He smiled in a way I liked none too well, but now I began myself to engage in certain reflections. Was it then true that faith could purchase faith—and win not failure, but success?
“At least she has flown,” went on Calhoun. “But why? What made her go? ’Tis all over now, unless, unless—unless—” he added to himself a third time.
“But unless what?”
“Unless that chance word may have had some weight. You say that you and she talked of principles?”
“Yes, we went so far into abstractions.”
“So did I with her! I told her about this country; explained to her as I could the beauties of the idea of a popular government. ’Twas as a revelation to her. She had never known a republican government before, student as she is. Nicholas, your long legs and my long head may have done some work after all! How did she seem to part with you?”
“As though she hated me; as though she hated herself and all the world. Yet not quite that, either. As though she would have wept—that is the truth. I do not pretend to understand her. She is a puzzle such as I have never known.”
“Nor are you apt to know another her like. Look, here she is, the paid spy, the secret agent, of England. Additionally, she is intimately concerned with the private life of Mr. Pakenham. For the love of adventure, she is engaged in intrigue also with Mexico. Not content with that, born adventuress, eager devourer of any hazardous and interesting intellectual offering, any puzzle, any study, any intrigue—she comes at midnight to talk with me, whom she knows to be the representative of yet a third power!”
“And finds you in your red nightcap!” I laughed.
“Did she speak of that?” asked Mr. Calhoun in consternation, raising a hand to his head. “It may be that I forgot—but none the less, she came!
“Yes, as I said, she came, by virtue of your long legs and your ready way, as I must admit; and you were saved from her only, as I believe—Why, God bless Elisabeth Churchill, my boy, that is all! But my faith, how nicely it all begins to work out!”
“I do not share your enthusiasm, Mr. Calhoun,” said I bitterly. “On the contrary, it seems to me to work out in as bad a fashion as could possibly be contrived.”
“In due time you will see many things more plainly. Meantime, be sure England will be careful. She will make no overt movement, I should say, until she has heard from Oregon; which will not be before my lady baroness shall have returned and reported to Mr. Pakenham here. All of which means more time for us.”
I began to see something of the structure of bold enterprise which this man deliberately was planning; but no comment offered itself; so that presently, he went on, as though in soliloquy.