Calvert threw himself with enthusiasm into his work, delighted to be able to lighten the immense labors of Mr. Jefferson (who, to tell the truth, was always overworked and underpaid), and happy to think he was of service to one who had always shown such kindness to him. So interested and energetic was the young man that Mr. Jefferson had much difficulty in getting him to lay aside his papers and make himself ready for the reception of the evening. Indeed, when, after dressing quickly, he descended to the great drawing-room, which looked quite splendid, with its multitude of wax lights and gilded mirrors, he found it already filled with a company more splendid than any he had ever before seen. As he approached, he noticed that Mr. Jefferson was conversing with a large gentleman of pompous appearance, to whom he had just presented Mr. Morris, and to whom he presented Calvert in turn as “Monsieur Necker.” ’Twas with a good deal of curiosity and disappointment that Calvert saw for the first time the Minister of Finance, the greatest power for the moment in France. He was a large, heavy man, whose countenance, with its high, retreating forehead, chin of unusual length, vivid brown eyes and elevated eyebrows, was intelligent, but did not even hint at genius. There was about him an air of fatigue and laboriousness which suggested the hard-working and successful business man rather than a great statesman and financier, and the courtly richness of his embroidered velvet dress suited ill his commonplace figure. In his whole personality Calvert decided there was no suggestion of that nobility of mind and nature which so distinguished Mr. Jefferson, nor of that keen mentality and easy elegance of manner so characteristic of Mr. Gouverneur Morris.
“His looks seem to say, ‘I am the man,’” whispered that gentleman to Calvert as Monsieur Necker turned aside for an instant to speak with Mr. Jefferson, and Calvert could not help smiling at the humorous and swift summing-up of the Minister’s character and the merry twinkle in Mr. Morris’s eye. But whatever their opinion of his talents, Monsieur Necker’s cordiality was above reproach, and it was with elaborate politeness that he presented the Americans to Madame Necker. She was a very handsome woman still, retaining traces of that beauty which had fired Gibbon in his youth, and was all amiability to the two strangers, whom she introduced to her daughter, Madame la Baronne de Stael-Holstein, wife of the ambassador from Gustavus III. to the court of Louis XVI.
Madame de Stael stood with her back to the open fire, her hands clasped behind her, her brilliant black eyes flashing upon the assembled company. Although she had accomplished nothing great (’twas before she wrote “Corinne” or “De l’Allemagne"), she was already famous for her appreciation of Monsieur Rousseau. Indeed, there was something so unusual, so forceful in this large, almost masculine woman, that Calvert was as much impressed with her as he