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"This was all myself and nation knew of the so-called treaty

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"I do not understand the present generation," she finished, "and I suppose that I was not meant to."

The little sigh in these words did great credit to Aunt Carola.

This vindication off my mind, and relieved by it of the more general thoughts about Kings Port and the South, which the pantomime of Kings Port's forced capitulation to Hortense had raised in me, I returned to the personal matters between that young woman and John, and Charley. How much did Charley know? How much would Charley stand? How much would John stand, if he came to know?

Well, the scene in the garden now helped me to answer these questions much better than I could have answered them before its occurrence. With one fact--the great fact of love--established, it was not difficult to account for at least one or two of the several things that puzzled me. There could be no doubt that Hortense loved John Mayrant, loved him beyond her own control. When this love had begun, made no matter. Perhaps it began on the bridge, when the money was torn, and Eliza La Heu had appeared. The Kings Port version of Hortense's indifference to John before the event of the phosphates might well enough be true. It might even well enough be true that she had taken him and his phosphates at Newport for lack of anything better at hand, and because she was sick of disappointed hopes. In this case, Charley's subsequent appearance as something very much better (if the phosphates were to fail) would perfectly explain the various postponements of the wedding.

So I was able to answer my questions to myself thus: How much did Charley know?--Just what he could see for himself, and what he had most likely heard from Newport gossip. He could have heard of an old engagement, made purely for money's sake, and of recent delays created by the lady; and he could see the gentleman--an impossible husband from a Wall Street standpoint!--to whom Hortense was evidently tempering her final refusal by indulgently taking an interest in helping along his phosphate fortune. Charley would not refuse to lend her his aid in this estimable benevolence; nor would it occur to Charley's sensibilities how such benevolence would be taken by John if John were not "taken" himself. Yes, Charley was plainly fooled, and fooled the more readily because he had the old version of the truth. How should he suspect there was a revised version? How should he discover that passion had now changed sides, that it was now John who allowed himself to be loved? The signs of this did not occur before his eyes. Of course, Charley would not stay fooled forever; the hours of that were numbered,--but their number was quite beyond my guessing!

How much would Charley stand? He would stand a good deal, because the measure of his toleration was the measure of his desire for Hortense; and it was plain that he wanted her very much indeed. But how much would John stand? How soon would his "fire-eating" traditions produce a "difficulty"? Why had they not done this already? Well, the garden had in some way helped me to frame a fairly reasonable answer for this also. Poor Hortense had become as powerless to woo John to warmth as poor Venus had been with Adonis; and passion, in changing sides, had advanced the boy's knowledge. He knew now the difference between the embraces of his lady when she had merely wanted his phosphates, and these other caresses now that, she wanted him. In his ceaseless search for some possible loophole of escape, his eye could not have overlooked the chance that lay in Charley, and he was far too canny to blast his forlorn hope. He had probably wondered what had changed the nature of Hortense's caresses, and the adventure of the torn money could scarce have failed to suggest itself to the mind of a youth who, little as he had trodden the ways of the world, evidently possessed some lively instincts regarding the nature of women. To batter Charley as he had battered Juno's nephew, might result in winding the arms of Hortense around his own neck more tightly than ever.

Why Hortense should keep Charley "on" any longer, was what I could least fathom, but I trusted her to have excellent reasons for anything that she did. "It's sure to be quite simple, once you know it," I told myself; and the near future proved me to be right.

Thus I laid most of my enigmas to rest; there was but one which now and then awakened still. Were Hortense a raw girl of eighteen, I could easily grant that the "fire-eater" in John would be sure to move her. But Hortense had travelled many miles away from the green forests of romance; her present fields were carpeted, not with grass and flowers, but with Oriental mats and rugs, and it was electric lights, not the moon and stars, that shone upon her highly seasoned nights. No, torn money and all, it was not appropriate in a woman of her experience; and so I still found myself inquiring in the words of Beverly Rodgers, "But what can she want him for?"

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