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NOT until afternoon did Mrs. Lee reappear. How much she had slept she did
not say, and she hardly looked like one whose slumbers had been long or
sweet; but if she had slept little, she had made up for the loss by
thinking much, and, while she thought, the storm which had raged so
fiercely in her breast, more and more subsided into calm. If there was not
sunshine yet, there was at least stillness. As she lay, hour after hour,
waiting for the sleep that did not come, she had at first the keen
mortification of reflecting how easily she had been led by mere vanity
into imagining that she could be of use in the world. She even smiled in
her solitude at the picture she drew of herself, reforming Ratcliffe, and
Krebs, and Schuyler Clinton. The ease with which Ratcliffe alone had
twisted her about his finger, now that she saw it, made her writhe, and
the thought of what he might have done, had she married him, and of the
endless succession of moral somersaults she would have had to turn,
chilled her with mortal terror. She had barely escaped being dragged under
the wheels of the machine, and so coming to an untimely end. When she
thought of this, she felt a mad passion to revenge herself on the whole
race of politicians, with Ratcliffe at their head; she passed hours in
framing bitter speeches to be made to his face.
Then as she grew calmer, Ratcliffe's sins took on a milder hue; life,
after all, had not been entirely blackened by his arts; there was even
some good in her experience, sharp though it were. Had she not come to
Washington in search of men who cast a shadow, and was not Ratcliffe's
shadow strong enough to satisfy her? Had she not penetrated the deepest
recesses of politics, and learned how easily the mere possession of power
could convert the shadow of a hobby-horse existing only in the brain of a
foolish country farmer, into a lurid nightmare that convulsed the sleep of
nations? The antics of Presidents and Senators had been amusing—so
amusing that she had nearly been persuaded to take part in them. She had
saved herself in time.
She had got to the bottom of this business of democratic government, and
found out that it was nothing more than government of any other kind. She
might have known it by her own common sense, but now that experience had
proved it, she was glad to quit the masquerade; to return to the true
democracy of life, her paupers and her prisons, her schools and her
hospitals. As for Mr. Ratcliffe, she felt no difficulty in dealing with
Let Mr. Ratcliffe, and his brother giants, wander on their own political
prairie, and hunt for offices, or other profitable game, as they would.
Their objects were not her objects, and to join their company was not her
ambition. She was no longer very angry with Mr. Ratcliffe. She had no wish
to insult him, or to quarrel with him. What he had done as a politician,
he had done according to his own moral code, and it was not her business
to judge him; to protect herself was the only right she claimed. She
thought she could easily hold him at arm's length, and although, if
Carrington had written the truth, they could never again be friends, there
need be no difficulty in their remaining acquaintances. If this view of
her duty was narrow, it was at least proof that she had learned something
Ratcliffe; perhaps it was also proof that she had yet to learn Mr.
Two o'clock had struck before Mrs. Lee came down from her chamber, and
Sybil had not yet made her appearance. Madeleine rang her bell and gave
orders that, if Mr. Ratcliffe called she would see him, but she was at
home to no one else. Then she sat down to write letters and to prepare for
her journey to New York, for she must now hasten her departure in order to
escape the gossip and criticism which she saw hanging like an avalanche
over her head.
When Sybil at length came down, looking much fresher than her sister, they
passed an hour together arranging this and other small matters, so that
both of them were again in the best of spirits, and Sybil's face was
wreathed in smiles.
A number of visitors came to the door that day, some of them prompted by
friendliness and some by sheer curiosity, for Mrs. Lee's abrupt
disappearance from the ball had excited remark. Against all these her door
was firmly closed. On the other hand, as the afternoon went on, she sent
Sybil away, so that she might have the field entirely to herself, and
Sybil, relieved of all her alarms, sallied out to interrupt Dunbeg's
latest interview with his Countess, and to amuse herself with Victoria's
Towards four o'clock the tall form of Mr. Ratcliffe was seen to issue from
the Treasury Department and to descend the broad steps of its western
Turning deliberately towards the Square, the Secretary of the Treasury
crossed the Avenue and stopping at Mrs. Lee's door, rang the bell. He was
immediately admitted. Mrs. Lee was alone in her parlour and rose rather
gravely as he entered, but welcomed him as cordially as she could. She
wanted to put an end to his hopes at once and to do it decisively, but
without hurting his feelings.
"Mr. Ratcliffe," said she, when he was seated—"I am sure you will be
better pleased by my speaking instantly and frankly. I could not reply to
you last night. I will do so now without delay. What you wish is
impossible. I would rather not even discuss it. Let us leave it here and
return to our old relations."
She could not force herself to express any sense of gratitude for his
affection, or of regret at being obliged to meet it with so little return.
To treat him with tolerable civility was all she thought required of her.
Ratcliffe felt the change of manner. He had been prepared for a struggle,
but not to be met with so blunt a rebuff at the start. His look became
serious and he hesitated a moment before speaking, but when he spoke at
last, it was with a manner as firm and decided as that of Mrs. Lee
"I cannot accept such an answer. I will not say that I have a right to
explanation,—I have no rights which you are bound to respect,—but
from you I conceive that I may at least ask the favour of one, and that
you will not refuse it. Are you willing to tell me your reasons for this
abrupt and harsh decision?"
"I do not dispute your right of explanation, Mr. Ratcliffe. You have the
right, if you choose to use it, and I am ready to give you every
explanation in my power; but I hope you will not insist on my doing so. If
I seemed to speak abruptly and harshly, it was merely to spare you the
greater annoyance of doubt. Since I am forced to give you pain, was it not
fairer and more respectful to you to speak at once? We have been friends.
I am very soon going away. I sincerely want to avoid saying or doing
anything that would change our relations."
Ratcliffe, however, paid no attention to these words, and gave them no
answer. He was much too old a debater to be misled by such trifles, when
he needed all his faculties to pin his opponent to the wall. He asked:—
"Is your decision a new one?"
"It is a very old one, Mr. Ratcliffe, which I had let myself lose sight
of, for a time. A night's reflection has brought me back to it."
"May I ask why you have returned to it? surely you would not have
hesitated without strong reasons."
"I will tell you frankly. If, by appearing to hesitate, I have misled you,
I am honestly sorry for it. I did not mean to do it. My hesitation was
owing to the doubt whether my life might not really be best used in aiding
you. My decision was owing to the certainty that we are not fitted for
each other. Our lives run in separate grooves. We are both too old to
Ratcliffe shook his head with an air of relief. "Your reasons, Mrs. Lee,
are not sound. There is no such divergence in our lives. On the contrary I
can give to yours the field it needs, and that it can get in no other way;
while you can give to mine everything it now wants. If these are your only
reasons I am sure of being able to remove them."
Madeleine looked as though she were not altogether pleased at this idea,
and became a little dogmatic. "It is no use our arguing on this subject,
Mr. Ratcliffe. You and I take very different views of life. I cannot
accept yours, and you could not practise on mine."
"Show me," said Ratcliffe, "a single example of such a divergence, and I
will accept your decision without another word."
Mrs. Lee hesitated and looked at him for an instant as though to be quite
sure that he was in earnest. There was an effrontery about this challenge
which surprised her, and if she did not check it on the spot, there was no
saying how much trouble it might give her. Then unlocking the drawer of
the writing-desk at her elbow, she took out Carrington's letter and handed
it to Mr. Ratcliffe.
"Here is such an example which has come to my knowledge very lately. I
meant to show it to you in any case, but I would rather have waited."
Ratcliffe took the letter which she handed to him, opened it deliberately,
looked at the signature, and read. He showed no sign of surprise or
disturbance. No one would have imagined that he had, from the moment he
saw Carrington's name, as precise a knowledge of what was in this letter
as though he had written it himself. His first sensation was only one of
anger that his projects had miscarried. How this had happened he could not
at once understand, for the idea that Sybil could have a hand in it did
not occur to him. He had made up his mind that Sybil was a silly,
frivolous girl, who counted for nothing in her sister's actions. He had
fallen into the usual masculine blunder of mixing up smartness of
intelligence with strength of character. Sybil, without being a
metaphysician, willed anything which she willed at all with more energy
than her sister did, who was worn out with the effort of life. Mr.
Ratcliffe missed this point, and was left to wonder who it was that had
crossed his path, and how Carrington had managed to be present and absent,
to get a good office in Mexico and to baulk his schemes in Washington, at
the same time. He had not given Carrington credit for so much cleverness.
He was violently irritated at the check. Another day, he thought, would
have made him safe on this side; and possibly he was right. Had he once
succeeded in getting ever so slight a hold on Mrs. Lee he would have told
her this story with his own colouring, and from his own point of view, and
he fully believed he could do this in such a way as to rouse her sympathy.
Now that her mind was prejudiced, the task would be much more difficult;
yet he did not despair, for it was his theory that Mrs. Lee, in the depths
of her soul, wanted to be at the head of the White House as much as he
wanted to be there himself, and that her apparent coyness was mere
feminine indecision in the face of temptation. His thoughts now turned
upon the best means of giving again the upper hand to her ambition. He
wanted to drive Carrington a second time from the field.
Thus it was that, having read the letter once in order to learn what was
in it, he turned back, and slowly read it again in order to gain time.
Then he replaced it in its envelope, and returned it to Mrs. Lee, who,
with equal calmness, as though her interest in it were at an end, tossed
it negligently into the fire, where it was reduced to ashes under
He watched it burn for a moment, and then turning to her, said, with his
usual composure, "I meant to have told you of that affair myself. I am
sorry that Mr. Carrington has thought proper to forestall me. No doubt he
has his own motives for taking my character in charge."
"Then it is true!" said Mrs. Lee, a little more quickly than she had meant
"True in its leading facts; untrue in some of its details, and in the
impression it creates. During the Presidential election which took place
eight years ago last autumn, there was, as you may remember, a violent
contest and a very close vote. We believed (though I was not so prominent
in the party then as now), that the result of that election would be
almost as important to the nation as the result of the war itself. Our
defeat meant that the government must pass into the blood-stained hands of
rebels, men whose designs were more than doubtful, and who could not, even
if their designs had been good, restrain the violence of their followers.
In consequence we strained every nerve. Money was freely spent, even to an
amount much in excess of our resources. How it was employed, I will not
"I do not even know, for I held myself aloof from these details, which
fell to the National Central Committee of which I was not a member. The
great point was that a very large sum had been borrowed on pledged
securities, and must be repaid. The members of the National Committee and
certain senators held discussions on the subject, in which I shared. The
end was that towards the close of the session the head of the committee,
accompanied by two senators, came to me and told me that I must abandon my
opposition to the Steamship Subsidy. They made no open avowal of their
reasons, and I did not press for one. Their declaration, as the
responsible heads of the organization, that certain action on my part was
essential to the interests of the party, satisfied me. I did not consider
myself at liberty to persist in a mere private opinion in regard to a
measure about which I recognized the extreme likelihood of my being in
error. I accordingly reported the bill, and voted for it, as did a large
majority of the party. Mrs. Baker is mistaken in saying that the money was
paid to me. If it was paid at all, of which I have no knowledge except
from this letter, it was paid to the representative of the National
Committee. I received no money. I had nothing to do with the money further
than as I might draw my own conclusions in regard to the subsequent
payment of the campaign debt."
Mrs. Lee listened to all this with intense interest. Not until this moment
had she really felt as though she had got to the heart of politics, so
that she could, like a physician with his stethoscope, measure the organic
disease. Now at last she knew why the pulse beat with such unhealthy
irregularity, and why men felt an anxiety which they could not or would
not explain. Her interest in the disease overcame her disgust at the
foulness of the revelation. To say that the discovery gave her actual
pleasure would be doing her injustice; but the excitement of the moment
swept away every other sensation. She did not even think of herself. Not
until afterwards did she fairly grasp the absurdity of Ratcliffe's wish
that in the face of such a story as this, she should still have vanity
enough to undertake the reform of politics. And with his aid too! The
audacity of the man would have seemed sublime if she had felt sure that he
knew the difference between good and evil, between a lie and the truth;
but the more she saw of him, the surer she was that his courage was mere
moral paralysis, and that he talked about virtue and vice as a man who is
colour-blind talks about red and green; he did not see them as she saw
them; if left to choose for himself he would have nothing to guide him.
Was it politics that had caused this atrophy of the moral senses by
disuse? Meanwhile, here she sat face to face with a moral lunatic, who had
not even enough sense of humour to see the absurdity of his own request,
that she should go out to the shore of this ocean of corruption, and
repeat the ancient r�le of King Canute, or Dame Partington with her mop
and her pail. What was to be done with such an animal?
The bystander who looked on at this scene with a wider knowledge of facts,
might have found entertainment in another view of the subject, that is to
say, in the guilelessness ot Madeleine Lee. With all her warnings she was
yet a mere baby-in-arms in the face of the great politician. She accepted
his story as true, and she thought it as bad as possible; but had Mr.
Ratcliffe's associates now been present to hear his version of it, they
would have looked at each other with a smile of professional pride, and
would have roundly sworn that he was, beyond a doubt, the ablest man this
country had ever produced, and next to certain of being President. They
would not, however, have told their own side of the story if they could
have helped it, but in talking it over among themselves they might have
assumed the facts to have been nearly as follows: that Ratcliffe had
dragged them into an enormous expenditure to carry his own State, and with
it his own re-election to the Senate; that they had tried to hold him
responsible, and he had tried to shirk the responsibility; that there had
been warm discussions on the subject; that he himself had privately
suggested recourse to Baker, had shaped his conduct accordingly, and had
compelled them, in order to save their own credit, to receive the money.
Even if Mrs. Lee had heard this part of the story, though it might have
sharpened her indignation against Mr. Ratcliffe, it would not have altered
her opinions. As it was, she had heard enough, and with a great effort to
control her expression of disgust, she sank back in her chair as Ratcliffe
concluded. Finding that she did not speak, he went on:
"I do not undertake to defend this affair. It is the act of my public life
which I most regret—not the doing, but the necessity of doing. I do
not differ from you in opinion on that point. I cannot acknowledge that
there is here any real divergence between us."
"I am afraid," said Mrs. Lee, "that I cannot agree with you."
This brief remark, the very brevity of which carried a barb of sarcasm,
escaped from Madeleine's lips before she had fairly intended it. Ratcliffe
felt the sting, and it started him from his studied calmness of manner.
Rising from his chair he stood on the hearthrug before Mrs. Lee, and broke
out upon her with an oration in that old senatorial voice and style which
was least calculated to enlist her sympathies:
"Mrs. Lee," said he, with harsh emphasis and dogmatic tone, "there are
conflicting duties in all the transactions of life, except the simplest.
However we may act, do what we may, we must violate some moral obligation.
All that can be asked of us is that we should guide ourselves by what we
think the highest. At the time this affair occurred, I was a Senator of
the United States. I was also a trusted member of a great political party
which I looked upon as identical with the nation. In both capacities I
owed duties to my constituents, to the government, to the people. I might
interpret these duties narrowly or broadly. I might say: Perish the
government, perish the Union, perish this people, rather than that I
should soil my hands! Or I might say, as I did, and as I would say again:
Be my fate what it may, this glorious Union, the last hope of suffering
humanity, shall be preserved."
Here he paused, and seeing that Mrs. Lee, after looking for a time at him,
was now regarding the fire, lost in meditation over the strange vagaries
of the senatorial mind, he resumed, in another line of argument. He
rightly judged that there must be some moral defect in his last remarks,
although he could not see it, which made persistence in that direction
"You ought not to blame me—you cannot blame me justly. It is to your
sense of justice I appeal. Have I ever concealed from you my opinions on
this subject? Have I not on the contrary always avowed them? Did I not
here, on this very spot, when challenged once before by this same
Carrington, take credit for an act less defensible than this? Did I not
tell you then that I had even violated the sanctity of a great popular
election and reversed its result? That was my sole act! In comparison with
it, this is a trifle! Who is injured by a steamship company subscribing
one or ten hundred thousand dollars to a campaign fund? Whose rights are
affected by it? Perhaps its stock holders receive one dollar a share in
dividends less than they otherwise would. If they do not complain, who
else can do so? But in that election I deprived a million people of rights
which belonged to them as absolutely as their houses! You could not say
that I had done wrong. Not a word of blame or criticism have you ever
uttered to me on that account. If there was an offence, you condoned it!
You certainly led me to suppose that you saw none. Why are you now so
severe upon the smaller crime?"
This shot struck hard. Mrs. Lee visibly shrank under it, and lost her
composure. This was the same reproach she had made against herself, and to
which she had been able to find no reply. With some agitation she
"Mr. Ratcliffe, pray do me justice! I have tried not to be severe. I have
said nothing in the way of attack or blame. I acknowledge that it is not
my place to stand in judgment over your acts. I have more reason to blame
myself than you, and God knows I have blamed myself bitterly." The tears
stood in her eyes as she said these last words, and her voice trembled.
Ratcliffe saw that he had gained an advantage, and, sitting down nearer to
her, he dropped his voice and urged his suit still more energetically:
"You did me justice then; why not do it now? You were convinced then that
I did the best I could. I have always done so. On the other hand I have
never pretended that all my acts could be justified by abstract morality.
Where, then, is the divergence between us?"
Mrs. Lee did not undertake to answer this last argument: she only returned
to her old ground. "Mr. Ratcliffe," she said, "I do not want to argue this
question. I have no doubt that you can overcome me in argument. Perhaps on
my side this is a matter of feeling rather than of reason, but the truth
is only too evident to me that I am not fitted for politics. I should be a
drag upon you. Let me be the judge of my own weakness! Do not insist upon
pressing me, further!"
She was ashamed of herself for this appeal to a man whom she could not
respect, as though she were a suppliant at his mercy, but she feared the
reproach of having deceived him, and she tried pitiably to escape it.
Ratcliffe was only encouraged by her weakness.
"I must insist upon pressing it, Mrs. Lee," replied he, and he became yet
more earnest as he went on; "my future is too deeply involved in your
decision to allow of my accepting your answer as final. I need your aid.
There is nothing I will not do to obtain it. Do you require affection?
mine for you is boundless. I am ready to prove it by a life of devotion.
Do you doubt my sincerity? test it in whatever way you please. Do you fear
being dragged down to the level of ordinary politicians? so far as
concerns myself, my great wish is to have your help in purifying politics.
What higher ambition can there be than to serve one's country for such an
end? Your sense of duty is too keen not to feel that the noblest objects
which can inspire any woman, combine to point out your course."
Mrs. Lee was excessively uncomfortable, although not in the least shaken.
She began to see that she must take a stronger tone if she meant to bring
this importunity to an end, and she answered:—
"I do not doubt your affection or your sincerity, Mr. Ratcliffe. It is
myself I doubt. You have been kind enough to give me much of your
confidence this winter, and if I do not yet know about politics all that
is to be known, I have learned enough to prove that I could do nothing
sillier than to suppose myself competent to reform anything. If I
pretended to think so, I should be a mere worldly, ambitious woman, such
as people think me. The idea of my purifying politics is absurd. I am
sorry to speak so strongly, but I mean it. I do not cling very closely to
life, and do not value my own very highly, but I will not tangle it in
such a way; I will not share the profits of vice; I am not willing to be
made a receiver of stolen goods, or to be put in a position where I am
perpetually obliged to maintain that immorality is a virtue!"
As she went on she became more and more animated and her words took a
sharper edge than she had intended. Ratcliffe felt it, and showed his
annoyance. His face grew dark and his eyes looked out at her with their
ugliest expression. He even opened his mouth for an angry retort, but
controlled himself with an effort, and presently resumed his argument.
"I had hoped," he began more solemnly than ever, "that I should find in
you a lofty courage which would disregard such risks. If all the men and
women were to take the tone you have taken, our government would soon
perish. If you consent to share my career, I do not deny that you may find
less satisfaction than I hope, but you will lead a mere death in life if
you place yourself like a saint on a solitary column. I plead what I
believe to be your own cause in pleading mine. Do not sacrifice your
Mrs. Lee was in despair. She could not reply what was on her lips, that to
marry a murderer or a thief was not a sure way of diminishing crime. She
had already said something so much like this that she shrank from speaking
more plainly. So she fell back on her old theme.
"We must at all events, Mr. Ratcliffe, use our judgments according to our
own consciences. I can only repeat now what I said at first. I am sorry to
seem insensible to your expressions towards me, but I cannot do what you
wish. Let us maintain our old relations if you will, but do not press me
further on this subject."
Ratcliffe grew more and more sombre as he became aware that defeat was
staring him in the face. He was tenacious of purpose, and he had never in
his life abandoned an object which he had so much at heart as this. He
would not abandon it. For the moment, so completely had the fascination of
Lee got the control of him, he would rather have abandoned the Presidency
itself than her. He really loved her as earnestly as it was in his nature
to love anything. To her obstinacy he would oppose an obstinacy greater
still; but in the meanwhile his attack was disconcerted, and he was at a
loss what next to do. Was it not possible to change his ground; to offer
inducements that would appeal even more strongly to feminine ambition and
love of display than the Presidency itself? He began again:—
"Is there no form of pledge I can give you? no sacrifice I can make? You
dislike politics. Shall I leave political life? I will do anything rather
than lose you. I can probably control the appointment of Minister to
England. The President would rather have me there than here. Suppose I
were to abandon politics and take the English mission. Would that
sacrifice not affect you? You might pass four years in London where there
would be no politics, and where your social position would be the best in
the world; and this would lead to the Presidency almost as surely as the
other." Then suddenly, seeing that he was making no headway, he threw off
his studied calmness and broke out in an appeal of almost equally studied
"Mrs. Lee! Madeleine! I cannot live without you. The sound of your voice—the
touch of your hand—even the rustle of your dress—are like wine
to me. For God's sake, do not throw me over!"
He meant to crush opposition by force. More and more vehement as he spoke
he actually bent over and tried to seize her hand. She drew it back as
though he were a reptile. She was exasperated by this obstinate disregard
of her forbearance, this gross attempt to bribe her with office, this
flagrant abandonment of even a pretence of public virtue; the mere thought
of his touch on her person was more repulsive than a loathsome disease.
Bent upon teaching him a lesson he would never forget, she spoke out
abruptly, and with evident signs of contempt in her voice and manner:
"Mr. Ratcliffe, I am not to be bought. No rank, no dignity, no
consideration, no conceivable expedient would induce me to change my mind.
Let us have no more of this!"
Ratcliffe had already been more than once, during this conversation, on
the verge of losing his temper. Naturally dictatorial and violent, only
long training and severe experience had taught him self-control, and when
he gave way to passion his bursts of fury were still tremendous. Mrs.
Lee's evident personal disgust, even more than her last sharp rebuke,
passed the bounds of his patience. As he stood before her, even she,
high-spirited as she was, and not in a calm frame of mind, felt a
momentary shock at seeing how his face flushed, his eyes gleamed, and his
hands trembled with rage.
"Ah!" exclaimed he, turning upon her with a harshness, almost a
savageness, of manner that startled her still more; "I might have known
what to expect! Mrs. Clinton warned me early. She said then that I should
find you a heartless coquette!"
"Mr. Ratcliffe!" exclaimed Madeleine, rising from her chair, and speaking
in a warning voice almost as passionate as his own.
"A heartless coquette!" he repeated, still more harshly than before; "she
said you would do just this! that you meant to deceive me! that you lived
on flattery! that you could never be anything but a coquette, and that if
you married me, I should repent it all my life. I believe her now!"
Mrs. Lee's temper, too, was naturally a high one. At this moment she, too,
was flaming with anger, and wild with a passionate impulse to annihilate
this man. Conscious that the mastery was in her own hands, she could the
more easily control her voice, and with an expression of unutterable
contempt she spoke her last words to him, words which had been ringing all
day in her ears:
"Mr. Ratcliffe! I have listened to you with a great deal more patience and
respect than you deserve. For one long hour I have degraded myself by
discussing with you the question whether I should marry a man who by his
own confession has betrayed the highest trusts that could be placed in
him, who has taken money for his votes as a Senator, and who is now in
public office by means of a successful fraud of his own, when in justice
he should be in a State's prison. I will have no more of this. Understand,
once for all, that there is an impassable gulf between your life and mine.
I do not doubt that you will make yourself President, but whatever or
wherever you are, never speak to me or recognize me again!"
He glared a moment into her face with a sort of blind rage, and seemed
about to say more, when she swept past him, and before he realized it, he
Overmastered by passion, but conscious that he was powerless, Ratcliffe,
after a moment's hesitation, left the room and the house. He let himself
out, shutting the front door behind him, and as he stood on the pavement
old Baron Jacobi, who had special reasons for wishing to know how Mrs. Lee
had recovered from the fatigue and excitements of the ball, came up to the
A single glance at Ratcliffe showed him that something had gone wrong in
the career of that great man, whose fortunes he always followed with so
bitter a sneer of contempt. Impelled by the spirit of evil always at his
elbow, the Baron seized this moment to sound the depth of his friend's
wound. They met at the door so closely that recognition was inevitable,
and Jacobi, with his worst smile, held out his hand, saying at the same
moment with diabolic malignity:
"I hope I may offer my felicitations to your Excellency!"
Ratcliffe was glad to find some victim on whom he could vent his rage. He
had a long score of humiliations to repay this man, whose last insult was
beyond all endurance. With an oath he dashed Jacobi's hand aside, and,
grasping his shoulder, thrust him out of the path. The Baron, among whose
weaknesses the want of high temper and personal courage was not recorded,
had no mind to tolerate such an insult from such a man. Even while
Ratcliffe's hand was still on his shoulder he had raised his cane, and
before the Secretary saw what was coming, the old man had struck him with
all his force full in the face. For a moment Ratcliffe staggered back and
grew pale, but the shock sobered him. He hesitated a single instant
whether to crush his assailant with a blow, but he felt that for one of
his youth and strength, to attack an infirm diplomatist in a public street
would be a fatal blunder, and while Jacobi stood, violently excited, with
his cane raised ready to strike another blow, Mr. Ratcliffe suddenly
turned his back and without a word, hastened away.
When Sybil returned, not long afterwards, she found no one in the parlour.
On going to her sister's room she discovered Madeleine lying on the couch,
looking worn and pale, but with a slight smile and a peaceful expression
on her face, as though she had done some act which her conscience
approved. She called Sybil to her side, and, taking her hand, said:
"Sybil, dearest, will you go abroad with me again?"
"Of course I will," said Sybil; "I will go to the end of the world with
"I want to go to Egypt," said Madeleine, still smiling faintly; "democracy
has shaken my nerves to pieces. Oh, what rest it would be to live in the
Great Pyramid and look out for ever at the polar star!"