"Pretty near it, I think," said Madeleine, half to herself.
SUNDAY evening was stormy, and some enthusiasm was required to make one face its perils for the sake of society. Nevertheless, a few intimates made their appearance as usual at Mrs. Lee's. The faithful Popoff was there, and Miss Dare also ran in to pass an hour with her dear Sybil; but as she passed the whole evening in a corner with Popoff. she must have been disappointed in her object. Carrington came, and Baron Jacobi. Schneidekoupon and his sister dined with Mrs. Lee, and remained after dinner, while Sybil and Julia Schneidekoupon compared conclusions about Washington society. The happy idea also occurred to Mr. Gore that, inasmuch as Mrs. Lee's house was but a step from his hotel, he might as well take the chance of amusement there as the certainty of solitude in his rooms. Finally, Senator Ratcliffe duly made his appearance, and, having established himself with a cup of tea by Madeleine's side, was soon left to enjoy a quiet talk with her, the rest of the party by common consent occupying themselves with each other. Under cover of the murmur of conversation in the room, Mr. Ratcliffe quickiy became confidential.
"I came to suggest that, if you want to hear an interesting debate, you should come up to the Senate to-morrow. I am told that Garrard, of Louisiana, means to attack my last speech, and I shall probably in that case have to answer him. With you for a critic I shall speak better."
"Am I such an amiable critic?" asked Madeleine.
"I never heard that amiable critics were the best," said he; "justice is the soul of good criticism, and it is only justice that I ask and expect from you."
"What good does this speaking do?" inquired she. "Are you any nearer the end of your difficulties by means of your speeches?"
"I hardly know yet. Just now we are in dead water; but this can't last long.
In fact, I am not afraid to tell you, though of course you will not repeat it to any human being, that we have taken measures to force an issue.