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front of their men, bravely battling the enemy, they side

source:work and rest networkedit:maptime:2023-12-02 08:09:01

"And it has merely resulted in clinching what you meant it to finish." That was Miss Josephine.

front of their men, bravely battling the enemy, they side

I laid my flowers upon the table, and saw that the letter was in John Mayrant's hand. Of course.

front of their men, bravely battling the enemy, they side

I avoided looking at it again; but what had he written, and why had he written? His daily steps turned to this house--unless Miss Josephine had banished him again.

front of their men, bravely battling the enemy, they side

The ladies accepted my offering with gracious expressions, and while I told them of my visit to Live Oaks, and poured out my enthusiasm, the servant was sent for and brought water and two beautiful old china bowls, in which Miss Eliza proceeded to arrange the flowers with her delicate white hands. She made them look exquisite with an old lady's art, and this little occupation went on as we talked of indifferent subjects.

But the atmosphere of that room was charged with the subject of which we did not speak. The letter lay on the table; and even as I struggled to sustain polite conversation, I began to know what was in it, though I never looked at it again; it spoke out as clearly to me as the launch had done. I had thought, when I first entered, to tell the ladies something of my meeting with Hortense Rieppe; I can only say that I found this impossible. Neither of them referred to her, or to John, or to anything that approached what we were all thinking of; for me to do so would have assumed the dimensions of a liberty; and in consequence of this state of things, constraint sat upon us all, growing worse, and so pervading our small-talk with discomfort that I made my visit a very short one. Of course they were civil about this when I rose, and begged me not to go so soon; but I knew better. And even as I was getting my hat and gloves in the hall I could tell by their tones that they had returned to the subject of that letter. But in truth they had never left it; as the front door shut behind me I felt as if they had read it aloud to me.

Certainly Hortense Rieppe would have won the battle of Chattanooga! I know not from which parent that young woman inherited her gift of strategy, but she was a master. To use the resources of one lover in order to ascertain if another lover had any; to lay tribute on everything that Charley possessed; on his influence in the business world, which enabled him to walk into the V-C Chemical Company's office and borrow an expert in the phosphate line; on his launch in which to pop the expert and take him up the river, and see in his company and learn from his lips just what resources of worldly wealth were likely to be in-store for John Mayrant; and finally (which was the key to all the rest) on his inveterate passion for her, on his banker-like determination through all the thick and thin of discouragement, and worse than discouragement, of contemptuous coquetry, to possess her at any cost he could afford;--to use all this that Charley had, in order that she might judiciously arrive at the decision whether she would take him or his rival, left one lost in admiration. And then, not to waste a moment! To reach town one evening, and next morning by ten o'clock to have that expert safe in the launch on his way up the river to the phosphate diggings! The very audacity of such unscrupulousness commanded my respect: successful dishonor generally wins louder applause than successful virtue. But to be married to her! Oh! not for worlds! Charley might meet such emergency, but poor John, never!

I nearly walked into Mrs. Weguelin and Mrs. Gregory taking their customary air slowly in South Place.

"But why a steel wasp?" I said at once to Mrs. Weguelin. It was a more familiar way of beginning with the little, dignified lady than would have been at all possible, or suitable, if we had not had that little joke about the piano snobile between us. As it was, she was not wholly displeased. These Kings Port old ladies grew, I suspect, very slowly and guardedly accustomed to any outsider; they allowed themselves very seldom to suffer any form of abruptness from him, or from any one, for that matter. But, once they were reassured as to him, then they might sometimes allow the privileged person certain departures from their own rule of deportment, because his conventions were recognized to be different from theirs. Moreover, in reminding Mrs. Weguelin of the steel wasp, I had put my abruptness in "quotations," so to speak, by the tone I gave it, just as people who are particular in speech can often interpolate a word of current slang elegantly by means of the shade of emphasis which they lay upon it.

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