‘I must offer you my congratulations, William,’ Van Buren murmured as he removed his hat. Hot drinks and victuals had been laid out for the politicians, as well as something stronger for the more audacious of them.
‘How kind, Martin,’ Harrison replied. ‘You have conceded with grace.’
A servant handed both men a cup of coffee, which they sipped appreciatively.
‘I dare say we must give someone else a swing at it, once in a while,’ Van Buren remarked with a smirk. ‘Can’t save all the victories for ourselves, no sirrah.’
Harrison wriggled in his chair as he straightened his back. ‘I don’t suppose you caught my speech?’
‘What, that endless soliloquy?’ He chuckled good-naturedly. ‘I heard the first twenty minutes but was called away. You know how it is, dear friend, meetings and committees. The work never ends.’
‘Yes, of course,’ Harrison raised an eyebrow. ‘It must be difficult keeping up with all the advancements emerging in economic policy.’
Van Buren’s smile slipped from his face, cheeks drooping. He took his watch from his pocket and stood. ‘Well, I must be off,’ he said curtly as he reset his hat, flattening the wings of wispy white hair which stood out on either side of his head. At the door, he paused and turned back.
‘Do remember to wear a coat the next time you hold an audience hostage. You don’t want to catch your death in this weather we’re having.’ His smile returned, more patronising this time. ‘Don’t want to have the shortest presidency in history.’