“Mr. Calhoun wishes to know whether he shall go to the cabinet of your man Tyler over there in that barn you call your White House. I suppose Mr. Calhoun wishes to know how he can serve Mr. Tyler?”
I laughed at this. “Serve him!” I exclaimed. “Rather say lead him, tell him, command him!”
“Yes,” she nodded. I began to see another and graver side of her nature. “Yes, it is of course Texas.”
I did not see fit to make answer to this.
“If your master, as you call him, takes the portfolio with Tyler, it is to annex Texas,” she repeated sharply. “Is not that true?”
Still I would not answer. “Come!” I said.
“And he asks me to come to him so that he may decide—”
This awoke me. “No man decides for John Calhoun, Madam,” I said. “You may advance facts, but he will decide.” Still she went on.
“And Texas not annexed is a menace. Without her, you heathen people would not present a solid front, would you?”
“Madam has had much to do with affairs of state,” I said.
She went on as though I had not spoken:
“And if you were divided in your southern section, England would have all the greater chance. England, you know, says she wishes slavery abolished. She says that—”
“England says many things!” I ventured.
“The hypocrite of the nations!” flashed out this singular woman at me suddenly. “As though diplomacy need be hypocrisy! Thus, to-night Sir Richard of England forgets his place, his protestations. He does not even know that Mexico has forgotten its duty also. Sir, you were not at our little ball, so you could not see that very fat Sir Richard paying his bored devoirs to Dona Lucrezia! So I am left alone, and would be bored, but for you. In return—a slight jest on Sir Richard to-night!—I will teach him that no fat gentleman should pay even bored attentions to a lady who soon will be fat, when his obvious duty should call him otherwhere! Bah! ’tis as though I myself were fat; which is not true.”
“You go too deep for me, Madam,” I said. “I am but a simple messenger.” At the same time, I saw how admirably things were shaping for us all. A woman’s jealousy was with us, and so a woman’s whim!
“There you have the measure of England’s sincerity,” she went on, with contempt. “England is selfish, that is all. Do you not suppose I have something to do besides feeding a canary? To read, to study—that is my pleasure. I know your politics here in America. Suppose you invade Texas, as the threat is, with troops of the United States, before Texas is a member of the Union? Does that not mean you are again at war with Mexico? And does that not mean that you are also at war with England? Come, do you not know some of those things?”
“With my hand on my heart, Madam,” I asserted solemnly, “all I know is that you must go to see my master. Calhoun wants you. America needs you. I beg you to do what kindness you may to the heathen.”