“Is anything the matter?” asked Calvert, in a low tone. “You look anxious.”
“I will tell you later, my boy,” returned Mr. Jefferson, smiling reassuringly. “Go and talk to Madame de Flahaut—Mr. Morris has promised to send you to her.”
Calvert did as he was desired, and found Madame de Flahaut a very entertaining lady, but who, in spite of her charms, he was not sorry to see go, as she did presently, with Madame de Coigny and Monsieur de Curt. And soon after she retired the company broke up and only Mr. Morris remained behind to have a last glass of wine and a few moments’ quiet chat with Mr. Jefferson and Calvert. It was while they were thus engaged in the now deserted drawing-room that Mr. Jefferson told Calvert the cause of his perturbed look, which was none other than a conversation concerning the state of the kingdom confided to himself and Mr. Morris by Monsieur Necker. He explained at great length to Calvert the delicacy and danger of the Comptroller-General’s position and the wretched condition of the country’s finances and army. To which Mr. Morris added some of his own observations, made with the rapidity and justness so characteristic of him.
“Monsieur Necker seems to me, indeed, to be in a disagreeable and sufficiently dangerous position. His business stands thus: if any mischiefs happen they will be charged to him. If he gets well through the business others will claim the reputation of what good is done by the States-General. If he is a really great man, I am deceived. If he is not a laborious man, I am also deceived. He loves flattery—for he flatters. He is therefore easily imposed upon.”
But here Mr. Jefferson would not allow Mr. Morris to proceed with his dicta, declaring that he did Monsieur Necker a gross injustice, and defending him warmly, both as a financier and statesman. Mr. Morris still clinging to his hastily formed opinion, the two gentlemen continued to argue the matter until, Mr. Morris’s carriage having been announced, he took his final leave and stumped his way down the broad staircase, attended to the door by Calvert.
But deeply as Calvert was already interested in the affairs of France, it was not the miscarried business of a nation that troubled his sleep that night. For the first time in his life the face of a woman haunted his dreams, now luring him on with glance and voice, as it seemed to him, now sending him far from her with teasing laughter and disdainful eyes.
AN AFTERNOON ON THE ICE