“It is not my own hand—my own sword, Sam,” said Calhoun. “Not that. You know as well as I that I am already marked and doomed, even as I sit at my table to-night. A walk of a wet night here in Washington—a turn along the Heights out there when the winter wind is keen—yes, Sam, I see my grave before me, close enough; but how can I rest easy in that grave? Man, we have not yet dreamed how great a country this may be. We must have Texas. We must have also Oregon. We must have—”
“Free?” The old doctor shrugged his shoulders and smiled at the arch pro-slavery exponent.
“Then, since you mention it, yes!” retorted Calhoun fretfully. “But I shall not go into the old argument of those who say that black is white, that South is North. It is only for my own race that I plan a wider America. But then—” Calhoun raised a long, thin hand. “Why,” he went on slowly, “I have just told you that I have failed. And yet you, my old friend, whom I ought to trust, condemn me to live on!”
Doctor Samuel Ward took snuff again, but all the answer he made was to waggle his gray mane and stare hard at the face of the other.
“Yes,” said he, at length, “I condemn you to fight on, John;” and he smiled grimly.
“Why, look at you, man!” he broke out fiercely, after a moment. “The type and picture of combat! Good bone, fine bone and hard; a hard head and bony; little eye, set deep; strong, wiry muscles, not too big—fighting muscles, not dough; clean limbs; strong fingers; good arms, legs, neck; wide chest—”
“Then you give me hope?” Calhoun flashed a smile at him.
“No, sir! If you do your duty, there is no hope for you to live. If you do not do your duty, there is no hope for you to die, John Calhoun, for more than two years to come—perhaps five years—six. Keep up this work—as you must, my friend—and you die as surely as though I shot you through as you sit there. Now, is this any comfort to you?”
A gray pallor overspread my master’s face. That truth is welcome to no man, morbid or sane, sound or ill; but brave men meet it as this one did.
“Time to do much!” he murmured to himself. “Time to mend many broken vessels, in those two years. One more fight—yes, let us have it!”
But Calhoun the man was lost once more in Calhoun the visionary, the fanatic statesman. He summed up, as though to himself, something of the situation which then existed at Washington.
“Yes, the coast is clearer, now that Webster is out of the cabinet, but Mr. Upshur’s death last month brings in new complications. Had he remained our secretary of state, much might have been done. It was only last October he proposed to Texas a treaty of annexation.”
“Yes, and found Texas none so eager,” frowned Doctor Ward.
“No; and why not? You and I know well enough. Sir Richard Pakenham, the English plenipotentiary here, could tell if he liked. England is busy with Texas. Texas owes large funds to England. England wants Texas as a colony. There is fire under this smoky talk of Texas dividing into two governments, one, at least, under England’s gentle and unselfish care!