Polk was possessed of a political nose which rarely failed him. “Mr. Secretary?” he exclaimed, turning to Calhoun.
The latter bowed. “I have just accepted the place lately filled by Mr. Upshur,” was his comment.
A slow color rose in the Tennesseean’s face as he held out his hand. “I congratulate you, Mr. Secretary,” said he. “Now at last we shall see an end of indecision and boasting pretense.”
“Excellent things to end, Governor Polk!” said Calhoun gravely.
“I am but an humble adviser,” rejoined the man from Tennessee; “but assuredly I must hasten to congratulate Mr. Tyler. I have no doubt that this means Texas. Of course, my dear Madam, we talk riddles in your presence?”
“Quite riddles, although I remain interested,” she answered. I saw her cool eyes take in his figure, measuring him calmly for her mental tablets, as I could believe was her wont. “But I find myself indeed somewhat fatigued,” she continued, “and since these are matters of which I am ignorant—”
“Of course, Madam,” said Mr. Calhoun. “We crave your pardon. Mr. Trist—”
So now I took the lady’s sunshade from her hand, and we two, making adieux, passed down the shaded walk toward the avenue.
“You are a good cavalier,” she said to me. “I find you not so fat as Mr. Pakenham, nor so thin as Mr. Calhoun. My faith, could you have seen that gentleman this morning in a wrapper—and in a red worsted nightcap!”
“But what did you determine?” I asked her suddenly. “What has my chief said to cause you to fail poor Mr. Pakenham as you did? I pitied the poor man, in such a grueling, and wholly without warning!”
“Monsieur is droll,” she replied evasively. “As though I had changed! I will say this much: I think Sir Richard will care more for Mexico and less for Mexicans after this! But you do not tell me when you are coming to see me, to bring back my little shoe. Its mate has arrived by special messenger, but the pair remains still broken. Do you come to-night—this afternoon?”
“I wish that I might,” said I.
“Why be churlish with me?” she demanded. “Did I not call at your request upon a gentleman in a red nightcap at two in the morning? And for your sake—and the sake of sport—did I not almost promise him many things? Come now, am I not to see you and explain all that; and hear you explain all this?” She made a little moue at me.
“It would be my delight, Madam, but there are two reasons—”
“I am going to Montreal to-night, for one.”
She gave me a swift glance, which I could not understand.
“So?” she said. “Why so soon?”
“Orders,” said I briefly. “But perhaps I may not obey orders for once. There is another reason.”
“And that one?”
“I am to be married at six.”
I turned to enjoy her consternation. Indeed, there was an alternate white and red passed across her face! But at once she was in hand.