To be sure, my vision had been slow! Hortense had seen, through her thick veil, Eliza’s interest in John in the first minute of her arrival on the bridge, that minute when John had run up to Eliza after the automobile had passed over poor General. And Hortense had not revealed herself at once, because she wanted a longer look at them. Well, she had got it, and she had got also a look at her affianced John when he was in the fire-eating mood, and had displayed the conduct appropriate to 1840, while Charley’s display had been so much more modern. And so first she had prudently settled that awkward phosphate difficulty, and next she had paid this little visit to Eliza in order to have the pleasure of telling her in four or five different ways, and driving it in deep, and turning it round: “Don’t you wish you may get him?”
“That’s all clear as day,” I said to myself. “But what does her loss of temper mean?”
Eliza was writing at her ledger. The sweetness hadn’t entirely gone; it was too soon for that, and besides, she knew I must be looking at her.
“Couldn’t you have told her they were my flowers?” I asked her at the counter, as I prepared to depart. Eliza did not look up from her ledger. “Do you think she would have believed me?”
“And why shouldn’t—”
“Go out!” she interrupted imperiously and with a stamp of her foot. “You’ve been here long enough!”
You may imagine my amazement at this. It was not until I had reached Mrs. Trevise’s, and was sitting down to answer a note which had been left for me, that light again came. Hortense Rieppe had thought those flowers were from John Mayrant, and Eliza had let her think so.
Yes, that was light, a good bright light shed on the matter; but a still more brilliant beam was cast by the up-country bride when I came into the dining-room. I told her myself, at once, that I had taken flowers to Miss La Heu; I preferred she should hear this from me before she learned it from the smiling lips of gossip. It surprised me that she should immediately inquire what kind of flowers?