Bowing, he presented to her the document to which he had earlier directed my own attention. “We are well advised that Senor Van Zandt is trafficking this very hour with England as against us,” he explained. “We ask the gracious assistance of Senora Yturrio. In return we promise her—silence!”
“I can not—it is impossible!” she exclaimed, as she glanced at the pages. “It is our ruin—!”
“No, Senora,” said Calhoun sternly; “it means annexation of Texas to the United States. But that is not your ruin. It is your salvation. Your country well may doubt England, even England bearing gifts!”
“I have no control over Senor Van Zandt—he is the enemy of my country!” she began.
Calhoun now fixed upon her the full cold blue blaze of his singularly penetrating eyes. “No, Senora,” he said sternly; “but you have access to my friend Mr. Polk, and Mr. Polk is the friend of Mr. Jackson, and they two are friends of Mr. Van Zandt; and Texas supposes that these two, although they do not represent precisely my own beliefs in politics, are for the annexation of Texas, not to England, but to America. There is good chance Mr. Polk may be president. If you do not use your personal influence with him, he may consult politics and not you, and so declare war against Mexico. That war would cost you Texas, and much more as well. Now, to avert that war, do you not think that perhaps you can ask Mr. Polk to say to Mr. Van Zandt that his signature on this little treaty would end all such questions simply, immediately, and to the best benefit of Mexico, Texas and the United States? Treason? Why, Senora, ’twould be preventing treason!”
Her face was half hidden by her fan, and her eyes, covered by their deep lids, gave no sign of her thoughts. The same cold voice went on:
“You might, for instance, tell Mr. Polk, which is to say Mr. Van Zandt, that if his name goes on this little treaty for Texas, nothing will be said to Texas regarding his proposal to give Texas over to England. It might not be safe for that little fact generally to be known in Texas as it is known to me. We will keep it secret. You might ask Mr. Van Zandt if he would value a seat in the Senate of these United States, rather than a lynching rope! So much do I value your honorable acquaintance with Mr. Polk and with Mr. Van Zandt, my dear lady, that I do not go to the latter and demand his signature in the name of his republic—no, I merely suggest to you that did you take this little treaty for a day, and presently return it to me with his signature attached, I should feel so deeply gratified that I should not ask you by what means you had attained this most desirable result! And I should hope that if you could not win back the affections of a certain gentleman, at least you might win your own evening of the scales with him.”
Her face colored darkly. In a flash she saw the covert allusion to the faithless Pakenham. Here was the chance to cut him to the soul. She could cost England Texas! Revenge made its swift appeal to her savage heart. Revenge and jealousy, handled coolly, mercilessly as weapons—those cost England Texas!