“An insolent,” said Danton, savagely, to Madame, and gazing after Beaufort’s retreating back.
“Yes,” returned Madame, grinding her pretty teeth with rage—“Monsieur le Vicomte de Beaufort is an insolent—and not for the first time.”
“I shall remember Monsieur le Vicomte de Beaufort’s insolence as well as I shall remember the Englishman’s politeness.”
Bertrand edged nearer the herculean Monsieur Danton. “Pardon, M’sieur,” he commenced, nervously, “it is not an Englishman—it is an American—a young American officer—Monsieur Calvert—aide-decamp to Monsieur le Marquis de Lafayette, before Yorktown. A patriot of patriots, Messieurs,” he went on, turning to the listening throng about him; “a lover of freedom, a compassionate heart. He saved me from death, Messieurs, he gave me money, he sent me clothing, he saw that I was fed and cared for, Messieurs.” He told his story with many gesticulations and much emphasis, interrupted now and then by huzzas for the young American.
Calvert would have been vastly astonished to know that the lifting of his hat and his courteous tone had contrived to make a popular hero of him; as much astonished, perhaps, as Beaufort to know that his careless, impertinent compliment to Madame Danton’s charming head had sealed the fate of his own. But ’tis in this hap-hazard fashion that the destiny of mortals is decided. We are but the victims of chance or mischance. Of all vainglorious philosophies, that of predestination is the vainest.
Outside, the night had fallen, and the shops, arcades, and gardens of the Palais Royal were ablaze with innumerable candles and illuminated Chinese lanterns. Before the entrance Monsieur de Beaufort’s groom was walking his half-frozen and restless horses up and down the icy street.
Beaufort laid his hand on Calvert’s arm. “Come,” he said, gloomily, “the place is become insufferable. Let me take you back to the Legation.” Springing in he turned his horses’ heads once more toward the Place Louis XV. and the Champs Elysees, and, while he guided them through the crowded and badly lighted thoroughfare, Calvert had leisure to think upon the events of the last hour. It was with resentment and shame he reflected upon his friend’s airy insolence to the pretty caissiere of the Cafe de l’Ecole. That it should have been offered in her husband’s presence was a gratuitous aggravation of the offence. That it should have been offered her with such disdainful contempt for any objection on her part or her husband’s, with such easy assurance that there could be no objections on their part, was another gratuitous aggravation of the offence. In that noble insolence Calvert read a sign of the times more legible than the clearest writing in the pamphlets flooding the book-stalls of the Palais Royal.
THE PRIVATE SECRETARY
They drove in silence almost to the rue Neuve de Berry, Calvert musing on the strange glimpse he had had of life in Paris, Beaufort busy with his restless horses. At the grille of the Legation Calvert alighted and Beaufort bade him good-by, still with the gloomy, foreboding look on his handsome face.