David hadn’t attended to the name. It was some trust estate, he thought; Regent Tom, or some such thing.
“And they thought it was no good,” said the bride. “And it’s aivry bit as good as the Coosaw used to be. Better than Florida or Tennessee.”
My eyes instinctively turned to where they had last seen the launch; of course it wasn’t there any more. Then I spoke to David.
“Do you know what a phosphate bed looks like? Can one see it?”
“This kind you can,” he answered. “But it’s not worth your trouble. Just a kind of a square hole you dig along the river till you strike the stuff. What you want to see is the works.”
No, I didn’t want to see even the works; they smelt atrociously, and I do not care for vats, and acids, and processes: and besides, had I not seen enough? My eyes went down the river again where that launch had gone; and I wondered if the wedding-cake would be postponed any more.
Regent Tom? Oh, yes, to be sure! John Mayrant had pointed out to me the house where he had lived; he had been John’s uncle. So the old gentleman had left his estate in trust! And now—! But certainly Hortense would have won the battle of Chattanooga!
“Don’t be too sure about all this,” I told myself cautiously. But there are times when cautioning one’s self is quite as useless as if somebody else had cautioned one; my reason leaped with the rapidity of intuition; I merely sat and looked on at what it was doing. All sorts of odds and ends, words I hadn’t understood, looks and silences I hadn’t interpreted, little signs that I had thought nothing of at first, but which I had gradually, through their multiplicity, come to know meant something, all these broken pieces fitted into each other now, fell together and made a clear pattern of the truth, without a crack in it—Hortense had never believed in that story about the phosphates having failed—“pinched out,” as they say of ore deposits. There she had stood between her two suitors, between her affianced John and the besieging Charley, and before she would be off with the old love and on with the new, she must personally look into those phosphates. Therefore she had been obliged to have a sick father and postpone the wedding two or three times, because her affairs— very likely the necessity of making certain of Charley—had prevented her from coming sooner to Kings Port. And having now come hither, and having beheld her Northern and her Southern lovers side by side—had the comparison done something to her highly controlled heart? Was love taking some hitherto unknown liberties with that well-balanced organ? But what an outrage had been perpetrated upon John! At that my deductions staggered in their rapid course. How could his aunts—but then it had only been one of them; Miss Josephine had never approved of Miss Eliza’s course; it was of that that Mrs. Weguelin St. Michael had so emphatically reminded Mrs. Gregory in my presence when we had strolled together upon High Walk, and those two ladies had talked oracles in my presence. Well, they were oracles no longer!