Again I heard her voice go on, challenging him. “Strip me now, Sir Richard, if you can! Take now what you bought, if you find it here. You can not? You do not? Ah, then tell me that miracle has been done! She who was Helena von Ritz, as you knew her, or as you thought you knew her, is not here!”
Now fell long silence. I could hear the breathing of them both, where I stood in the farther corner of my room. I had dropped both the derringers back in my pockets now, because I knew there would be no need for them. Her voice was softer as she went on.
“Tell me, Sir Richard, has not that miracle been done?” she demanded. “Might not in great stress that thief upon the cross have been a woman? Tell me, Sir Richard, am I not clean?”
He flung his body into a seat, his arm across the table. I heard his groan.
“God! Woman! What are you?” he exclaimed. “Clean? By God, yes, as a lily! I wish I were half as white myself.”
“Sir Richard, did you ever love a woman?”
“One other, beside yourself, long ago.”
“May not we two ask that other miracle of yourself?”
“How do you mean? You have beaten me already.”
“Why, then, this! If I could keep my promise, I would. If I could give you myself, I would. Failing that, I may give you gratitude. Sir Richard, I would give you gratitude, did you restore this treaty as it was, for that new consideration. Come, now, these savages here are the same savages who once took that little island for you yonder. Twice they have defeated you. Do you wish a third war? You say England wishes slavery abolished. As you know, Texas is wholly lost to England. The armies of America have swept Texas from your reach for ever, even at this hour. But if you give a new state in the north to these same savages, you go so far against oppression, against slavery—you do that much for the doctrine of England, and her altruism in the world. Sir Richard, never did I believe in hard bargains, and never did any great soul believe in such. I own to you that when I asked you here this afternoon I intended to wheedle from you all of Oregon north to fifty-four degrees, forty minutes. I find in you done some such miracle as in myself. Neither of us is so bad as the world has thought, as we ourselves have thought. Do then, that other miracle for me. Let us compose our quarrel, and so part friends.”
“How do you mean, Madam?”
“Let us divide our dispute, and stand on this treaty as you wrote it yesterday. Sir Richard, you are minister with extraordinary powers. Your government ratifies your acts without question. Your signature is binding—and there it is, writ already on this scroll. See, there are wafers there on the table before you. Take them. Patch together this treaty for me. That will be your miracle, Sir Richard, and ’twill be the mending of our quarrel. Sir, I offered you my body and you would not take it. I offer you my hand. Will you have that, my lord? I ask this of a gentleman of England.”