“I’m so grateful to you, General, that he is a boy,” I heard her say in the deepest respect and regard for my Uncle, the General Robert.
“I don’t doubt at all, Madam, that you will succeed in making me wish that he had been born a girl or not at all,” was the kind reply that he made to her nicely spoken gratitude as we laughed into each other’s eyes across the table.
“I hope so,” was the answer with which Mademoiselle Sue comforted him.
“And now what have you to say to me, boy, the oldest friend you’ve got in America, who hasn’t seen you for days—that have been too long,” said that Madam Whitworth, who was seated at my side, and as she spoke she turned one lovely bare shoulder in the direction of my Uncle, the General Robert, and the beautiful Mademoiselle Sue and also Buzz, as if to shut them away from her and me in a little space of world just for two people.
“I can say with truth, Madam, that your loveliness to-night is but the flowering of my suspicions of it that morning upon the railroad train,” I answered her in words that were a very nice translation of what that fine young Cossack had once said to me at the Chateau de Grez of my own flowering into rose chiffon after an afternoon’s hunting with him in corduroys. And in truth I spoke no falsehood to that Madam Whitworth, for she was of a very great beauty of body, very much of which was in view from a scantiness of bodice that I had never seen excelled in any ballroom in France.
“I knew you for a poet from that adorable black mop which I see you have very nicely plastered in an exact imitation of Buzz Clendenning’s red one,” she answered me with a laugh. “Follow me from the ballroom just after supper at midnight for a half hour’s chat alone in a place I know; and don’t let either the General or the Governor see you,” she then said in an undertone as the Gouverneur Faulkner bent forward and began a laughing conversation with her.
“I will,” I answered her under my breath, and I leaned back in my chair so that the Gouverneur Faulkner could more conveniently converse with her. And to that end he placed his arm across the back of my chair, and thus I sat in his embrace with my shoulder pressed into his.
I do not know exactly what it was that happened in the depths of me, but suddenly the daredevil rose from those depths and knew herself for a very strong woman filled to the brim with a primitive, savage cunning with which to fight the beautiful woman at my side for the honor of the man whose strong heart I could feel beating against my woman’s breast strapped down under its garment of man’s attire. And that cunning showed me that I would have a hundredfold better opportunity to do her and her schemes against him and against France to the death in my garments and character of a man, than I could have had if I had come into his and her world as the beautiful young Roberta, Marquise of Grez and Bye. Then for those hated garments of a raven my heart beat so high with gratitude that I moved again forward from the arm of His Excellency for fear that he might feel the tumult even through that strong towel of the bath which I had sewed above it, and be in wonderment as to its cause.