CHAPTER XVI THE LAST STRUGGLE FOR POWER

1. ESCAPE FANTASIES

THOUGH the storm had actually broken, Burr's resilient and essentially imaginative nature seemed to throw off with case all despondency and sense of defeat. His letters were never as gay and sprightly as they were now. The world was a cosmic jest and he studied its variegated face with ironic humor. Only when it came to Theo and his little grandson, dubbed almost immediately with a hundred endearing pet names, did he show the slightest concern. Theo had emerged an invalid from the ordeal of childbirth. It was thought that the semi-tropic Carolinian climate was too enervating for her. Burr took her back to New York with him, and she tried the waters of Saratoga and Ballston Spa for relief, but without much success. She was to remain a semi-invalid for the balance of her life. Finally she returned to Charleston and her husband, taking the little boy with her. Burr was disconsolate. New York, Washington even, became suddenly lonely and empty. Not even his deceased wife had plumbed the full depths of his devotion. This was to be achieved in all the world by but two persons -- his daughter Theodosia, and his grandson, Aaron Burr Alston.

These were the deeps. The surface texture of his being imperiously demanded other consolations -- the remedial pattern of sex and the society of woman. He had been a widower for over a decade, he was forty-seven, still handsome, irresistible, the Vice- President of the United States. Glimpses of little contretemps, of small gallantries and affairs of the heart, begin to peep through the airy persiflage of his letters. He was a splendid catch, and many a lady set herself to achieve the conquest. One at least almost succeeded, hidden forever in his detailed accounts to an amused Theodosia under the name of Celeste. But her feminine wiles, her no when she meant yes, gave the half-hearted lover his chance to escape before it was too late. "They made me laugh," wrote Theo of his letters, "yet I pity you, and have really a fellow feeling for you. Poor little Rippy, so you are mortgaged! But you bear it charmingly . . . Spasmodic love. It is really quite new

-236-

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