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   Chapter 25 No.25

The Vehement Flame By Margaret Wade Campbell Deland Characters: 33350

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:05

When a rather shaky Jacky was discharged from the hospital, Lily notified Maurice of his recovery and added that she had moved.

I couldn't [Lily wrote] go back to that woman who turned me out when Jacky was sick: so I got me a little house on Maple Street-way down at the far end from where I was before, so you needn't worry about anybody seeing me. My rent's higher, but there's a swell church on the next street. I meant to move, anyway, because I found out that there was a regular huzzy living in the next house on Ash Street, painted to beat the band! And I don't want Jacky to see that kind. I've got five mealers. But eggs is something fierce. I am writing these few lines to say Jacky's well, and I hope they find you in good health. It was real nice in you to fix that up at the hospital for me. I hope you'll come and see us one of these days.

Your friend,


P.S.-Of course I'm sorry for her poor old father.

Reading this, Maurice said to himself that it would be decent to go and see Lily; which meant, though he didn't know it, that he wanted to see Jacky. He wasn't aware of anything in the remotest degree like affection for the child; he just had this inarticulate purpose of seeing him, which took the form of saying that it would be "decent" to inquire about him. However, he did not yield to this formless wish until June. Then, on that very afternoon when Mrs. Newbolt had been so shatteringly frank to Eleanor, he walked down to the "far end of Maple Street." And as he walked, he suddenly remembered that it was "The Day"! "Great Scott! I forgot it!" he thought. "Funny, Eleanor didn't remind me. Maybe she's forgotten, too?" But he frowned at the bad taste of such an errand on such a day, and would have turned back-but at that moment he saw what (with an eagerness of which he was not conscious!) he had been looking for-a tow-headed boy, who, pulling a reluctant dog along by a string tied around his neck, was following a hand organ. And Maurice forgot his wedding anniversary!

He freed the half-choked puppy, and told his son what he thought. But Jacky, glaring up at the big man who interfered with his joys, told his father what he thought:

"If I was seven years old, I'd lick the tar out of you! But I'm six, going on seven."

Maurice, looking down on this miniature self, was, to his astonishment, quite diverted. "You need a licking yourself, young man! Is your mother at home?"

Jacky wouldn't answer.

Maurice took a quarter out of his pocket and held it up. "Know what that is?"

Jacky, advancing slowly, looked at the coin, but made no response.

"Come back to the house and find your mother, and I'll give it to you."

Jacky, keeping at a displeased distance behind the visitor, followed him to his own gate, then darted into the house, yelled, "Maw!" returned, and held out his hand.

Maurice gave him the quarter and went into the parlor, where the south window was full of plants, and the sunshine was all a green fragrance of rose geraniums. When a shiningly clean, smiling Lily appeared-evidently from the kitchen, for she was carrying a plate of hot gingerbread-she found Maurice sitting down, his hands in his pockets, his long legs stretched out in front of him, baiting Jacky with questions, and chuckling at the courageous impudence of the youngster.

"He's no fool," said Maurice to himself. "This kid is a handful!" he told Lily ... "You're a bully cook!"

"You bet he is!" Lily said, proudly. "Have another piece? I've got to take some over to Ash Street for that poor old man.... Oh yes; I was kind of put out at his daughter. Wouldn't you think, if anyone was enough of a lady to wash your father, you wouldn't go to the Board of Health about her? But there! The old gentleman's silly, so I have to take him some gingerbread.... Say, I must tell you something funny-he's the cutest young one! I gave him five cents for the missionary box, and he went and bought a jew's-harp! I had to laugh, it was so cute in him. But I declare, sometimes I don't know what I'm going to do with him, he's that fresh!"

"Spank him," Maurice advised.

Lily looked annoyed; "He suits me-and he belongs to me."

"Of course he does! You needn't think that I-" he paused; something would not let him finish those denying words: "that I-want him." Jacky, standing with stocky legs wide apart, his hands behind him, his fearless blue eyes looking right into Maurice's, made his father's heart quicken. Jacky was Lily's, of course, but-

So they looked at each other-the big, blond, handsome father and the little son-and Jacky said, "Mr. Curtis, does God see everything?"

"Why, yes," Maurice said, rather confused, "He does; Jacky. So," he ended, with proper solemnity, "you must be a very good boy."

"Why," said Jacky, "will He get one in on me if I ain't?"

"So I'm told," said Maurice.

"Does He see everything?" Jacky pressed, frowning; and Maurice said:

"Yes, sir! Everything."

Jacky reflected and sighed. "Well," he said, "I should think He'd laugh when he sees your shoes."

"Why! what's the matter with my shoes?" his discomfited father said, looking down at his feet. "My shoes are all right!" he defended himself.

"Big," Jacky said, shyly.

Maurice roared, crushed a geranium leaf in his hand, and asked his son what he was going to be when he grew up; "Theology seems to be your long suit, Jacobus. Better go into the Church."

Jacky shook his head. "I'm going to be a enginair. Or a robber."

"I'd try engineering if I were you. People don't like robbers."

"But I'll be a nice robber," Jacky explained, anxiously.

"I'll bring you a train of cars some day," Maurice said.

"Say, 'Thank you,' Jacky," Lily instructed him.

Again Jacky shook his head. "He 'ain't gimme the cars yet."

Maurice was immensely amused. "He wants the goods before he signs a receipt! I'll buy some cars for him."

"My soul and body!" said Lily, following him to the door; "that boy gets 'round everybody! Well, what do you suppose? I go to church with him! Ain't that rich? Me! He don't like church-though he's crazy about the music. But I take him. And I don't have to listen to what the man says. I just plan out the food for a week. Sometimes,"-her amber eyes were lovely with anxiously pondering love-"sometimes I don't know but what I'll make a preacher of him? Some preachers marry money, and get real gentlemanly. And then again I think I'd rather have him a clubman. But, anyway, I'm savin' up every last cent to educate him!"

"He's worth it," Maurice said, and there was pride in his voice; "yes, we must-I mean, you must educate him."

On his way home, stopping to buy some flowers for his wife, Maurice found himself thinking of Jacky as a boy ... as a mighty bright boy, who must be educated. As-his boy!

"You forgot the day," he challenged Eleanor, good-naturedly, when he handed her the violets.

She said, briefly, "No; I hadn't forgotten."

The pain in her worn face made him wince.... But he was able to forget it in thinking of the toys he had ordered for Jacky on the way home. "I'd like to see him playing with them," he said to himself, reflecting upon the track, and the engine, and the very expensive wonder of a tiny snow plow. But he didn't yield to the impulse to see the boy for a month. For one thing, he was afraid to. The recollection of that day when Lily's doorstep had been the edge of a volcano still made him shiver; and as Eleanor had briefly but definitely refused to take her usual "vacation" at Green Hill without him, there was no time when he could be sure that she would not wander out to Medfield! So it was not until one August afternoon, when he knew that she was going to a concert, that he went to Maple Street. But first he bought a top;-and just as he was leaving the office, he went back and rummaged in a pigeonhole in his desk and found a tiny gilt hatchet; "it will amuse him," he thought, cynically.

Lily was not at home; but Jacky was sitting on the back doorstep, twanging his jew's-harp. He was shy at first, and tongue-tied; then wildly excited on learning that there were "presents" in Mr. Curtis's pocket. When the top was produced, he dropped his jew's-harp to watch it spin on a string held between Maurice's hands; then he devoted himself to the hatchet, and chopped his father's knee, energetically. "Pity there's no cherry tree round," said Maurice; "Look here, Jacobus, I want you always to tell the truth. Understand?"

"Huh?" said Jacky. However, under the spell of his gifts he became quite conversational; he said that one of these here automobiles drooled a lot of oil. "An' it ran into the gutter. An' say, Mr. Curtis, I saw a rainbow in a puddle. An' say, it was handsome." After that he got out his locomotive and its cars. Maurice mended a broken switch for him, and then they laid the tracks on the kitchen floor, and the big father and the little son pushed the train under a table; that was a roundhouse, Maurice told Jacky. ("Why don't they have a square house?" Jacky said); and beneath the lounge-which was a tunnel, the bigger boy announced ("What is a tunnel?" said Jacky)-and over Lily's ironing board stretched between two stools; "That's a trestle." ("What grows trestles?" Jacky demanded.) Exercise, and a bombardment of questions, brought the perspiration out on Maurice's forehead. He took off his coat, and arranged the tracks so that the switches would stop derailing trains. In the midst of it the door opened, and Jacky said, sighing, "Maw."

Lily came in, smiling and good-natured, and very red-faced with the fatigue of carrying a hideous leprous-leaved begonia she had bought; but when she saw the intimacy of the railroad, she frowned. "He'll wear out his pants, crawling round that way," she said, sharply. "Now, you get up, Jacky, and don't be bothering Mr. Curtis."

"He brung me two presents. I like presents. Mr. Curtis, does God eat stars?"

"God doesn't eat," Maurice said, amused; "I'd say 'brought,' instead of 'brung,' if I were you."

"Hasn't He got any mouth?" Jacky said, appalled.

"Well, no," Maurice began (entering that path of unanswerable questions in which all parents are ordained to walk); "You see, God-why, God, He hasn't any mouth. He-"

"Has He got a beak?" Jacky said, intensely interested.

"Lily, for Heaven's sake," Maurice implored, "doesn't he ever stop?"

"Never," said Lily, resignedly, "except when he's asleep. And nobody can answer him. But I wish he'd let up on God. I tell him whatever pops into my head. When it comes to God, I guess one thing 's as true as another. Anyway, nobody can prove it ain't."

Just as Maurice was going away, his theological son detained him by a little clutch at his coat. "I'll give you a present next time you come," Jacky said, shyly.

Even the hope of a present did not lure Maurice out to Maple Street very soon. But it was self-preservation, as well as fear of discovery, which kept him away. "If I saw much of him I might-well, get kind of fond of the little beggar."

The same thought may have occurred to Lily; at any rate, when, four weeks later, Jacky's father came again; she didn't welcome him in quite her old, sweet, hospitable way; but Jacky welcomed him!... Jacky knew his mother as his slave; he showed her an absent-minded affection when he wanted to get anything out of her; but he knew Mr. Curtis as "The Man"-the man who "ordered him round," to be sure, but who gave him presents and who,-Jacky boasted to some of his gutter companions,-"could spit two feet farther than the p'leesman."

"Aw, how do you know?" the other boys scoffed.

Jacky, evading the little matter of evidence, said, haughtily, "I know."

When "The Man" declared that next fall Jacky was to go to school, regularly, and not according to his own sweet will, Jacky waited until he was alone with his mother to kick and scream and say he wouldn't. Lily slapped him, and said, "Mr. Curtis will give you a present if you're on time every morning!"

She told Maurice to what she had committed him: "You see, I'm bound to educate him, and make a gentleman of him, so he can have an automobile, and marry a society girl. No chippy is going to get Jacky-smoking cigarettes, and saying 'La! La!' to any man that comes along. I hate those cheap girls. Look at the paint on 'em. I don't see how they have the face to show themselves on the street! Well, I can't make him prompt at school; but he'll be Johnny-on-the-spot if you say so. My soul and body, he'll do anything for you! He's saved up all his prayer money and bought a lot of chewing gum for you."

"Great Scott!" said Maurice, appalled at the experimental obligations which his son's gift might involve.

"So I told him that next winter you'd give him a box of candy every Saturday if he was on time all the week. I ain't asking you to go to any expense," she pleaded; "I'll buy the candy. But you promise him-"

"I'll promise him a spanking if he's not on time, once," Maurice retorted; "for Heaven's sake, Lily, let up on spoiling him!"

At which Lily said: "He's my boy! I guess I know how to bring him up!"

Maurice, the next morning, looking across his breakfast table at Eleanor and remembering this remark, said to himself: "Lily needn't worry; I don't want him-and I couldn't have him if I did! But what is going to become of him?"

His new, slowly awakening sense of responsibility expressed itself in this unanswerable question, which irritated his mind as a splinter might have irritated his flesh. He thought of it constantly-thought of it when Eleanor sang (with a slurred note once or twice), "O sweet, O sweet content!" Thought of it when his conscience reminded him that he must have tea with her in the garden under the poplar on Sunday afternoons. Thought of it when he and she went up to the Houghtons', to spend Labor Day (she would not go without him!). Perhaps the thing that gave him some moments of forgetfulness was a quite different irritation which he felt when, on reaching Green Hill, he discovered that John Bennett, too, was spending Labor Day in the mountains. Johnny had come he said, to see his father.... "I wouldn't have known it if he hadn't mentioned it!" said Doctor Bennett; for, Johnny practically lived at the Houghtons', where Edith was so painstakingly kind to him that he was a good deal discouraged; but the two families made pleasing deductions! Mary Houghton intimated as much to Maurice.

"What!" he said. "Are they engaged?"

"Well, no; not yet."

There was a little pause; then Maurice (this was one of the moments when he forgot Jacky's future!) said, with great heartiness, "Old John's in luck!" He and Mrs. Houghton were sitting on the porch in that somnolent hour after dinner, before she went upstairs to take a nap, and Maurice should go over to the Bennetts' for singles with Johnny; Eleanor was resting. Out on the lawn in the breezy sun and shadow under the tulip tree, Edith, fresh from a shampoo, was reading. Now and then she tossed her head like a colt, to make her fluffy hair blow about in a glittering brown nimbus.

Maurice got up and sauntered over to her. "Coming to see me wallop Johnny?"

"Maybe; if my horrid old hair ever dries."

Maurice looked at the "horrid old hair," and wished he could put out his hand and touch it. He was faintly surprised at himself that he didn't do it! "How mad I used to make her when I pulled her hair!" Now, he couldn't even put a finger on it. He remembered the night of Lily's distracted telegram, when he had taken Edith to Fern Hill, and she had "bet on him," and had been again, just for an instant, so entirely the "little girl" of their old frank past, that she had kissed him! "So, why can't I touch her hair, now?" he pondered; "we are just like brother and sister." But he knew he couldn't. Aloud, he said, "Don't be lazy, Skeezics," and lounged off toward Doctor Bennett's. His face was heavy.

At the doctor's, John, sitting on a gate post, waiting for him, yelled, derisively: "You're late! 'Fraid of getting walloped? Where's Buster?"

"She's forgotten all about you. Get busy!" Maurice commanded.

They played, neither of them with much zest, and both of them with glances toward the road. The walloping was fairly divided; but it was Maurice who gave out first, and said he had to go home. ("Eleanor'll be hunting for me, the first thing I know," he thought.)

"Tell Edith I'll come over to-night," Johnny called after him.

"I'm not carrying billets-doux," Maurice retorted. "I suppose," he thought, listlessly, "it will be a short engagement." He went home

by the path through the woods, and halfway back Edith met him-the shining hair dried, but inclined to tumble over her ears, so that her hat slipped about on her head. She said:

"Johnny lick you?"

"Johnny? No! He's not up to it!" They both grinned, and Maurice sat down on a wayside log to put a knot in a broken shoestring. Edith sat down, too, trying to keep her hat on, and cursing (she said) the unreliability of her hair. The shoestring mended, Maurice batted a tall fern with his racket.

"Eleanor's sort of forlorn, Maurice?" Edith said. "Generally is." He slashed at the fern, and she heard him sigh. "That time she dragged me down the mountain took it out of her."

Edith nodded; then she said, with her straight look: "You're a perfect lamb, Maurice! You are awfully"-she wanted to say "patient," but there was an implication in that; so she said, lamely-"nice to Eleanor."

"The Lord knows I ought to be!" he said, cynically.

"Yes; she just about killed herself to save you," Edith agreed.

"Oh, not because of that!"

The misery in his voice startled her; she said, quickly, "How do you mean, Maurice? I don't understand."

"I ought to be 'nice' to her."

"But you are! You are!"

"I'm not."

"Maurice, I'm awfully fond of Eleanor; you won't think I'm finding fault, or anything? But sometimes, when she doesn't feel very well, she-you-I mean, you really are a lamb, Maurice!"

Edith was twenty that summer-a strong, gay creature; but her old, ridiculous, incorrigible candor (and that honest kiss in the darkness!) made her still a child to Maurice.... Yet Johnny Bennett was going to marry her!... Maurice rested his chin on his left fist, and batted the fern; then he said:

"I've been infernally mean to Eleanor. It's little enough to be 'nice,' as you call it, now."

She flew to his defense. "Talk sense! You never did a mean thing in your life."

His shrug fired her into a frankness which she regretted the next minute. "Maurice, you are too good for Eleanor-or anybody," she ended, hastily.

He gave her a look of entreaty for understanding-though he knew, he thought, that in her ignorance of life she couldn't understand even if she had been told! Yet for the mere relief of speaking, he skirted the ugly truth:

"I can't be too patient with her when she's forlorn, because I-I haven't played the game with her."

"It's up to her to forgive that!"

"She doesn't know it."

"Maurice! You haven't a secret from Eleanor?"

Her dismay was like a stab. "Edith, I can't help it! It was a long time ago-but it would upset her to know that I'd-well, failed her in any way." His face was so wrung that Edith could have cried; but she said what she thought:

"Secrets are horrid, Maurice. You've made a mistake."

"A 'mistake'?" He almost laughed at the devilish humor of that little word 'mistake,' as applied to his ruined life. "Well, yes, Edith; I made a 'mistake,' all right."

"Oh, I don't mean a 'mistake' as to this thing you say that Eleanor wouldn't like," Edith said. "I mean not telling her."

He shook his head; with that nagging thought of Jacky in the back of his mind, it was impossible not to smile at her dogmatic ignorance.

"Because," Edith explained, "secrets trip you into fibbing."

"You bet they do! I'm quite an accomplished liar."

Edith did not smile; she spoke with impatient earnestness: "That's perfectly silly; you are not a liar! You couldn't lie to save your life, and you know it." Maurice laughed. "Why, Maurice, don't you suppose I know you, through and through? I know what you are!-a 'perfec' gentil knight.'"

She laughed, and Maurice threw up his hands.

"Bouquets," Edith conceded, grinning; "but I won't hand out any more, so you needn't fish! Well, I don't know what on earth you've done, and I don't care; and you can't tell me, of course! But one thing I do know; it isn't fair to Eleanor not to tell her, because-"

"My dear child-"

"Because she wouldn't really mind, she's so awfully devoted to you. Oh, Maurice, do tell Eleanor!" Then, even as she spoke, she was frightened; what was this thing that he did not dare to tell Eleanor?-"or me?" Edith thought. It couldn't be that Maurice-was not good? Edith quailed at herself. She had a quick impulse to say, "Forgive me, Maurice, for even thinking of such a horrid thing!" But all she said, aloud, briefly, was, "As I see it, telling Eleanor would be playing the game."

Maurice put his hand over her fist, clenched with conviction on her knee. "Skeezics," he said, "you are the soundest thing the Lord ever made! As it happens, it's a thing I can't talk about-to anybody. But I'll never forget this, Edith. And ... dear, I'm glad you're going to be happy; you deserve the best man on earth, and old Johnny comes mighty darned near being the best!"

Edith, frowning, rose abruptly. "Please don't talk that way. I hate that sort of talk! Johnny is my friend; that's all. So, please never-"

"I won't," Maurice said, meekly; but some swift exultation made him add to himself, "Poor old Johnny!" His face was radiant.

As for Edith, she hardly spoke all the way back to the house. But not because of "poor old Johnny"! She was absorbed by that intuition-which she did not, she told herself, believe. Yet it clamored in her mind: Maurice had done something wrong. Something so wrong, that he couldn't speak of it, even to her! Then it must be-? "No! that's impossible!" But with this recoil from a disgusting impossibility, came an upsurge of something she had never felt in her life-something not unlike that emotion she had once called Bingoism-a resentful consciousness that Maurice had not been as completely and confidentially her friend as she was his!

But Edith hadn't a mean fiber in her! Instantly, on the heels of that small pain came a greater and nobler pain: "I can't bear it if he has done anything wrong! But if he has, it's some wicked woman's fault." As she said that, anger at an injury done to Maurice made her almost forget that first virginal repulsion-and made her entirely forget that fleeting pain of knowing that she had not meant as much to him as he meant to her! "But he hasn't done anything wrong," she insisted; "he wouldn't look at a horrid? woman!"

"For Heaven's sake, Edith," Maurice remonstrated; "this isn't any Marathon! Go slow. I'm not in any hurry to get home."

"I am," Edith said, briefly. She was in a great hurry! She wanted to be alone, and argue to herself that she had been guilty of a dreadful disloyalty to him.... "Maurice? Why! He would be the last man in the world to-to do that,-darling old Maurice! He has simply had a crush on somebody, and likes her better than he likes Eleanor-or me; but that's nothing. Eleanor deserves it; and very likely I do, too! But he's so frightfully honorable about Eleanor-he's a perfect crank on honor!-that he blames himself for even that." By this time the possibility that the unknown somebody was "horrid" had become unthinkable; she was probably terribly attractive, and Maurice had a crush on ... "though, of course, she can't be really nice," Edith thought; "Maurice simply doesn't see through her. Boys are so stupid! They don't know girls," Again there was a Bingo moment of hot dislike for the "girl," whoever she was!-and she walked faster and faster.

Maurice, striding along beside her, was thinking of the irony of the "bouquet" she had thrown at him, and the innocence of that "Tell Eleanor"! "What a child she is still! And she's not in love with Johnny-" He didn't understand his exhilaration when he said that, but, except when he reproached her for tearing ahead, it kept him silent...

Supper was ready when they got home, so Edith had no chance to be solitary, and after supper Johnny Bennett dropped in. When he took his reluctant departure ("Confound him!" Maurice thought, impatiently, "he has on his sitting breeches to-night!") Maurice told Edith to come into the garden with him, and listen to the evening primroses; "They 'blossom with a silken burst of sound'-they do!" he insisted, for she jeered at the word "listen."

"They don't!" she said, and ran down the steps, flitting ahead of him in the dusk like a white moth. In their preoccupation, they neither of them looked at Eleanor; sitting silently on the porch between Mr. and Mrs. Houghton. They went, between the box hedges, to the primrose border, and Maurice quoted:

Silent they stood.

Hand clasped in hand, in breathless hush around!

And saw her shyly doff her soft green hood,

And blossom-with a silken burst of sound!

"Let's clasp hands," Maurice suggested.

"No, thank you," said Edith. And so they watched and listened. A tightly twisted bud loosened half a petal-then another half-and another-until it was all a shimmering whorl of petals, each caught at one side to the honeyed crosspiece of the pistil; then: "There!" said Maurice. "Did you hear it?"-all the silken disks were loose, and the flower cup, silver-gilt, spilled its fragrance into the stillness!

"It was the dream of a sound," she admitted

Her voice was a dream sound, too, he thought; a wordless tenderness for her flooded his mind, as the perfume of the primroses flooded the night. It seemed as if the lovely ignorance of her was itself a perfume! "'Tell Eleanor'! She doesn't know the wickedness of the world, and I don't want her to." He put his hand on her shoulder in the old, brotherly way-but drew it back as if something had burned him! That recoil should have revealed things to him, but it didn't. So far as his own consciousness went, he was too intent on what he called "the square deal" for Eleanor, to know what had happened to him; all he knew was that Edith, all of a sudden, was grown up! Her childishness was gone. He mustn't even put his hand on her shoulder! He had an uneasy moment of wondering-"Girls are so darned knowing, nowadays!"-whether she might be suspicious as to what that secret was, which she had advised him to "tell Eleanor"? But that was only for a moment; "Edith's not that kind of a girl. And, anyway, she'd never think of such a thing of me-which makes me all the more rotten!" So he clutched at Edith's undeserved faith in him, and said, "She'll never think of that." Still, she was grown up ... and he mustn't touch her. (This was one of the times when he was not worrying about Jacky!)

Edith, talking animatedly of primroses, had her absorbing thoughts, too; they were nothing but furious denial! "Maurice-horrid? Never!" Then, on the very breath of "Never," came again the insistent reminder: "But he could tell me anything, except-" So, thinking of just one thing, and talking of many other things, she walked up and down the primrose path with Maurice. They neither of them wanted to go back to the three older people: the father and mother-and wife.

Eleanor, on the porch, strained her eyes into the dusk; now and then she caught a glimmer of the dim whiteness of Edith's skirt, or heard Maurice's voice. She was suffering so that by and by she said, briefly, to her hosts-her trembling with unshed tears-"Good night," and went upstairs, alone-an old, crying woman. Eleanor had been unreasonable many times; but this time she was not unreasonable! That night anyone could have seen that she was, to Maurice, as nonexistent as any other elderly woman might have been. The Houghtons saw it, and when she went into the house Mary Houghton said, with distress:

"She suffers!"

Her husband nodded, and said he wished he was asleep. "Why," he demanded, "are women greater fools about this business than men? Poor Maurice ventures to talk to Edith of 'shoes and ships and sealing wax,'-and Eleanor weeps! Why are there more jealous women than men?"

"Because," Mary Houghton said, dryly, "more men give cause for jealousy than women."

"Touché! Touché!" he conceded; then added, quickly, "But Maurice isn't giving any cause."

"Well, I'm not so sure," she said.

Up in her own room, Eleanor, sitting in the dark by the open window, stared out into the leafy silence of the night. Once, down in the garden, Maurice laughed;-and she struck her clenched hand on her forehead:

"I can't bear it!" she said, gaspingly, aloud; "I can't bear it-she interests him!" His pleasure in Edith's mind was a more scorching pain to her than the thought of Lily's body....

Later, when Maurice and Edith came up from the garden darkness, they found a deserted porch. "Let's talk," he said, eagerly.

Edith shook her head. "Too sleepy," she said, and ran upstairs. He called after her, "Quitter!" But it provoked no retort, and he would have gone back to walk up and down alone, by the primroses, and worry over Jacky's future, if a melancholy voice had not come from the window of their room: "Maurice.... It's twelve o'clock." And he followed Edith indoors....

Edith had been sharply anxious to be by herself. She could not sit on the porch with Maurice, and not burst out and tell him-what? Tell him that nothing he had done could make the slightest difference to her! "He has probably met some awfully nice girl and likes her-a good deal. As for there being anything wrong, I don't believe it! That would be horrible. I'm a beast to have thought of such a thing!" She decided to put it out of her mind, and went to her desk, saying, "I'll straighten out my accounts."

She began, resolutely; added up one column, and subtracted the total from another; said: "Gosh! I'm out thirty dollars!" nibbled the end of her pen, and reflected that she would have to work on her father's sympathies;-then, suddenly, her pen still in her hand, she sat motionless.

"Even if there was anything-bad, I'd forgive him. He's a lamb!" But as she spoke, childishness fell away-she was a deeply distressed woman. Maurice was suffering. And she knew, in spite of her assertions to the contrary, that it wasn't because of any slight thing; any "crush" on a girl-nice or otherwise! He was suffering because he had done wrong-and she couldn't tear downstairs and say: "Maurice, never mind! I love you just as much; I don't care what you've done!" Why couldn't she say that? Why couldn't she go now, and sit on the porch steps beside him, and say-anything? She got up and began to walk about the room; her heart was beating smotheringly. "Why shouldn't I tell him I love him so that I'd forgive-anything? He knows I've always loved him!-next to father and mother. Why can't I tell him so, now?" Then something in her breast, beating like wings, made her know why she couldn't tell him!

"I love him; that's why."

After a while she said: "There's nothing wrong in it. I have a right to love him! He'll never know. How funny that I never knew-until to-night! Yet I've felt this way for ever so long. I think since that time at Fern Hill, when he was so bothered and wouldn't tell me what was the matter." Yes; it was strange that now, when some stabbing instinct had made her know that Maurice was not her "perfec' gentil knight," that same instinct should make her know that she loved him!... Not with the old love; not with the love that could overflow into words, the love that had kissed him when he had been "bothered"! "I can never kiss him again," she thought. She did not love him, now, "next to father and mother-dear darlings!" And when she said that, Edith knew that the "darlings" were of her past. "I love them next to Maurice," she thought, smiling faintly. "Well, he will never know it! Nobody will ever know it.... I'll just keep on loving him as long as I live." She had no doubt about that; and she did not drop into the self-consciousness of saying, "I am wronging Eleanor." That, to Edith, would not have been sense. She knew that she was not "wronging" anyone. As for the unknown girl, who, perhaps, had "wronged" Eleanor, and about whom, now, Maurice was so ashamed and so repentant-she was of no consequence anyhow. "Of course she is bad," Edith thought, "and the whole thing was her fault!" But it was in the past; he had said so. "He said it was long ago. If," she thought, "he did run crooked, why, I'm sorry for poor Eleanor; and he ought to tell her; there's no question about that! It's wrong not to tell her. And of course he couldn't tell me. That wouldn't be square to Eleanor!... But I hate to have him so unhappy.... No; it's right for him to be unhappy. He ought to be! It would be dreadful if he wasn't. But, somehow, the thing itself doesn't seem to touch me. I love him. I am going to love him all I want to! But no one will ever know it."

By and by she knelt down and prayed, just one word: "Maurice." She was not unhappy.

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