New Mariposa Troubles
WITHIN eighteen months after Frémont's defeat for the presidency, the last heroic chapter in the career of Thomas Hart Benton--never more Roman than in the shadow of death--was written. In his departure the Frémonts lost a greater pillar of strength than they realized.
In the spring of 1857 Frémont went to California to look after his properties, while Jessie took the children, two of whom had been seriously ill, to Paris for change and rest. Her sister Susan had married Baron Gauldrée Boileau, formerly in the French legation in Washington; and as an accomplished pianiste, whom Rossini liked to have at his Sunday musicales, she had made herself a place in Paris society. She and the Comte de la Garde saw to it that Jessie was again widely entertained. A quaint little house was found at St. Germain-en-Laye, and the children were enjoying the forest, the donkey-ride, and the peasants when news came by a friend that Benton was seriously ill. He had written Jessie that he was troubled by a slight fistula, when actually be was painfully dying from cancer. She at once caught a steamer home, while at the same time Frémont returned from the West. During the winter of 1857-58 they occupied a furnished house in Washington near the venerable Senator, now thin, pallid, and in constant pain. He was laboring with iron determination upon his final literary task, the compilation of his Digest of Congressional Debates; and he resolutely kept up a show of good spirits even when he could gain sleep only by the use of opiates.
Though even yet they hardly realized how ill he was, the Frémonts would have liked to stay with him. But Mariposa