On the day following my last interview with Mr. Calhoun, I had agreed to take my old friend Doctor von Rittenhofen upon a short journey among the points of interest of our city, in order to acquaint him somewhat with our governmental machinery and to put him in touch with some of the sources of information to which he would need to refer in the work upon which he was now engaged. We had spent a couple of hours together, and were passing across to the capitol, with the intent of looking in upon the deliberations of the houses of Congress, when all at once, as we crossed the corridor, I felt him touch my arm.
“Did you see that young lady?” he asked of me. “She looked at you, yess?”
I was in the act of turning, even as he spoke. Certainly had I been alone I would have seen Elisabeth, would have known that she was there.
It was Elisabeth, alone, and hurrying away! Already she was approaching the first stair. In a moment she would be gone. I sprang after her by instinct, without plan, clear in my mind only that she was going, and with her all the light of the world; that she was going, and that she was beautiful, adorable; that she was going, and that she was Elisabeth!
As I took a few rapid steps toward her, I had full opportunity to see that no grief had preyed upon her comeliness, nor had concealment fed upon her damask cheek. Almost with some resentment I saw that she had never seemed more beautiful than on this morning. The costume of those days was trying to any but a beautiful woman; yet Elisabeth had a way of avoiding extremes which did not appeal to her individual taste. Her frock now was all in pink, as became the gentle spring, and the bunch of silvery ribbons which fluttered at her belt had quite the agreeing shade to finish in perfection the cool, sweet picture that she made. Her sleeves were puffed widely, and for the lower arm were opened just sufficiently. She carried a small white parasol, with pinked edges, and her silken mitts, light and dainty, matched the clear whiteness of her arms. Her face, turned away from me, was shaded by a wide round bonnet, not quite so painfully plain as the scooplike affair of the time, but with a drooping brim from which depended a slight frilling of sheer lace. Her smooth brown hair was drawn primly down across her ears, as was the fashion of the day, and from the masses piled under the bonnet brim there fell down a curl, round as though made that moment, and not yet limp from the damp heat of Washington. Fresh and dainty and restful as a picture done on Dresden, yet strong, fresh, fully competent, Elisabeth walked as having full right in the world and accepting as her due such admiration as might be offered. If she had ever known a care, she did not show it; and, I say, this made me feel resentment. It was her proper business to appear miserable.