“Nothing could please me more. I have slept little, pondering on this that I do call business. To begin with, then, you were there at the Chateau Ramezay last night. I would have given all I had to have been there for an hour.”
“There are certain advantages a woman may have.”
“But you were there? You know what went forward?”
“Did they know you were present?”
“Monsieur is somewhat importunate!”
She looked me now directly in the eye, studying me mercilessly, with a scrutiny whose like I should not care often to undergo.
“I should be glad if it were possible to answer you,” she said at last enigmatically; “but I have faith to keep with—others—with you—with—myself.”
Now my own eagerness ran away with me; I became almost rude. “Madam,” I exclaimed, “why beat about the bush? I do not care to deceive you, and you must not deceive me. Why should we not be friends in every way, and fair ones?”
“You do not know what you are saying,” she said simply.
“Are you then an enemy of my country?” I demanded. “If I thought you were here to prove traitress to my country, you should never leave this room except with me. You shall not leave it now until you have told me what you are, why you are here, what you plan to do!”
She showed no fear. She only made a pretty little gesture at the dishes between us. “At my own table!” she pouted.
Again our eyes met directly and again hers did not lower. She looked at me calmly. I was no match for her.
“My dear lady,” I began again, “my relation to the affairs of the American Republic is a very humble one. I am no minister of state, and I know you deal with ministers direct. How, then, shall I gain your friendship for my country? You are dangerous to have for an enemy. Are you too high-priced to have for a friend—for a friend to our Union—a friend of the principle of democracy? Come now, you enjoy large questions. Tell me, what does this council mean regarding Oregon? Is it true that England plans now to concentrate all her traders, all her troops, and force them west up the Saskatchewan and into Oregon this coming season? Come, now, Madam, is it to be war?”
Her curved lips broke into a smile that showed again her small white teeth.
“Were you, then, married?” she said.
I only went on, impatient. “Any moment may mean everything to us. I should not ask these questions if I did not know that you were close to Mr. Calhoun.”
She looked me square in the eye and nodded her head slowly. “I may say this much, Monsieur, that it has pleased me to gain a little further information.”
“You will give my government that information?”
“Why should I?”
“Yet you spoke of others who might come here. What others? Who are they? The representatives of Mexico? Some attache of the British Embassy at Washington? Some minister from England itself, sent here direct?”