In some forgotten garret of this country, as I do not doubt, yellowed with age, stained and indistinguishable, lost among uncared-for relics of another day, there may be records of that interview between two strange personalities, John Calhoun and Helena von Ritz, in the arrangement of which I played the part above described. I was not at that time privileged to have much more than a guess at the nature of the interview. Indeed, other things now occupied my mind. I was very much in love with Elisabeth Churchill.
Of these matters I need to make some mention. My father’s plantation was one of the old ones in Maryland. That of the Churchills lay across a low range of mountains and in another county from us, but our families had long been friends. I had known Elisabeth from the time she was a tall, slim girl, boon companion ever to her father, old Daniel Churchill; for her mother she had lost when she was still young. The Churchills maintained a city establishment in the environs of Washington itself, although that was not much removed from their plantation in the old State of Maryland. Elmhurst, this Washington estate was called, and it was well known there, with its straight road approaching and its great trees and its wide-doored halls—whereby the road itself seemed to run straight through the house and appear beyond—and its tall white pillars and hospitable galleries, now in the springtime enclosed in green. I need not state that now, having finished the business of the day, or, rather, of the night, Elmhurst, home of Elisabeth, was my immediate Mecca.
I had clad myself as well as I could in the fashion of my time, and flattered myself, as I looked in my little mirror, that I made none such bad figure of a man. I was tall enough, and straight, thin with long hours afoot or in the saddle, bronzed to a good color, and if health did not show on my face, at least I felt it myself in the lightness of my step, in the contentedness of my heart with all of life, in my general assurance that all in the world meant well toward me and that everything in the world would do well by me. We shall see what license there was for this.
As to Elisabeth Churchill, it might have been in line with a Maryland-custom had she generally been known as Betty; but Betty she never was called, although that diminutive was applied to her aunt, Jennings, twice as large as she, after whom she had been named. Betty implies a snub nose; Elisabeth’s was clean-cut and straight. Betty runs for a saucy mouth and a short one; Elisabeth’s was red and curved, but firm and wide enough for strength and charity as well. Betty spells round eyes, with brows arched above them as though in query and curiosity; the eyes of Elisabeth were long, her brows long and straight and delicately fine. A Betty might even have red hair; Elisabeth’s was brown in most lights, and so liquid smooth that almost I was disposed to call it dense rather than thick. Betty would seem to indicate a nature impulsive, gay, and free from care; on the other hand, it was to be said of Elisabeth that she was logical beyond her kind—a trait which she got from her mother, a daughter of old Judge Henry Gooch, of our Superior Court. Yet, disposed as she always was to be logical in her conclusions, the great characteristic of Elisabeth was serenity, consideration and charity.