“And you?” I answered. “You shall have such reward as you have never dreamed in all your life.”
“How do you mean?”
“I doubt not the reward for a soul which is as keen and able as your heart is warm, Madam. Come, I am not such a fool as you think, perhaps. Nor are you a fool. You are a great woman, a wonderful woman, with head and heart both, Madam, as well as beauty such as I had never dreamed. You are a strange woman, Madam. You are a genius, Madam, if you please. So, I say, you are capable of a reward, and a great one. You may find it in the gratitude of a people.”
“What could this country give more than Mexico or England?” She smiled quizzically.
“Much more, Madam! Your reward shall be in the later thought of many homes—homes built of logs, with dingy fireplaces and couches of husks in them—far out, all across this continent, housing many people, many happy citizens, men who will make their own laws, and enforce them, man and man alike! Madam, it is the spirit of democracy which calls on you to-night! It is not any political party, nor the representative of one. It is not Mr. Calhoun; it is not I. Mr. Calhoun only puts before you the summons of—”
“Of that spirit of democracy.”
She stood, one hand ungloved, a finger at her lips, her eyes glowing. “I am glad you came,” she said. “On the whole, I am also glad I came upon my foolish errand here to America.”
“Madam,” said I, my hand at the fastening of the door, “we have exchanged pledges. Now we exchange places. It is you who are the messenger, not myself. There is a message in your hands. I know not whether you ever served a monarchy. Come, you shall see that our republic has neither secrets nor hypocrisies.”
On the instant she was not shrewd and tactful woman of the world, not student, but once more coquette and woman of impulse. She looked at me with mockery and invitation alike in her great dark eyes, even as I threw down the chain at the door and opened it wide for her to pass.
“Is that my only reward?” she asked, smiling as she fumbled at a glove.
In reply, I bent and kissed the fingers of her ungloved hand. They were so warm and tender that I had been different than I was had I not felt the blood tingle in all my body in the impulse of the moment to do more than kiss her fingers.
Had I done so—had I not thought of Elisabeth—then, as in my heart I still believe, the flag of England to-day would rule Oregon and the Pacific; and it would float to-day along the Rio Grande; and it would menace a divided North and South, instead of respecting a strong and indivisible Union which owns one flag and dreads none in the world.
Without woman the two
extremities of this life would be destitute
of succor and the middle would be devoid of pleasure.—Proverb.