“I thank you,” said Mr. Jefferson, gratefully. “I love him as though he were my son, and any praise of him is dear to me. Do you wonder that I want him near me? Besides, ’tis imperative that I have a private secretary. Mr. Short, our secretary of Legation, who is now in Italy travelling for his health, like myself, is overworked; there are a thousand affairs to be attended to each day, and so little method in our arrangements as yet; our instructions and remittances from Congress are so irregular, our duties so confounded with mere courtesies, that we make but little progress. Besides which the state of affairs in this country renders all diplomatic and business relations very slow and uncertain—I might say hazardous—” He stopped and looked thoughtfully into the fire.
“I am sorry to hear that,” said Mr. Morris, quickly. “I came over on business myself. And on business not only for myself, but on behalf of Mr. Robert Morris and of Constable & Co., of New York City. As you probably know, we have made large shipments of tobacco, contracted for by several farmers-general, but such has been the delay in delivery and payment after reaching this country that we deemed it absolutely necessary to have someone over here to attend to the matter. At Havre I found affairs irregular and prices low and fluctuating. I was hoping the markets would be steadier and quieter in Paris.”
“I am afraid you will not find it so,” replied Mr. Jefferson, shaking his head. “I am persuaded that this country is on the eve of some great change—some great upheaval. I see it in the faces of those I meet in the salons of the rich and noble; I see it in the faces of the common people in the streets—above all, I see it in the faces of the people in the streets.”
Again he stopped and looked thoughtfully into the blazing fire. Mr. Morris’s keen eyes fastened themselves on the finely chiselled face opposite him, aglow with a prophetic light. “I would be obliged,” he said at length, “if you would give me some detailed account of the state of this government and country. I should like to know just where I stand. At the distance of three thousand miles, and with slow and irregular packets as the only means of communication, we in America have but an imperfect and tardy conception of what is going on in this country.” He poured out a small glass of cognac from a decanter which stood on a table at his elbow, and, settling himself comfortably in his chair, prepared to listen.
It was a long story that Mr. Jefferson had to tell him—a story with many minute details touching the delicate relations between France and America, with many explanations of the events which had just taken place in Paris and the provinces, with many forecastings of events shortly to take place in the kingdom of Louis XVI. Perhaps it was in the forecasting of those events so soon to take place, of those acts of the multitude, as yet undreamed of by the very