When the boat brought us back to the wharf, there were the rest of my flowers unbestowed, and upon whom should I bestow them? I thought first of Eliza La Heu, but she wouldn’t be at the Exchange so late as this. Then it seemed well to carry them to Mrs. Weguelin. Something, however, prompted me to pass her door, and continue vaguely walking on until I came to the house where Miss Josephine and Miss Eliza lived; and here I rang the bell and was admitted.
They were sitting as I had seen them first, the one with her embroidery, and the other on the further side of a table, whereon lay an open letter, which in a few moments I knew must have been the subject of the discussion which they finished even as I came forward.
“It was only prolonging an honest mistake.” That was Miss Eliza.
“And it has merely resulted in clinching what you meant it to finish.” That was Miss Josephine.
I laid my flowers upon the table, and saw that the letter was in John Mayrant’s hand. Of course.
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.
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.