One resented the liberties England took in establishing this manner of menage in our simple city, and arrogantly taking for granted our ignorance regarding it; but none the less one was forced to commend the thoroughness shown. The ceilings, of course, remained low, but there was visible no trace of the original architecture, so cunningly had the interior been treated. As I have said, the dividing partitions had all been removed, so that the long interior practically was open, save as the apartments were separated by curtains or grilles. The floors were carpeted thick and deep. Silence reigned here. There remained no trace of the clumsy comfort which had sufficed the early builder. Here was no longer a series of modest homes, but a boudoir which might have been the gilded cage of some favorite of an ancient court. The breath and flavor of this suspicion floated in every drapery, swam in the faint perfume which filled the place. My first impression was that of surprise; my second, as I have said, a feeling of resentment at the presumption which installed all this in our capital of Washington.
I presume my thought may have been reflected in some manner in my face. I heard a gentle laugh, and turned about. She sat there in a great carved chair, smiling, her white arms stretched out on the rails, the fingers just gently curving. There was no apology for her situation, no trace of alarm or shame or unreadiness. It was quite obvious she was merely amused. I was in no way ready to ratify the rumors I had heard regarding her.
She had thrown back over the rail of the chair the rich cloak which covered her in the carriage, and sat now in the full light, in the splendor of satin and lace and gems, her arms bare, her throat and shoulders white and bare, her figure recognized graciously by every line of a superb gowning such as we had not yet learned on this side of the sea. Never had I seen, and never since have I seen, a more splendid instance of what beauty of woman may be.
She did not speak at first, but sat and smiled, studying, I presume, to find what stuff I was made of. Seeing this, I pulled myself together and proceeded briskly to my business.
“My employer will find me late, I fear, my dear baroness,” I began.