So we were apparently to understand that my lady was here as open friend of England! Of course, I needed no word from Mr. Calhoun to remind me that we must seem ignorant of this lady, of her character, and of her reputed relations with the British Foreign Office.
“I pray you be seated, Mr. Pakenham,” said Mr. Tyler, and he gestured also to us others to take chairs near his table. Mr. Pakenham, in rather a lofty fashion, it seemed to me, obeyed the polite request, but scarcely had seated himself ere he again rose with an important clearing of his throat. He was one who never relished the democratic title of “Mr.” accorded him by Mr. Tyler, whose plain and simple ways, not much different now from those of his plantation life, were in marked contrast to the ceremoniousness of the Van Buren administration, which Pakenham also had known.
“Your Excellency,” said he, “her Majesty the Queen of England’s wish is somewhat anticipated by my visit here to-day. I hasten only to put in the most prompt and friendly form her Majesty’s desires, which I am sure formally will be expressed in the first mails from England. We deplore this most unhappy accident on your warship Princeton, which has come so near working irremediable injury to this country. Unofficially, I have ventured to make this personal visit under the flag of this enlightened Republic, and to the center of its official home, out of a friendship for Mr. Upshur, the late secretary of state, a friendship as sincere as is that of my own country for this Republic.”
“Sir,” said Mr. Tyler, rising, with a deep bow, “the courtesy of your personal presence is most gratifying. Allow me to express that more intimate and warmer feeling of friendship for yourself which comes through our long association with you. This respect and admiration are felt by myself and my official family for you and the great power which you represent. It goes to you with a special sincerity as to a gentleman of learning and distinction, whose lofty motives and ideals are recognized by all.”
Each having thus delivered himself of words which meant nothing, both now seated themselves and proceeded to look mighty grave. For myself, I stole a glance from the tail of my eye toward the Baroness von Ritz. She sat erect in her chair, a figure of easy grace and dignity, but on her face was nothing one could read to tell who she was or why she was here. So far from any external gaucherie, she seemed quite as much at home here, and quite as fit here, as England’s plenipotentiary.
“I seize upon this opportunity, Mr. Pakenham,” said Mr. Tyler presently, with a smile which he meant to set all at ease and to soften as much as possible the severity of that which was to follow, “I gladly take this opportunity to mention in an informal way my hope that this matter which was already inaugurated by Mr. Upshur before his untimely death may come to perfectly pleasant consummation. I refer to the question of Texas.”