I looked suddenly at Mr. Calhoun. It seemed he was planning without my aid.
“Yes,” he said to me, smiling, “I have neglected to mention to you that the Baroness von Ritz also is here, in another apartment of this place. If you please, I shall now send for her also.”
He signaled to his old negro attendant. Presently the latter opened the door, and with a deep bow announced the Baroness von Ritz, who entered, followed closely by Mr. Calhoun’s inseparable friend, old Doctor Ward.
The difference in breeding between these two women was to be seen at a glance. The Dona Lucrezia was beautiful in a way, but lacked the thoroughbred quality which comes in the highest types of womanhood. Afflicted by nothing but a somewhat mercenary or personal grief, she showed her lack of gameness in adversity. On the other hand, Helena von Ritz, who had lived tragedy all her life, and now was in the climax of such tragedy, was smiling and debonaire as though she had never been anything but wholly content with life! She was robed now in some light filmy green material, caught up here and there on the shoulders and secured with silken knots. Her white neck showed, her arms were partly bare with the short sleeves of the time. She stood, composed and easy, a figure fit for any company or any court, and somewhat shaming our little assembly, which never was a court at all, only a private meeting in the office of a discredited and disowned leader in a republican government. Her costume and her bearing were Helena von Ritz’s answer to a woman’s fate! A deep color flamed in her cheeks. She stood with head erect and lips smiling brilliantly. Her curtsey was grace itself. Our dingy little office was glorified.
“I interrupt you, gentlemen,” she began.
“On the contrary, I am sure, my dear lady,” said Doctor Ward, “Senator Calhoun told me he wished you to meet Senora Yturrio.”
“Yes,” resumed Calhoun, “I was just speaking with this lady over some matters concerned with this Little slipper.” He smiled as he held it up gingerly between thumb and finger. “Do you recognize it, Madam Baroness?”
“Ah, my little shoe!” she exclaimed. “But see, it has not been well cared for.”
“It traveled in my war bag from Oregon to Washington,” said I. “Perhaps bullet molds and powder flasks may have damaged it.”
“It still would serve as a little post-office, perhaps,” laughed the baroness. “But I think its days are done on such errands.”
“I will explain something of these errands to the Senora Yturrio,” said Calhoun. “I wish you personally to say to that lady, if you will, that Senor Yturrio regarded this little receptacle rather as official than personal post.”
For one moment these two women looked at each other, with that on their faces which would be hard to describe. At last the baroness spoke:
“It is not wholly my fault, Senora Yturrio, if your husband gave you cause to think there was more than diplomacy between us. At least, I can say to you that it was the sport of it alone, the intrigue, if you please, which interested me. I trust you will not accuse me beyond this.”