The Conqueror by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Book IV. "Alexander the Great"
The next morning Mrs. Croix sent a peremptory summons to Hamilton. Although at work upon his "Additional Estimates," he responded at once. The lady was combing her emotional mane in the sunshine before the mirror of her boudoir when he arrived, and the maid had been dismissed.
"Well, Egeria," he said, smiling down upon this dazzling vision, "what is it? What warning of tremendous import have you to deliver, that you rout a busy Secretary from his work at eleven in the morning? I dared not loiter, lest your capricious majesty refuse me your door upon my next evening of leisure--"
"It is not I who am capricious!" cried Mrs. Croix. She pouted charmingly. "Indeed, sir, I never am quite sure of you. You are all ardour to-day, and indifference to-morrow. For work I am always put aside, and against your family demands I do not exist."
"My dear Boadicea," said Hamilton, drily, "I am a mere creature of routine. I met you after my habits of work and domesticity were well established. You are the fairest thing on earth, and there are times when you consume it, but circumstances isolate you. Believe me, I am a victim of those circumstances, not of caprice."
"My dear Hamilton," replied Mrs. Croix, quite as drily, "you have all the caprice of a woman combined with all the lordly superiority of the male. I well know that although I bewitch you, I can do so at your pleasure only. You are abominably your own master, both in your strength and your weakness. But there is no one like you on earth, so I submit. And I work and burrow for you, and you will not even accept my precious offerings."
"I will not have you playing the role of spy, if that is what you mean. I do not like this idea of confessing my enemies when they think themselves safe in your house, I prefer to fight in the open, and they reveal themselves to me sooner or later. What should I think of myself and you if I permitted you to act as a treacherous go-between."
"You will not permit me to help you! And I could do much! I could tell you so much now that would put you on your guard. I could help you immeasurably. I could be your fate. But you care for nothing but my beauty!" And she dropped dismally into her pocket-handkerchief.
Hamilton was not one of those men who dread a woman's tears. He had dried too many. His immediate and practical consolation but appeared to deepen her grief, however, and he was obliged to resort to eloquence.
"Where do I find such hours of mental companionship as here?" he demanded. "I say nothing of art and literature; do I not discuss with you the weightiest affairs of State--everything, in fact, upon which my honour does not compel silence? Never have I thought of asking the advice, the opinion, of a woman before. You are my Egeria, and I am deeply grateful for you. If at times I remember nothing but your beauty, would you have it otherwise? I flatter myself that you would not. Have you really anything to reproach me for, because I will not hear of your committing an act which I would not commit myself? I suppose it is hopeless to talk of honour to the cleverest of women, but you must accept this dictum whether you understand it or not: I will listen to none of the confidences of your trusting anti-Federalists. Why cannot you come out honestly and declare your true politics? You could do far more good, and I leave you no excuse to perpetrate this lie."
"I will not," sobbed his Egeria, obstinately. "I may be able to be of service to you, even if you will not let me warn you of Madison's treachery."
She had scored her point, and Hamilton sprang to his feet, his face as white as her petticoats. "Madison's treachery!" he exclaimed. "It is true he comes near me but seldom this Congress. I had attributed his coldness to temperament. Can it be? So many forces would operate. There is much jealousy and ambition in him. He can never lead my party. Is he capable of deserting that he might lead another? One expects that sort of thing of a Burr; but Madison--I have thought him of an almost dazzling whiteness at times--then I have had lightning glimpses of meaner depths. He is easily influenced. Virginia opposes me so bitterly! Will he dare to continue to defy her? Can he continue to rise if she combines against him? Oh, God! If he only had more iron in his soul!"
It was characteristic of him that he had forgotten his audience. He was thinking aloud, his thought leaping from point to point as they sprang into the brilliant atmosphere of his mind; or using its rapid divining rod. He threw back his head. "I'll not believe it till I have proof!" he exclaimed defiantly. "Why, I should feel as if one of the foundations of the earth had given way. Madison--we have been like brothers. I have confided deeply in him. There is little in that Report of yesterday that I have not discussed with him a hundred times--nothing but the ways and means, which I dared confide to no one. He has always been in favour of assumption, of paying the whole debt. It is understood that he is to support me in Congress. I'll hear no more. Dry your tears. You have accomplished your object with a woman's wit. I believe you did but shed those tears to enhance your loveliness, my Lady Godiva."