MoboReader > Literature > The Vehement Flame

   Chapter 8 No.8

The Vehement Flame By Margaret Wade Campbell Deland Characters: 38162

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05


They reached Mercer in the rainy October dusk. It was cold and raw, and a bleak wind blew up the river, which, with its shifting film of oil, bent like a brown arm about the grimy, noisy town. The old hotel, with its Doric columns grimed with years of smoky river fogs, was dark, and smelled of soot; and the manners of the waiters and chambermaids would have set Eleanor's teeth on edge, except that she was so absorbed in the thrill of being back under the roof which had sheltered them in those first days of bliss.

"Do you remember?" she said, significantly.

Maurice, looking after suitcases and hand bags, said, absently, "Remember what?" She told him "what" and he said: "Yes. Where do you want this trunk put, Eleanor?"

She sighed; to sentimentalize and receive no response in kind, is like sitting down on a chair which isn't there. After dinner, when she and Maurice came up to their room, which had fusty red hangings and a marble-topped center table standing coldly under a remote chandelier, she sighed again, for Maurice said that, as for this hole of a hotel, the only thing he thought of, was how soon they could get out of it! "I can get that little house I told you about, only it's rather out of the way. Not many of your kind of people 'round!"

She knelt down beside him, pushing his newspaper aside and pressing her cheek against his. "That doesn't make any difference!" she said; "I'm glad not to know anybody. I just want you! I don't want people."

"Neither do I," Maurice agreed; "I'd have to shell out my cigars to 'em if they were men!"

"Oh, is that your reason?" she said, laughing.

"Say, Star, would you mind moving? I was just reading-"

She rose, and, going over to the window, stood looking out at the streaming rain in one of those empty silences which at first had been so alluringly mysterious to him. She was waiting for his hand on her shoulder, his kiss on her hair-but he was immersed in his paper. "How can he be interested about football, now, when we're alone?" she thought, wistfully. Then, to remind him of lovelier things, she began to sing, very softly:

"Art thou poor, yet hast thou golden slumbers?

0 sweet content!

To add to golden numbers, golden numbers,

O sweet content!-0 sweet, O sweet content-"

He dropped his paper and listened-and it seemed as if music made itself visible in his ardent, sensitive face! After a while he got up and went over to the window, and kissed her gently ...

Maurice was very happy in these first months in Mercer. The Weston office liked him-and admired him, also, which pleased his young vanity!-though he was jeered at for an incorrigible and alarming truthfulness which pointed out disadvantages to possible clients, but which-to the amazement of the office-frequently made a sale! As a result he acquired, after a while, several small gilt hatchets, presented by the "boys," and also the nickname of "G. Washington." He accepted these tributes with roars of laughter, but pointed to results: "I get the goods!" So, naturally, he liked his work-he liked it very much! The joy of bargaining and his quick and perhaps dangerously frank interest in clients as personalities, made him a most beguiling salesman; as a result he became, in an astonishingly short time, a real force in the office; all of which hurried him into maturity. But the most important factor in his happiness was his adoration of Eleanor. He was perfectly contented, evening after evening in the hotel, to play her accompaniments (on a rented piano), read poetry aloud, and beat her at solitaire. Also, she helped him in his practicing with a certain sweet authority of knowledge, which kept warm in his heart the sense of her infinite superiority. So when, later, they found a house, he entered very gayly upon the first test of married life-house furnishing! It was then that his real fiber showed itself. It is a risky time for all husbands and wives, a time when it is particularly necessary to "consider the stars"! It needs a fine sense of proportion as to the value, relatively, of peace and personal judgment, to give up one's idea in regard, say, to the color of the parlor rug. Maurice's likes and dislikes were emphatic as to rugs and everything else,-but his sense of proportion was sound, so Eleanor's taste,-and peace,-prevailed. It was good taste, so he really had nothing to complain of, though he couldn't for the life of him see why she picked out a picture paper for a certain room in the top of the house! "I thought I'd have it for a smoking room," he said, ruefully; "and a lot of pink lambs and green chickens cavorting around don't seem very suitable. Still, if you like it, it's all right!" The memory of the night on the mountain, when Eleanor gave all she had of strength and courage and fear and passion to the saving of his life-made pink lambs, or anything else, "all right"! When the house-furnishing period was over, and they settled down, the "people" Eleanor didn't want to see, seemed to have no particular desire to see them; so their solitude of two (and Bingo, who barked whenever Maurice put his arms around Eleanor) was not broken in upon-which made for domestic, even if stultifying, content. But the thing that really kept them happy during that first rather dangerous year, was the smallness of their income. They had very little money; even with Eleanor's six hundred, it was nearer two thousand dollars than three, and that, for people who had always lived in more or less luxury, was very nearly poverty;-for which, of course, they had reason, so far as married happiness went, to thank God! If there are no children, it is the limited income which can be most certainly relied upon to provide the common interest which welds husband and wife together. This more or less uncomfortable, and always anxious, interest, generally develops in that critical time when the heat of passion has begun to cool, and the friction of the commonplace produces a certain warmth of its own. These are the days when conjugal criticism, which has been smothered under the undiscriminating admiration of first love, begins to raise its head-an ugly head, with a mean eye, in which there is neither imagination nor humor. When this criticism begins to creep into daily life, and the lure of the bare shoulder and perfumed hair lessens-because they are as assured as bread and butter!-it is then that this saving unity of purpose in acquiring bread and butter comes to the rescue.

It came to the rescue of Maurice and Eleanor; they had many welding moments of anxiety on his part, and eager self-sacrifice on her part; of adding up columns of figures, with a constantly increasing total, which had to be subtracted from a balance which decreased so rapidly that Eleanor felt quite sure that the bank was cheating them! Of course they did not appreciate the value of this blessed young poverty-who of us ever appreciates poverty while we are experiencing it? We only know its value when we look back upon it! But they did-or at least Eleanor did-appreciate their isolation, never realizing that no human life can refresh another unless it may itself drink deep of human sympathies and hopes. Maurice could take this refreshment through business contacts; but, except for Mrs. O'Brien, and her baby grandson, Don, Eleanor's acquaintances in Mercer had been limited to her aunt's rather narrow circle.

When Mrs. Newbolt got back from Europe, Maurice was introduced to this circle at a small dinner given to the bride and groom to indicate family forgiveness. The guests were elderly people, who talked politics and surgical operations, and didn't know what to say to Maurice, whose blond hair and good-humored blue eyes made him seem distressingly young. Nor did Maurice know what to say to them.

"I'd have gone to sleep," he told Eleanor, in exploding mirth, on their way home, "if it hadn't been that the food was so mighty good! I kept awake, in spite of that ancient dame who hashed up the Civil War, just to see what the next course would be!"

It was about this time that Maurice began to show a little longing for companionship (outside the office) of a kind which did not remember the Civil War. His evenings of solitaire and music were awfully nice, but-

"Brown and Hastings are in college," he told his wife; "and Mort's on a job at his father's mills. I miss 'em like the devil."

"I don't want anyone but you," she said, and the tears started to her eyes; he asked her what she was crying about, and she said, "Oh, nothing." But of course he knew what it was, and he had to remind himself that "she had nervous prostration"; otherwise that terrible, hidden word "silly" would have been on his lips.

Eleanor, too, had a hidden word; it was the word "boy." It was Mrs. Newbolt who thrust it at her, in those first days of settling down into the new house. She had come in, waddling ponderously on her weak ankles, to see, she said, how the young people were getting along: "At least, one of you is young!" Mrs. Newbolt said, jocosely. She was still puffing from a climb upstairs, to find Eleanor, dusty and disheveled, in a little room in the top of the house. She was sitting on the floor in front of a trunk, with Bingo fast asleep on her skirt.

"What's this room to be?" said Mrs. Newbolt; then looked at the wall paper, gay with prancing lambs and waddling ducks, and Noah's Ark trees. "What! a nursery?" said Mrs. Newbolt; "do you mean-?"

"No," Eleanor said, reddening; "oh no! I only thought that if-"

"You are forehanded," said Mrs. Newbolt, and was silent for almost a minute. The vision of Eleanor choosing a nursery paper, for little eyes (which might never be born!) to look upon, touched her. She blinked and swallowed, then said, crossly: "You're thinner! For heaven's sake don't lose your figger! My dear grandmother used to say-I can see her now, skimmin' milk pans, and then runnin' her finger round the rim and lickin' it. She was a Dennison. I've heard her say to her daughters, I'd rather have you lose your virtue than lose your figger'; and my dear grandfather-your great-grandfather-wore knee breeches; he said-well, I suppose you'd be shocked if I told you what he said? He said, 'If a gal loses one, she-' No; I guess I won't tell you. Old maids are so refined! He wasn't an old maid, I can tell you! I brought a chocolate drop for Bingo. Have you a cook?"

Eleanor, gasping with the effort to keep up with the torrent, said, "Yes; but she doesn't know how to do things."

Mrs. Newbolt raised pudgy and protesting hands. "Get somebody who can do things! Come here, little Bingo! Eleanor, if you don't feed that boy, you'll lose him. I remember puffectly well hearin' my dear father say, 'If you want to catch a man's heart, set a trap in his stomach.' Bingo! Bingo!" (The little dog, standing on his hind legs, superciliously accepted a chocolate drop-then ran back to Eleanor.) "Maurice will be a man one of these days, and a man can't live on love; he wants 'wittles and drink.' When I married your uncle Thomas, my dear father said, 'Feed him-and amuse him.' So I made up my mind on my weddin' day to have good food and be entertainin'. And I must say I did it! I fed your dear uncle, and I talked to him, until he died." She paused, and looked at the paper on the wall. "I hope the Lord will send you children; it will help you hold the boy-and perhaps you'll be more efficient! You'll have to be, or they'll die. Get a cook." Then, talking all the way downstairs, she trundled off, in angry, honest, forgiving anxiety for her niece's welfare.

Eleanor, planning for the little sunny room, felt bruised by that bludgeon word-which, as it happened, was not accurate, for Maurice, by this time, had gained a maturity of thought and patience that put him practically out of boyhood. When Eleanor repeated her caller's remarks to him, she left that one word out; "Auntie implied," she said, "that you wouldn't love me, if you didn't have fancy cooking."

"She's a peach on cooking herself," declared Maurice; "but, as far as my taste goes, I don't give a hoot for nightingales' tongues on toast."

So, as fancy cooking was not a necessity to Maurice, and as he had resigned himself to an absence of any social life, and didn't really mind smoking in a room with a silly paper on the walls (he had been very much touched when Eleanor told him what the paper meant to her in hope, and unsatisfied longing), he was perfectly contented in the ugly little house in the raw, new street. In point of fact, music and books provided the Bread of Life to Maurice-with solitaire thrown in as a pleasant extra!-so "wittles and drink" did not begin to be a consideration until the first year of married life had passed. Eleanor remembered the date when-because of something Maurice said-she began to realize that they must be considered. It was on the anniversary of their wedding-a cloudy, cold day; but all the same, with valiant sentimentality, they went-Bingo at their heels-to celebrate, in the meadow of those fifty-four minutes of married life. As they crossed the field, where the tides of blossoming grass ebbed and flowed in chilly gusts of wind, they reminded each other of the first time they had come there, and of every detail of the elopement. When they sat down under the locust tree, Eleanor opened her pocketbook and showed him the little grass ring, lying flat and brittle in a small envelope; and he laughed, and said when he got rich he would buy her a circle of emeralds!

"It's confoundedly cold," he said; "b-r-r! ... Oh, I must tell you the news: I got one in on 'em at the office this morning: Old West has been stung on a big block on Taylor Street. Nothing doing. No tenants. I've been working on a fellow for a month, and, by George! I've landed him! I told him the elevator service was rotten-and one or two other pretty little things they've been sliding over, gracefully, at the office; but I landed him! Say, Nelly, Morton asked me to go to a stag party to-morrow night; do you mind if I go?"

She smiled vaguely at his truthtelling; then sighed, and said, "Why, no; if you want to. Maurice, do you remember you said we'd come back here for our golden wedding?"

"So I did! I'd forgotten. Gosh! maybe we'll be grandparents by that time!" The idea seemed to him infinitely humorous, but she winced. "What a memory you have!" he said. "You ought to be in Weston's! They'd never catch you forgetting where some idiot left the key of the coal bin."

"I sang 'Kiss thy perfumed garments'; remember?"

"'Course I do. Hit 'em again."

She laughed, but ruefully; he had not spoken just that way a year ago. She noticed, suddenly, how much older he looked than on that worshiping day-still the blue, gay eyes, the wind-ruffled blond hair, the hilarious laugh that displayed the very white teeth; but all the same he looked older by more than one year: his mouth had a firmer line; his whole clean-cut face showed responsibility and eager manhood.

Eleanor, clasping her hands around her knees, and watching the grass ebbing and flowing in the wind, sang, "O Spring!" and Maurice, listening, his eyes following the brown ripple of the river lisping in the shallows around the sandbar, and flowing-flowing-like Life, and Time, and Love, sighed with satisfaction at the pure beauty of her voice. "The notes are like wings," he said; "give us a sandwich. I'm about starved."

They spread out their luncheon, and Maurice expressed his opinion of it: "This cake is the limit!" He threw a piece of it at the little dog. "There, Bingo!... Eleanor, he's losing his waist line. But this cake won't fatten him! It's sawdust."

"Hannah is a poor cook," she agreed, nervously; "but if I didn't keep her I don't know what she would do, she's so awfully deaf! She couldn't get another place."

"Why don't you teach her to do things? I suppose she thinks we can live on love," he said, chuckling.

She bit her lip,-and thought of Mrs. Newbolt. "Because I don't know how myself," she said.

"Why don't you learn?" he suggested, feeding the rest of his cake to Bingo; "Edith used to make bully cake-"

She said, with a worried look, that she would try-

Instantly he was patient and very gentle, and said that the cake didn't matter at all! "But I move we try boarding."

They were silent, watching the slipping gleam on the ripples, until Eleanor said, "Oh, Maurice,-if we only had a child!"

"Maybe we will some day," he said, cheerfully. Then, to tease Bingo, he put his arms around his wife and hugged her,-which made the little dog burst into a volley of barks! Maurice laughed, but remembered that he was hungry and said again, "Let's board."

Eleanor, soothing Bingo, wild-eyed and trembling with jealous love, said no! she would try to have things better. "Perhaps I'll get as clever as Edith," she said-and her lip hardened.

He said he wished she would: "Edith used to make a chocolate cake I'd sell my soul for, pretty nearly! Why didn't Hannah give us hard-boiled eggs?" he pondered, burrowing in the luncheon basket for something more to eat; "they don't take brains!"

Of course he was wrong; any cooking takes brains-and nobody seemed able, in his little household, to supply them. However, boarding was such a terrible threat, that Eleanor, dismayed at the idea of leaving that little room, waiting at the top of the house, with its ducks and shepherdesses; and thinking, too, of a whole tableful of people who would talk to Maurice! made heroic efforts to help Hannah, her mind fumbling over recipes and ingredients, as her hands fumbled over dishes and oven doors and dampers. She only succeeded in burning her wrist badly, and making the deaf Hannah say she didn't want a lady messing up her kitchen.

By degrees, however, "living on love" became more and more uncomfortable, and in October the fiasco of a little dinner for Henry Houghton made Maurice say definitely that, when their lease expired, they would board. Mr. Houghton had come to Mercer on business, bringing Edith with him, as a sort of spree for the child; and when he got home he summed up his experience to his Mary:

"That daughter of yours will be the death of me! There was one moment at dinner when only the grace of God kept me from wringing her neck. In the first place, she commented upon the food-which was awful!-with her usual appalling candor. But when she began on the 'harp'-"

"Harp?" Mary Houghton looked puzzled.

"I won't go to their house again! I detest married people who squabble in public. Let 'em scratch each other's eyes out in private if they want to, the way we do! But I'll be hanged if I look on. She calls him 'darling' whenever she speaks to him. She adores him,-poor fellow! I tell you, Mary, a mind that hasn't a single thought except love must be damned stupid to live with. I wished I was asleep a dozen times."

Maurice, too, at his own dinner table, had "wished he was asleep."

In the expectation of seeing Mr. Houghton, Eleano

r had planned an early and extra good dinner, after which they meant to take their guests out on the river and float down into the country to a spot-green, still, in the soft October days-from which they could look back at the city, with its myriad lights pricking out in the dusk, and see the copper lantern of the full moon lifting above the black line of the hills. Eleanor, taught by Maurice, had learned to feel the strange loveliness of Mercer's ugliness, and it was her idea that Mr. Houghton should feel it, too. "Edith's too much of a child to appreciate it," she said.

"She's not much of a child; she's almost fourteen!"

"I think," said Eleanor, "that if she's fourteen, she's too old to be as free and easy with men-as she is with you."

"Me? I'm just like a brother! She has no more sense of beauty than a puppy, but she'll like the boat, provided she can row, and adore you."

"Nonsense!" Eleanor said. "Oh, I hope the dinner will be good."

It was far from good; the deaf Hannah had scorched the soup, to which Edith called attention, making no effort to emulate the manners of her father, who heroically took the last drop in his plate. Maurice, anxious that Eleanor's housekeeping should shine, thought the best way to affirm it was to say that this soup was vile, "but generally our soup is fine!"

"Maurice thinks Edith is a wonderful cook," Eleanor said; her voice trembled.

Something went wrong at dessert, and Edith said, generously, that she "didn't mind a bit!" It was at that point that the race of God kept her father from murdering her, for, in a real desire to be polite and cover up the defective dessert, she became very talkative, and said, wasn't it funny? When she was little, she thought a harpy played on a harp; "and I thought you had a harp, because father-"

"I'd like some more ice cream!" Mr. Houghton interrupted, passionately.

"But there's salt in it!" said Edith, surprised. To which her father replied, breathlessly, that he believed he'd not go out on the river; he had a headache. ("Mary has got to do something about this child!")

"I'll go," Edith announced, cheerfully.

"I think I'll stay at home," Eleanor said; "my head is rather inclined to ache, too, Mr. Houghton; so we'll none of us go."

"Me and Maurice will," Edith protested, dismayed.

Maurice gave an anxious look at Eleanor: "It might do your head good, Nelly?"

"Oh, let's go by ourselves," Edith burst out; "I mean," she corrected herself, "people like father and Eleanor never enjoy the things we do. They like to talk."

"I'd like to choke you!" the exasperated father thought. But he cast a really frightened eye at Eleanor, who grew a little paler. There was some laborious talk in the small parlor, where Eleanor's piano took up most of the space: comments on the weather, and explanations of Bingo's snarling. "He's jealous," Eleanor said, with amused pride, and stroking the little faithful head that pressed so closely against her.

At which Edith began, eagerly, "Father says-" ("What the deuce will she say now?" poor Mr. Houghton thought)-"Father says Rover has a human being's horridest vice-jealousy."

"I don't think jealousy is a vice," Eleanor said, coldly.

Mr. Houghton, giving his offspring a terrible glance, said that he must go back to the hotel and take something for his headache; "And don't keep that imp out too late, Maurice. You want to get home and take care of Eleanor."

"Oh no; he doesn't," Eleanor said, and shook hands with her embarrassed guest, who was saying, under his breath, "What taste!"

Out in the street Maurice hurried so that Edith, tucking, unasked, her hand through his arm, had to skip once or twice to keep up with him.... "Maurice," she said, breathlessly, "will you let me row?"

"O Lord-yes! I don't care."

After that Edith did all the talking, until they reached the wharf where Maurice kept his boat; when Edith had secured the oars and they pushed off, he took the tiller ropes, and sat with moody eyes fixed on the water. The mortification of the dinner was gnawing him; he was thinking of the things he might have said to bring Eleanor to her senses! Yet he realized that to have said anything would have added to Mr. Houghton's embarrassment. "I'll have it out with her when I get home," he thought, hotly. "Edith started the mess; why did she say that about Mr. Houghton and Eleanor?" He glanced at her, and Edith, rowing hard, saw the sudden angry look, and was so surprised that she caught a crab, almost keeled over, laughed loudly, and said, "Goodness!" which was at that time, her most violent expletive.

"Maurice," she demanded, "did you see that lady on the float, getting into the boat with those two gentlemen?"

Maurice said, absently: "There were two or three people round. I don't know which you mean."

"The young one. She had red cheeks. I never saw such red cheeks!"

"Oh," said Maurice; "that one? Yes. I saw her. Paint."

"On her cheeks?" Edith said, with round, astonished eyes. "Do ladies put paint on their cheeks?"

Miserable as Maurice was, he did chuckle. "No, Edith; ladies don't," he said, significantly. (Such was the innocent respectability of 1903!)

Edith looked puzzled: "You mean she isn't a lady, Maurice?"

"Look out!" he said, jamming the tiller over; "you were on your right oar."

"But, Maurice," she insisted, "why do you say she isn't a lady?... Oh, Maurice! There she is now! See? In that boat?"

"Well, for Heaven's sake don't announce it to the world!" Maurice remonstrated. "Guess I'll take the oars, Edith. I want some exercise."

Edith sighed, but said, "All right." She wanted to row; but she wanted even more to get Maurice good-natured again. "He's huffy," she told herself; "he's mad at Eleanor, and so am I; but it's no sense to take my head off!" She hated to change seats-they drew in to shore to do it, a concession to safety on Maurice's part-for she didn't like to turn her back on the red-cheeked lady with the two gentlemen in the following skiff; however, she did it; after all, it was Maurice's boat, and she was his company; so, if he "wanted to row her" (thus her little friendly thoughts ran), "why, all right!" Still, she hated not to look at the lady that Maurice said was not a lady. "She must be twice as old as I am; I should think you were a lady when you were twenty-six," she reflected.

But because her back was turned to the "lady," she did not, for an instant, understand the loud splash behind them, and Maurice's exclamation, "Capsized!" The jerk of their boat, as he backed water, made it rock violently. "Idiots!" said Maurice. "I'll pick you up!" he yelled, and rowed hard toward the three people, now slapping about in not very deep water. "Tried to change seats,"-he explained to Edith. "I'm coming!" he called again.

Edith, wildly excited and swaying back and forth, like a coxswain in a boat race, screamed: "We're coming! You'll get drowned-you'll get drowned!" she assured the gasping, bubbling people, who were, somehow or other, making their muddy way toward the shore.

"Get our skiff, will you?" one of the "gentlemen" called to Maurice, who, seeing that there was no danger to any of the immersed merrymakers, turned and rowed out to the slowly drifting boat.

"Grab the painter!" he told Edith as he gained upon it; she obeyed his orders with prompt dexterity. "You can always depend on old Skeezics," Maurice told himself, with a friendly look at her. He had forgotten Eleanor's behavior, and was trying to suppress his grins at the forlorn and dripping people, who were on land now, shivering, and talking with astonishing loudness.

"Oh, the lady's cheeks are coming off!" Edith gasped, as they beached.

Maurice, shoving the trailing skiff on to its owners, said: "Can I do anything to help you?"

"I'll catch my death," said the lady, who was crying; her trickling tears and her sopping handkerchief removed what remnants of her "cheeks" the sudden bath in the river had left. As the paint disappeared, one saw how very pretty the poor draggled butterfly was-big, honey-dark eyes, and quite exquisite features. "Oh, my soul and body!-I'll die!" she said, sobbing with cold and shock.

"Here," said Maurice, stripping off his coat; "put this on."

The girl made some faint demur, and the men, who were bailing out their half-filled skiff, said, "Oh-she can have our coats."

"They're soaked, aren't they?" Maurice said; "and I don't need mine in the least."

Edith gasped; such reckless gallantry gave her an absolutely new sensation. Her heart seemed to lurch, and then jump; she breathed hard, and said, under her breath, "Oh, my!" She felt that she could never speak to Maurice again; he was truly a grown-up gentleman! Her eyes devoured him.

"Do take it," she heard him say to the crying lady, who no longer interested her; "I assure you I don't need it," he said, carelessly; and the "lady" reached out a small, shaking hand, on which the kid glove was soaking wet, and said, her teeth chattering, that she was awfully obliged.

"Get in-get in!" one of the "gentlemen" said, crossly, and as she stepped into the now bailed-out skiff, she said to Maurice, "Where shall I return it to?"

"I'll come and get it," Maurice said-and she called across the strip of water widening between the two boats:

"I'm Miss Lily Dale-" and added her street and number.

Maurice, in his shirt sleeves, lifted his hat; then looked at Edith and grinned. "Did you ever see such idiots? Those men are chumps. Did you hear the fat one jaw at the girl?"

"Did he?" Edith said, timidly. She could hardly bear to look at Maurice, he was so wonderful.

But he, entirely good-natured again, was overflowing with fun. "Let's turn around," he said, "and follow 'em! That fatty was rather happy-did you get on to that flask?"

Edith had no idea what he meant, but she said, breathlessly, "Yes, Maurice." In her own mind she was seeing again that princely gesture, that marvelous tossing of his own coat to the "lady"! "He is exactly like Sir Walter Raleigh," she said to herself. She remembered how at Green Hill she had wanted him to spread his coat before Eleanor's feet;-but that was commonplace! Eleanor was just a married person, "like mother." This was a wonderful drowning lady! Oh, he was Sir Walter! Her eyes were wide with an entirely new emotion-an emotion which made her draw back sharply when once, as he rowed, his hand touched hers. She was afraid of that careless touch. Yet oh, if he would only give her some of his clothes! Oh, why hadn't she fallen into the water! Her heart beat so that she felt she could not speak. It was not necessary; Maurice, singing a song appropriate to the lady with the red cheeks, was not aware of her silence.

"I bet," he said, "that cad takes it out of the little thing! She looked scared, didn't you think, Edith?"

"Yes, ... sir" the little girl said, breathlessly.

Maurice did not notice the new word; "Sorry not to take you down to the Point," he said; "but I ought to keep tabs on that boat. If they capsize again, somebody really might get hurt. She's a-a little fool, of course; but I'd hate to have the fat brute drown her, and he looks capable of it."

However, trailing along in the deepening dusk behind the fat brute, who was rowing hard against the current, they saw the dripping survivors of the shipwreck reach the wharf safely five minutes ahead of them, and scurry off into the darkness of the street.

Maurice, in high spirits, had quite forgiven Eleanor. "I meant to treat you to ice cream, Skeezics," he said, "but I can't go into the hotel. Shirt sleeves wouldn't be admitted in the elegant circles of the Mercer House!"

Instantly a very youthful disappointment readjusted things for Edith; she forgot that strange consciousness which had made her shrink from his careless touch; she had no impulse to say "sir"; she was back again at the point at which the red-cheeked lady had broken in upon their lives. She said, frowning: "My! I did want some ice cream. I wish you hadn't given the lady your coat!"

When Maurice got home, he found a repentant Eleanor bathing very red and swollen eyes.

"How's your head?" he said, as he came, in his shirt sleeves, into her room; she, turning to kiss him and say it was better, stopped short.

"Maurice! Where's your coat?"

His explanation deepened her repentance; "Oh, Maurice,-if you've caught cold!"

He laughed and hugged her (at which Bingo, in his basket, barked violently); and said, "The only thing that bothered me was that I couldn't treat Edith to ice cream."

Eleanor's face, passionately tender, changed sharply: "Edith is an extremely impertinent child! Did you hear her, at dinner, talk about jealousy?"

He looked blank, and said, "What was 'impertinent' in that? Say, Star, the girl in the boat was-tough; she was painted up to the nines, and of course it all came out in the wash. And Buster said her 'cheeks came off'! But she was pretty," Maurice ruminated, beginning to pull off his boots.

"I don't see how you can call a painted woman 'pretty,'" Eleanor said, coldly.

Maurice yawned. "She seemed to belong to the fat brute. He was so nasty to her, I wanted to punch his head."

"Poor girl!" Eleanor said, and her voice softened. "Perhaps I could do something for her? She ought to make him marry her."

Maurice chuckled. "Oh, Nelly, you are innocent! No, my dear; she'll paint some more, and then, probably, get to drinking; and meet one or two more brutes. When she gets quite into the gutter, she'll die. The sooner the better! I mean, the less harm she'll do."

Eleanor's recoil of pain seemed to him as exquisite as a butterfly's shrinking from some harsh finger. He looked at her tenderly. "Star, you don't know the world! And I don't want you to."

"I'd like to help her," Eleanor said, simply.

"You?" he said; "I wouldn't have you under the same roof with one of those creatures!"

His sense of her purity pleased her; the harem idea is, at bottom, pleasing to women; they may resent it with their intellect, but they all of them like to feel they are too precious for the wind of evil realities to blow upon. So, honestly enough, and with the childlike joy of the woman in love, she played up to the harem instinct, shrinking a little and asking timid questions, and making innocent eyes; and was kissed, and assured she was a lovely goose; for Maurice played up to his part, too, with equal honesty (and youth)-the part of the worldly-wise protector. It was the fundamental instinct of the human male; he resents with his intellect the idea that his woman is a fool; but the more foolish she is (on certain lines) the more important he feels himself to be! So they were both very contented, until Maurice happened to say again that he was sorry to have disappointed Edith about the ice cream.

"She's a greedy little thing," Eleanor said from her pillows; her voice was irritated.

"What nonsense!" Maurice said; "as for ice cream, all youngsters like it. I know I do!"

"I saw her hang on to your arm as you went down the street," Eleanor said. "Mrs. Houghton ought to tell her that nice girls don't paw men!"

"Eleanor! She's nothing but a child, and I'm her brother-"

"You are not her brother."

"Oh, Eleanor, don't be so-" he paused; oh, that dreadful word which must not be spoken!-"so unreasonable," he ended, wearily. He lay down beside her in the darkness, and by and by he heard her crying, very softly. "Oh, lord!" he said; and turned over and went to sleep.

Thus do the clouds return after rain. Yet each day the sun rises again....

At breakfast Eleanor, with a pitying word for the "poor thing," reminded her husband that he must go and get his coat.

He said, "Gosh! I'd forgotten it!" and added that he liked his eggs softer. He would have "played up" again, and smiled at her innocence, if he had thought of it, but he was really concerned about his eggs, "Hannah seems to think I like brickbats," he said, good-naturedly.

Eleanor winced; "Poor Hannah is so stupid! But she's getting deafer every day, so I can't send her away!" Added to her distress at the scorched soup of the night before, was this new humiliation of "brickbats;" naturally she forgot the "poor thing."

Maurice almost forgot her himself; but as he left the office in the afternoon he did remember the coat. At the address which the red-cheeked lady had given him, he found her card-"Miss Lily Dale"-below a letter box in the tiled, untidy vestibule of a yellow-brick apartment house, where he waited, grinning at the porcelain ornateness about him, for a little jerking elevator to take him up to the fourth floor. There, in a small, gay, clean parlor of starched lace curtains, and lithographs, and rows of hyacinth bulbs just started in blue and purple glasses on the window sill, he found the red-cheeked young lady, rather white-cheeked. Indeed, there were traces of hastily wiped-away tears on her pretty face.

"My friend, Mr. Batty, said I upset the boat," she said, taking the coat out of the wardrobe and brushing it briskly with a capable little hand.

The coat reeked with perfumery, and Maurice said, "Phew!" to himself; but threw it over his arm, and said that Mr. Batty had only himself to blame. "A man ought to know enough not to let a lady move about in a rowboat!"

"Won't you be seated?" Lily said; she lighted a cigarette, and shoved the box over to him, across the varnished glitter of the table top.

Maurice, introducing himself-"My name's Curtis";-and, taking in all the details of the comfortable, vulgar little room, sat down, took a cigarette, and said it was a warm day for October; she said she hated heat, and he said he liked winter best.... Then he saw a bruise on her wrist and said: "Why, you gave yourself a dreadful knock, didn't you? Was it on the rowlock?"

Her face dropped into sullen lines: "It wasn't the boat did it."

Maurice, with instant discretion, dropped the subject. But he was sorry for her; she made him think of a beaten kitten. "You must take care of that wrist," he said, his blue eyes full of sympathy. When he went away he told himself he had spotted the big man as a brute the minute he saw him. The "kitten" seemed to him so pathetic that he forgot Eleanor's exquisiteness, and told her about the bruised wrist and the reeking coat, and how pretty the girl was.

"I don't know anything vulgarer than perfumery!" his wife said, with a delicate shrug.

Maurice agreed, adding, with a grin, that he had noticed that when ladies were short on the odor of sanctity, they were long on the odor of musk.

"I always keep dried rose leaves in my bureau drawers," Eleanor said; and he had the presence of mind to say, "You are a rose yourself!"

A husband's "presence of mind" in addressing his wife is, of course, a confession; it means they are not one-for nobody makes pretty speeches to oneself! However, Maurice's "rose" made no such deduction.

* * *

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