“That was nine years ago,” commented Doctor Ward.
“Yes; and it was only last fall that he was made envoy extraordinary. He is at least an extraordinary envoy! Near fifty years of age, he seems to forget public decency; he forgets even the Dona Lucrezia, leaving her to the admiration of Mr. Polk and Mr. Van Zandt, and follows off after the sprightly Baroness von Ritz. Meantime, Senor Yturrio also forgets the Dona Lucrezia, and proceeds also to follow after the baroness—although with less hope than Sir Richard, as they say! At least Pakenham has taste! The Baroness von Ritz has brains and beauty both. It is she who is England’s real envoy. Now, I believe she knows England’s real intentions as to Texas.”
Doctor Ward screwed his lips for a long whistle, as he contemplated John Calhoun’s thin, determined face.
“I do not care at present to say more,” went on my chief; “but do you not see, granted certain motives, Polk might come into power pledged to the extension of our Southwest borders—”
“Calhoun, are you mad?” cried his friend. “Would you plunge this country into war? Would you pit two peoples, like cocks on a floor? And would you use women in our diplomacy?”
Calhoun now was no longer the friend, the humanitarian. He was the relentless machine; the idea; the single purpose, which to the world at large he had been all his life in Congress, in cabinets, on this or the other side of the throne of American power. He spoke coldly as he went on:
“In these matters it is not a question of means, but of results. If war comes, let it come; although I hope it will not come. As to the use of women—tell me, why not women? Why anything else but women? It is only playing life against life; one variant against another. That is politics, my friend. I want Pakenham. So, I must learn what Pakenham wants! Does he want Texas for England, or the Baroness von Ritz for himself?”
Ward still sat and looked at him. “My God!” said he at last, softly; but Calhoun went on:
“Why, who has made the maps of the world, and who has written pages in its history? Who makes and unmakes cities and empires and republics to-day? Woman, and not man! Are you so ignorant—and you a physician, who know them both? Gad, man, you do not understand your own profession, and yet you seek to counsel me in mine!”
“Strange words from you, John,” commented his friend, shaking his head; “not seemly for a man who stands where you stand to-day.”
“Strange weapons—yes. If I could always use my old weapons of tongue and brain, I would not need these, perhaps. Now you tell me my time is short. I must fight now to win. I have never fought to lose. I can not be too nice in agents and instruments.”
The old doctor rose and took a turn up and down the little room, one of Calhoun’s modest menage at the nation’s capital, which then was not the city it is to-day. Calhoun followed him with even steps.