“Been there every Sunday regularly since you went away,” said Jack. “I am not one of the family in one way, and in another way I am. Honestly, I have tried my best to cut you out. Not that you have not played your game well enough, but there never was a game played so well that some other fellow could not win by coppering it. So I coppered everything you did—played it for just the reverse. No go—lost even that way. And I thought you were the most perennial fool of your age and generation.”
I checked as gently as I could a joviality which I thought unsuited to the time. “Mr. Dandridge,” said I to him, “you know the Baroness von Ritz?”
“Certainly! The particeps criminis of our bungled wedding—of course I know her!”
“I only want to say,” I remarked, “that the Baroness von Ritz has that little shell clasp now all for her own, and that I have her slipper again, all for my own. So now, we three—no, four—at last understand one another, do we not? Jack, will you do two things for me?”
“All of them but two.”
“When the Baroness von Ritz insists on her intention of leaving us—just at the height of all our happiness—I want you to hand her to her carriage. In the second place, I may need you again—”
“Well, what would any one think of that!” said Jack Dandridge.
I never knew when these two left us in the crowd. I never said good-by to Helena von Ritz. I did not catch that last look of her eye. I remember her as she stood there that night, grave, sweet and sad.
I turned to Elisabeth. There in the crash of the reeds and brasses, the rise and fall of the sweet and bitter conversation all around us, was the comedy and the tragedy of life.
“Elisabeth,” I said to her, “are you not ashamed?”
She looked me full in the eye. “No!” she said, and smiled.
I have never seen a smile like Elisabeth’s.
“’Tis the Star Spangled
Banner; O, long may it wave,
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!”
—Francis Scott Key.
On the night that Miss Elisabeth Churchill gave me her hand and her heart for ever—for which I have not yet ceased to thank God—there began the guns of Palo Alto. Later, there came the fields of Monterey, Buena Vista, Cerro Gordo, Contreras, Cherubusco, Molino del Rey—at last the guns sounded at the gate of the old City of Mexico itself. Some of that fighting I myself saw; but much of the time I was employed in that manner of special work which had engaged me for the last few years. It was through Mr. Calhoun’s agency that I reached a certain importance in these matters; and so I was chosen as the commissioner to negotiate a peace with Mexico.