XI: Daddy Ben and His Seed
But what was Hortense Rieppe coming to see for herself?
Many dark things had been made plain to me by my talk with the two ladies; yet while disclosing so much, they had still left this important matter in shadow. I was very glad, however, for what they had revealed. They had showed me more of John Mayrant’s character, and more also of the destiny which had shaped his ends, so that my esteem for him had increased; for some of the words that they had exchanged shone like bright lanterns down into his nature upon strength and beauty lying quietly there—young strength and beauty, yet already tempered by manly sacrifice. I saw how it came to pass through this, through renunciation of his own desires, through performance of duties which had fallen upon him not quite fairly, that the eye of his spirit had been turned away from self; thus had it grown strong-sighted and able to look far and deep, as his speech sometimes revealed, while still his flesh was of his youthful age, and no saint’s flesh either. This had the ladies taught me during the fluttered interchange of their reminders and opinions, and by their eager agreements and disagreements, I was also grateful to them in that I could once more correct Juno. The pleasure should be mine to tell them in the public hearing of our table that Miss Rieppe was still engaged to John Mayrant.
But what was this interesting girl coming to see for herself?
This little hole in my knowledge gave me discomfort as I walked along toward the antiquity shop where I was to buy the other kettle-supporter. The ladies, with all their freedom of comment and censure, had kept something from me. I reviewed, I pieced together, their various remarks, those oracles, especially, which they had let fall, but it all came back to the same thing. I did not know, and they did, what Hortense Rieppe was coming to see for herself. At all events, the engagement was not broken, the chance to be instrumental in having it broken was still mine; I might still save John Mayrant from his deplorable quixotism; and as this reflection grew with me I took increasing comfort in it, and I stepped onward toward my kettle-supporter, filled with that sense of moral well-being which will steal over even the humblest of us when we feel that we are beneficently minding somebody else’s business.
Whenever the arrangement did not take me too widely from my course, I so mapped out my walks and errands in Kings Port that I might pass by the churchyard and church at the corner of Court and Worship streets. Even if I did not indulge myself by turning in to stroll and loiter among the flowers, it was enough pleasure to walk by that brick-wall. If you are willing to wander curiously in our old towns, you may still find in many of them good brick walls standing undisturbed, and equal in their color and simple excellence