THE ARTFUL GENTLEMAN PROM KENTUCKY
It was dusk. Heavy shadows lay over the trees which lined the curving walks leading across a little park to the stately white house beyond. From that direction now appeared several gentlemen, advancing in scattering groups. They might almost have been made up of conspirators, so intent they seemed, so apprehensive lest even their thoughts might be read. Two of them drew apart,—one of these a slender bony man, the other a tall and dark man. The latter spoke almost moodily.
“I doubt your ability, my dear sir, to influence so shrewd a man in any such way as you suggest. Besides, he is not of our party.”
“That’s all the better. A man of our party might, could, would and should keep his mouth shut about such a ticklish matter; but outside our party, any who begins it has got to keep his mouth shut!”
“There is no other way,” he added, smiling. “It must be done. The Countess St. Auban is here again! This band of Gipsy heathens from Hungary is also here. The country is wild over Kossuth. We’ll have to accept this invitation to invite him! But Austria remains bitter against the countess. What we must do is to have her go back home with these commissioners from Hungary. There’s ugly talk about the way she’s been used. That fellow Carlisle—good riddance of him from the army—even confessed he engaged in a game of cards—” their heads bent together—“in short, the devil is to pay with the administration if this gets out. We can’t banish her again. But how can we with dignity even it with her, so she will make no talk? If she likes, she can ruin us, because Carlisle can’t be kept silent, now he’s out of the army. And he’s crazy over her, anyhow.”
“So? I do not blame him.”
“Yes. Therefore, since all of us have lacked wisdom in our own camp, we’d e’en do well to take wisdom where we can find it.”
They parted, the last speaker presently to hail the nearest carriage. The driver a few moments later drew up at the front of a spacious and dignified brick building, whose reserved look might have pronounced it a private hotel or a club for gentlemen. The visitor seemed known, the door swinging open for him.
[Illustration: They parted, the last speaker hailing a carriage.]
“Louis,” said he to the attendant, “is Mr. —— in?” He mentioned a name which even then was well known in Washington.
“I think you will find him in the reading-room, Sir,” was the answer.