“So you made it out well with the lady,” he began.
“Yes,” I answered, flushing. “Not so badly for the time that offered.”
“A remarkable woman,” he said. “Most remarkable!” Then he went on: “Now as to your own intended, I congratulate you. But I suggest that you keep Miss Elisabeth Churchill and the Baroness von Ritz pretty well separated, if that be possible.”
“Sir,” I stammered; “that certainly is my personal intent. But now, may I ask—”
“You start to Canada to-night,” said Calhoun sharply—all softness gone from his voice.
“I can not well do that,” I began. His hand tapped with decision.
“I have no time to choose another messenger,” he said. “Time will not wait. You must not fail me. You will take the railway train at eight. You will be joined by Doctor Samuel Ward, who will give you a sealed paper, which will contain your instructions, and the proper moneys. He goes as far as Baltimore.”
“You would be the better agent,” he added presently, “if this love silliness were out of your head. It is not myself you are serving, and not my party. It is this country you are serving.”
“But, sir—” I began.
His long thin hand was imperative. “Go on, then, with your wedding, if you will, and if you can; but see that you do not miss the train at eight!”
Half in a daze, I left him; nor did I see him again that day, nor for many after.
WHO GIVETH THIS WOMAN
Woman is a miracle of divine contradictions.—Jules Michelet.
On my return to my quarters at Brown’s I looked at the top of my bureau. It was empty. My friend Dandridge had proved faithful. The slipper of the baroness was gone! So now, hurriedly, I began my toilet for that occasion which to any gentleman should be the one most exacting, the most important of his life’s events.
Elisabeth deserved better than this unseemly haste. Her sweetness and dignity, her adherence to the forms of life, her acquaintance with the elegancies, the dignities and conventions of the best of our society, bespoke for her ceremony more suited to her class and mine. Nothing could excuse these hurly burly ways save only my love, our uncertainty regarding my future presence, and the imperious quality of my duties.
I told none about my quarters anything of my plans, but arranged for my portmanteaus to be sent to the railway station for that evening’s train north. We had not many outgoing and incoming trains in those days in Washington. I hurried to Bond’s jewelry place and secured a ring—two rings, indeed; for, in our haste, betrothal and wedding ring needed their first use at the same day and hour. I found a waiting carriage which served my purpose, and into it I flung, urging the driver to carry me at top speed into Elmhurst road. Having now time for breath, I sat back and consulted my watch. There were a few moments left for me to compose myself. If all went well, I should be in time.