54-40 or Fight eBook

Emerson Hough
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 265 pages of information about 54-40 or Fight.

That answer is one which is in our history.

“John Calhoun accepts!” said my master, loud and clear.

CHAPTER IX

A KETTLE OF FISH

     Few disputes exist which have not had their origin in
     women—­Juvenal.

I saw the heavy face of Mr. Pakenham go pale, saw the face of the Baroness von Ritz flash with a swift resolution, saw the eyes of Mr. Calhoun and Mr. Tyler meet in firmness.  An instant later, Mr. Tyler rose and bowed our dismissal.  Our little play was done.  Which of us knew all the motives that had lain behind its setting?

Mr. Pakenham drew apart and engaged in earnest speech with the lady who had accompanied him; so that meantime I myself found opportunity for a word with Mr. Calhoun.

“Now,” said I, “the fat certainly is all in the fire!”

“What fat, my son?” asked Calhoun serenely; “and what fire?”

“At least”—­and I grinned covertly, I fear—­“it seems all over between my lady and her protector there.  She turned traitor just when he had most need of her!  Tell me, what argument did you use with her last night?”

Mr. Calhoun took snuff.

“You don’t know women, my son, and you don’t know men, either.”  The thin white skin about his eyes wrinkled.

“Certainly, I don’t know what arts may have been employed in Mr. Calhoun’s office at half-past two this morning.”  I smiled frankly now at my chief, and he relaxed in turn.

“We had a most pleasant visit of an hour.  A delightful woman, a charming woman, and one of intellect as well.  I appealed to her heart, her brain, her purse, and she laughed, for the most part.  Yet she argued, too, and seemed to have some interest—­as you see proved now.  Ah, I wish I could have had the other two great motives to add to my appeal!”

“Meaning—?”

“Love—­and curiosity!  With those added, I could have won her over; for believe me, she is none too firmly anchored to England.  I am sure of that, though it leaves me still puzzled.  If you think her personal hold on yonder gentleman will be lessened, you err,” he added, in a low voice.  “I consider it sure that he is bent on her as much as he is on England.  See, she has him back in hand already!  I would she were our friend!”

“Is she not?” I asked suddenly.

“We two may answer that one day,” said Calhoun enigmatically.

Now I offered to Mr. Calhoun the note I had received from his page.

“This journey to-night,” I began; “can I not be excused from making that?  There is a very special reason.”

“What can it be?” asked Calhoun, frowning.

“I am to be married to-night, sir,” said I, calmly as I could.

It was Calhoun’s turn now to be surprised. “Married? Zounds! boy, what do you mean?  There is no time to waste.”

“I do not hold it quite wasted, sir,” said I with dignity.  “Miss Elisabeth Churchill and I for a long time—­”

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54-40 or Fight from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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