rose's story the young men roared, but Eleanor's cat awoke no interest. Then one of the "faded flowers" spoke to Brown, who said, vaguely, "What, ma'am?"

The other lady was murmuring in Maurice's ear:

"What is your college?"

Maurice trying to get Rose's eye, so that he might talk to her and give the boys a chance to do their duty, said, distractedly, "Princeton. Say, Hastings! Tell Mrs. Ellis about the miner who lost his shirt-"

Mrs. Ellis looked patient, and Hastings, dropping into agonized shyness, said, "Oh, I can't tell stories!"

After that, except for Morton's philosophical outpourings to the listening Eleanor, most of the dreary occasion of eating poor food, served by a waiter who put his thumb into things, was given up to the stifled laughter of the girl and boys, and to conversation between the other two guests, who were properly arch because of the occasion, but disappointed in their dinner, and anxious to shake their heads and lift shocked hands as soon as they could get out of their hostess's sight.

For Maurice, the whole endless hour was a seesaw between the past and the present, between his new dignity and his old irresponsibility. He tried-at first with boisterous familiarity, then with ponderous condescension-to draw his friends out. What would Eleanor think of them-the idiots! And what would she think of him, for having such asinine friends? He hoped Mort was showing his brains to her! He mentally cursed Hastings because he did not produce his jokes; as for Brown, he was a kid. "I oughtn't to have asked him! What will Eleanor think of him!" He was thankful when dessert came and the boys stopped their fatuous murmurings to little Rose, to gorge themselves with ice cream. He talked loudly to cover up their silence, and glanced constantly at his watch, in the hope that it was time to pack 'em all off to the theater! Yet, even with his acute discomfort, he had moments of pride-for there was Eleanor sitting at the head of the table, silent and handsome, and making old Mort crazy about her! In spite of those asses of boys, he was very proud. He had simply made a mistake in inviting Hastings and Brown; "Tom Morton's all right," he told himself; "but, great Scott! how young those other two are!"

When the evening was over (the theater part of it was a success, for the play was good, and Maurice had nearly bankrupted himself on a box), and he and Eleanor were alone, he drew her down on the little sofa of their sitting room, and worshiped. "Oh, Star, how wonderful you are!"

"Did I do everything right?" She was breathless with happiness. "I tried so hard! But I can't talk. I never know what to say."

"You were perfect! And they were all such idiots-except Mort. Mort told me you were very temperamental, and had a wonderful mind. I said, 'You bet she has!' The old ladies were pills."

"Oh, Maurice, you goose!... Maurice, what will Mr. Houghton say?"

"Hell say, 'Bless you, my children!' Nelly, what was the matter with the dinner?"

"Matter? Why, it was perfect! It was"-she made a dash for some of his own words-"simply corking! Though perhaps Rose was a little too young for it. Didn't you enjoy it?" she demanded, astonished.

He said that if she enjoyed it, that was all he cared about! He didn't tell her-perhaps he didn't know it himself-that his own lack of enjoyment was due to his inarticulate consciousness that he had not belonged anywhere at that dinner table. He was too old-and he was too young. The ladies talked down to him, and Brown and Hastings were polite to him. "Damn 'em, polite! Well," he thought, "'course, they know that a man in my position isn't in their class. But-" After a while he found himself thinking: "Those hags Eleanor raked in had no manners. Talked to me about my 'exams'! I'm glad I snubbed the old one, I don't think Rose was too young," he said, aloud. "Oh, Star, you are wonderful!"

And she, letting her hair fall cloudlike over her shoulders, silently held out her arms to him. Instantly his third bad moment vanished.

But a fourth was on its way; even as he kissed that white shoulder, he was thinking of the letter which must certainly come from Mr. Houghton in a day or two. "What will he get off?" he asked himself; "probably old Brad and Mrs. Newbolt have fed oats to him, so he'll kick-but what do I care? Not a hoot!" Thus encouraging himself, he encouraged Eleanor:

"Don't worry! Uncle Henry'll write and beg me to bring you up to Green Hill."

The fifty-four minutes of married life had stretched into eight days, and Maurice had chewed the educating nails of worry pretty thoroughly before that "begging" letter from Henry Houghton arrived. There was an inclosure in it from Mrs. Houghton, and the young man, down in the dark lobby of the hotel, with his heart in his mouth, read what both old friends had to say-then rushed upstairs, two steps at a time, to make his triumphant announcement to his wife:

"What did I tell you? Uncle Henry's white!" He gave her a hug; then, plugging his pipe full of tobacco, handed her the letters, and sat down to watch the effect of them upon her; there was no more "worry" for Maurice! But Eleanor, standing by the window silhouetted against the yellow twilight, caught her full lower lip between her teeth as she read:

"Of course," Mr. Houghton wrote-(it had taken him the week he had threatened to "concoct" his letter, which he asked his wife if he might not sign "Mr. F.'s aunt." "I bet she doesn't know her Dickens; it won't convey anything to her," he begged; "I'll cut out two cigars a day if you'll let me do it?" She would not let him, so the letter was perfectly decorous.)-"Of course it was not the proper way to treat an old friend, and marriage is too serious a business to be entered into in this way. Also I am sorry that there is any difference in age between you and your wife. But that is all in the past, and Mrs. Houghton and I wish you every happiness. We are looking forward to seeing you next month." ... ("Exactly," he explained to his Mary, "as I look forward to going to the dentist's. You tell 'em so.")

As Mrs. Houghton declined to "tell 'em," Eleanor, reading the friendly words, was able to say, "I don't think he's angry?"

"'Course not!" said Maurice.

Then she opened the other letter.

My dear boy,-I wish you hadn't got married in such a hurry; Edith is dreadfully disappointed not to have had the chance "to be your bridesmaid"! You must give us an opportunity soon to know your wife. Of course you must both come to Green Hill as usual, for your vacation.

"She is furious," said Eleanor. "She thinks it's dreadful to have eloped." She had turned away from him, and was looking out across the slow current of the river at the furnaces on the opposite bank-it was the same river, that, ten days ago, had run sparkling and lisping over brown depths and sunny shallows past their meadow. Her face lightened and darkened as the sheeting violet and orange flames from the great smokestacks roared out against the sky, and fell, and rose again. The beauty of them caught Maurice's eye, and he really did not notice what she was saying, until he caught the words: "Mrs. Houghton's like Auntie-she thinks I've injured you-" Before he could get on his feet to go and take her in his arms, and deny that preposterous word, she turned abruptly and came and sat on his knee; then, with a sort of sob, let herself sink against his breast. "But oh, I did so want to be happy!-and you made me do it."

He gave her a quick squeeze, and chuckled: "You bet I made you!" he said; he pushed her gently to her feet, and got up and walked about the room, his hands in his pockets. "As for Mrs. Houghton, you'll love her. She never fusses; she just says, 'Consider the stars.' I do hope you'll like them, Eleanor," he ended, anxiously. He was still in that state of mind where the lover hopes that his beloved will approve of his friends. Later on, when he and she love each other more, and so are more nearly one, he hopes that his friends will approve of his beloved, even as he used to be anxious that they should approve of him. "I do awfully want you to like 'em at Green Hill! We'll go the minute your school closes."

"Must we?" she said, nervously.

"I'm afraid we've got to," he said; "you see, I must find out about ways and means. And Edith would be furious if we didn't come," he ended, chuckling.

"Is she nice?"

"Why, yes," he said; "she's just a child, of course. Only eleven. But she and I have great times. We have a hut on the mountain; we go up for a day, and Edith cooks things. She's a bully cook. Her beloved Johnny Bennett tags on behind."

"But do you like to be with a child?" she said, surprised.

"Oh, she's got a lot of sense. Say, Nelly, I have an idea. While we are at Green Hill, let's camp out up there?"

"You don't mean stay all night?" she said, flinching. "Oh, wouldn't it be very uncomfortable? I-I hate the dark."

The sweet foolishness of it enchanted him (baby love feeds on pap!) "Pitch dark," he teased, "and lions and tigers roaring around, and snakes-"

"Of course I'll go, if you want me to," she said, simply, but with a real sinking of the heart.

"Edith adores it," he said. "Speaking of Edith, I must tell you something so funny. Last summer I was at Green Hill, and one night Mr. and Mrs. Houghton were away, and there was a storm. Gee, I never saw such a storm in my life! Edith has no more nerves than a tree, but even she was scared. Well, I was scared myself."

He had stretched himself out on the sofa, and she was kneeling beside him, her eyes worshiping him. "I would have been scared to death," she confessed.

"Well, I was!" he said. "The tornado-it was just about that!-burst on to us, and nearly blew the house off the hill-and such an infernal bellowing, and hellish green lightning, you never saw! Well, I was just thinking about Buster-her father calls her Buster; and wondering whether she was scared, when in she rushed, in her night-gown. She made a running jump for my bed, dived into it, grabbed me, and hugged me so I was 'most suffocated, and screamed into my ear, 'There's a storm!'-as if I hadn't noticed it. I said-I could hardly make myself heard in the racket-I yelled, 'Don't you think you'd better go back to your own room? I'll come and sit there with you.' And she yelled, 'I'm going to stay here.' So she stayed."

"I think she was a little old for that sort of thing," Eleanor said, coldly.

He gave a shout of laughter. "Eleanor! Do you mean to tell me you don't see how awfully funny it was? The little thing hugged me with all her might until the storm blew over. Then she said, calmly: 'It's cold. I'll stay here. You can go and get in my bed if you want to.'"

Eleanor gave a little shrug, then rose and went over to the window. "Oh yes, it was funny; but I think she must be a rather pert little thing. I don't want to go to Green Hill."

Maurice looked worried. "I hate to urge anything you don't like, Nelly; but I really do feel we ought to accept their invitation? And you'll like them! Of course they're not in your class. Nobody is! I mean they're old, and sort of commonplace. But we can go and live in the woods most of the time, and get away from them,-except little Skeezics. We'll take her along. You'll love having her; she's lots of fun. You see, I've got to go to Green Hill, because I must get in touch with Uncle Henry; I've got to find out about our income!" he explained, with a broad grin.

"I should think Edith would bore you," she said. Her voice was so sharply irritated that Maurice looked at her, open-mouthed; he was too bewildered to speak.

"Why, Eleanor," he faltered; "why are you-on your ear? Was it what I told you about Edith? You didn't think that she wasn't proper?"

"No! Of course not! It wasn't that." She came quickly and knelt beside him. "Of course it wasn't that! It was-" She could not say what it was; perhaps she did not quite know that her annoyance at Maurice's delight in Edith was the inarticulate pain of recognizing that he might have more in common with a child, eight years his junior, than he could have with a woman twenty years his senior. Her eyes were suddenly bright with frightened tears. In a whisper, that fear which, in these days of complete belief in her own happiness, she had forgotten even to deny, came back: "What really upset me was the letters. The Houghtons are angry because I am-" she flinched, and would not utter the final word which was the hidden reason of her annoyance at Edith; so, instead of uttering it, she said, "because we eloped."

As for Maurice, he rallied her, and pretended to scold her, and tasted her tears salt upon his lips. He felt very old and protecting.

"Nonsense!" he said. "Mrs. Houghton and Uncle Henry are old, and of course they can't understand love. But the romance of it will touch them!"

And again Love cast out Fear; Eleanor, her face hidden on his shoulder, told herself that it really didn't matter what the Houghtons thought of ... an elopement.

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