“Assuredly we do, Madam,” I answered. “Will it please you to go in your own carriage, or shall I return with one for you?”
She put her hands behind her back, holding in them the opened message from my chief. “I am tired. I am bored. Your impudence amuses me; and your errand is not your fault. Come, sit down. You have been good to me. Before you go, I shall have some refreshment brought for you.”
I felt a sudden call upon my resources as I found myself in this singular situation. Here, indeed, more easily reached than I had dared hope, was the woman in the case. But only half of my errand, the easier half, was done.
THE BOUDOIR OF THE BARONESS
A woman’s counsel brought us first to woe.—Dryden.
“Wait!” she said. “We shall have candles.” She clapped her hands sharply, and again there entered the silent old serving-woman, who, obedient to a gesture, proceeded to light additional candles in the prism stands and sconces. The apartment was now distinct in all its details under this additional flood of light. Decently as I might I looked about. I was forced to stifle the exclamation of surprise which rose to my lips.
We were plain folk enough in Washington at that time. The ceremonious days of our first presidents had passed for the democratic time of Jefferson and Jackson; and even under Mr. Van Buren there had been little change from the simplicity which was somewhat our boast. Washington itself was at that time scarcely more than an overgrown hamlet, not in the least to be compared to the cosmopolitan centers which made the capitals of the Old World. Formality and stateliness of a certain sort we had, but of luxury we knew little. There was at that time, as I well knew, no state apartment in the city which in sheer splendor could for a moment compare with this secret abode of a woman practically unknown. Here certainly was European luxury transferred to our shores. This in simple Washington, with its vast white unfinished capitol, its piecemeal miles of mixed residences, boarding-houses, hotels, restaurants, and hovels! I fancied stern Andrew Jackson or plain John Calhoun here!
The furniture I discovered to be exquisite in detail, of rosewood and mahogany, with many brass chasings and carvings, after the fashion of the Empire, and here and there florid ornamentation following that of the court of the earlier Louis. Fanciful little clocks with carved scrolls stood about; Cupid tapestries had replaced the original tawdry coverings of these common walls, and what had once been a dingy fireplace was now faced with embossed tiles never made in America. There were paintings in oil here and there, done by master hands, as one could tell. The curtained windows spoke eloquently of secrecy. Here and there a divan and couch showed elaborate care in comfort. Beyond a lace-screened grille I saw an alcove—doubtless