I pulled up suddenly. This was the ship which carried Captain Parke and his friend Lieutenant Peel, of the British Navy. The secret council at Montreal was, therefore, apparently ended! There would be an English land expedition, across Canada to Oregon. Would there be also an expedition by sea? At least my errand in Montreal, now finished, had not been in vain, even though it ended in a mystery and a query. But ah! had I but been less clumsy in that war of wits with a woman, what might I have learned! Had she not been free to mock me, what might I not have learned! She was free to mock me, why? Because of Elisabeth. Was it then true that faith and loyalty could purchase alike faithlessness and—failure?
THE GENTLEMAN FROM TENNESSEE
Women distrust men too
much in general, and not enough in
Now all the more was it necessary for me and my friend from Oregon to hasten on to Washington. I say nothing further of the arguments I employed with him, and nothing of our journey to Washington, save that we made it hastily as possible. It was now well toward the middle of April, and, brief as had been my absence, I knew there had been time for many things to happen in Washington as well as in Montreal.
Rumors abounded, I found as soon as I struck the first cities below the Canadian line. It was in the air now that under Calhoun there would be put before Congress a distinct and definite attempt at the annexation of Texas. Stories of all sorts were on the streets; rumors of the wrath of Mr. Clay; yet other rumors of interesting possibilities at the coming Whig and Democratic conventions. Everywhere was that strange, ominous, indescribable tension of the atmosphere which exists when a great people is moved deeply. The stern figure of Calhoun, furnishing courage for a people, even as he had for a president, loomed large in the public prints.
Late as it was when I reached Washington, I did not hesitate to repair at once to the residence of Mr. Calhoun; and I took with me as my best adjutant my strange friend Von Rittenhofen, who, I fancied, might add detailed information which Mr. Calhoun would find of value. We were admitted to Mr. Calhoun, and after the first greetings he signified that he would hear my report. He sat, his long, thin hands on his chair arm, as I went on with my story, his keen eyes scanning also my old companion as I spoke. I explained what the latter knew regarding Oregon. I saw Mr. Calhoun’s eyes kindle. As usual, he did not lack decision.
“Sir,” said he to Von Rittenhofen presently, “we ourselves are young, yet I trust not lacking in a great nation’s interest in the arts and sciences. It occurs to me now that in yourself we have opportunity to add to our store of knowledge in respect to certain biological features.”