“Two of them.”
“Indeed? One apiece, eh?”
“None apiece, perhaps. In any case, you lose.”
“Then the names—or at least one?”
I flushed a bit in spite of myself. “You know Miss Elisabeth Churchill?”
He nodded gravely. “And about the other lady?”
“I can not tell you much about her,” said I; “I have but little knowledge myself. I mean the Baroness von Ritz.”
“Oh, ho!” Jack opened his eyes, and gave a long whistle. “State secrets, eh?”
I nodded, and looked him square in the eye.
“Well, why should you ask me to help you, then? Calhoun is none too good a friend of Mr. Polk, of my state. Calhoun is neither Whig nor Democrat. He does not know where he stands. If you train with him, why come to our camp for help?”
“Not that sort, jack,” I answered. “The favor I ask is personal.”
He sipped at the fiery drink, which by this time had been placed before him, his face brightening.
“I must be quick. I have in my possession—on the bureau in my little room at my quarters in Brown’s Hotel—a slipper which the baroness gave me last night—a white satin slipper—”
Jack finished the remainder of his glass at a gulp. “Good God!” he remarked.
“Quite right,” I retorted hotly. “Accuse me Anything you like! But go to my headquarters, get that slipper, go to this address with it”—I scrawled on a piece of paper and thrust it at him—“then get a carriage and hasten to Elmhurst drive, where it turns in at the road. Wait for me there, just before six.”
He sat looking at me with amusement and amazement both upon his face, as I went on:
“Listen to what I am to do in the meantime. First I go post haste to Mr. Calhoun’s office. Then I am to take his message, which will send me to Canada, to-night. After I have my orders I hurry back to Brown’s and dress for my wedding.”
The glass in his hand dropped to the floor in splinters.
“Yes, Miss Elisabeth and I concluded this very morning not to wait. I would ask you to help me as my best man, if I dare.”
“You do dare,” said he. “You’re all a-fluster. Go on; I’ll get a parson—how’ll Doctor Halford do?—and I’d take care of the license for you if I could—Gad! sorry it’s not my own!”
“You are the finest fellow in the world, Jack. I have only one thing more to ask”—I pointed to the splintered glass upon the floor—“Don’t get another.”
“Of course not, of course not!” he expostulated. His voice was just a trifle thickened. We left now together for the license clerk, and I intrusted the proper document in my friend’s hands. An instant later I was outside, mounted, and off for Calhoun’s office at his residence in Georgetown.
At last, as for the fourth time I flung down the narrow walk and looked down the street, I saw his well-known form approaching. He walked slowly, somewhat stooped upon his cane. He raised a hand as I would have begun to speak. His customary reserve and dignity held me back.