The Purchase Price
Part 5 out of 6
"Excellent words, Sir."
"One owes a certain duty to one's country at any time."
"Still more excellent."
"And political success can be obtained best through union and not
disunion of political forces."
"Most excellent of all! We rejoice to hear the voice of New York
speaking in the old way."
"My faith, I believe you are serious in this! Have you really
formulated any plans?" He was safe in the trap, and the other knew
"Sir, I will not discredit you by choosing methods. As to the
results desired, I say no more."
"Yet we sit here and discuss this matter as though we contemplated
a simple, proper and dignified act!"
"Murder is perhaps not legal, even for the sake of one's country.
But suppose we halt this side of murder. Suppose that by means
known only to yourself, and not even to myself, you gained this
young woman's _free consent_ to accompany you, say, to Europe--that
would be legal, dignified, proper--and ah! so useful."
"And rather risky!"
"And altogether interesting."
"And quite impossible."
"Altogether impossible. Oh, utterly!"
They spoke with gravity. What the gentleman from New York really
thought lay in his unvoiced question: "Could it by any possibility
be true that the Fillmore administration would give me support for
the next nomination if I agree to swing the Free Soil vote nearer
to the compromise?" What the gentleman from Kentucky asked in his
own mind, was this:
"Will he play fair with us, or will he simply make this an occasion
to break into our ranks?" What they both did was to break out into
laughter at least feignedly hearty. The Kentuckian resolved to put
everything upon one hazard.
"I was just saying," he remarked, "that we have been told the
adorable countess perhaps contemplates only a short visit in
America after all. She might be easy to lead back to Europe, If
necessary, you shall have a dignified errand made for you
abroad--entirely what you yourself would call fitting. You must
see to that. Your reward will come somewhere this side of Heaven."
"Again you have forgotten about--"
"I have forgotten nothing, and to show you that I speak with
authority, I will tell you this: Within the hour the Countess St.
Auban will leave her entertainment at the theater and return to her
hotel. You see, we are advised of all her movements. We give you
an hour to meet her at her hotel; an hour to persuade her. There
the curtain drops.
"No one in Washington or in New York seeks to look beyond that
curtain," he concluded slowly. "No one counsels you what to do,
and indeed, no one can suggest. Only take this woman away, and
lose her,--that is all! A few days or weeks will do, but for ever
would be better. It is no light errand that is offered to you, and
we are not fools or children to look at this altogether lightly.
There is risk, and there is no security. Customarily the rewards
of large risks and poor security are great--when there are any
[Illustration: "Only take this woman away and lose her."]
The gentleman from Kentucky rose as he spoke and, adroit in
managing men, reached out his hand as though to take the other's
and so to clench the matter. Yet his heart leaped in surprise--a
surprise which did not leave him wholly clear as to the other's
motives--when the latter met his hand with so hearty a grasp of
"It should not be so difficult," he said. "It is only a case of
logical argument. It is long since I have addressed the people, or
addressed a lady, but I shall try my skill once more to-night! All
that is necessary is to explain to this young lady that our
political ambitions are quite the same, and that I might be of
service did we share the same public means of travel in a Journey
already planned by both. I was intending a visit to Europe this
"Sir, there is no other man owner both of the skill and courage to
handle this matter. I hesitated to put it before you, but the
method you suggest seems almost plausible. I trust you to make it
appear wholly so to the fair lady herself."
"We might be younger and fare better at that sort of thing."
"Altogether to the contrary, my friend! Do not mistake this lady.
Youth would be an absolute bar to success. Age, dignity, a public
reputation such as yours,--these are the only things which by any
possibility could gain success; and, frankly, even these may fail.
At least, I honestly wish you success, and there has been no jest
in what I said about the support of Mr. Fillmore's family and his
party. You know that there is honesty even in politics, sometimes;
and there is silence, I promise that. Take my advice. Put her in
a sack, drop her overboard in mid-ocean. In return, all I ask of
you is not to throw overboard the sack anywhere close to this
country's shore! It was done once before, on the Ohio River, but
the sack was not tied tightly enough. Here she is again!
Wherefore, have a care with your sack strings, I beseech you.
"Louis, my hat; and get my carriage! Have a second carriage
waiting here at once."
THE DISTINGUISHED GENTLEMAN FROM NEW YORK
Meantime, the Countess St. Auban, innocent of these plans which had
gone forward regarding her, completed her attendance at the
entertainment which the evening was offering the elite of
Washington, and in due time arrived at the entrance of her hotel.
She found the private entrance to-night occupied by the usual
throng, but hurried from the carriage step across the pavement and
through the open door.
She made no ordinary picture now as she approached the brighter
lights of the interior. Her garb, cut in that fashion which gave
so scant aid to nature's outlines, was widely though not extremely
hooped, the fabric of daintily flowered silk. As she pushed back
the deep, double fronted dolman which served her for a wrap, her
shoulders showed white and beautiful, as also the round column of
her neck, shadowed only by one long drooping curl, and banded by a
gleaming circlet of many colored gems. Her dark hair, though drawn
low upon the temples in acknowledgment of the prevailing mode, was
bound in fashion of her own by a gem-clasped, golden fillet, under
which it broke into a riot of lesser curls which swept over ears
and temples. Here and there a gleaming jewel confined some such
truant lock, so that she glittered, half-barbaric, as she walked,
surmounted by a thousand trembling points of light. Ease,
confidence, carelessness seemed spoken alike by the young woman's
half haughty carriage and her rich costuming. Midway in the
twenties of her years, she was just above slightness, just above
medium height. The roundness of shoulder and arm, thus revealed,
bespoke soundness and wholesomeness beyond callowness, yet with no
hint of years or bulk. Her hair certainly was dark and luxuriant,
her eyes surely were large and dark, without doubt shaded by long
and level brows. The nose was not too highly arched any more than
it was pinched and meager--indeed, a triumph in noses, since not
too strong, nor yet indicating a physique weak and ill nourished.
Vital, self-confident, a trifle foreign, certainly distinguished,
at first there might have seemed a trace of defiance in the
carriage, even in the glance of Josephine St. Auban. But a second
look into the wide dark eyes would have found there rather a trace
of pathos, bordering upon melancholy; and the lines of the mouth,
strongly curved, would in all likelihood have gained that sympathy
demanded by the eyes, betokening a nature warm and noble, not petty
or mean, and certainly not insignificant.
Such was the woman of the hour in Washington, lately frowned on by
the ladies as too beautiful, talked about by the gentlemen as too
cold, discussed by some, adored by others, understood by none,
dreaded by some high in power, plotted against by others yet more
high in place.
She cast a hurried glance now at the clock which, tall and solemn,
stood near by in the hall. It was upon the stroke of midnight
only. Turning half questioningly to her maid, she heard a
footfall. The manager of the hotel himself came to greet her,
carrying a card in his hand, and with a bow, asking her attention.
"Well, then," began the young woman, in perfect English, glancing
at the card. Her dark eyes rose to meet his. "It is impossible,"
she said. "You know my wishes very well."
"But, my dear Countess, have you noted this name?" began the
"Of course, I know it. All the more reason there should be
"But I assure you, my dear Countess--"
A step sounded near by, and the curtains swung back, disclosing the
entrance to one of the adjoining parlors of the hotel. The figure
of a well-built and hale gentleman, past middle age, of dignified
carriage and pleasant features, was revealed. Half hesitating, he
"My dear lady," he began, in a deep and melodious voice, "I come to
you doubly handicapped, both as intruder and eavesdropper. I could
not avoid hearing what you have said, and as listeners hear no good
of themselves, I venture to interrupt. I am anxious that your
first impression of me should be a good one, Madam!"
She dropped him a curtsy which was grace itself, her dark eyes
looking straight into his face. Surprise brought a slightly
heightened color to her cheek. Seeing her perturbation, the
unbidden guest hastened to make what amends were possible.
[Illustration: She dropped him a curtsy.]
"You were saying it was a mistake, dear lady. But if so, the
intrusion was on my part. I have wished to meet you quietly, if
such may be your pleasure. I am alone. Opportunity has lacked for
earlier announcement, for I have but reached town this evening."
She looked from one to the other still questioningly. The manager
of the hotel, feeling discretion to be the best card to play,
hurriedly bowed, and hastened away.
The Countess St. Auban hesitated for an instant, but guessed some
errand here worth knowing. Having herself entered the inner room,
with grace she signified that the elderly gentleman should first be
placed; then, seating herself upon a divan somewhat nearer to the
door and hence in shadow, she waited for him to go forward with the
business which had brought him hither.
"Madam," he went on, "my dear Countess, I could but overhear you
refer to my own name. If it has any reputation in your eyes, let
that plead as my excuse for intruding in this manner. Believe me,
nothing would induce me to take such a step except business of
"It is, then, of business?" Her voice, as he noted once more, was
clear and full, her enunciation without provincial slur, clean and
"I hope something not wholly outside your liking."
"Of course I do not understand." She sat still looking at him
full, her hands, clasping her little fan, a trifle raised.
"Then let me hasten to make all plain. I am aware of a part of
your history and of a part of your plans, Madam; I am not unaware
of certain ambitions of your own--I am forced to be so frank in
these conditions. You are interested in the cause of Hungary."
"Place it wider, Sir," she said. "In humanity!"
"Hence you have come to America to carry forward certain of your
plans. Even now you have undertaken the greatest and most daring
work of altruism this country ever knew."
She made no answer but to smile at him, a wide and half lazy smile,
disclosing her white and even teeth. The jewels in her dark hair
glistened as she nodded slightly. Emboldened, he went on:
"And you find all things at a deadlock in Washington to-day.
Humanity is placed away in linen on the shelf in America, to-day.
Dust must not filter through the protection of this mighty
compromise which our two great parties have accomplished! We must
not talk of principles, must not stir sedition, at this time. Whig
and Democrat must tiptoe, both of them, nor wake this sleeping dog
of slavery. Only a few, Madam, only a few, have the hardihood to
assert their beliefs. Only a few venture to cast defiance even to
the dictum of Webster himself. He says to us that conscience
should not be above the law. I say to you, Madam, that conscience
should be the only law."
"Are you for freedom, Sir?" she asked slowly. "Are you for
"Madam, as I hope reward, I am! Those of us who dare say so much
are few in numbers to-day. We are so few, my dear lady, that we
belong together. All of us who have influence--and that I trust
may be said of both of us, who now meet for the first time--we are
so few that I, a stranger to you, though not, I trust, wholly
unrecommended, dare come to you to-night."
"With what purpose, then. Sir?"
"With the immediate purpose of learning at first hand the truth of
the revolutionary system in Europe. I have not been abroad of
late, indeed not for some years. But I know that our diplomacy is
all a-tangle. The reports are at variance, and we get them colored
by partisan politics. This slavery agitation is simply a political
game, at which both parties and all sides are merely playing.
Party desirability, party safety--that is the cry in the South as
much as in the North. Yet all the time I know, as you know, of the
hundreds of thousands of men who are leaving Europe to come to this
country. A wave of moral change is bound to sweep across the
North. Madam, we dwell on the eve of revolution here in America as
well as in Europe. Now do you see why I have come to you to-night?
Have we not much in common?"
"I am glad," she said simply; "I am proud. Me you overrate, but my
wishes and my hopes you do not overrate. Only,--" and she
hesitated, "why to-night; why in this particular way?"
"I arrive at that. My own plans take me soon to Europe. I am
determined to investigate upon the very ground itself this question
of a national repression of the human conscience."
She sat a trifle more erect, a trifle more haughty. He seemed to
read her thoughts.
"Let me hope that you also have planned an early return. We have
much which we might discuss of common interest. There is much of
interest in that country beyond, which we might see. I do not
venture any suggestion for you, but only say that if it were within
your own desires to travel in the company of a man whose former
station at least ought to render your reputation safe, you and your
servants will be welcome in my company. My party will have other
gentlemen and ladies, not of mean station, I hope."
She looked at him, hesitating, studying. It was hardly a fair
contest, this of youth and scant experience against suavity and
shrewdness strengthened by years of public life.
"I am somewhat helpless, Sir," she said, at length. "To converse
with one so able as yourself,--what woman of my ambitions would not
be pleased with that? But I am a woman, and alone in the world. I
am already denounced as careless. There already has been talk.
Moreover, as you see, I am committed now fully to this great work
of freeing and sending from America the negro slaves. Take them
from this country. Replace them with three million men born closer
to freedom and citizenship--"
"Yes. But you are here somewhat mysteriously; you come privately
and secretly. What harm, then, if you return as privately and
secretly as you have come to Washington? Let your agents carry on
your work here. The mission on which I shall be engaged will have
to do with Louis Kossuth."
"Yes; and you know that noble patriot, I am told. Consider of what
aid you might be to me. You speak his tongue, you know his
history, you could supply me at once with information--Come, 'tis
no idle errand. And, perhaps,--you will forgive me, since we both
know how cruel is such gossip as this that has wronged you--the
tongue of gossip wags the least when the eye of gossip has seen
least. Tins is a most natural and proper--indeed, most convincing
"That is precisely what I pondered, Sir." She nodded gravely.
"And let me add this," he continued: "every day you are here in
Washington the tongue of rumor wags the more. Listen to me! Leave
this place. Let gossip quiet down. It has been cruel with you;
yet the public soon forgets. To remain and appear in public would
freshen gossip anew. Come, it is an adventure! I swear it does
not lack its appeal to me! Ah, would only that I were younger, and
that it were less seemly and sedate! Dear lady, I offer you my
apology for coming as I have, but large plans work rapidly at
times, and there is little time to wait. Now there is but one word
I can say; that you have courage and decision, I know."
He had risen, and unconsciously the young woman also had
risen,--balancing, measuring, watching, warding, in this contest,
all too unequal. Suddenly, with a swift and most charming smile
she approached him a half step and held out her hand.
"You are a great man, Sir. Your country has found you great. I
have always found the greatest men the simplest and most frank.
Therefore I know you will tell me--you will satisfy any doubt I may
feel--If I should ask a question, you would not condemn me as
"Certainly not. Upon the contrary, my dear Countess, I should feel
She looked at him for an instant, then came up to the side of the
table beyond which he had taken his seat. Leaning her chin upon
her hand, her elbow upon the table, in a sudden posture of
encounter, she asked him a question whose answer took him swiftly
far back into his own past, into another and forgotten day.
"Did you ever hear of Mr. John Parish, Sir?" she demanded.
The suave countenance before her was at first blank, then curious,
then intent. His mind was striving to summon up, from all its many
images, this one which was required. It was a brain which rarely
forgot, even though years had passed; and had it been able to
forget, so much had been the better for the plans of the gentleman
from Kentucky, and for the success of his proposed European mission.
At last, slowly, a faint flush passed over the face she was
regarding so intently. "Yes, I remember him very well," he
replied. "He has not for very many years, been in this country.
He died abroad, some years since. I presume you mean Mr. Parish of
New York--he is the only one I recall of that name at least. Yes;
I knew such a man."
"That was very long ago?"
"It was when I was much younger, my dear Countess."
"You knew him very well, then?"
"I may say that I did, Madam."
"And you'll tell me; then--tell me, was it true that once, as a
wild rumor had it, a rumor that I have heard--that once you two
played at cards--"
"Was that a crime?" he smiled.
"But with him, at cards with him, Mr. John Parish, a certain game
of cards with him--one day,--a certain winter day years ago, when
you both were younger--when the train was snowbound in the North?
And you played then, for what? What were the stakes then, in that
particular game with Mr. John Parish? Do you chance to recall?"
"Madam, you credit me with frankness. I will not claim even so
much. But since you have heard a rumor that died out long years
ago--which was denied--which even now I might better deny--since,
in fact you know the truth--why should I deny the truth?"
"Then you two played a game, at cards,--for a woman? And Mr.
Parish won? Was it not true?"
A new and different expression passed over the face of the
gentleman before her. Her chin still rested in her hand, her other
arm, long, round, white, lay out upon the table before him. He
could see straight into her wide eyes, see the heave of her throat
now under its shining circlet, see the color of her cheek, feel the
tenseness of all her mind and body as she questioned him about his
long forgotten past.
"Why do you ask me this?" he demanded at last. "What has that to
do with us? That was long ago. It is dead, it is forgotten. Why
rake up the folly of a deed of youth and recklessness, long years
dead and gone? Why, the other man, and the woman herself, are dead
and gone now, both of them. Then, why?"
"I will tell you why. That happened once in my own experience."
"Yes, impossible. It should have been impossible among men at this
day of the world. But it happened. I also had the distinguished
honor to be the stake in some such game, and that because--indirectly
because--I had won the enmity, the suspicions at least--well, we will
say, of persons high in authority in this land."
"But, my dear young lady, the conditions can not have been the
same. Assuredly the result was not the same!"
"By whose credit, then? Who thinks of a woman? Who is there whose
hand is not raised against her? Each member of her own sex is her
enemy. Each member of the opposite sex is her foe. One breath,
one suspicion, and she becomes fair game, even under the strictest
code among men; and then, the man who did not dare would be
despised because he would not dare. Her life is one long war
against suspicion. It is one long war against selfishness, a
continued defense against desire, gratification. She is, even
to-day, valued as chattel--under all the laws and conventions built
about her runs the chattel idea. She is a convenience. Is that
"My dear lady, it is not for me to enter into discussion of
subjects so abstruse, so far removed at least from my proper trend
of thought--our proper trend of thought, if you please. I must
admit that act of folly, yes. But I must also end the matter
"Then why should not I end our matter there, Sir? It seems to me
that if in any usual way of life, going about her business
honestly, paying her obligations of all sort--even that to her
crucifix at night--a woman who is clean wishes to remain clean, to
be herself,--why, I say, if that may not be, among men great or
small, distinguished or unknown, then most fortunate is she who
remains aloof from all chance of that sort of thing. Sir, I should
not like to think that, while I was in my room, for the time
removed from the society of the gentlemen who should be my
protectors, there was going on, let us say, somewhere in the
gentlemen's saloon, a little enterprise at chance in which--"
"But, my dear lady, you are mad to speak in this way! Lightning,
even lightning of folly, does not strike twice in the same place."
"Ah, does it not? But it has!"
"What can you mean? Surely you do not mean actually to say that
you yourself ever have figured in such an incident?"
She made no answer to him, save to look straight into his eyes,
chin in hand still, her long white arm lying out, motionless, her
posture free of nervous strain or unrest. Slowly her lips parted,
showing her fine white teeth in a half smile. Her eyes smiled
also, with wisdom in their look.
The venerable statesman opposed to her all at once felt his
resources going. He knew that his quest was over, that this young
woman was after all able to fend for herself.
"What would you do?" she demanded of him. "If you were a woman and
knew you were merely coveted in general, as a woman, and that you
had been just cheaply played for in a game of cards, in a public
place--what would you do, if you could, to the man who lost--or the
man who won? Would you be delivered over? That woman, was
she--but she could not help herself; she had no place to turn, poor
girl? And she paid all her life, then, for some act earlier, which
left her fair game? Was that it?"
"But you, my dear girl! It is impossible!"
"I was more fortunate, that is all. Would you blame me if I
dreaded the memory of such an incident; if I felt a certain
shrinking from one who ever figured in such an incident? If I
could trust--but then, but then--Are you very sure that Mr. Parish
loved that woman?"
"I am sure of it," answered the old man soberly. "Did he use her
"All her life. He gave her everything--"
"Oh, that is nothing! Did he give her--after he had learned,
maybe, that she was not what he had thought--did he give her
then--love--belief, trust? Did he--are you very sure that any man
in such case, after such an incident, _could_ have loved, really
loved, the woman whom he held in that way--"
"I not only believe he might, my dear girl, but I know that in this
one case--the only one of my experience"--he smiled--"such was the
truth. There was some untold reason why they two did not, or could
not, marry. I do not go into that.
"Consider, my dear girl," he resumed; "you are young, and I am so
old that it is as though I too were young now and had no
experience--so we may talk. Our life is a contest among men for
money and for love; that is all success can bring us. In older
days men fought for that. To-day we have modified life a little,
and have other ways; but I fancy the game in which that certain
lady figured was only one form of contest--it was a fight, the
spoils to go to the victor."
"Horrible! But you might have been the victor? In that case,
would you have loved her, would you have used her well, all your
life, and hers?"
He drew back now with dignity. "Madam, my position in later years
defends me from necessity of answering you. You are young,
impulsive, but you should not forget the proprieties even now--"
His face was now hotly flushed.
"I ask your pardon! But _would_ you?"
He smiled in spite of himself, something of the old fire of
gallantry still burning in his withered veins. "My dear girl, if
it were yourself, I would! And by the Lord! I'd play again with
Parish, or any other man, if my chance otherwise, merely by cruel
circumstances, had been left hopeless. Some one must win."
"But how could the winner be sure? How could the--how did she--I
"Dear girl, let us not be too cold in our philosophy, nor too wise.
I can not say how or why these things go as they do. All I know is
that the right man won in that case, and that he proved it later,
by each act of kindness he gave her, all her life. This, my dear,
is an odd world, when it comes to all that."
"Was he--did he have anybody else in the world who--"
"Oh, only a wife, I believe, that was all!"
"Did she die, soon? Was there ever--"
"How you question! What do you plan for _yourself_? My word! You
are putting me through a strange initiation on our first
acquaintance, my dear Countess! Let us not pursue such matters
further, or I shall begin to think your own interest in these
questions is that of the original Eve!"
"To the victor does not always belong the spoils," she said slowly.
"Not till he has won--earned them--in war, in conquest! Perhaps
conquest of himself."
[Illustration: "To the victor does not always belong the spoils."]
"You speak in enigmas for me, my dear Countess."
She shook her head slowly, from side to side. "That poor girl!
Did she ever feel she had been won in the real game, I wonder? To
whom would belong herself--if she felt that she had something in
her own life to forget, some great thing to be done, in penance
perhaps, in eagerness perhaps, some step to take, up--something to
put her into a higher plane in the scheme of life? To do
something, for some one else--not just to be selfish--suppose that
was in her heart; after that game?"
"Why, you read her story as though you saw it! That was her life,
absolutely. Never lived a woman more respected there, more loved.
She disarmed even the women, old and young--yes, even the single
"It is an odd world," she said slowly. "But"--drawing back--"I do
not think I will go back to Europe. It would delight me to meet
again my friend, the patriot Kossuth. But here I have many ideas
which I must work out."
"My dear Countess, you oppress me with a sense of failure! I had
so much hoped that you would lend your aid in this mission of my
own abroad. You would be valuable. You are so much prized in the
opinions of the administration, I am sure, that--"
"What do you mean? Does the administration know of me? _Why_
should it know? What have I done?"
But the old statesman before her was no such fool as to waste time
in a lost cause. This one was lost, he knew, and it booted little
for him to become involved where, even at the best issue, there was
risk enough for him. He reflected that risk must have existed even
had this young lady been a shade more dull of mind, of less
brilliant faculty in leaping to conclusions and resolutions. She
_was_ a firebrand, that was sure. Let others handle such, but not
that task for him!
"Now you ask questions whose answers lie entirely beyond my power,"
he replied easily. "You must remember that I am not of this party,
let alone this administration. My own day in politics has past,
and I must seek seclusion, modestly. I own that the mission to
Europe, to examine in a wholly non-partisan way, the working out
there of this revolutionary idea--the testing on the soil of
monarchies of the principle of democratic government--has a great
appeal to me; and I fancied it would offer appeal also to yourself.
"All life is chance, is it not? But in your belief, does the right
man always win?"
He rose, smiling, inscrutable once more, astute and suave
politician again, and passing about the table he bowed over her
hand to kiss it.
"My dear Countess," he said, "my dear girl, all I can say is that
in the very limited experience I can claim in such matters, the
victor usually is the right man. But I find you here, alone,
intent on visionary plans which never can be carried out,
undertaking a labor naturally foreign to a woman's methods of life,
alien to her usual ideas of happiness. So, my dear, my dear, I
fear you yourself have not played out the game--you have not
fulfilled its issue! The stakes are not yet given over! I can not
say as to the right man, but I can say with all my heart that he
who wins such prize is fortunate indeed, and should cherish it for
ever. See, I am not after all devoid of wit or courage, my dear
young girl! Because, I know, though you do not tell me, that there
is some game at which you play, yourself, and that you will not
stop that game to participate in my smaller enterprise of visiting
Kossuth and the lands of Europe! I accept defeat myself, once
more, in a game where a woman is at stake. Again, I lose!"
There was more truth than she knew in his words, for what was in
his mind and in the minds of others there in Washington, regarding
her, were matters not then within her knowledge. But she was
guided once more, as many a woman has been, by her unerring
instinct, her sixth sense of womanhood, her scent for things of
danger. Now, though she stood with face grave, pensive, almost
melancholy, to give him curtsy as he passed, there was not weakness
nor faltering in her mien or speech.
"But he would have to _win_!" she said, as though following out
some train of thought. "He would first need to win in the larger
game. Ah! What woman would be taken, except by the man who really
had won in the real game of life."
"You would demand that, my dear?" smiled the pleasant gentleman who
now was bowing himself toward the door.
"I would demand it!"
By the time he had opportunity to rally his senses, assailed as
they were by the sight of her, by the splendor of her apparel, by
the music of her voice, the fragrance which clung about her, the
charm of her smiles,--by the time, in short, which he required to
turn half about, she was gone. He heard her light step at the
"My soul!" he exclaimed, wiping his brow with a silken kerchief.
"So much for attempting to sacrifice principle--for expecting to
mix Free Soil and Whig! Damn that Kentuckian!"
A SPLENDID FAILURE
If it is easy to discover why there was no special embassy sent by
this government to Turkey for the purpose of inviting the
distinguished patriot Kossuth to visit America, (that matter being
concluded in rather less formal fashion after the return home of
the Hungarian committee of inquiry--a ship of our navy being
despatched to carry him to our shores) it with equal ease may be
understood why the Countess St. Auban after this remained
unmolested. A quaking administration, bent only on keeping
political matters in perfect balance, and on quenching promptly, as
best it might, any incipient blaze of anti-slavery zeal which might
break out from its smoldering, dared make no further move against
her. She was now too much in the public eye to be safe even in
suppression, and so was left to pursue her own way for a time; this
the more readily, of course, because she was doing nothing either
illegal or reprehensible. Indeed, as has been said, she was only
carrying out in private way a pet measure of Mr. Fillmore himself,
one which he had only with difficulty been persuaded to eliminate
from his first presidential message--that of purchasing the slaves
and deporting them from our shores. The government at Washington
perforce looked on, shivering, dreading lest this thing might fail,
dreading also lest it might not fail. It was a day of compromise,
of cowardice, of politics played as politics; a day of that
political unwisdom which always is dangerous--the fear of riding
straight, the ignorance of the saving quality of honest courage.
Wherefore, matters went on thus, fit foundation now building for
that divided and ill-ordered house of this republic, whose
purification could only be found in the cleansing catastrophe of
fire so soon to come.
As to the unfortunate work in which this warm-hearted enthusiast
thus impulsively engaged, small comment need be made, since its
failure so soon was to become apparent to the popular mind. The
Countess St. Auban was not the first to look to colonization and
deportation as the solution of the negro problem in America. But
as the Colonization Society for more than a decade had failed to
accomplish results, so did she in her turn fail. In a work which
continued through all that spring and summer, she drew again and
again upon her own private fortune. Carlisle and Kammerer had
charge of the details, but she herself was the driving force of the
enterprise. While they were abroad lecturing and asking
contributions to their cause--taking with them the slave girl Lily
as an example of what slavery had done--she remained at Washington.
They actually did arrange for the deportation of a ship-load of
blacks to Hayti, another ship-load to Liberia. A colony of blacks
whose freedom had been purchased was established in Tennessee,
others were planned for yet other localities. It was part of her
intent to establish nuclei of freed blacks in different portions of
the southern section.
In all this work Lily, late servant of Josephine St. Auban, assumed
a certain prominence, this being given to her not wholly with
wisdom. Although but little negro blood remained in her veins,
this former slave had not risen above the life that had surrounded
her. Ignorant, emotional, at times working herself into a frenzy
of religious zeal, she was farthest of all from being a sober judge
or a fair-minded agent for the views of others. Yet in time her
two guardians, Carlisle and Kammerer, unwisely allowed her more and
more liberty. She was even, in times of great hurry, furnished
funds to go upon trips of investigation for herself, as one best
fitted to judge of the conditions of her people. As to these
details, Josephine St. Auban knew little. There was enough to
occupy her mind at the center of these affairs, where labors grew
rapidly and quite beyond her original plan.
As is always the case in such hopeless enterprises, the expenses
multiplied beyond belief. True, contributions came meagerly from
the North, here and there some abolitionist appearing who would do
something besides write and preach. In all, more than a half
million dollars was spent before the end of the year 1851. Then,
swiftly and without warning, there came the end.
One morning, almost a year after her return to Washington,
Josephine St. Auban sat in her apartments, looking at a long
document inscribed in a fine, foreign hand. It was the report of
the agent of her estates in Prance and Hungary. As she read it the
lines blurred before her eyes. It demanded an effort even of her
superb courage fairly to face and meet the meaning. In fact, it
was this: The revolution of Louis Napoleon of 1851 had resulted in
the confiscation of many estates in France, all her own included.
As though by concert among the monarchies of Europe, the heavy hand
of confiscation fell, in this nation and in that. The thrones of
the Old World are not supported by revolutionists; nor are
revolutionists supported by the occupants of thrones. Her
Hungarian lands had followed those which she had owned in France.
The rents of her estates no longer could be collected. Her
revenues were absolutely gone. Moreover, she herself was an exile.
[Illustration: She herself was an exile.]
Thus, then, had her high-blown hopes come to an end. It was proof
of the splendid courage of the woman that she shed not a tear. Not
a lash trembled as presently she turned to despatch a message for
her lieutenant, Carlisle, to come to her. The latter was absent at
some western point, but within two days he appeared in Washington
and presently made his call, as yet ignorant of what were his
He himself began eagerly, the fanatic fire still in his eye, on
details of the work so near to his soul. "My dear Countess," he
exclaimed, even as he grasped her hands, "we're doing splendidly.
We'll have the whole Mississippi Valley in an uproar before long.
All the lower Ohio is unsettled. Missouri, Illinois, Indiana are
muttering as loudly as New England. I hear that Lily has led away
a whole neighborhood over in Missouri. A few months more like
this, and we'll have this whole country in a turmoil. It's bound
to win--the country's bound to come to its senses--if we keep on."
"But we can not keep on, my dear Sir," she said to him slowly.
"That is why I have sent for you."
"How do you mean? What's wrong? Can not keep on--end our work?
"No, it is the truth. Kossuth is in Turkey. Shall I join him
there? Where shall I go? I'm an exile from France. I dare not
return to Hungary."
"You--I'll--I'll not believe it! What do you mean?"
"I am ruined financially, that's all. My funds are at an end. My
estates are gone! My agent tells me he can send me no more money.
How much do you think," she said, with a little _moue_, "we can do
in the way of deporting blacks out of my earnings--well, say as
teacher of music, or of French?"
"I'll not believe it--you--why, you've been used to riches,
luxuries, all your life! And I--why, I've helped impoverish you!
I've been spending your money. A ship-load of blacks, against you?
My God! I'd have cut my hand off rather."
She showed him the correspondence, proof of all that she had said,
and he read with a face haggard in unhappiness.'
"There' There!" she said. "You've not heard me make any outcry
yet, have you? Why should you, then? I have seen men lay down
their lives for a principle, a belief. You will see that again.
Should not a woman lay down her money?
"But as to that," she went on lightly, "why, there are many things
one might do. I might make a rich alliance, don't you think?"
He suddenly stiffened and straightened, and looked her full in the
eye, a slow flush coming across his face.
"I couldn't have said it any time before this," said he. "It has
been in my heart all along, but I didn't dare--not then. Yes, a
rich alliance if you liked, I do not doubt. There's a poor one
waiting for you, any time you like. You know that. You must have
seen it, a thousand times--"
She advanced to him easily and held out both her hands. "Now,
now!" she said. "Don't begin that. You'll only hurt us both. My
lieutenant, visionary as myself! Ah, we've failed."
"But everybody will blame you--you will have no place to go--it
will be horrible--you don't begin to know what it means. Of
course, we have made mistakes."
"Then let's not make the worst mistake of all," she said.
"But we could do so much--"
She turned upon him suddenly, pale, excited. "Do not!" she cried.
"Do not use those words! It seems to me that that is what all men
think and say. 'How much we could do--together!' Do not say that
At this he sobered. "Then there is some one else?" he said slowly.
"You've heard some one else use those words? I couldn't blame him.
Well, I wish him happiness. And I wish you happiness, too. I had
no right to presume."
"Happiness!--what is that?" she said slowly. "I've been trying to
find it all my life. My God! How crooked were all the mismated
planets at my birth! I haven't been happy myself. I do not think
that I've added one iota to the happiness of any one else, I've
just failed, that's all. And I've tried so hard--to do something,
something for the world! Oh, can a woman--can she, ever?" For
once shaken, she dropped her face an instant in her hands, he
standing by, mute, and suffering much as herself at seeing her thus
"But now," she continued after a time, "--I want to ask you whether
I've been ungenerous or vindictive with you--"
"Vindictive? You? Never! But why should you be?"
"Captain," she said easily, "my lieutenant, my friend, let me
say--I will not be specific--I will not mention names or dates; but
do you think, if you were a woman, you could ever marry a man who
once, behind your back, with not even eagerness to incite him, but
coolly, deliberately--had played a game of cards for--you?"
He stiffened as though shot. "I know. But you misunderstand. I
did not play for you. I played to relieve a situation--because I
thought you wished--because it seemed the solution of a situation
hard for both of us. I thought--"
"Solution!" She blazed up now, tigerlike, and her words came
through set lips. "I'd never have told you I knew, if you hadn't
said what you have. But--a solution--a plan--a compromise! You
ought to have played for me! You ought to have played for me; and
you ought to have won--have won!"
[Illustration: You ought to have played for me!]
He stood before a woman new to him, one so different from the
grateful and gracious enthusiast he had met all these months that
he could not comprehend the change, could not at once adjust his
confused senses. So miserable was he that suddenly, with one of
her swift changes, she smiled at him, even through her sudden
tears. "No! No!" she exclaimed. "See! Look here!"
She handed him a little sheet of crumpled note paper, inscribed in
a cramped hand, showed him the inscription--"Jeanne Fournier."
"You don't know who that is?" she asked him.
"No, I don't know."
"Why, yes, you do. My maid--my French maid--don't you remember?
She married Hector, the cooper, at St. Genevieve. Now, see, Jeanne
is writing to me again. Don't you see, there's a baby, and it is
named for me--who has none. Good-by, that money!"--she kissed hand
to the air--"Good-by, that idea, that dream of mine! That's of no
consequence. In fact, nothing is of consequence. See, this is the
baby of Jeanne! She has asked me to come. Why, then, should I
Whether it were tears or smiles which he saw upon her face Carlisle
never could determine. Whether it were physical unrest or mental
emotion, he did not know, but certainly it was that the letter of
the agent remained upon the table untouched between them while
Josephine St. Auban pressed to her lips the letter from Jeanne, her
"Why, I have not failed at all!" said she. "Have I not cared for
and brought up this Jeanne, and is there not a baby of Jeanne, a
baby whom she has named for me?"
Carlisle, mute and unnoticed, indeed, as he felt almost forgotten,
was relieved when there came a knock at the door. A messenger
bearing a card entered. She turned toward him gravely, and he
could only read dismissal now. Mute and unhappy, he hurried from
the room. He did not, however, pass from the stage of activity he
had chosen. He later fought for his convictions, and saw
accomplished, before, with so many other brave men, he fell upon
the field of battle--accomplished at vast cost of blood and
tears--that work which he had been inspired to undertake in a more
"You may say to this gentleman that I shall join him presently, in
the parlor at the right of the stair," said Josephine St. Auban
after a moment to the messenger.
As she entered the room, there rose to meet her a tall gentleman,
who stood gravely regarding her. At sight of him she paused,
embarrassed. No figure was more familiar in Washington, yet none
was less to be expected here. There was no mistaking the large
frame, the high brow, the dark and piercing eye, the costume--that
of another day. Involuntarily, although her first impression
(based upon other meetings with distinguished men) was one more of
apprehension than of pleasure, she swept him a deep curtsy. With
the grace of a courtier he extended a hand and led her to a chair.
"You know me, Madam?" he demanded, in a deep and bell-like voice.
"I know you, as well. I am delighted, I am honored, to announce
that I come to you as a messenger."
"It is an honor that you come in any capacity, Sir. To what may I
attribute so kind a visit, to one so unimportant?"
"No, no, my dear Countess. We rate you very high. It is the wish
of a certain gentleman to have you attend a little meeting which
will not welcome many out of all this city. It is informal and
unofficial, my dear lady, but all those who will be there will be
glad to have your attendance. It was thought well for me to drop
in to interrogate your pleasure in the matter."
"It is a command, Sir! Very well, at what time, then?"
"If it should please you, it would delight me to accompany you at
once, my dear lady! My carriage is waiting now."
Josephine St. Auban did not lack decision upon her own part.
Something told her that no danger this time lurked for her.
"Pardon me for just one moment then, Sir," she answered. A few
moments later she returned, better prepared for the occasion with
just a touch to her toilet; and with a paper or two which with some
instinct she hastily snatched up from her desk. These latter she
hurriedly crowded into her little reticule. They took the carriage
and soon were passing through the streets toward the most public
portion of the city of Washington.
They entered wide grounds, and drew up before a stately building
which lay well back from the street. Entering, they passed through
a narrow hall, thence into a greater room, fitted with wide panels
decorated with many portraits of men great in the history of this
country. There was a long table in this room, and about it--some
of them not wholly visible in the rather dim light--there were
several gentlemen. As her tall escort entered with a word of
announcement, all of these rose, grave and silent, and courteously
bowed to her. There approached from the head of the room a tall,
handsome and urbane gentleman, who came and took her hand. He,
some of these others, she could not fail to know. She had come
hither without query or comment, and she stood silent and waiting
now, but her heart was racing, her color faintly rising in spite of
all her efforts to be calm.
[Illustration: They entered wide grounds.]
"My dear lady," he began, in a voice whose low, modulated tones
scarce could fail to please any ear, "I thank you for your presence
here. Will you not be seated? It is a very great honor that you
give us, and all of these gentlemen appreciate it."
Josephine St. Auban curtsied and, remaining silent and wondering,
assumed the seat assigned her, at the right hand of the tall and
grave gentleman who had escorted her hither, and who now
courteously handed her to her place.
"We meet absolutely without formality, my dear Madam," went on the
tall and kindly man who had greeted her. "What goes on here is
entirely unofficial and, as I need not say, it is altogether
private; as you will remember."
"You will perhaps pardon my diffidence at such a time and place,
Sir," she began, at last. "It is difficult for me to understand
what small merit, or large error, of mine should bring me here."
"Madam, we wish that your abilities were smaller," smiled the tall
gentleman. "That is the very thing of which we wish to speak. It is
your activities which have seemed to us matters of concern--indeed,
of kindly inquiry, if you do not mind. These gentlemen, I think, I
do not need to introduce. We are all of us interested in the peace
and dignity of this country."
"Have I done anything against either?" asked she.
"Ah, you have courage to be direct! In answer, I must say that we
would like to ask regarding a few things which seem to be within
your own knowledge. You, of course, are not unaware of the popular
discontent which exists on this or the other side of the great
political question in America to-day. We are advised that you
yourself have been a traveler in our western districts; and it
seemed to us likely that you might be possessed of information
regarding matters there of which we get only more interested, more
purely partisan, reports."
"That is not impossible," was her guarded reply. "It is true, I
have talked with some in that part of the country."
"You were witness of the anxiety of our attempt to keep war and the
talk of it far in the background,--our desire to preserve the
present state of peace."
"Assuredly. But, Sirs, you will forgive me,--I do not believe
peace will last. I thought so, until this very day. In my belief,
now, there will be war. It can not be averted."
"We are glad to hear the belief of all, on all sides," was the
courteous rejoinder. "We ourselves hope the compromise to be more
nearly final. Perhaps you as well as others hold to the so-called
doctrine of the 'higher law'? Perhaps you found your politics in
Rousseau's _Nouvelle Heloise_, rather than in the more sober words
of our own Constitution?" His eyes were quizzical, yet not unkind.
"Certain doctrines seem to endure," was her stout answer, kindling.
"I am but a woman, yet I take it that anything that I can say will
have no value unless it shall be sincere. To me, this calm is
something which can not endure."
"There at least do not lack others who are of that belief. But
"They told me in the West that the South has over three million
slaves. They told me that the labor of more than seven million
persons, black and white, is controlled by less than a third of a
million men; and of all that third of a million, less than eight
thousand practically represent the owners of these blacks, who do
not vote. Gentlemen, I have been interested in the cause of
democracy in Europe--I do not deny it--yet it seems to me an
oligarchy and not a democracy which exists in the American South.
The conflict between an oligarchy and a natural democracy is ages
old. It does not die. It seems to me that there is the end of all
compromise--in the renewed struggle of men, all over the world, to
set up an actual government of their own,--not an oligarchy, not a
monarchy, not of property and wealth, but of actual democracy. It
must come, here, some day."
"It is unusual, my dear lady, to find one of your sex disposed to
philosophy so deep and clear as your own. You please us. Will you
"Sir, your courtesy gives me additional courage,". was her answer.
"You have asked me for my beliefs--and I do not deny that I have
some of my own, some I have sought to put in practice. To me,
another phase of this question lies in something which the South
itself seems not to have remembered. The South figures that the
cost of a laboring man, a slave, is perhaps a thousand or fifteen
hundred dollars. The South pays the cost of rearing that man. Any
nation pays the cost of bringing up a human being. Yet, within
this very year, Europe has sent into the North and into the West a
third of a million of men _already_ reared, already _paid_ for.
Sir, you ask me what will be the result of this discontent, the
result of this compromise. It seems to me plainly written in those
two facts--industrial, not political facts. The 'finality' of this
compromise, its final issue, will be established by conditions with
which laws or their enforcement have little to do. Yet statesmen
try to solve such a question by politics. I myself at one time
thought it could endure--but only if all the blacks were bought,
paid for and deported, to make room for those who come at no cost
to us. I thought for a time it could be done. I have tried to do
it. I have failed. I do not think others will follow in my
"We have not undervalued, Madam, either the brilliance or the
profundity of your own active intellect! What you say is of
interest. We already have followed with profound interest your
efforts. Your words here justify our concern in meeting you. This
is perhaps the first time in our history when a woman has been
asked to meet those most concerned in even so informal an
assemblage as this, at precisely this place."
There were gravity and dignity in his words. The majesty of a
government, the dignity of even the simplest and most democratic
form of government, the unified needs, the concentrated wish of
many millions expressed in the persons of a few,--these are the
things which can not fail to impress even the most ignorant and
insensitive as deeply as the most extravagant pageantry of the
proudest monarchy. They did not fail to impress Josephine St.
Auban, brilliant and audacious thinker though she was, and used to
the pomp of Old World courts. At once she felt almost a sense of
fright, of terror. The silence of these other gentlemen, so able
to hold their peace, came to her mind with the impress of some
mighty power. She half shrank back into her chair.
"Madam, you have no need of fear," broke in the deep voice of the
gentleman who had escorted her thither, and who now observed her
perturbation. "We shall not harm you--I think not even criticize
you seriously. Our wish is wholly for your own good."
"Assuredly," resumed the first speaker. "That is the wish of all
my friends here. But let us come now to the point. Madam, to be
frank with you, you have, as we just have said, been much concerned
of late with attempts at the colonization and deportation of
negroes from this country. You at least have not hesitated to
undertake a work which has daunted the imagination of our ablest
minds. Precisely such was once my own plan. My counselors
dissuaded me. I lacked your courage."
"There seemed no other way," she broke in hurriedly, her
convictions conquering her timidity. "I wanted so much to do
something--not alone for these blacks--but something for the good
of America, the good of the world. And I failed, to-day."
"The work of the Colonization Society has gone on for many years,"
gently insisted the first speaker, raising a hand, "and made it no
serious complications. Your own work has been much bolder, and, to
be frank, there _have_ been complications. Oh, we do not criticize
you. On the contrary, we have asked your presence here that we
might understandingly converse on these things to which you have
given so much attention."
"If I have erred," she ventured, "it has been done within the
limitations of human wisdom; yet my convictions were absolutely
sincere--at least I may assure you of so much. I have not wished
to break any law, to violate convictions on either side. I only
wanted to do some good in the world."
"We are quite sure, my dear lady, that the sentiments of your mind
are precisely those of our own. But perhaps you may be less aware
than ourselves of complications which may rise. Our friend who
sits by you has found occasion to write again in unmeasured terms
to the representatives of Austria. We are advised of your
affiliations with the Hungarian movement--in short, we are perhaps
better advised of your movements than you yourself are aware. We
know of these blacks which have been purchased and deported by your
agents, but we also know that large numbers of slaves have been
enticed away from their owners, that whole plantations have been
robbed of their labor, and this under the protection--indeed, under
the very _name_--of this attempt which you have set on foot. Has
this been done by your knowledge, Madam? I anticipate your answer.
I am sure that it has not."
"No! No!" she rejoined. "Assuredly, no! That is a matter entirely
without my knowledge. You shock me unspeakably by this news. I
have not heard of it. I should be loath to believe it! I have
spent my own funds in this matter, and I have told my own agents to
do nothing in the slightest contravention of the laws."
"None the less, these things have been done, my dear lady. They
have awakened the greatest feeling in the South--a feeling of
animosity which extends even to the free colonies of blacks which
have been established. The relations between the two great
sections of this country are already strained sufficiently. We
deprecate, indeed we fear, anything which may cause a conflict, an
outbreak of sectional feeling."
"Gentlemen, you must believe me," she replied, firmly and with
dignity, "I have been as ignorant as I am innocent of any such
deeds on the part of my agents. While I do not agree that any
human being can be the property of another, I will waive that
point; and I have given no aid to any undertaking which
contemplated taking from any man what he _himself_ considered to be
his property, and what the laws of the land accorded him as his
property. My undertaking was simply intended as a solution of
_all_ those difficulties--for both sides, and justly--"
"Madam, I rejoice to hear those words,--rejoice beyond measure!
They accord entirely with the opinion we have formed of you."
"Then you have watched me!--I have been--"
"This is a simple and democratic country, Madam," was the quiet
answer, although perhaps there might have been the trace of a smile
on the close-set mouth of the speaker. "We do not spy on any one.
Your acts have been quite within public knowledge. You yourself
have not sought to leave them secret. Should these facts surprise
"They almost terrify me. What have I done!"
"There is no need of apprehension on your part. Let us assure you
of that at once. We are glad that you, whom we recognize as the
moving spirit in this deportation enterprise, have not sanctioned
certain of the acts of your agents. There was one--a former army
officer--with whom there labored a revolutionist, a German,
recently from Europe. Is it not so?"
"It is true," she assented. "They were my chief agents. But as
for that officer, this country has none more eager to offer his
sword to the flag when the time shall come. I am sure it is but
his zeal which has caused offense. I would plead for his
reinstatement. He may have been indiscreet."
"We shall listen to what you say. But in addition to these, there
was a former slave girl, who has been somewhat prominent in
meetings which these two have carried on in different parts of the
country. In the words of the southern press, this girl has been
used as a decoy."
"Lily!" exclaimed Josephine. "It must have been she! Yes, I had
such a person in my employ--in very humble capacity. But, Sir, I
assure you I have not seen her for more than two months. I had
supposed her busy with these others on the lecture platform."
"She is not now so engaged," interrupted a voice from the shadows
on the other side of the table.
"Then she has been arrested?" demanded Josephine.
"That is not the term; yet it is true that she sailed on one of
your own colonization ships last week. Her fortune will lie
elsewhere hereafter. It was her own wish."
A sudden sense of helplessness smote upon Josephine St. Auban.
Here, even in this republic, were great and silent powers with
which the individual needed to contend. Absorbed for the time in
that which was nearest her heart, she had forgotten her own
fortunes. Now she suddenly half rose for the first time.
"But, gentlemen," said she, as she held out in her hand some papers
which crackled in her trembling grasp,--"after all, we are at cross
purposes. This is not necessary. My own work is at an end,
already! This very morning it came to an end, and for ever. Will
you not look at these?"
[Illustration: "My own work is at an end."]
"How do you mean, Madam?" The tall grave man near by turned upon
her his beetling brows, his piercing dark eyes. "Your work was
worthy of approval in many ways. What has happened that it should
"This!" she said, handing to him the papers which she held. "I
have a report to-day from my agents in Europe. Gentlemen, since I
must mention these things,--I have been possessor of a fortune in
my own name which might have been called considerable. I had
estates in France and in Austria. This advises me that my estates
have been confiscated by the governments in both countries--they
got word there, in some way--"
"It was Hulsemann!" ejaculated the dark man, as to himself.
"Austria's man here!"
She went on: "If I am not welcome in this country, whither shall I
go? I am an exile as I stand before you. I am a widow. I have no
living kin. Moreover, I am an exile, impoverished, as I stand. My
fortune has been dissipated--honestly so, gentlemen; but since it
is gone, my powers are at an end. If I have displeased you, I
shall do so no longer. Here are my proofs."
She placed her papers in the hand of her escort, the nearest of
these grave and silent men. A nod from the leader at the head of
the table caused this tall and dark gentleman to rise and seek a
place closer to the window in order that he might find better light
for reading. His glasses upon his nose, he scanned the papers
gravely. A sudden smile broke out upon his face, so that he passed
a hand across his face to force it back into its usual lines of
"Gentlemen," said he, at length, solemnly, "this lady has been kind
to come to meet us, and you all are witness that her dealings have
been perfectly frank and sincere. I confess, however, I am
somewhat puzzled over this document which she has given me. I
presume we may well mark it 'Exhibit A.' If you do not mind, I
will read it to you."
Slowly, deliberately, employing all the tones of his deep and
sonorous voice, which before then had thrilled audiences of
thousands in every portion of his country, he read; his face
studiously turned away that he might not see the dismayed gestures
of the woman who had handed him these papers:
"MY DEAR MADAME:
"I take in hand my pen to tell you how life goes
with us in this locality. The business of Hector is
improved one half this year. We have green blinds
on all sides of the house, and a vine that grows also.
The mother of Hector is kind to me. We have
abundance and peace at this place. But, Madame,
that which it is which I write you, there is come but
now the baby of Hector and myself Jeanne. In all
this locality there is no baby like this. Madame, we
have said to name it for yourself, Josephine St. Auban
Jeanne Marie Fournier. Moreover, Madame, it is
advise that for a baby so remarkable a godmother is
necessary. I take my pen in hand to inquire of
madame whether in the kindness of her heart madame
could come to see us and be present at this christening
of this child most extraordinary. I have the assurance
also of Hector that the remarkable qualities of this
baby will warrant the presence of madame. A reply
_poste restante_, address on St. Genevieve in Missouri,
will arrive to your faithful and obedient servant,
Before this singular document had been half concluded there were
sounds of shifting chairs, bursts of stifled laughter. The tall
grave man nevertheless went on, solemnly finishing this
communication. As for Josephine, she had shrunk back in her chair,
knowing not which way to turn.
"Sirs," concluded the gentleman who now occupied the floor, "while
I do not find full confirmation herein of all the statements this
lady has made to us, I do discover this document to be not without
interest. At its close, I find in a different handwriting--Madam,
may I guess it to be your own?--the addendum--let me see,--Ah, yes,
it says merely two words: '_The darling_!'"
He approached, and laid just the lightest, gentlest hand upon the
shoulder of the disturbed woman, who sat speechless, her face
suffused. "Your documents are regular, Madam," he said kindly.
"As for this other, which perhaps was the one you intended me to
read, that is private matter. It is not necessary even for myself
to read it. There will be no further exhibits in this case. I am
sure that I voice the feeling of every gentleman present here
however, Madam, if I say that although we have not curiosity as to
the terms of this communication, we have deep regret over its
advices to you. If your fortunes have been ruined, they have been
ruined in a cause in which a kind heart and an active brain were
deeply enlisted. You have our regrets."
"Sir!" He turned now toward the tall gentleman who sat silent at
the head of the table. "I am sure there is no further need for
this lady's attendance here. For my own part, I thank her. She
has offered us no remedy, I fear. In turn, there seems none we can
extend to her."
"Wait a moment!" interrupted a voice from the opposite side of the
The leader shifted in his seat as he turned toward Josephine St.
Auban. "This is the gentleman from Kentucky," he said. "We
usually find his words of interest. Tarry, then, for just a moment
A tall figure was visible in the half light, as the clear voice of
the gentleman so described went on.
"Sir, and gentlemen, there is no Kentuckian,--no, nor any man from
any other state here present--who could suffer this matter to
conclude just as it is now. This is not all. This matter but
begins. We have invited to attend us a lady whose activities we
considered dangerous,--that is the plain truth of it, and we all
know it, and she may know it. Instead of that, we find here with
us now a woman in distress. Which of us would have the courage to
endure with equal equanimity that which she faces now? It has
already been said here that we have been not unmindful of the plans
of this lady, not wholly unacquainted with her history. We know
that although a revolutionist at heart, an alien on our shores, her
purposes have been clean, have been noble. Would to God we had
more such in our own country! But now, in a plan which has proved
wholly futile before her time, which would prove futile after it,
even though backed by the wealth of a nation,--she has failed, not
to our ruin, but to her own.
"It is not without my knowledge that this lady at one time,
according to popular report, was asked to undertake a journey which
later resulted, in considerable personal inconvenience, not to say
indignity, to herself. Is there no way, gentlemen, in which,
especially in consideration of her present material circumstances,
this government--I mean to say this country--can make some amends
"Madam," began the leader at the head of the table, "I did not
predict wrongly regarding our friend from Kentucky; but in reply to
him, I myself must say, as I have already said, we are but a simple
republic,--all our acts must be open and known. What special fund,
my dear sir,"--this to the speaker, who still retained his
position,--"in what manner, indeed, could this be arranged?"
"In the easiest way in the world," rejoined the Kentuckian. "This
lady, whatever be her nationality, is at heart much identified with
the cause of Hungary, which she has been so good as to confuse with
our own cause here in America. Her idea is to advance democracy--and
to advance pure nationalism. Very well. We have already invited
Louis Kossuth to come to America as the guest of this country. Even
now one of the vessels of our navy is approaching his port of exile
in Turkey to carry him hither. In the entertainment of Louis Kossuth
large sums of money will be--and it is proper that they should
be--expended. The people demand it. The dignity of this nation must
be maintained. Popular approval will meet the proper expenditures
for any such entertainment.
"Now then, gentlemen,"--and he raised an argumentative
forefinger,--"there must be committees of entertainment; there must
be those able to interpret, those competent to arrange large plans,
and to do so courteously, with dignity." He bowed toward the
somewhat dejected figure of the only woman present, who scarce
ventured to raise her eyes to his, startled as she was by the
sudden turn of events,
"Now, Sir, we all understand this is wholly unofficial and
informal; we understand that there is no special fund which could
be devoted to any such purpose as I have suggested--unless it were
precisely this fund for the Kossuth entertainment! Gentlemen, it
is not the part of a host to set a limit upon the visit of a guest.
It is my belief that Kossuth will remain on these shores for at
least _ten years_, and that he will need entertainment for each of
those ten years at least!" A gentle applause met this speech. The
speaker himself smiled as he went on.
"For a competent committee head, charged with the duty of making
that entertainment gracious and dignified and worthy alike of the
Old World and the New, I should think that an annual expenditure
of, say, eight thousand or ten thousand dollars, would not be
inadequate! If this lady, whose kind heart and brilliant mind, as
our honored friend has said, both have been shown before us
to-day,--if she would agree,--if she would _accept_,--some such
provision as this from this fund, I am entirely clear in my own
mind as to both the wisdom and the absolute propriety of extending
this offer to her!"
He sat down. Laughter and applause met his remarks. Thus, and
gallantly, did Kentucky make amends.
"Madam," at length interrogated the tall man at the head of the
table, bending upon her his gaze, as did all these other grave
figures present,--"provided this matter might be arranged, would it
be within your pleasure to accept some such remuneration as that,
for services which should be given quite within your wishes? I
need not say," he added, turning his gaze along each side of the
long table, "that this is something which, _in view of all
circumstances_, to me also seems quite within dignity, decency and
absolute public propriety."
But Josephine St. Auban could make no reply. Her face was hidden
in her hands, and only her heaving shoulders showed the sudden
emotion which had swept upon her overstrained soul. At last she
felt a gentle hand touch hers. She raised her head as, one after
another, these men approached, each extending his hand to her and
bowing in salutation. Presently the room was deserted.
In the hall the gentleman from Kentucky passed his arm within that
of a tall man, obviously from the North.
"I have just got word within the week of the arrival of a daughter
at my own home out in Kentucky," said he. "I am in a position to
understand all and several the statements in Exhibit A, my dear
Sir! 'The darling!'
"But what a woman,--what a woman!" he went on meditatively. "Sir,
if I were a single man, as I am a married man, I should offer to
her, upon the spot, a union, now and for ever, one and inseparable!"
IN OLD ST. GENEVIEVE
It was the daily custom of Hector to be upon hand at the dock for
the landing of each and every steamer which touched at St.
Genevieve, bound either up or down the Mississippi, and his
business of cooperage never was allowed to infringe upon these more
important duties. Accordingly, on a certain day late in the
winter, although he had no special reason to be present, Hector was
among those who waited for the boat to land, with no purpose more
definite than that of giving a hand with her line at a snubbing
post. He was much surprised when he saw coming from the
gang-plank, and beckoning to him, a distinguished and handsomely
clad lady. For an instant, abashed, he could find no speech; then
suddenly he jerked off his cap, and stood smiling.
"It is Madame!" he exclaimed. "_Ah, bon jour! Bon jour! Ah,
"Yes," rejoined Josephine St. Auban, "it is I. And I am glad to
see St. Genevieve again, and you, Monsieur Hector. Tell me,--ah,
about that infant, that baby of ours!!
"Madame, believe me, there is none such in all the valley! Come!"
It was a proud and happy Jeanne who greeted her former mistress at
the little cottage with the green blinds, and the ivy, which lay
close upon the street of St. Genevieve,--Jeanne, perhaps a trifle
more fleshy, a shade more French and a touch less Parisian in look,
more mature and maternal, yet after all, Jeanne, her former maid.
Woman fashion, these two now met, not without feminine tears, and
forgetful of late difference in station, although Jeanne dutifully
kissed the hand held out to her. The first coherent speech, as in
the case of Hector, was regarding this most extraordinary infant,
whose arrival seemed to be thus far regarded as a matter of
national importance. In this view also shared Madame Fournier the
elder, mother of Hector, who also presently welcomed the new-comer
to the home.
[Illustration: Woman fashion, these two now met.]
A strange feeling of relief, of rest and calm, came over Josephine
St. Auban, a lady of rank in another world, where an incident such
as this could not have been conceived. Here it seemed not only
possible but covetable. The first babble of congratulations and
greetings over, she settled down to the quiet of the room assigned
to her, and gave a sigh as of one who at last finds harborage. If
only this might go on for ever! If only the street might always be
thus silent, the roof thus sheltering, the greetings of simple
friends thus comforting! She made no plans for herself, no
announcement to others of possible plans. It was enough to remain
thus, for a night at least. She was very weary, body and soul.
The pathetic droop at the corners of her brave gay mouth must have
brought sympathy to any who had known her earlier.
"We are not rich, Madame Countess," said Hector the next morning at
the breakfast table, "but, my faith, it is not so bad here. We
have not much to offer Madame, but such as it is, it is quite hers.
With what riches could she produce a hen to lay eggs more perfect
than those which madame beholds this morning? They are the eggs of
Mildred, our most special hen. And this cream, it is from our cow
Suzanne, whose like one does not find in any land for docility and
amiability of disposition. Our roof is small, but it is ours. We
have a yard so large as forty feet to the street yonder. What more
does one demand for flowers or for the onion with green top in the
spring? The couch of madame, was it not soft? Yes? It is from
fowls of this very valley. That scene from the window there, is it
not beautiful? Oh, very well! Others may possess in greater
abundance than we, but as for myself, my business of the cooperage
prospers,--behold my excellent wife Jeanne, yonder,--and this
daughter of ours! What more could human being ask?"
Time and again, Josephine found herself repeating this same
question,--What more could be asked than this? What more did the
great world offer? It had not offered her, long used to luxury, so
much as this. To Hector at this moment she made evasive answer.
"I could willingly tarry with you always, Hector," said she, "if
that were right."
"Right?" demanded Hector, swelling out his chest, "Why is it not
right?" He doubled up a mighty arm to show where the muscles rose
upon it. "See, I am strong! What is one more mouth to feed--could
it even come to that for one of madame's wealth? Madame but jests.
Did not madame bring me that Jeanne there? Ah, if only it were
right for her to linger with us, how happy we should be! Madame is
a noblewoman, we are but poor; yet she has honored us. Very well,
then, what good to wonder about the future? Madame is rich, that
is true. Suppose even she were poor, would it not be possible for
madame to settle down here in St. Genevieve, and to teach the
language of France--far better, to teach the English to these
The sturdy speech of the fresh-looking, good-hearted fellow,
touched the heart of a woman so world weary. For a time she said
nothing of plans, even to herself. It was not long before the baby
of Jeanne found a place upon her knee, and Jeanne herself, though
jealous, was willing to surrender her dearest rights, at least for
But always the eyes of this world weary woman were lifted up to the
hills. She found herself gazing out beyond the street of St.
Genevieve, toward the Ozarks, where once she had traveled--true,
against her will, but yet through scenes which she now remembered.
And always there came up in her mind a question which she found no
way to ask. It was Jeanne herself who, either by divination or by
blunder, brought up the matter.
"Madame remembers that man yonder, that savage, Dunwodee?" she
began, apropos of nothing. "That savage most execrable, who was so
unkind to madame and myself--but who made love so fiercely? I
declare, Madame, I believe it was Monsieur Dunwodee set me
listening to Hector! _Eh, bien_!"
They were sitting near the window, looking out upon the bleak
prospect of the winter woods. For the time Josephine made no
comment, and Jeanne went on.
"He has at last, thank heavens, come to justice. Is it not true
that human beings find ever their deserts?"
"What do you mean, Jeanne?"
"Of the Congress of this state, where he is so long a member, he is
now not a member. He has fail', he has been defeat'."
"I thought he was sure of reelection so long as he chose,"
commented Josephine, with feigned indifference.
"There is talk--I do not understand these matters--that he has
change' his coat, as one says, and gone over to the side of that
man Benton. Yet one says that Benton was always his enemy! Me, I
do not understand. I have the baby."
"What is that you tell me?" suddenly demanded Josephine. "That Mr.
Dunwody has _changed_ his political beliefs--that he has become
Jeanne nodded. "I think it is so name'. I know little of such
matters, naturally. To me, my infant here is of much more
importance than any question of free soil. It is possible in this
country that one day this infant--were it of opposite sex--might
arrive to be governor of this state--who knows? It is possible, in
the belief of Hector, that this infant, were it a boy, might even
become president of this great republic. Ah, well, there are
hopes. Who shall set bounds to the achievement of a child well
born in this country of America? Is it established that Hector and
I may not, at a later time, be blessed with a son? Is it
established that that son shall not be president? Is it not
necessary that _some_ boy shall grow up to be a president? Very
well! Then who shall say that a child of ours, if of a proper sex,
Madame, should not one day be president of this republic?"
"Yes, yes, Jeanne! I do not doubt that. But now you were speaking
of Mr. Dunwody--"
"Yes, that is true. I was rejoicing that at last he has been
defeat', that he has fail', that he has met with that fate which
should be his. Now he has few friends. It is charge' against
him--well, Madame, perhaps it were as well not to repeat all of
"I can understand," said Josephine slowly. "I can guess. Yes, I
Jeanne nodded. "Yes, they bring up stories that at one time you
and I--well, that we were there at Tallwoods. But these wild
people here, who shoot, and fight with knives, they are of all
peoples in the world the most strict and the most moral, the most
abhorrent of what is not their own custom of life. Behold, that
droll Mr. Bill Jones, in jest perhaps, expressed to others his
belief that at one time there was a woman conceal' about this place
of Tallwoods! Yes! Madame knows with what ground of justice this
was said. Very well! The people took it up. There was comment.
There was criticism. These charges became public. It was rumored
thus and so in all the district of Mr. Dunwodee. He has fought the
duel--oh, la, la!
"Ah, well, as for madame, by this time she was far away. None knew
her name. None doubted regarding her. But as for Mr. Dunwodee, he
was here,--he was discover'! Behold it all! At the election he
was defeat'. Most easily did this happen, because, as I have said,
he no longer was of the same political party which formerly had
chosen him. There you have him. That has come to him which he has
The eyes of Josephine St. Auban flashed with interest over this
intelligence. "He has changed his belief, his party! But no, it
is not possible that he should come out for _our_ party, _our_
cause, Jeanne,--_our_ cause, for the people of the world--for
liberty! I wish I might believe it. No. It can not be true."
"Yet it is true, Madame. A turncoat! Bah!"
"No, Jeanne! Not in the least should you feel contempt tempt for a
man who honestly changes a belief. To turn from error, is not that
But Jeanne only shrugged her shoulders, and held out her hands for
the baby. "It is naught to me," said she. "We are happy here
under this roof, are we not?"
"Precisely. We are safe here. That child yonder is safe here.
But how long shall we be safe if there are not those to keep this
roof protected? The law, Jeanne,--the Justice, back of the
law,--are these things of no interest to you?"
"At least, when it comes to roofs," reiterated Jeanne. "Monsieur
Dunwodee has pulled down his roof about his ear."
"Yes! Yes! Thank God! And so did Samson pull down the pillars
about him when he had back his strength!"
"Madame has given me occasion to disappear," rejoined Jeanne, with
a resigned shrug. "I do not always find myself able to follow the
lofty thought of madame. But, at least, for these people of St.
Genevieve there is no doubt. They have argue' among theirself.
The vote here is against Monsieur Dunwodee. He is what one calls
"But then, Madame," she added presently, as she turned at the door,
with the baby on her arm, "if madame should wish to explore the
matter for herself, that is quite possible. This night, perhaps
to-morrow, Monsieur Dunwodee himself comes to St. Genevieve. He is
to meet the voters of this place. He wishes to speak, to explain.
I may say that, even, he will have the audacity to come here to
advocate the cause of freedom, and the restriction of those slavery
for which hitherto he has labor' so valiant. Perhaps there will be
those who care to listen to the address of a man of no more
principle. For me and for my husband Hector--we do not argue.
Hector, he is for Monsieur Dunwodee. Save as a maker of love,
Madame, I am not!"
Josephine made no immediate reply. A tall mirror with pretentious
golden frame hung opposite to her across the room. A few moments
later, with a start, she suddenly pulled herself together,
discovering that she had been gazing steadfastly into the glass.
[Illustration: Gazing steadfastly into the glass.]
It was late in the sunlit afternoon when there rode into the head
of the street of old St. Genevieve a weary and mud-stained
horseman, who presently dismounted at the hitching rail in front of
the little inn which he favored with his company. He was a tall
man who, as he turned down the street, walked with just the
slightest trace of a limp.
This traveler did not turn into the inn, did not pause, indeed, at
any of the points of greater interest, but sought out the little
cooper shop of Hector Fournier. That worthy greeted him, wiping
his hands upon his leathern apron.
"Eh, bien, then, it is Monsieur Dunwodee! Come in! Come in! I'll
been glad for see you. There was those talk you'll would not came."
"Yes, I have come, Hector," said Dunwody, "and naturally, I have
come to see you first. You are one of the few political allies
that I have left. At least, if you don't believe the way I do, you
are generous enough to listen!"
"But, Monsieur, believe me, the situation here is difficult. I had
a list here of twelve citizen of St. Genevieve who were willing
for listen to Monsieur Dunwodee to-night in a grand mass meeting;
but now talk has gone out. There is much indignation. In fact, it
"What do you mean? What is going on?" demanded Dunwody.
"Alas! Monsieur, it is with regret I announce that the majority of
our citizen, who so dislike Monsieur Benton and his views, are much
in favor of riding upon a rail, after due treatment of the tar and
the feather, him who lately was their idol; that is to say,
Dunwody, his face grim, leaned against the door of the little shop.
"So that is the news?" said he. "It seems hardly generous, this
reception of St. Genevieve to myself! It is too bad that my
friend, Mr. Benton, is not here to share this hospitality of yours!"
"As I have said, alas! Monsieur!"
"But, now, as to that, Hector, listen!" said Dunwody sharply. "We
will hold the meeting here just the same. We do not run away!
To-night, in front of the hall there.
"But why trouble about that?" he added, almost lightly. "What
comes, comes. Now, as to yourself and your mother--and your wife?"
"And those baby!" exclaimed Hector. "Assuredly monsieur does not
forget the finest baby of St. Genevieve? Come, you shall see
Josephine St. Auban Jeanne Marie Fournier--at once, _tout de
suite_. _Voila_!" Hector was rolling down his sleeves and
loosening the string of his leathern apron. Suddenly he turned.
"But, Monsieur," he said, "come, I have news! It is a situation
_un peu difficile_; but it can not be concealed, and what can not
be concealed may best be revealed."
"What news?" asked Dunwody. "More bad news?"
"Not in the least, as we of my household regard it. With monsieur,
I am not so certain. It is _quelque chose un peu difficile, mais
oui_. But then--Monsieur remembers that lady, the Countess--?"
"Countess? Whom do you mean?"
"Who but our madame, the Countess St. Auban in her own right? She
who gave me my Jeanne--_at Tallwoods_, Monsieur! Have you not
known? She is, here. She is _chez nous_. Of wealth and
distinction, yes, she has traveled in this country merely for
divertisement--but the Countess St. Auban, yes, she pauses now
with the cooper, Hector Fournier! Does one find such beauty, such
distinction, such gentleness, such kindness, such courteousness
elsewhere than among the nobility?"
"When did she come?" demanded Dunwody quietly.
"But yesterday, upon the boat; without announcement. She is at
this very moment at my house yonder, busy with that baby, Josephine
St. Auban Jeanne Marie Fournier, named for a countess! But do not
turn back! Monsieur himself has not yet seen the baby. Come!"
For one moment Dunwody paused; then, quietly, he accompanied
Hector, making no comment. He limped just slightly. He was
older--yes, and graver.
The mother of Hector met them even before the gate was opened. Her
voice called to the door her daughter Jeanne, who was shaking hands
with Dunwody before he was half way up the walk. The ejaculations
of Jeanne attracted yet another ear farther within the house. A
moment later Dunwody saw pass before the door a figure which he
recognized, a face which called the blood to his own face. An
instant later, forgetting everything, he was at the door, had her
hands in his own.
"It is you!" he exclaimed. "How does it happen? It is impossible!"
Her face had more color than for days. "Yes, it is unexpected,"
she said simply, at last. "Everything is unexpected. But of all
things possible, this it seems to me is best--to come here--to rest
for a time."
"You are passing through to St. Louis?"
"Perhaps," she said. "My plans for the moment are somewhat
unsettled. I stopped off here, as no doubt you know, to serve as
godmother to this baby of Jeanne's! It is an important errand."
"But monsieur has not perfectly examined this infant as yet,"
interrupted Hector. "See, it has the eyes of Jeanne,--it has--"
"It is a darling!" said Josephine gently, and stroked the somewhat
scanty hair of the heiress of the Fournier estates.
In some way, a moment later, they were apart from the protestations
of the fond parents. They found themselves alone, in the special
apartment reserved for guests of distinction. An awkward moment
ensued. Josephine was first to break the silence. Dunwody could
only sit and look at her, devouring each line, each little
remembered gesture of her. Yes, it was she--a little older and
graver and thinner, yes. But it was she.
"I was talking with Jeanne this very morning," she said. "She was
telling me some story that you have been unfortunate--that there
have been--that is to say--political changes--"
He nodded, "Yes. Perhaps you know I have lost my place with my
people here? I am done for, politically."
He continued, smiling; "Just to show you the extent of my downfall,
I have heard that they are intending to tar and feather me
to-night,--perhaps to give me a ride upon a rail! That is the form
of entertainment which in the West hitherto has generally been
reserved for horse-thieves, unwelcome revivalists, and that sort of
thing. Not that it terrifies me. The meeting is going to be held!"
"Then it is true that you are to speak here to-night--and to uphold
doctrines precisely the reverse of what--"
"Yes, that is true." He spoke very quietly.
"I had not thought that possible," she said gently.
"Of course," she added, "I have been in entire ignorance of alt
matters out here for a year past. I have been busy."
"Why should you follow the political fortunes of an obscure
Missourian?" he asked. "On the contrary, there is at least one
obscure Missourian who has followed yours. I have known pretty
much all you have been doing of late. Yes, you at least have been
As usual, she hung on the main point. "But tell me!" she demanded
of him presently, a little added color coming into her cheeks. "Do
you mean to say to me that you really remember what we talked
about--that you really--"
He nodded, smiling. "Don't you remember we talked about faith, and
how to get hold of it? And I said I couldn't find it? Well, I
have no apologies and no explanations. All I have to say is that I
fought it out, threshed it all over, and then somehow, I don't know
how,--well, faith _came_ to me,--that is all. I waked up one
night, and I--well, I just knew. That is all. Then I knew I had
"And it cost you everything."
"Just about everything in the world, I reckon, so far as worldly
goods go. I suppose you know what you and your little colonization
scheme have done to me?"
"But you--what do you mean?"
"Why, didn't you know that? Weren't Carlisle and Kammerer your
agents; and didn't Lily, our late disappearing slave and also late
lecturing fugitive yonder, represent them? Don't you really know
"No, I had nothing to do with their operations."
"Do you mean to tell me that it was--Oh, I am glad you do not know
about it," he said soberly, "although I don't understand that part
"Won't you explain?" she besought him.
"Now, the truth is--and that is the main reason of all this popular
feeling against me here--that Lily, or these men, or people like
them, took away every solitary negro from my plantation, as well as
from two or three others neighboring me! They didn't stop to _buy_
my property--they just _took_ it! You see, Madam,"--he smiled
rather grimly,--"these northern abolitionists remain in the belief
that they have all the virtue and all the fair dealing in the
world. It has been a little hard on my cotton crop. I will not
have any crop this fall. I had no labor. I will not have any crop
next summer. With money at twelve per cent. and no munificent
state salary coming in,--that means rather more than I care to talk
"And it was I--_I_ who did that for you! Believe, believe me, I
was wholly innocent of it! I did not know!--I did not! I did not!
I would not have done that to my worst enemy!"
"No, I suppose not; but here is where we come again to the real
heart of all of these questions which so many of us feel able to
solve offhand. What difference should you make between me and
another? If it is right for the North to free all these slaves
without paying for them, why should there be anything in my favor,
over any one of my neighbors? And, most of all, why should you not
be overjoyed at punishing me? Why am I not your worst enemy? I
differed from you,--I wronged you,--I harmed you,--I did everything
in the world I could to injure you. At least you have played even
with me. I got you Lily to take along. And I even once went so
far as to tell you my own notion, that the blacks ought to be
deported. Well, you got mine!"
"I never meant it! I never intended it! It was done wholly
without my knowledge! I am sorry! I am sorry!"
"You need not be sorry. It is only one of the consequences of
following one's faith. Anyhow, I'm just a little less inconsistent
than Mr. Benton, who had always been opposed to slavery, although
he still owns slaves. The same is true of Mr. Clay. They both
have been prominent politically. Well, set them free of their
slaves, and they and I would be about even, wouldn't we? It comes
to being pretty much on foot, I must confess."
"I can understand that," said she. "For that matter, we are both
ruined; and for the same reason."
"What do you mean? And, tell me, once more, who are you? You
certainly have stirred things up!"
"As to the latter, it makes little difference," said she. "I will
confess to being a revolutionist and a visionary reformer; and an
absolute failure. I will confess that I have undertaken things
which I thought were within my power, but which were entirely
beyond me. Well, it has ruined me also in a material way."
"How, do you mean?"
"This colonization work was carried on by my own funds. It is not long
ago that I got a letter, saying that my funds were at an end. I had
some small estates in the old country. They are gone,--confiscated.
My last rents were not collected."
She, in turn, smiled, spreading out her hands. "You see me here in
St. Genevieve, perhaps on my way to St. Louis. Tell me, is there
demand for persons of foreign experience, who understand a little
French, a little English, perhaps a little music? Or could there
perhaps be a place for an interpreter in Hungarian, French or
[Illustration: She turned, spreading out her hands.]
It was his turn to show consternation. "Is it indeed true?" he
said. "Now it is time for me to say I am sorry. I do not
understand all about it. Of course I could see all along that an
immense amount of money was being paid into this colonization
folly. And it was your money, and you are ruined,--for the same
hopeless cause! I am sorry, sorry! It's a shame, a shame!"
"I am not sorry," said she. "I am glad! It is victory!"
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