When Calvert had mounted the great stairway, with the carved salamanders on the balustrade ever crawling their way up and down, he found Mr. Jefferson sitting alone before the bright fire in his library. As soon as he heard the young man’s step he looked up eagerly.
“At last!” he cried. “I was wishing that you would come in. Mr. Morris has just been despatched in my carriage to the rue Richelieu, and I was beginning to wonder what that wild Beaufort had done with you to keep you so late.”
“We are but just returned from a sight of the Palais Royal,” said Calvert, throwing off his great-coat and sitting down beside Mr. Jefferson, who rang for candles and a box of his Virginia tobacco. “And a strange enough sight it was—a turbulent crowd, and much political speaking from hoarse-throated giants held aloft on their friends’ shoulders.” “A strange enough place, indeed,” said Mr. Jefferson, shaking his head and smiling a little at Calvert’s wholesale description of it. “’Tis the political centre of Paris, in fact, and though the crowds may be turbulent and the orators windy, yet ’tis there that the fruitful seed of the political harvest, which this great country will reap with such profit, is being sown. ’Despise not the day of small things,’” he went on, cheerfully. “These rude, vehement orators, with their narrow, often erroneous, ideas, are nevertheless doing a good work. They are opening the minds of the ignorant, clearing a way for broader, higher ideals to lodge therein; they are the pioneers, in this hitherto undiscovered country for France, of civil liberty, and of freedom of thought and action.”
“And these vehement orators, with their often erroneous ideas—will they do no harm? Will these pioneers not lead their fellows astray in that undiscovered country?” suggested Calvert, not without a blush to think that he had the temerity to question the soundness of Mr. Jefferson’s views.
“Were we not inexperienced, hot-headed men who gathered in the Apollo room at the Raleigh to protest against the proceedings in Massachusetts? Were we not rash, windy orators in the House of Burgesses—nay, in Congress itself? Yet did we not accomplish great things—great good?” He laid his hand affectionately on the shoulder of the young man who remained silent, revolving many things, Aeneas-like, but too modest to oppose himself further to Mr. Jefferson.
“No, no, my boy,” continued Mr. Jefferson, after an instant’s silence, “do not believe that the awakening which made of us a great nation will not be equally glorious for France! And with such leaders as are hers, will she not march proudly and triumphantly forward to her day of glory? Will not a Lafayette do even more for his own country than ever he did for America? Even I have been able to help somewhat. ’Tis true, as Minister from the United States of America, I cannot use my official influence, but surely as a patriot, as an American citizen who is profoundly, overwhelmingly grateful for the aid, the generosity, the friendship of this great country, I can give counsel, the results of our experience, a word of encouragement, of good cheer.”