THE PORT OF MISSING MEN
Author of The House of a Thousand Candles, The Main Chance,
Zelda Dameron, etc.
Then Sir Pellinore put off his armour; then a little afore midnight they
heard the trotting of an horse. Be ye still, said King Pellinore, for we
shall hear of some adventure.—Malory.
To the Memory of Herman Kountze
THE SHINING ROAD
Come, sweetheart, let us ride away beyond the city's bound,
And seek what pleasant lands across the distant hills are found.
There is a golden light that shines beyond the verge of dawn,
And there are happy highways leading on and always on;
So, sweetheart, let us mount and ride, with never a backward glance,
To find the pleasant shelter of the Valley of Romance.
Before us, down the golden road, floats dust from charging steeds,
Where two adventurous companies clash loud in mighty deeds;
And from the tower that stands alert like some tall, beckoning pine,
E'en now, my heart, I see afar the lights of welcome shine!
So loose the rein and cheer the steed and let us race away
To seek the lands that lie beyond the Borders of To-day.
Draw rein and rest a moment here in this cool vale of peace;
The race half-run, the goal half-won, half won the sure release!
To right and left are flowery fields, and brooks go singing down
To mock the sober folk who still are prisoned in the town.
Now to the trail again, dear heart; my arm and blade are true,
And on some plain ere night descend I'll break a lance for you!
O sweetheart, it is good to find the pathway shining clear!
The road is broad, the hope is sure, and you are near and dear!
So loose the rein and cheer the steed and let us race away
To seek the lands that lie beyond the borders of To-day.
Oh, we shall hear at last, my heart, a cheering welcome cried
As o'er a clattering drawbridge through the Gate of Dreams we ride!
I "Events, Events"
II The Claibornes, of Washington
III Dark Tidings
IV John Armitage a Prisoner
V A Lost Cigarette Case
VI Toward the Western Stars
VII On the Dark Deck
VIII "The King Is Dead; Long Live the King"
IX "This Is America, Mr. Armitage"
X John Armitage Is Shadowed
XI The Toss of a Napkin
XII A Camp in the Mountains
XIII The Lady of the Pergola
XIV An Enforced Interview
XV Shirley Learns a Secret
XVI Narrow Margins
XVII A Gentleman in Hiding
XVIII An Exchange of Messages
XIX Captain Claiborne on Duty
XX The First Ride Together
XXI The Comedy of a Sheepfold
XXII The Prisoner at the Bungalow
XXIII The Verge of Morning
XXIV The Attack in the Road
XXV The Port of Missing Men
XXVI "Who Are You, John Armitage?"
XXVII Decent Burial
XXVIII John Armitage
Time hath, my lord, a wallet at his back
Wherein he puts alms for oblivion.
—Troilus and Cressida.
"The knowledge that you're alive gives me no pleasure," growled the grim
old Austrian premier.
"Thank you!" laughed John Armitage, to whom he had spoken. "You have lost
none of your old amiability; but for a renowned diplomat, you are
remarkably frank. When I called on you in Paris, a year ago, I was able
to render you—I believe you admitted it—a slight service."
Count Ferdinand von Stroebel bowed slightly, but did not take his eyes
from the young man who sat opposite him in his rooms at the Hotel Monte
Rosa in Geneva. On the table between them stood an open despatch box, and
about it lay a number of packets of papers which the old gentleman, with
characteristic caution, had removed to his own side of the table before
admitting his caller. He was a burly old man, with massive shoulders and
a great head thickly covered with iron-gray hair.
He trusted no one, and this accounted for his presence in Geneva in
March, of the year 1903, whither he had gone to receive the report of the
secret agents whom he had lately despatched to Paris on an errand of
peculiar delicacy. The agents had failed in their mission, and Von
Stroebel was not tolerant of failure. Perhaps if he had known that within
a week the tapers would burn about his bier in Saint Stephen's Cathedral,
at Vienna, while his life and public services would be estimated in
varying degrees of admiration or execration by the newspapers of Europe,
he might not have dealt so harshly with his hard-worked spies.
It was not often that the light in the old man's eyes was as gentle as
now. He had sent his secret agents away and was to return to Vienna on
the following day. The young man whom he now entertained in his
apartments received his whole attention. He picked up the card which lay
on the table and scrutinized it critically, while his eyes lighted with
The card was a gentleman's carte de visite, and bore the name John
"I believe this is the same alias you were using when I saw you in Paris.
Where did you get it?" demanded the minister.
"I rather liked the sound of it, so I had the cards made," replied the
young man. "Besides, it's English, and I pass readily for an Englishman.
I have quite got used to it."
"Which is not particularly creditable; but it's probably just as well
He drew closer to the table, and his keen old eyes snapped with the
intentness of his thought. The hands he clasped on the table were those
of age, and it was pathetically evident that he folded them to hide their
"I hope you are quite well," said Armitage kindly.
"I am not. I am anything but well. I am an old man, and I have had no
rest for twenty years."
"It is the penalty of greatness. It is Austria's good fortune that you
have devoted yourself to the affairs of government. I have read—only
to-day, in the Contemporary Review—an admirable tribute to your
sagacity in handling the Servian affair. Your work was masterly. I
followed it from the beginning with deepest interest."
The old gentleman bowed half-unconsciously, for his thoughts were far
away, as the vague stare in his small, shrewd eyes indicated.
"But you are here for rest—one comes to Geneva at this season for
"What brings you here?" asked the old man with sudden energy. "If the
papers you gave me in Paris are forgeries and you are waiting—"
"Yes; assuming that, what should I be waiting for?"
"If you are waiting for events—for events! If you expect something to
Armitage laughed at the old gentleman's earnest manner, asked if he might
smoke, and lighted a cigarette.
"Waiting doesn't suit me. I thought you understood that. I was not born
for the waiting list. You see, I have strong hands—and my wits are—let
Von Stroebel clasped his own hands together more firmly and bent toward
"Is it true"—he turned again and glanced about—"is it positively true
that the Archduke Karl is dead?"
"Yes; quite true. There is absolutely no doubt of it," said Armitage,
meeting the old man's eyes steadily.
"The report that he is still living somewhere in North America is
persistent. We hear it frequently in Vienna; I have heard it since you
told me that story and gave me those papers in Paris last year."
"I am aware of that," replied John Armitage; "but I told you the truth.
He died in a Canadian lumber camp. We were in the north hunting—you may
recall that he was fond of that sort of thing."
"Yes, I remember; there was nothing else he did so well," growled Von
"And the packet I gave you—"
The old man nodded.
"—that packet contained the Archduke Karl's sworn arraignment of his
wife. It is of great importance, indeed, to Francis, his worthless son,
or supposed son, who may present himself for coronation one of these
"Not with Karl appearing in all parts of the world, never quite dead,
never quite alive—and his son Frederick Augustus lurking with him in the
shadows. Who knows whether they are dead?"
"I am the only person on earth in a position to make that clear," said
"Then you should give me the documents."
"No; I prefer to keep them. I assure you that I have sworn proof of the
death of the Archduke Karl, and of his son Frederick Augustus. Those
papers are in a box in the Bronx Loan and Trust Company, in New York
"I should have them; I must have them!" thundered the old man.
"In due season; but not just now. In fact, I have regretted parting with
that document I gave you in Paris. It is safer in America than in Vienna.
If you please, I should like to have it again, sir."
The palsy in the old man's hands had increased, and he strove to control
his agitation; but fear had never been reckoned among his weaknesses, and
he turned stormily upon Armitage.
"That packet is lost, I tell you!" he blurted, as though it were
something that he had frequently explained before. "It was stolen from
under my very nose only a month ago! That's what I'm here for—my agents
are after the thief, and I came to Geneva to meet them, to find out why
they have not caught him. Do you imagine that I travel for pleasure at my
age, Mr. John Armitage?"
Count von Stroebel's bluster was merely a cloak to hide his confusion—a
cloak, it may be said, to which he did not often resort; but in this case
he watched Armitage warily. He clearly expected some outburst of
indignation from the young man, and he was unfeignedly relieved when
Armitage, after opening and closing his eyes quickly, reached for a fresh
cigarette and lighted it with the deft ease of habit.
"The packet has been stolen," he observed calmly; "whom do you suspect of
The old man leaned upon the table heavily.
"That amiable Francis—"
"The suggestion is not dismaying. Francis would not know an opportunity
if it offered."
"But his mother—she is the devil!" blurted the old man.
"Pray drop that," said Armitage in a tone that caused the old man to look
at him with a new scrutiny. "I want the paper back for the very reason
that it contains that awful indictment of her. I have been uncomfortable
ever since I gave it to you; and I came to ask you for it that I might
keep it safe in my own hands. But the document is lost,—am I to
understand that Francis has it?"
"Not yet! But Rambaud has it, and Rambaud and Francis are as thick as
"I don't know Rambaud. The name is unfamiliar."
"He has a dozen names—one for every capital. He even operates in
Washington, I have heard. He's a blackmailer, who aims high—a broker in
secrets, a scandal-peddler. He's a bad lot, I tell you. I've had my best
men after him, and they've just been here to report another failure. If
you have nothing better to do—" began the old man.
"Yes; that packet must be recovered," answered Armitage. "If your agents
have failed at the job it may be worth my while to look for it."
His quiet acceptance of the situation irritated the minister.
"You entertain me, John Armitage! You speak of that packet as though it
were a pound of tea. Francis and his friends, Winkelried and Rambaud, are
not chasers of fireflies, I would have you know. If the Archduke and his
son are dead, then a few more deaths and Francis would rule the Empire."
John Armitage and Count von Stroebel stared at each other in silence.
"Events! Events!" muttered the old man presently, and he rested one of
his hands upon the despatch box, as though it were a symbol of authority
"Events!" the young man murmured.
"Events!" repeated Count von Stroebel without humor. "A couple of deaths
and there you see him, on the ground and quite ready. Karl was a genius,
therefore he could not be king. He threw away about five hundred years of
work that had been done for him by other people—and he cajoled you into
sharing his exile. You threw away your life for him! Bah! But you seem
The prime minister concluded with his rough burr; and Armitage laughed
"Why the devil don't you go to Vienna and set yourself up like a
gentleman?" demanded the premier.
"Like a gentleman?" repeated Armitage. "It is too late. I should die in
Vienna in a week. Moreover, I am dead, and it is well, when one has
attained that beatific advantage, to stay dead."
"Francis is a troublesome blackguard," declared the old man. "I wish to
God he would form the dying habit, so that I might have a few years in
peace; but he is forever turning up in some mischief. And what can you do
about it? Can we kick him out of the army without a scandal? Don't you
suppose he could go to Budapest tomorrow and make things interesting for
us if he pleased? He's as full of treason as he can stick, I tell you."
Armitage nodded and smiled.
"I dare say," he said in English; and when the old statesman glared at
him he said in German: "No doubt you are speaking the truth."
"Of course I speak the truth; but this is a matter for action, and not
for discussion. That packet was stolen by intention, and not by chance,
There was a slight immaterial sound in the hall, and the old prime
minister slipped from German to French without changing countenance as he
"We have enough troubles in Austria without encouraging treason. If
Rambaud and his chief, Winkelried, could make a king of Francis, the
brokerage—the commission—would be something handsome; and Winkelried
and Rambaud are clever men."
"I know of Winkelried. The continental press has given much space to him
of late; but Rambaud is a new name."
"He is a skilled hand. He is the most daring scoundrel in Europe."
Count von Stroebel poured a glass of brandy from a silver flask and
sipped it slowly.
"I will show you the gentleman's pleasant countenance," said the
minister, and he threw open a leather portfolio and drew from it a small
photograph which he extended to Armitage, who glanced at it carelessly
and then with sudden interest.
"Rambaud!" he exclaimed.
"That's his name in Vienna. In Paris he is something else. I will furnish
you a list of his noms de guerre."
"Thank you. I should like all the information you care to give me; but it
may amuse you to know that I have seen the gentleman before."
"That is possible," remarked the old man, who never evinced surprise in
"I expect to see him here within a few days."
Count von Stroebel held up his empty glass and studied it attentively,
while he waited for Armitage to explain why he expected to see Rambaud in
"He is interested in a certain young woman. She reached here yesterday;
and Rambaud, alias Chauvenet, is quite likely to arrive within a day or
"Jules Chauvenet is the correct name. I must inform my men," said the
"You wish to arrest him?"
"You ought to know me better than that, Mr. John Armitage! Of course I
shall not arrest him! But I must get that packet. I can't have it
peddled all over Europe, and I can't advertise my business by having him
arrested here. If I could catch him once in Vienna I should know what to
do with him! He and Winkelried got hold of our plans in that Bulgarian
affair last year and checkmated me. He carries his wares to the best
buyers—Berlin and St. Petersburg. So there's a woman, is there? I've
found that there usually is!"
"There's a very charming young American girl, to be more exact."
The old man growled and eyed Armitage sharply, while Armitage studied the
"I hope you are not meditating a preposterous marriage. Go back where you
belong, make a proper marriage and wait—"
"Events!" and John Armitage laughed. "I tell you, sir, that waiting is
not my forte. That's what I like about America; they're up and at it
over there; the man who waits is lost."
"They're a lot of swine!" rumbled Von Stroebel's heavy bass.
"I still owe allegiance to the Schomburg crown, so don't imagine you are
hitting me. But the swine are industrious and energetic. Who knows but
that John Armitage might become famous among them—in politics, in
finance! But for the deplorable accident of foreign birth he might become
president of the United States. As it is, there are thousands of other
offices worth getting—why not?"
"I tell you not to be a fool. You are young and—fairly clever—"
Armitage laughed at the reluctance of the count's praise.
"Thank you, with all my heart!"
"Go back where you belong and you will have no regrets. Something may
happen—who can tell? Events—events—if a man will watch and wait and
"Bless me! They organize clubs in every American village for the study of
events," laughed Armitage; then he changed his tone. "To be sure, the
Bourbons have studied events these many years—a pretty spectacle, too."
"Carrion! Carrion!" almost screamed the old man, half-rising in his seat.
"Don't mention those scavengers to me! Bah! The very thought of them
makes me sick. But"—he gulped down more of the brandy—"where and how do
"Where? I own a cattle ranch in Montana and since the Archduke's death I
have lived there. He carried about fifty thousand pounds to America with
him. He took care that I should get what was left when he died—and, I am
almost afraid to tell you that I have actually augmented my inheritance!
Just before I left I bought a place in Virginia to be near Washington
when I got tired of the ranch."
"Washington!" snorted the count. "In due course it will be the storm
center of the world."
"You read the wrong American newspapers," laughed Armitage.
They were silent for a moment, in which each was busy with his own
thoughts; then the count remarked, in as amiable a tone as he ever used:
"Your French is first rate. Do you speak English as well?"
"As readily as German, I think. You may recall that I had an English
tutor, and maybe I did not tell you in that interview at Paris that I had
spent a year at Harvard University."
"What the devil did you do that for?" growled Von Stroebel.
"From curiosity, or ambition, as you like. I was in Cambridge at the law
school for a year before the Archduke died. That was three years ago. I
am twenty-eight, as you may remember. I am detaining you; I have no wish
to rake over the past; but I am sorry—I am very sorry we can't meet on
some common ground."
"I ask you to abandon this democratic nonsense and come back and make a
man of yourself. You might go far—very far; but this democracy has hold
of you like a disease."
"What you ask is impossible. It is just as impossible now as it was when
we discussed it in Paris last year. To sit down in Vienna and learn how
to keep that leaning tower of an Empire from tumbling down like a stack
of bricks—it does not appeal to me. You have spent a laborious life in
defending a silly medieval tradition of government. You are using all the
apparatus of the modern world to perpetuate an ideal that is as old and
dead as the Rameses dynasty. Every time you use the telegraph to send
orders in an emperor's name you commit an anachronism."
The count frowned and growled.
"Don't talk to me like that. It is not amusing."
"No; it is not funny. To see men like you fetching and carrying for dull
kings, who would drop through the gallows or go to planting turnips
without your brains—it does not appeal to my sense of humor or to my
"You put it coarsely," remarked the old man grimly. "I shall perhaps have
a statue when I am gone."
"Quite likely; and mobs will rendezvous in its shadow to march upon the
royal palaces. If I were coming back to Europe I should go in for
something more interesting than furnishing brains for sickly kings."
"I dare say! Very likely you would persuade them to proclaim democracy
and brotherhood everywhere."
"On the other hand, I should become king myself."
"Don't be a fool, Mr. John Armitage. Much as you have grieved me, I
should hate to see you in a madhouse."
"My faculties, poor as they are, were never clearer. I repeat that if I
were going to furnish the brains for an empire I should ride in the state
carriage myself, and not be merely the driver on the box, who keeps the
middle of the road and looks out for sharp corners. Here is a plan ready
to my hand. Let me find that lost document, appear in Vienna and announce
myself Frederick Augustus, the son of the Archduke Karl! I knew both men
intimately. You may remember that Frederick and I were born in the same
month. I, too, am Frederick Augustus! We passed commonly in America as
brothers. Many of the personal effects of Karl and Augustus are in my
keeping—by the Archduke's own wish. You have spent your life studying
human nature, and you know as well as I do that half the world would
believe my story if I said I was the Emperor's nephew. In the uneasy and
unstable condition of your absurd empire I should be hailed as a
diversion, and then—events, events!"
Count von Stroebel listened with narrowing eyes, and his lips moved in an
effort to find words with which to break in upon this impious
declaration. When Armitage ceased speaking the old man sank back and
glared at him.
"Karl did his work well. You are quite mad. You will do well to go back
to America before the police discover you."
Armitage rose and his manner changed abruptly.
"I do not mean to trouble or annoy you. Please pardon me! Let us be
friends, if we can be nothing more."
"It is too late. The chasm is too deep."
The old minister sighed deeply. His fingers touched the despatch box as
though by habit. It represented power, majesty and the iron game of
government. The young man watched him eagerly.
The heavy, tremulous hands of Count von Stroebel passed back and forth
over the box caressingly. Suddenly he bent forward and spoke with a new
and gentler tone and manner.
"I have given my life, my whole life, as you have said, to one
service—to uphold one idea. You have spoken of that work with contempt.
History, I believe, will reckon it justly."
"Your place is secure—no one can gainsay that," broke in Armitage.
"If you would do something for me—for me—do something for Austria, do
something for my country and yours! You have wits; I dare say you have
courage. I don't care what that service may be; I don't care where or how
you perform it. I am not so near gone as you may think. I know well
enough that they are waiting for me to die; but I am in no hurry to
afford my enemies that pleasure. But stop this babble of yours about
democracy. Do something for Austria—for the Empire that I have held
here under my hand these difficult years—then take your name again—and
you will find that kings can be as just and wise as mobs."
"For the Empire—something for the Empire?" murmured the young man,
Count Ferdinand von Stroebel rose.
"You will accept the commission—I am quite sure you will accept. I leave
on an early train, and I shall not see you again." As he took Armitage's
hand he scrutinized him once more with particular care; there was a
lingering caress in his touch as he detained the young man for an
instant; then he sighed heavily.
"Good night; good-by!" he said abruptly, and waved his caller toward the
THE CLAIBORNES, OF WASHINGTON
—the Englishman who is not an Englishman and therefore doubly
The girl with the white-plumed hat started and flushed slightly, and her
brother glanced over his shoulder toward the restaurant door to see what
had attracted her attention.
"'Tis he, the unknown, Dick."
"I must say I like his persistence!" exclaimed the young fellow, turning
again to the table. "In America I should call him out and punch his head,
but over here—"
"Over here you have better manners," replied the girl, laughing. "But why
trouble yourself? He doesn't even look at us. We are of no importance to
him whatever. We probably speak a different language."
"But he travels by the same trains; he stops at the same inns; he sits
near us at the theater—he even affects the same pictures in the same
galleries! It's growing a trifle monotonous; it's really insufferable. I
think I shall have to try my stick on him."
"You flatter yourself, Richard," mocked the girl. "He's fully your height
and a trifle broader across the shoulders. The lines about his mouth are
almost—yes, I should say, quite as firm as yours, though he is a younger
man. His eyes are nice blue ones, and they are very steady. His hair
is"—she paused to reflect and tilted her head slightly, her eyes
wandering for an instant to the subject of her comment—"light brown, I
should call it. And he is beardless, as all self-respecting men should
be. I'm sure that he is an exemplary person—kind to his sisters and
aunts, very willing to sacrifice himself for others and light the candles
on his nephews' and nieces' Christmas trees."
She rested her cheek against her lightly-clasped hands and sighed deeply
to provoke a continuation of her brother's growling disdain.
The young gentleman to whom she had referred had seated himself at a
table not far distant, given an order with some particularity, and
settled himself to the reading of a newspaper which he had drawn from the
pocket of his blue serge coat. He was at once absorbed, and the presence
of the Claibornes gave him apparently not the slightest concern.
"He has a sense of humor," the girl resumed. "I saw him yesterday—"
"You're always seeing him: you ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"Don't interrupt me, please. As I was saying, I saw him laughing over the
"But that's no sign he has a sense of humor. It rather proves that he
hasn't. I'm disappointed in you, Shirley. To think that my own sister
should be able to tell the color of a wandering blackguard's eyes!"
He struck a match viciously, and his sister laughed.
"I might add to his portrait. That blue and white scarf is tied
beautifully; and his profile would be splendid in a medallion. I believe
from his nose he may be English, after all," she added with a dreamy air
assumed to add to her brother's impatience.
"Which doesn't help the matter materially, that I can see!" exclaimed the
young man. "With a full beard he'd probably look like a Sicilian bandit.
If I thought he was really pursuing you in this darkly mysterious way I
should certainly give him a piece of my American mind. You might suppose
that a girl would be safe traveling with her brother."
"It isn't your fault, Dick," laughed the girl. "You know our parents dear
were with us when we first began to notice him—that was in Rome. And now
that we are alone he continues to follow our trail just the same. It's
really diverting; and if you were a good brother you'd find out all about
him, and we might even do stunts together—the three of us, with you as
the watchful chaperon. You forget how I have worked for you, Dick. I
took great chances in forcing an acquaintance with those frosty English
people at Florence just because you were crazy about the scrawny blonde
who wore the frightful hats. I wash my hands of you hereafter. Your taste
in girls is horrible."
"Your mind has been affected by reading these fake-kingdom romances,
where a ridiculous prince gives up home and mother and his country to
marry the usual beautiful American girl who travels about having silly
adventures. I belong to the Know-nothing Party—America for Americans and
only white men on guard!"
"Yes, Richard! Your sentiments are worthy, but they'd have more weight if
I hadn't seen you staring your eyes out every time we came within a mile
of a penny princess. I haven't forgotten your disgraceful conduct in
collecting photographs of that homely daughter of a certain English duke.
We'll call the incident closed, little brother."
"Our friend Chauvenet, even," continued Captain Claiborne, "is less
persistent—less gloomily present on the horizon. We haven't seen him for
a week or two. But he expects to visit Washington this spring. His
waistcoats are magnificent. The governor shies every time the fellow
unbuttons his coat."
"Mr. Chauvenet is an accomplished man of the world," declared Shirley
with an insincere sparkle in her eyes.
"He lives by his wits—and lives well."
Claiborne dismissed Chauvenet and turned again toward the strange young
man, who was still deep in his newspaper.
"He's reading the Neue Freie Presse," remarked Dick, "by which token I
argue that he's some sort of a Dutchman. He's probably a traveling agent
for a Vienna glass-factory, or a drummer for a cheap wine-house, or the
agent for a Munich brewery. That would account for his travels. We simply
fall in with his commercial itinerary."
"You seem to imply, brother, that my charms are not in themselves
sufficient. But a commercial traveler hardly commands that fine repose,
that distinction—that air of having been places and seen things and
"Tush! I have seen American book agents who had all that—even the air of
having been places! Your instincts ought to serve you better, Shirley.
It's well that we go on to-morrow. I shall warn mother and the governor
that you need watching."
Shirley Claiborne's eyes rested again upon the calm reader of the Neue
Freie Presse. The waiter was now placing certain dishes upon the table
without, apparently, interesting the young gentleman in the least. Then
the unknown dropped his newspaper, and buttered a roll reflectively. His
gaze swept the room for the first time, passing over the heads of Miss
Claiborne and her brother unseeingly—with, perhaps, too studied an air
"He has known real sorrow," persisted Shirley, her elbows on the table,
her fingers interlocked, her chin resting idly upon them. "He's traveling
in an effort to forget a blighting grief," the girl continued with mock
"Then let us leave him in peace! We can't decently linger in the presence
of his sacred sorrow."
Captain Richard Claiborne and his sister Shirley had stopped at Geneva to
spend a week with a younger brother, who was in school there, and were to
join their father and mother at Liverpool and sail for home at once. The
Claibornes were permanent residents of Washington, where Hilton
Claiborne, a former ambassador to two of the greatest European courts,
was counsel for several of the embassies and a recognized authority in
international law. He had been to Rome to report to the Italian
government the result of his efforts to collect damages from the United
States for the slaughter of Italian laborers in a railroad strike, and
had proceeded thence to England on other professional business.
Dick Claiborne had been ill, and was abroad on leave in an effort to
shake off the lingering effects of typhoid fever contracted in the
Philippines. He was under orders to report for duty at Fort Myer on the
first of April, and it was now late March. He and his sister had spent
the morning at their brother's school and were enjoying a late déjeûner
at the Monte Rosa. There existed between them a pleasant comradeship that
was in no wise affected by divergent tastes and temperaments. Dick had
just attained his captaincy, and was the youngest man of his rank in the
service. He did not know an orchid from a hollyhock, but no man in the
army was a better judge of a cavalry horse, and if a Wagner recital bored
him to death his spirit rose, nevertheless, to the bugle, and he drilled
his troop until he could play with it and snap it about him like a whip.
Shirley Claiborne had been out of college a year, and afforded a pleasant
refutation of the dull theory that advanced education destroys a girl's
charm, or buoyancy, or whatever it is that is so greatly admired in young
womanhood. She gave forth the impression of vitality and strength. She
was beautifully fair, with a high color that accentuated her
youthfulness. Her brown hair, caught up from her brow in the fashion of
the early years of the century, flashed gold in sunlight.
Much of Shirley's girlhood had been spent in the Virginia hills, where
Judge Claiborne had long maintained a refuge from the heat of Washington.
From childhood she had read the calendar of spring as it is written upon
the landscape itself. Her fingers found by instinct the first arbutus;
she knew where white violets shone first upon the rough breast of the
hillsides; and particular patches of rhododendron had for her the
intimate interest of private gardens.
Undoubtedly there are deities fully consecrated to the important business
of naming girls, so happily is that task accomplished. Gladys is a child
of the spirit of mischief. Josephine wears a sweet gravity, and Mary,
too, discourses of serious matters. Nora, in some incarnation, has seen
fairies scampering over moor and hill and the remembrance of them teases
her memory. Katherine is not so faithless as her ways might lead you to
believe. Laura without dark eyes would be impossible, and her predestined
Petrarch would never deliver his sonnets. Helen may be seen only against
a background of Trojan wall. Gertrude must be tall and fair and ready
with ballads in the winter twilight. Julia's reserve and discretion
commend her to you; but she has a heart of laughter. Anne is to be found
in the rose garden with clipping-shears and a basket. Hilda is a capable
person; there is no ignoring her militant character; the battles of Saxon
kings ring still in her blood. Marjorie has scribbled verses in secret,
and Celia is the quietest auditor at the symphony. And you may have
observed that there is no button on Elizabeth's foil; you do well not to
clash wits with her. Do you say that these ascriptions are not square
with your experience? Then verily there must have been a sad mixing
of infant candidates for the font in your parish. Shirley, in such case,
will mean nothing to you. It is a waste of time to tell you that the name
may become audible without being uttered; you can not be made to
understand that the r and l slip into each other as ripples glide
over pebbles in a brook. And from the name to the girl—may you be
forever denied a glimpse of Shirley Claiborne's pretty head, her brown
hair and dream-haunted eyes, if you do not first murmur the name with
As the Claibornes lingered at their table a short stout man espied them
from the door and advanced beamingly.
"Ah, my dear Shirley, and Dick! Can it be possible! I only heard by
the merest chance that you were here. But Switzerland is the real
meeting-place of the world."
The young Americans greeted the new-comer cordially. A waiter placed a
chair for him, and took his hat. Arthur Singleton was an American, though
he had lived abroad so long as to have lost his identity with any
particular city or state of his native land. He had been an attaché of
the American embassy at London for many years. Administrations changed
and ambassadors came and went, but Singleton was never molested. It was
said that he kept his position on the score of his wide acquaintance;
he knew every one, and he was a great peddler of gossip, particularly
about people in high station.
The children of Hilton Claiborne were not to be overlooked. He would
impress himself upon them, as was his way; for he was sincerely social by
instinct, and would go far to do a kindness for people he really liked.
"Ah me! You have arrived opportunely, Miss Claiborne. There's mystery in
the air—the great Stroebel is here—under this very roof and in a
dreadfully bad humor. He is a dangerous man—a very dangerous man, but
failing fast. Poor Austria! Count Ferdinand von Stroebel can have no
successor—he's only a sort of holdover from the nineteenth century, and
with him and his Emperor out of the way—what? For my part I see only
dark days ahead;" and he concluded with a little sigh that implied
crumbling thrones and falling dynasties.
"We met him in Vienna," said Shirley Claiborne, "when father was there
before the Ecuador Claims Commission. He struck me as being a delightful
old grizzly bear."
"He will have his place in history; he is a statesman of the old blood
and iron school; he is the peer of Bismarck, and some things he has done.
He holds more secrets than any other man in Europe—and you may be quite
sure that they will die with him. He will leave no memoirs to be poked
over by his enemies—no post-mortem confidences from him!"
The reader of the Neue Freie Presse, preparing to leave his table, tore
from the newspaper an article that seemed to have attracted him, placed
it in his card-case, and walked toward the door. The eyes of Arthur
Singleton lighted in recognition, and the attaché, muttering an apology
to the Claibornes, addressed the young gentleman cordially.
"Why, Armitage, of all men!" and he rose, still facing the Claibornes,
with an air of embracing the young Americans in his greetings. He never
liked to lose an auditor; and he would, in no circumstances, miss a
chance to display the wide circumference of his acquaintance.
"Shirley—Miss Claiborne—allow me to present Mr. Armitage." The young
army officer and Armitage then shook hands, and the three men stood for a
moment, detained, it seemed, by the old attaché, who had no engagement
for the next hour or two and resented the idea of being left alone.
"One always meets Armitage!" declared Singleton. "He knows our America as
well as we do—and very well indeed—for an Englishman."
Armitage bowed gravely.
"You make it necessary again for me to disavow any allegiance to the
powers that rule Great Britain. I'm really a fair sort of American—I
have sometimes told New York people all about—Colorado—Montana—New
His voice and manner were those of a gentleman. His color, as Shirley
Claiborne now observed, was that of an outdoors man; she was familiar
with it in soldiers and sailors, and knew that it testified to a vigorous
and wholesome life.
"Of course you're not English!" exclaimed Singleton, annoyed as he
remembered, or thought he did, that Armitage had on some other occasion
made the same protest.
"I'm really getting sensitive about it," said Armitage, more to the
Claibornes than to Singleton. "But must we all be from somewhere? Is it
so melancholy a plight to be a man without a country?"
The mockery in his tone was belied by the good humor in his face; his
eyes caught Shirley's passingly, and she smiled at him—it seemed a
natural, a perfectly inevitable thing to do. She liked the kind tolerance
with which he suffered the babble of Arthur Singleton, whom some one had
called an international bore. The young man's dignity was only an
expression of self-respect; his appreciation of the exact proprieties
resulting from this casual introduction to herself and her brother was
perfect. He was already withdrawing. A waiter had followed him with his
discarded newspaper—and Armitage took it and idly dropped it on a chair.
"Have you heard the news, Armitage? The Austrian sphinx is here—in this
very house!" whispered Singleton impressively.
"Yes; to be sure, Count von Stroebel is here, but he will probably not
remain long. The Alps will soon be safe again. I am glad to have met
you." He bowed to the Claibornes inclusively, nodded in response to
Singleton's promise to look him up later, and left them.
When Shirley and her brother reached their common sitting-room Dick
Claiborne laughingly held up the copy of the Neue Freie Presse which
Armitage had cast aside at their table.
"Now we shall know!" he declared, unfolding the newspaper.
"Know what, Dick?"
"At least what our friend without a country is so interested in."
He opened the paper, from which half a column had been torn, noted the
date, rang the bell, and ordered a copy of the same issue. When it was
brought he opened it, found the place, laughed loudly, and passed the
sheet over to his sister.
"Oh, Shirley, Shirley! This is almost too much!" he cried, watching her
as her eyes swept the article. She turned away to escape his noise, and
after a glance threw down the paper in disgust. The article dealt in
detail with Austro-Hungarian finances, and fairly bristled with figures
and sage conclusions based upon them.
"Isn't that the worst!" exclaimed Shirley, smiling ruefully.
"He's certainly a romantic figure ready to your hand. Probably a
bank-clerk who makes European finance his recreation."
"He isn't an Englishman, at any rate. He repudiated the idea with scorn."
"Well, your Mr. Armitage didn't seem so awfully excited at meeting
Singleton; but he seemed rather satisfied with your appearance, to put it
mildly. I wonder if he had arranged with Singleton to pass by in that
purely incidental way, just for the privilege of making your
"Don't be foolish, Dick. It's unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. But
if you should see Mr. Singleton again—"
"Yes—not if I see him first!" ejaculated Claiborne.
"Well, you might ask him who Mr. Armitage is. It would be amusing—and
Later in the day the old attaché fell upon Claiborne in the smoking-room
and stopped to discuss a report that a change was impending in the
American State Department. Changes at Washington did not trouble
Singleton, who was sure of his tenure. He said as much; and after some
further talk, Claiborne remarked:
"Your friend Armitage seems a good sort."
"Oh, yes; a capital talker, and thoroughly well posted in affairs."
"Yes, he seemed interesting. Do you happen to know where he lives—when
he's at home?"
"Lord bless you, boy, I don't know anything about Armitage!" spluttered
Singleton, with the emphasis so thrown as to imply that of course in any
other branch of human knowledge he would be found abundantly qualified to
"But you introduced us to him—my sister and me. I assumed—"
"My dear Claiborne, I'm always introducing people! It's my business to
introduce people. Armitage is all right. He's always around everywhere.
I've dined with him in Paris, and I've rarely seen a man order a better
The news I bring is heavy in my tongue.—Shakespeare.
The second day thereafter Shirley Claiborne went into a jeweler's on the
Grand Quai to purchase a trinket that had caught her eye, while she
waited for Dick, who had gone off in their carriage to the post-office to
send some telegrams. It was a small shop, and the time early afternoon,
when few people were about. A man who had preceded her was looking at
watches, and seemed deeply absorbed in this occupation. She heard his
inquiries as to quality and price, and knew that it was Armitage's voice
before she recognized his tall figure. She made her purchase quickly, and
was about to leave the shop, when he turned toward her and she bowed.
"Good afternoon, Miss Claiborne. These are very tempting bazaars, aren't
they? If the abominable tariff laws of America did not give us pause—"
He bent above her, hat in hand, smiling. He had concluded the purchase of
a watch, which the shopkeeper was now wrapping in a box.
"I have just purchased a little remembrance for my ranch foreman out in
Montana, and before I can place it in his hands it must be examined and
appraised and all the pleasure of the gift destroyed by the custom
officers in New York. I hope you are a good smuggler, Miss Claiborne."
"I'd like to be. Women are supposed to have a knack at the business; but
my father is so patriotic that he makes me declare everything."
"Patriotism will carry one far; but I object both to being taxed and to
the alternative of corrupting the gentlemen who lie in wait at the
receipt of customs."
"Of course the answer is that Americans should buy at home," replied
Shirley. She received her change, and Armitage placed his small package
in his pocket.
"My brother expected to meet me here; he ran off with our carriage,"
"These last errands are always trying—there are innumerable things one
would like to come back for from mid-ocean, tariff or no tariff."
"There's the wireless," said Shirley. "In time we shall be able to commit
our afterthoughts to it. But lost views can hardly be managed that way.
After I get home I shall think of scores of things I should like to see
again—that photographs don't give."
"Oh—the way the Pope looks when he gives his blessing at St. Peter's;
and the feeling you have when you stand by Napoleon's tomb—the awfulness
of what he did and was—and being here in Switzerland, where I always
feel somehow the pressure of all the past of Europe about me. Now,"—and
she laughed lightly,—"I have made a most serious confession."
"It is a new idea—that of surveying the ages from these mountains. They
must be very wise after all these years, and they have certainly seen men
and nations do many evil and wretched things. But the history of the
world is all one long romance—a tremendous story."
"That is what makes me sorry to go home," said Shirley meditatively. "We
are so new—still in the making, and absurdly raw. When we have a war, it
is just politics, with scandals about what the soldiers have to eat, and
that sort of thing; and there's a fuss about pensions, and the heroic
side of it is lost."
"But it is easy to overestimate the weight of history and tradition. The
glory of dead Caesar doesn't do the peasant any good. When you see
Italian laborers at work in America digging ditches or laying railroad
ties, or find Norwegian farmers driving their plows into the new hard
soil of the Dakotas, you don't think of their past as much as of their
future—the future of the whole human race."
Armitage had been the subject of so much jesting between Dick and herself
that it seemed strange to be talking to him. His face brightened
pleasantly when he spoke; his eyes were grayer than she had mockingly
described them for her brother's benefit the day before. His manner was
gravely courteous, and she did not at all believe that he had followed
Her ideals of men were colored by the American prejudice in favor of
those who aim high and venture much. In her childhood she had read Malory
and Froissart with a boy's delight. She possessed, too, that poetic sense
of the charm of "the spirit of place" that is the natural accompaniment
of the imaginative temperament. The cry of bugles sometimes brought tears
to her eyes; her breath came quickly when she sat—as she often did—in
the Fort Myer drill hall at Washington and watched the alert cavalrymen
dashing toward the spectators' gallery in the mimic charge. The work that
brave men do she admired above anything else in the world. As a child in
Washington she had looked wonderingly upon the statues of heroes and the
frequent military pageants of the capital; and she had wept at the solemn
pomp of military funerals. Once on a battleship she had thrilled at the
salutes of a mighty fleet in the Hudson below the tomb of Grant; and soon
thereafter had felt awe possess her as she gazed upon the white marble
effigy of Lee in the chapel at Lexington; for the contemplation of heroes
was dear to her, and she was proud to believe that her father, a veteran
of the Civil War, and her soldier brother were a tie between herself and
the old heroic times.
Armitage was aware that a jeweler's shop was hardly the place for
extended conversation with a young woman whom he scarcely knew, but he
lingered in the joy of hearing this American girl's voice, and what she
said interested him immensely. He had seen her first in Paris a few
months before at an exhibition of battle paintings. He had come upon her
standing quite alone before High Tide at Gettysburg, the picture of the
year; and he had noted the quick mounting of color to her cheeks as the
splendid movement of the painting—its ardor and fire—took hold of her.
He saw her again in Florence; and it was from there that he had
deliberately followed the Claibornes.
His own plans were now quite unsettled by his interview with Von
Stroebel. He fully expected Chauvenet in Geneva; the man had apparently
been on cordial terms with the Claibornes; and as he had seemed to be
master of his own time, it was wholly possible that he would appear
before the Claibornes left Geneva. It was now the second day after Von
Stroebel's departure, and Armitage began to feel uneasy.
He stood with Shirley quite near the shop door, watching for Captain
Claiborne to come back with the carriage.
"But America—isn't America the most marvelous product of romance in the
world,—its discovery,—the successive conflicts that led up to the
realization of democracy? Consider the worthless idlers of the Middle
Ages going about banging one another's armor with battle-axes. Let us
have peace, said the tired warrior."
"He could afford to say it; he was the victor," said Shirley.
"Ah! there is Captain Claiborne. I am indebted to you, Miss Claiborne,
for many pleasant suggestions."
The carriage was at the door, and Dick Claiborne came up to them at once
and bowed to Armitage.
"There is great news: Count Ferdinand von Stroebel was murdered in his
railway carriage between here and Vienna; they found him dead at
Innsbruck this morning."
"Is it possible! Are you quite sure he was murdered?"
It was Armitage who asked the question. He spoke in a tone quite
matter-of-fact and colorless, so that Shirley looked at him in surprise;
but she saw that he was very grave; and then instantly some sudden
feeling flashed in his eyes.
"There is no doubt of it. It was an atrocious crime; the count was an old
man and feeble when we saw him the other day. He wasn't fair game for an
assassin," said Claiborne.
"No; he deserved a better fate," remarked Armitage.
"He was a grand old man," said Shirley, as they left the shop and walked
toward the carriage. "Father admired him greatly; and he was very kind to
us in Vienna. It is terrible to think of his being murdered."
"Yes; he was a wise and useful man," observed Armitage, still grave. "He
was one of the great men of his time."
His tone was not that of one who discusses casually a bit of news of the
hour, and Captain Claiborne paused a moment at the carriage door, curious
as to what Armitage might say further.
"And now we shall see—" began the young American.
"We shall see Johann Wilhelm die of old age within a few years at most;
and then Charles Louis, his son, will be the Emperor-king in his place;
and if he should go hence without heirs, his cousin Francis would rule in
the house of his fathers; and Francis is corrupt and worthless, and quite
necessary to the plans of destiny for the divine order of kings."
John Armitage stood beside the carriage quite erect, his hat and stick
and gloves in his right hand, his left thrust lightly into the side
pocket of his coat.
"A queer devil," observed Claiborne, as they drove away. "A solemn
customer, and not cheerful enough to make a good drummer. By what
singular chance did he find you in that shop?"
"I found him, dearest brother, if I must make the humiliating
"I shouldn't have believed it! I hardly thought you would carry it so
"And while he may be a salesman of imitation cut-glass, he has expensive
"Lord help us, he hasn't been buying you a watch?"
"No; he was lavishing himself on a watch for the foreman of his ranch in
"Humph! you're chaffing."
"Not in the least. He paid—I couldn't help being a witness to the
transaction—he actually paid five hundred francs for a watch to give to
the foreman of his ranch—his ranch, mind you, in Montana, U.S.A.
He spoke of it incidentally, as though he were always buying watches for
cowboys. Now where does that leave us?"
"I'm afraid it rather does for my theory. I'll look him up when I get
home. Montana isn't a good hiding-place any more. But it was odd the way
he acted about old Stroebel's death. You don't suppose he knew him,
"It's possible. Poor Count von Stroebel! Many hearts are lighter, now
that he's done for."
"Yes; and there will be something doing in Austria, now that he's out of
Four days passed, in which they devoted themselves to their young
brother. The papers were filled with accounts of Count von Stroebel's
death and speculations as to its effect on the future of Austria and the
peace of Europe. The Claibornes saw nothing of Armitage. Dick asked for
him in the hotel, and found that he had gone, but would return in a few
It was on the morning of the fourth day that Armitage appeared suddenly
at the hotel as Dick and his sister waited for a carriage to carry them
to their train. He had just returned, and they met by the narrowest
margin. He walked with them to the door of the Monte Rosa.
"We are running for the King Edward, and hope for a day in London
before we sail. Perhaps we shall see you one of these days in America,"
said Claiborne, with some malice, it must be confessed, for his sister's
"That is possible; I am very fond of Washington," responded Armitage
"Of course you will look us up," persisted Dick. "I shall be at Fort Myer
for a while—and it will always be a pleasure—"
Claiborne turned for a last word with the porter about their baggage, and
Armitage stood talking to Shirley, who had already entered the carriage.
"Oh, is there any news of Count von Stroebel's assassin?" she asked,
noting the newspaper that Armitage held in his hand.
"Nothing. It's a very mysterious and puzzling affair."
"It's horrible to think such a thing possible—he was a wonderful old
man. But very likely they will find the murderer."
Then, seeing her brother beating his hands together impatiently behind
Armitage's back—a back whose ample shoulders were splendidly silhouetted
in the carriage door—Shirley smiled in her joy of the situation, and
would have prolonged it for her brother's benefit even to the point of
missing the train, if the matter had been left wholly in her hands. It
amused her to keep the conversation pitched in the most impersonal key.
"The secret police will scour Europe in pursuit of the assassin," she
"Yes," replied Armitage gravely.
He thought her brown traveling gown, with hat and gloves to match,
exceedingly becoming, and he liked the full, deep tones of her voice,
and the changing light of her eyes; and a certain dimple in her left
cheek—he had assured himself that it had no counterpart on the
right—made the fate of principalities and powers seem, at the moment, an
"The truth will be known before we sail, no doubt," said Shirley. "The
assassin may be here in Geneva by this time."
"That is quite likely," said John Armitage, with unbroken gravity. "In
fact, I rather expect him here, or I should be leaving to-day myself."
He bowed and made way for the vexed and chafing Claiborne, who gave his
hand to Armitage hastily and jumped into the carriage.
"Your imitation cut-glass drummer has nearly caused us to miss our train.
Thank the Lord, we've seen the last of that fellow."
Shirley said nothing, but gazed out of the window with a wondering look
in her eyes. And on the way to Liverpool she thought often of Armitage's
last words. "I rather expect him here, or I should be leaving to-day
myself," he had said.
She was not sure whether, if it had not been for those words, she would
have thought of him again at all. She remembered him as he stood framed
in the carriage door—his gravity, his fine ease, the impression he gave
of great physical strength, and of resources of character and courage.
And so Shirley Claiborne left Geneva, not knowing the curious web that
fate had woven for her, nor how those last words spoken by Armitage at
the carriage door were to link her to strange adventures at the very
threshold of her American home.
JOHN ARMITAGE A PRISONER
All things are bright in the track of the sun,
All things are fair I see;
And the light in a golden tide has run
Down out of the sky to me.
And the world turns round and round and round,
And my thought sinks into the sea;
The sea of peace and of joy profound
Whose tide is mystery.
The man whom John Armitage expected arrived at the Hotel Monte Rosa a few
hours after the Claibornes' departure.
While he waited, Mr. Armitage employed his time to advantage. He
carefully scrutinized his wardrobe, and after a process of elimination
and substitution he packed his raiment in two trunks and was ready to
leave the inn at ten minutes' notice. Between trains, when not engaged in
watching the incoming travelers, he smoked a pipe over various packets of
papers and letters, and these he burned with considerable care. All the
French and German newspaper accounts of the murder of Count von Stroebel
he read carefully; and even more particularly he studied the condition of
affairs in Vienna consequent upon the great statesman's death. Secret
agents from Vienna and detectives from Paris had visited Geneva in their
study of this astounding crime, and had made much fuss and asked many
questions; but Mr. John Armitage paid no heed to them. He had held the
last conversation of length that any one had enjoyed with Count Ferdinand
von Stroebel, but the fact of this interview was known to no one, unless
to one or two hotel servants, and these held a very high opinion of Mr.
Armitage's character, based on his generosity in the matter of gold coin;
and there could, of course, be no possible relationship between so
shocking a tragedy and a chance acquaintance between two travelers. Mr.
Armitage knew nothing that he cared to impart to detectives, and a great
deal that he had no intention of imparting to any one. He accumulated a
remarkable assortment of time-tables and advertisements of transatlantic
sailings against sudden need, and even engaged passage on three steamers
sailing from English and French ports within the week.
He expected that the person for whom he waited would go direct to the
Hotel Monte Rosa for the reason that Shirley Claiborne had been there;
and Armitage was not mistaken. When this person learned that the
Claibornes had left, he would doubtless hurry after them. This is the
conclusion that was reached by Mr. Armitage, who, at times, was
singularly happy in his speculations as to the mental processes of other
people. Sometimes, however, he made mistakes, as will appear.
The gentleman for whom John Armitage had been waiting arrived alone, and
was received as a distinguished guest by the landlord.
Monsieur Chauvenet inquired for his friends the Claibornes, and was
clearly annoyed to find that they had gone; and no sooner had this
intelligence been conveyed to him than he, too, studied time-tables and
consulted steamer advertisements. Mr. John Armitage in various discreet
ways was observant of Monsieur Chauvenet's activities, and bookings at
steamship offices interested him so greatly that he reserved passage on
two additional steamers and ordered the straps buckled about his trunks,
for it had occurred to him that he might find it necessary to leave
Geneva in a hurry.
It was not likely that Monsieur Chauvenet, being now under his eyes,
would escape him; and John Armitage, making a leisurely dinner, learned
from his waiter that Monsieur Chauvenet, being worn from his travels, was
dining alone in his rooms.
At about eight o'clock, as Armitage turned the pages of Figaro in the
smoking-room, Chauvenet appeared at the door, scrutinized the group
within, and passed on. Armitage had carried his coat, hat and stick into
the smoking-room, to be ready for possible emergencies; and when
Chauvenet stepped out into the street he followed.
It was unusually cold for the season, and a fine drizzle filled the air.
Chauvenet struck off at once away from the lake, turned into the
Boulevard Helvétique, thence into the Boulevard Froissart with its colony
of pensions. He walked rapidly until he reached a house that was
distinguished from its immediate neighbors only by its unlighted upper
windows. He pulled the bell in the wall, and the door was at once opened
and instantly closed.
Armitage, following at twenty yards on the opposite side of the street,
paused abruptly at the sudden ending of his chase. It was not an hour for
loitering, for the Genevan gendarmerie have rather good eyes, but
Armitage had by no means satisfied his curiosity as to the nature of
Chauvenet's errand. He walked on to make sure he was unobserved, crossed
the street, and again passed the dark, silent house which Chauvenet had
entered. He noted the place carefully; it gave no outward appearance of
being occupied. He assumed, from the general plan of the neighboring
buildings, that there was a courtyard at the rear of the darkened house,
accessible through a narrow passageway at the side. As he studied the
situation he kept moving to avoid observation, and presently, at a moment
when he was quite alone in the street, walked rapidly to the house
Chauvenet had entered.
Gentlemen in search of adventures do well to avoid the continental wall.
Mr. Armitage brushed the glass from the top with his hat. It jingled
softly within under cover of the rain-drip. The plaster had crumbled from
the bricks in spots, giving a foot its opportunity, and Mr. Armitage drew
himself to the top and dropped within. The front door and windows stared
at him blankly, and he committed his fortunes to the bricked passageway.
The rain was now coming down in earnest, and at the rear of the house
water had begun to drip noisily into an iron spout. The electric lights
from neighboring streets made a kind of twilight even in the darkened
court, and Armitage threaded his way among a network of clothes-lines to
the rear wall and viewed the premises. He knew his Geneva from many
previous visits; the quarter was undeniably respectable; and there is, to
be sure, no reason why the blinds of a house should not be carefully
drawn at nightfall at the pleasure of the occupants. The whole lower
floor seemed utterly deserted; only at one point on the third floor was
there any sign of light, and this the merest hint.
The increasing fall of rain did not encourage loitering in the wet
courtyard, where the downspout now rattled dolorously, and Armitage
crossed the court and further assured himself that the lower floor was
dark and silent. Balconies were bracketed against the wall at the second
and third stories, and the slight iron ladder leading thither terminated
a foot above his head. John Armitage was fully aware that his position,
if discovered, was, to say the least, untenable; but he was secure from
observation by police, and he assumed that the occupants of the house
were probably too deeply engrossed with their affairs to waste much time
on what might happen without. Armitage sprang up and caught the lowest
round of the ladder, and in a moment his tall figure was a dark blur
against the wall as he crept warily upward. The rear rooms of the second
story were as dark and quiet as those below. Armitage continued to the
third story, where a door, as well as several windows, gave upon the
balcony; and he found that it was from a broken corner of the door shade
that a sharp blade of light cut the dark. All continued quiet below; he
heard the traffic of the neighboring thoroughfares quite distinctly; and
from a kitchen near by came the rough clatter of dishwashing to the
accompaniment of a quarrel in German between the maids. For the moment
he felt secure, and bent down close to the door and listened.
Two men were talking, and evidently the matter under discussion was of
importance, for they spoke with a kind of dogged deliberation, and the
long pauses in the dialogue lent color to the belief that some weighty
matter was in debate. The beat of the rain on the balcony and its steady
rattle in the spout intervened to dull the sound of voices, but presently
one of the speakers, with an impatient exclamation, rose, opened the
small glass-paned door a few inches, peered out, and returned to his seat
with an exclamation of relief. Armitage had dropped down the ladder half
a dozen rounds as he heard the latch snap in the door. He waited an
instant to make sure he had not been seen, then crept back to the balcony
and found that the slight opening in the door made it possible for him to
see as well as hear.
"It's stifling in this hole," said Chauvenet, drawing deeply upon his
cigarette and blowing a cloud of smoke. "If you will pardon the
informality, I will lay aside my coat."
He carefully hung the garment upon the back of his chair to hold its
shape, then resumed his seat. His companion watched him meanwhile with a
"You take excellent care of your clothes, my dear Jules. I never have
been able to fold a coat without ruining it."
The rain was soaking Armitage thoroughly, but its persistent beat covered
any slight noises made by his own movements, and he was now intent upon
the little room and its occupants. He observed the care with which the
man kept close to his coat, and he pondered the matter as he hung upon
the balcony. If Chauvenet was on his way to America it was possible that
he would carry with him the important paper whose loss had caused so much
anxiety to the Austrian minister; if so, where was it during his stay in
"The old man's death is only the first step. We require a succession of
"We require three, to be explicit, not more or less. We should be
fortunate if the remaining two could be accomplished as easily as
"He was a beast. He is well dead."
"That depends on the way you look at it. They seem really to be mourning
the old beggar at Vienna. It is the way of a people. They like to be
ruled by a savage hand. The people, as you have heard me say before, are
The last speaker was a young man whom Armitage had never seen before;
he was a decided blond, with close-trimmed straw-colored beard and
slightly-curling hair. Opposite him, and facing the door, sat Chauvenet.
On the table between them were decanters and liqueur glasses.
"I am going to America at once," said Chauvenet, holding his filled glass
toward a brass lamp of an old type that hung from the ceiling.
"It is probably just as well," said the other. "There's work to do there.
We must not forget our more legitimate business in the midst of these
pleasant side issues."
"The field is easy. After our delightful continental capitals, where, as
you know, one is never quite sure of one's self, it is pleasant to
breathe the democratic airs of Washington," remarked Chauvenet.
"Particularly so, my dear friend, when one is blessed with your
delightful social gifts. I envy you your capacity for making others
There was a keen irony in the fellow's tongue and the edge of it
evidently touched Chauvenet, who scowled and bent forward with his
fingers on the table.
"Enough of that, if you please."
"As you will, carino; but you will pardon me for offering my
condolences on the regrettable departure of la belle Americaine. If you
had not been so intent on matters of state you would undoubtedly have
found her here. As it is, you are now obliged to see her on her native
soil. A month in Washington may do much for you. She is beautiful and
reasonably rich. Her brother, the tall captain, is said to be the best
horseman in the American army."
"Humph! He is an ass," ejaculated Chauvenet.
A servant now appeared bearing a fresh bottle of cordial. He was
distinguished by a small head upon a tall and powerful body, and bore
little resemblance to a house servant. While he brushed the cigar ashes
from the table the men continued their talk without heeding him.
Chauvenet and his friend had spoken from the first in French, but in
addressing some directions to the servant, the blond, who assumed the
rôle of host, employed a Servian dialect.
"I think we were saying that the mortality list in certain directions
will have to be stimulated a trifle before we can do our young friend
Francis any good. You have business in America, carino. That paper we
filched from old Stroebel strengthens our hold on Francis; but there is
still that question as to Karl and Frederick Augustus. Our dear Francis
is not satisfied. He wishes to be quite sure that his dear father and
brother are dead. We must reassure him, dearest Jules."
"Don't be a fool, Durand. You never seem to understand that the United
States of America is a trifle larger than a barnyard. And I don't believe
those fellows are over there. They're probably lying in wait here
somewhere, ready to take advantage of any opportunity,—-that is, if they
are alive. A man can hardly fail to be impressed with the fact that so
few lives stand between him and—"
"The heights—the heights!" And the young man, whom Chauvenet called
Durand, lifted his tiny glass airily.
"Yes; the heights," repeated Chauvenet a little dreamily.
"But that declaration—that document! You have never honored me with a
glimpse; but you have it put safely away, I dare say."
"There is no place—but one—that I dare risk. It is always within easy
reach, my dear friend."
"You will do well to destroy that document. It is better out of the way."
"Your deficiencies in the matter of wisdom are unfortunate. That paper
constitutes our chief asset, my dear associate. So long as we have it we
are able to keep dear Francis in order. Therefore we shall hold fast to
it, remembering that we risked much in removing it from the lamented
"Do you say 'risked much'? My valued neck, that is all!" said the other.
"You and Winkelried are without gratitude."
"You will do well," said Chauvenet, "to keep an eye open in Vienna for
the unknown. If you hear murmurs in Hungary one of these fine days—!
Nothing has happened for some time; therefore much may happen."
He glanced at his watch.
"I have work in Paris before sailing for New York. Shall we discuss the
matter of those Peruvian claims? That is business. These other affairs
are more in the nature of delightful diversions, my dear comrade."
They drew nearer the table and Durand produced a box of papers over which
he bent with serious attention. Armitage had heard practically all of
their dialogue, and, what was of equal interest, had been able to study
the faces and learn the tones of voice of the two conspirators. He was
cramped from his position on the narrow balcony and wet and chilled by
the rain, which was now slowly abating. He had learned much that he
wished to know, and with an ease that astonished him; and he was well
content to withdraw with gratitude for his good fortune.
His legs were numb and he clung close to the railing of the little ladder
for support as he crept toward the area. At the second story his foot
slipped on the wet iron, smooth from long use, and he stumbled down
several steps before he recovered himself. He listened a moment, heard
nothing but the tinkle of the rain in the spout, then continued his
As he stepped out upon the brick courtyard he was seized from behind by a
pair of strong arms that clasped him tight. In a moment he was thrown
across the threshold of a door into an unlighted room, where his captor
promptly sat upon him and proceeded to strike a light.
A LOST CIGARETTE CASE
To other woods the trail leads on,
To other worlds and new,
Where they who keep the secret here
Will keep the promise too.
—Henry A. Beers.
The man clenched Armitage about the body with his legs while he struck a
match on a box he produced from his pocket. The suddenness with which he
had been flung into the kitchen had knocked the breath out of Armitage,
and the huge thighs of his captor pinned his arms tight. The match
spurted fire and he looked into the face of the servant whom he had seen
in the room above. His round head was covered with short, wire-like hair
that grew low upon his narrow forehead. Armitage noted, too, the man's
bull-like neck, small sharp eyes and bristling mustache. The fitful flash
of the match disclosed the rough furniture of a kitchen; the brick
flooring and his wet inverness lay cold at Armitage's back.
The fellow growled an execration in Servian; then with ponderous
difficulty asked a question in German.
"Who are you and what do you want here?"
Armitage shook his head; and replied in English:
"I do not understand."
The man struck a series of matches that he might scrutinize his captive's
face, then ran his hands over Armitage's pockets to make sure he had no
arms. The big fellow was clearly puzzled to find that he had caught a
gentleman in water-soaked evening clothes lurking in the area, and as the
matter was beyond his wits it only remained for him to communicate with
his master. This, however, was not so readily accomplished. He had
reasons of his own for not calling out, and there were difficulties in
the way of holding the prisoner and at the same time bringing down the
men who had gone to the most distant room in the house for their own
Several minutes passed during which the burly Servian struck his matches
and took account of his prisoner; and meanwhile Armitage lay perfectly
still, his arms fast numbing from the rough clasp of the stalwart
servant's legs. There was nothing to be gained by a struggle in this
position, and he knew that the Servian would not risk losing him in the
effort to summon the odd pair who were bent over their papers at the top
of the house. The Servian was evidently a man of action.
"Get up," he commanded, still in rough German, and he rose in the dark
and jerked Armitage after him. There was a moment of silence in which
Armitage shook and stretched himself, and then the Servian struck another
match and held it close to a revolver which he held pointed at Armitage's
"I will shoot," he said again in his halting German.
"Undoubtedly you will!" and something in the fellow's manner caused
Armitage to laugh. He had been caught and he did not at once see any safe
issue out of his predicament; but his plight had its preposterous side
and the ease with which he had been taken at the very outset of his quest
touched his humor. Then he sobered instantly and concentrated his wits
upon the immediate situation.
The Servian backed away with a match upheld in one hand and the leveled
revolver in the other, leaving Armitage in the middle of the kitchen.
"I am going to light a lamp and if you move I will kill you," admonished
the fellow, and Armitage heard his feet scraping over the brick floor of
the kitchen as he backed toward a table that stood against the wall near
the outer door.
Armitage stood perfectly still. The neighborhood and the house itself
were quiet; the two men in the third-story room were probably engrossed
with the business at which Armitage had left them; and his immediate
affair was with the Servian alone. The fellow continued to mumble his
threats; but Armitage had resolved to play the part of an Englishman who
understood no German, and he addressed the man sharply in English several
times to signify that he did not understand.
The Servian half turned toward his prisoner, the revolver in his left
hand, while with the fingers of his right he felt laboriously for a lamp
that had been revealed by the fitful flashes of the matches. It is not an
easy matter to light a lamp when you have only one hand to work with,
particularly when you are obliged to keep an eye on a mysterious prisoner
of whose character you are ignorant; and it was several minutes before
the job was done.
"You will go to that corner;" and the Servian translated for his
prisoner's benefit with a gesture of the revolver.
"Anything to please you, worthy fellow," replied Armitage, and he obeyed
with amiable alacrity. The man's object was to get him as far from the
inner door as possible while he called help from above, which was, of
course, the wise thing from his point of view, as Armitage recognized.
Armitage stood with his back against a rack of pots; the table was at his
left and beyond it the door opening upon the court; a barred window was
at his right; opposite him was another door that communicated with the
interior of the house and disclosed the lower steps of a rude stairway
leading upward. The Servian now closed and locked the outer kitchen door
Armitage had lost his hat in the area; his light walking-stick lay in the
middle of the floor; his inverness coat hung wet and bedraggled about
him; his shirt was crumpled and soiled. But his air of good humor and his
tame acceptance of capture seemed to increase the Servian's caution, and
he backed away toward the inner door with his revolver still pointed at
He began calling lustily up the narrow stair-well in Servian, changing in
a moment to German. He made a ludicrous figure, as he held his revolver
at arm's length, craning his neck into the passage, and howling until he
was red in the face. He paused to listen, then renewed his cries, while
Armitage, with his back against the rack of pots, studied the room and
made his plans.
"There is a thief here! I have caught a thief!" yelled the Servian, now
exasperated by the silence above. Then, as he relaxed a moment and turned
to make sure that his revolver still covered Armitage, there was a sudden
sound of steps above and a voice bawled angrily down the stairway:
"Zmai, stop your noise and tell me what's the trouble."
It was the voice of Durand speaking in the Servian dialect; and Zmai
opened his mouth to explain.
As the big fellow roared his reply Armitage snatched from the rack a
heavy iron boiling-pot, swung it high by the bail with both hands and let
it fly with all his might at the Servian's head, upturned in the
earnestness of his bawling. On the instant the revolver roared loudly in
the narrow kitchen and Armitage seized the brass lamp and flung it from
him upon the hearth, where it fell with a great clatter without
It was instantly pitch dark. The Servian had gone down like a felled ox
and Armitage at the threshold leaped over him into the hall past the rear
stairs down which the men were stumbling, cursing volubly as they came.
Armitage had assumed the existence of a front stairway, and now that he
was launched upon an unexpected adventure, he was in a humor to prolong
it for a moment, even at further risk. He crept along a dark passage to
the front door, found and turned the key to provide himself with a ready
exit, then, as he heard the men from above stumble over the prostrate
Servian, he bounded up the front stairway, gained the second floor, then
the third, and readily found by its light the room that he had observed
earlier from the outside.
Below there was smothered confusion and the crackling of matches as
Durand and Chauvenet sought to grasp the unexpected situation that
confronted them. The big servant, Armitage knew, would hardly be able
to clear matters for them at once, and he hurriedly turned over the
packets of papers that lay on the table. They were claims of one kind and
another against several South and Central American republics, chiefly for
naval and military supplies, and he merely noted their general character.
They were, on the face of it, certified accounts in the usual manner of
business. On the back of each had been printed with a rubber stamp the
"Vienna, Paris, Washington.
Chauvenet et Durand."
Armitage snatched up the coat which Chauvenet had so carefully placed on
the back of his chair, ran his hands through the pockets, found them
empty, then gathered the garment tightly in his hands, laughed a little
to himself to feel papers sewn into the lining, and laughed again as he
tore the lining loose and drew forth a flat linen envelope brilliant with
three seals of red wax.
Steps sounded below; a man was running up the back stairs; and from the
kitchen rose sounds of mighty groanings and cursings in the heavy
gutturals of the Servian, as he regained his wits and sought to explain
Armitage picked up a chair, ran noiselessly to the head of the back
stairs, and looked down upon Chauvenet, who was hurrying up with a
flaming candle held high above his head, its light showing anxiety and
fear upon his face. He was half-way up the last flight, and Armitage
stood in the dark, watching him with a mixture of curiosity and
something, too, of humor. Then he spoke—in French—in a tone that
imitated the cool irony he had noted in Durand's tone:
"A few murders more or less! But Von Stroebel was hardly a fair mark,
With this he sent the chair clattering down the steps, where it struck
Jules Chauvenet's legs with a force that carried him howling lustily
backward to the second landing.
Armitage turned and sped down the front stairway, hearing renewed clamor
from the rear and cries of rage and pain from the second story. In
fumbling for the front door he found a hat, and, having lost his own,
placed it upon his head, drew his inverness about his shoulders, and went
quickly out. A moment later he slipped the catch in the wall door and
stepped into the boulevard.
The stars were shining among the flying clouds overhead and he drew deep
breaths of the freshened air into his lungs as he walked back to the
Monte Rosa. Occasionally he laughed quietly to himself, for he still
grasped tightly in his hand, safe under his coat, the envelope which
Chauvenet had carried so carefully concealed; and several times Armitage
muttered to himself:
"A few murders, more or less!"
At the hotel he changed his clothes, threw the things from his
dressing-table into a bag, and announced his departure for Paris by
the night express.
As he drove to the railway station he felt for his cigarette case, and
discovered that it was missing. The loss evidently gave him great
concern, for he searched and researched his pockets and opened his bags
at the station to see if he had by any chance overlooked it, but it was
not to be found.
His annoyance at the loss was balanced—could he have known it—by the
interest with which, almost before the wall door had closed upon him, two
gentlemen—one of them still in his shirt sleeves and with a purple lump
over his forehead—bent over a gold cigarette case in the dark house on
the Boulevard Froissart. It was a pretty trinket, and contained, when
found on the kitchen floor, exactly four cigarettes of excellent Turkish
tobacco. On one side of it was etched, in shadings of blue and white
enamel, a helmet, surmounted by a falcon, poised for flight, and,
beneath, the motto Fide non armis. The back bore in English script,
written large, the letters F.A.
The men stared at each other wonderingly for an instant, then both leaped
to their feet.
"It isn't possible!" gasped Durand.
"It is quite possible," replied Chauvenet. "The emblem is unmistakable.
Good God, look!"
The sweat had broken out on Chauvenet's face and he leaped to the chair
where his coat hung, and caught up the garment with shaking hands. The
silk lining fluttered loose where Armitage had roughly torn out the
"Who is he? Who is he?" whispered Durand, very white of face.
"It may be—it must be some one deeply concerned."
Chauvenet paused, drawing his hand across his forehead slowly; then the
color leaped back into his face, and he caught Durand's arm so tight that
the man flinched.
"There has been a man following me about; I thought he was interested in
the Claibornes. He's here—I saw him at the Monte Rosa to-night. God!"
He dropped his hand from Durand's arm and struck the table fiercely with
his clenched hand.
"John Armitage—John Armitage! I heard his name in Florence."
His eyes were snapping with excitement, and amazement grew in his face.
"Who is John Armitage?" demanded Durand sharply; but Chauvenet stared at
him in stupefaction for a tense moment, then muttered to himself:
"Is it possible? Is it possible?" and his voice was hoarse and his hand
trembled as he picked up the cigarette case.
"My dear Jules, you act as though you had seen a ghost. Who the devil is
Chauvenet glanced about the room cautiously, then bent forward and
whispered very low, close to Durand's ear:
"Suppose he were the son of the crazy Karl! Suppose he were Frederick
"Bah! It is impossible! What is your man Armitage like?" asked Durand
"He is the right age. He is a big fellow and has quite an air. He seems
to be without occupation."
"Clearly so," remarked Durand ironically. "But he has evidently been
watching us. Quite possibly the lamented Stroebel employed him. He may
have seen Stroebel here—"
Chauvenet again struck the table smartly.
"Of course he would see Stroebel! Stroebel was the Archduke's friend;
Stroebel and this fellow between them—"
"Stroebel is dead. The Archduke is dead; there can be no manner of doubt
of that," said Durand; but doubt was in his tone and in his eyes.
"Nothing is certain; it would be like Karl to turn up again with a son to
back his claims. They may both be living. This Armitage is not the
ordinary pig of a secret agent. We must find him."
"And quickly. There must be—"
"—another death added to our little list before we are quite masters of
the situation in Vienna."
They gave Zmai orders to remain on guard at the house and went hurriedly
TOWARD THE WESTERN STARS
Her blue eyes sought the west afar,
For lovers love the western star.
—Lay of the Last Minstrel.
Geneva is a good point from which to plan flight to any part of the
world, for there at the top of Europe the whole continental railway
system is easily within your grasp, and you may make your choice of
sailing ports. It is, to be sure, rather out of your way to seek a ship
at Liverpool unless you expect to gain some particular advantage in doing
so. Mr. John Armitage hurried thither in the most breathless haste to
catch the King Edward, whereas he might have taken the Touraine
at Cherbourg and saved himself a mad scamper; but his satisfaction in
finding himself aboard the King Edward was supreme. He was and is, it
may be said, a man who salutes the passing days right amiably, no matter
how somber their colors.
Shirley Claiborne and Captain Richard Claiborne, her brother, were on
deck watching the shipping in the Mersey as the big steamer swung into
"I hope," observed Dick, "that we have shaken off all your transatlantic
suitors. That little Chauvenet died easier than I had expected. He never
turned up after we left Florence, but I'm not wholly sure that we shan't
find him at the dock in New York. And that mysterious Armitage, who spent
so much railway fare following us about, and who almost bought you a
watch in Geneva, really disappoints me. His persistence had actually
compelled my admiration. For a glass-blower he was fairly decent, though,
and better than a lot of these little toy men with imitation titles."
"Is that an American cruiser? I really believe it is the Tecumseh. What
on earth were you talking about, Dick?"
Shirley fluttered her handkerchief in the direction of the American flag
displayed by the cruiser, and Dick lifted his cap.
"I was bidding farewell to your foreign suitors, Shirley, and
congratulating myself that as soon as père et mère get their sea legs
they will resume charge of you, and let me look up two or three very
presentable specimens of your sex I saw come on board. Your affairs
have annoyed me greatly and I shall be glad to be free of the
"Thank you, Captain."
"And if there are any titled blackguards on board—"
"You will do dreadfully wicked things to them, won't you, little
"Humph! Thank God, I'm an American!"
"That's a worthy sentiment, Richard."
"I'd like to give out, as our newspapers say, a signed statement throwing
a challenge to all Europe. I wish we'd get into a real war once so we
could knock the conceit out of one of their so-called first-class powers.
I'd like to lead a regiment right through the most sacred precincts of
London; or take an early morning gallop through Berlin to wake up the
Dutch. All this talk about hands across the sea and such rot makes me
sick. The English are the most benighted and the most conceited and
condescending race on earth; the Germans and Austrians are stale
beer-vats, and the Italians and French are mere decadents and don't
"Yes, dearest," mocked Shirley. "Oh, my large brother, I have a
confession to make. Please don't indulge in great oaths or stamp a hole
in this sturdy deck, but there are flowers in my state-room—"
"Probably from the Liverpool consul—he's been pestering father to help
him get a transfer to a less gloomy hole."
"Then I shall intercede myself with the President when I get home.
They're orchids—from London—but—with Mr. Armitage's card. Wouldn't
that excite you?"
"It makes me sick!" and Dick hung heavily on the rail and glared at a
"They are beautiful orchids. I don't remember when orchids have happened
to me before, Richard—in such quantities. Now, you really didn't
disapprove of him so much, did you? This is probably good-by forever, but
he wasn't so bad; and he may be an American, after all."
"A common adventurer! Such fellows are always turning up, like bad
pennies, or a one-eyed dog. If I should see him again—"
"Yes, Richard, if you should meet again—"
"I'd ask him to be good enough to stop following us about, and if he
persisted I should muss him up."
"Yes; I'm sure you would protect me from his importunities at any
hazard," mocked Shirley, turning and leaning against the rail so that she
looked along the deck beyond her brother's stalwart shoulders.
"Don't be silly," observed Dick, whose eyes were upon a trim yacht that
was steaming slowly beneath them.
"I shan't, but please don't be violent! Do not murder the poor man,
Dickie, dear,"—and she took hold of his arm entreatingly—"for there he
is—as tall and mysterious as ever—and me found guilty with a few of his
orchids pinned to my jacket!"
"This is good fortune, indeed," said Armitage a moment later when they
had shaken hands. "I finished my errand at Geneva unexpectedly and here I
He smiled at the feebleness of his explanation, and joined in their
passing comment on the life of the harbor. He was not so dull but that he
felt Dick Claiborne's resentment of his presence on board. He knew
perfectly well that his acquaintance with the Claibornes was too slight
to be severely strained, particularly where a fellow of Dick Claiborne's
high spirit was concerned. He talked with them a few minutes longer, then
took himself off; and they saw little of him the rest of the day.
Armitage did not share their distinction of a seat at the captain's
table, and Dick found him late at night in the smoking-saloon with pipe
and book. Armitage nodded and asked him to sit down.
"You are a sailor as well as a soldier, Captain. You are fortunate; I
always sit up the first night to make sure the enemy doesn't lay hold of
me in my sleep."
He tossed his book aside, had brandy and soda brought and offered
Claiborne a cigar.
"This is not the most fortunate season for crossing; I am sure to fall
to-morrow. My father and mother hate the sea particularly and have
retired for three days. My sister is the only one of us who is perfectly
"Yes; I can well image Miss Claiborne in the good graces of the
elements," replied Armitage; and they were silent for several minutes
while a big Russian, who was talking politics in a distant corner with a
very small and solemn German, boomed out his views on the Eastern
question in a tremendous bass.
Dick Claiborne was a good deal amused at finding himself sitting beside
Armitage,—enjoying, indeed, his fellow traveler's hospitality; but
Armitage, he was forced to admit, bore all the marks of a gentleman. He
had, to be sure, followed Shirley about, but even the young man's manner
in this was hardly a matter at which he could cavil. And there was
something altogether likable in Armitage; his very composure was
attractive to Claiborne; and the bold lines of his figure were not wasted
on the young officer. In the silence, while they smoked, he noted the
perfect taste that marked Armitage's belongings, which to him meant more,
perhaps, than the steadiness of the man's eyes or the fine lines of his
face. Unconsciously Claiborne found himself watching Armitage's strong
ringless hands, and he knew that such a hand, well kept though it
appeared, had known hard work, and that the long supple fingers were such
as might guide a tiller fearlessly or set a flag daringly upon a
Armitage was thinking rapidly of something he had suddenly resolved to
say to Captain Claiborne. He knew that the Claibornes were a family of
distinction; the father was an American diplomat and lawyer of wide
reputation; the family stood for the best of which America is capable,
and they were homeward bound to the American capital where their social
position and the father's fame made them conspicuous.
Armitage put down his cigar and bent toward Claiborne, speaking with
"Captain Claiborne, I was introduced to you at Geneva by Mr. Singleton.
You may have observed me several times previously at Venice, Borne,
Florence, Paris, Berlin. I certainly saw you! I shall not deny that I
intentionally followed you, nor"—John Armitage smiled, then grew grave
again—"can I make any adequate apology for doing so."
Claiborne looked at Armitage wonderingly. The man's attitude and tone
were wholly serious and compelled respect. Claiborne nodded and threw
away his cigar that he might give his whole attention to what Armitage
might have to say.
"A man does not like to have his sister forming the acquaintances of
persons who are not properly vouched for. Except for Singleton you know
nothing of me; and Singleton knows very little of me, indeed."
Claiborne nodded. He felt the color creeping into his cheeks consciously
as Armitage touched upon this matter.
"I speak to you as I do because it is your right to know who and what I
am, for I am not on the King Edward by accident but by intention, and I
am going to Washington because your sister lives there."
Claiborne smiled in spite of himself.
"But, my dear sir, this is most extraordinary! I don't know that I care
to hear any more; by listening I seem to be encouraging you to follow
us—it's altogether too unusual. It's almost preposterous!"
And Dick Claiborne frowned severely; but Armitage still met his eyes
"It's only decent for a man to give his references when it's natural for
them to be required. I was educated at Trinity College, Toronto. I spent
a year at the Harvard Law School. And I am not a beggar utterly. I own a
ranch in Montana that actually pays and a thousand acres of the best
wheat land in Nebraska. At the Bronx Loan and Trust Company in New York I
have securities to a considerable amount,—I am perfectly willing that
any one who is at all interested should inquire of the Trust Company
officers as to my standing with them. If I were asked to state my
occupation I should have to say that I am a cattle herder—what you call
a cowboy. I can make my living in the practice of the business almost
anywhere from New Mexico north to the Canadian line. I flatter myself
that I am pretty good at it," and John Armitage smiled and took a
cigarette from a box on the table and lighted it.
Dick Claiborne was greatly interested in what Armitage had said, and he
struggled between an inclination to encourage further confidence and a
feeling that he should, for Shirley's sake, make it clear to this
young-stranger that it was of no consequence to any member of the
Claiborne family who he was or what might be the extent of his lands or
the unimpeachable character of his investments. But it was not so easy to
turn aside a fellow who was so big of frame and apparently so sane and so
steady of purpose as this Armitage. And there was, too, the further
consideration that while Armitage was volunteering gratuitous
information, and assuming an interest in his affairs by the Claibornes
that was wholly unjustified, there was also the other side of the matter:
that his explanations proceeded from motives of delicacy that were
praiseworthy. Dick was puzzled, and piqued besides, to find that his
resources as a big protecting brother were so soon exhausted. What
Armitage was asking was the right to seek his sister Shirley's hand in
marriage, and the thing was absurd. Moreover, who was John Armitage?
The question startled Claiborne into a realization of the fact that
Armitage had volunteered considerable information without at all
answering this question. Dick Claiborne was a human being, and curious.
"Pardon me," he asked, "but are you an Englishman?"
"I am not," answered Armitage. "I have been so long in America that I
feel as much at home there as anywhere—but I am neither English nor
American by birth; I am, on the other hand—"
He hesitated for the barest second, and Claiborne was sensible of an
intensification of interest; now at last there was to be a revelation
that amounted to something.
"On the other hand," Armitage repeated, "I was born at Fontainebleau,
where my parents lived for only a few months; but I do not consider that
that fact makes me a Frenchman. My mother is dead. My father died—very
recently. I have been in America enough to know that a foreigner is often
under suspicion—particularly if he have a title! My distinction is that
I am a foreigner without one!" John Armitage laughed.
"It is, indeed, a real merit," declared Dick, who felt that something was
expected of him. In spite of himself, he found much to like in John
Armitage. He particularly despised sham and pretense, and he had been
won by the evident sincerity of Armitage's wish to appear well in his
"And now," said Armitage, "I assure you that I am not in the habit of
talking so much about myself—and if you will overlook this offense I
promise not to bore you again."
"I have been interested," remarked Dick; "and," he added, "I can not do
less than thank you, Mr. Armitage."
Armitage began talking of the American army—its strength and
weaknesses—with an intimate knowledge that greatly surprised and
interested the young officer; and when they separated presently it was
with a curious mixture of liking and mystification that Claiborne
reviewed their talk.
The next day brought heavy weather, and only hardened sea-goers were
abroad. Armitage, breakfasting late, was not satisfied that he had acted
wisely in speaking to Captain Claiborne; but he had, at any rate, eased
in some degree his own conscience, and he had every intention of seeing
all that he could of Shirley Claiborne during these days of their
ON THE DARK DECK
Ease, of all good gifts the best,
War and wave at last decree:
Love alone denies us rest,
Crueler than sword or sea.
"I am Columbus every time I cross," said Shirley. "What lies out there in
the west is an undiscovered country."
"Then I shall have to take the part of the rebellious and doubting crew.
There is no America, and we're sure to get into trouble if we don't turn
"You shall be clapped into irons and fed on bread and water, and turned
over to the Indians as soon as we reach land."
"Don't starve me! Let me hang from the yard-arm at once, or walk the
plank. I choose the hour immediately after dinner for my obsequies!"
"Choose a cheerfuller word!" pleaded Shirley.
"I am sorry to suggest mortality, but I was trying to let my imagination
play a little on the eternal novelty of travel, and you have dropped me
down 'full faddom five.'"
"I'm sorry, but I have only revealed an honest tendency of character.
Piracy is probably a more profitable line of business than discovery.
Discoverers benefit mankind at great sacrifice and expense, and die
before they can receive the royal thanks. A pirate's business is all
done over the counter on a strictly cash basis."
They were silent for a moment, continuing their tramp. Pair weather was
peopling the decks. Dick Claiborne was engrossed with a vivacious
California girl, and Shirley saw him only at meals; but he and Armitage
held night sessions in the smoking-room, with increased liking on both
"Armitage isn't a bad sort," Dick admitted to Shirley. "He's either an
awful liar, or he's seen a lot of the world."
"Of course, he has to travel to sell his glassware," observed Shirley.
"I'm surprised at your seeming intimacy with a mere 'peddler,'—and you
an officer in the finest cavalry in the world."
"Well, if he's a peddler he's a high-class one—probably the junior
member of the firm that owns the works."
Armitage saw something of all the Claibornes every day in the pleasant
intimacy of ship life, and Hilton Claiborne found the young man an
interesting talker. Judge Claiborne is, as every one knows, the
best-posted American of his time in diplomatic history; and when they
were together Armitage suggested topics that were well calculated to
awaken the old lawyer's interest.
"The glass-blower's a deep one, all right," remarked Dick to Shirley. "He
jollies me occasionally, just to show there's no hard feeling; then he
jollies the governor; and when I saw our mother footing it on his arm
this afternoon I almost fell in a faint. I wish you'd hold on to him
tight till we're docked. My little friend from California is crazy about
him—and I haven't dared tell her he's only a drummer; such a fling would
be unchivalrous of me—"
"It would, Richard. Be a generous foe—whether—whether you can afford to
be or not!"
"My sister—my own sister says this to me! This is quite the unkindest.
I'm going to offer myself to the daughter of the redwoods at once."
Shirley and Armitage talked—as people will on ship-board—of everything
under the sun. Shirley's enthusiasms were in themselves interesting; but
she was informed in the world's larger affairs, as became the daughter of
a man who was an authority in such matters, and found it pleasant to
discuss them with Armitage. He felt the poetic quality in her; it was
that which had first appealed to him; but he did not know that something
of the same sort in himself touched her; it was enough for those days
that he was courteous and amusing, and gained a trifle in her eyes from
the fact that he had no tangible background.
Then came the evening of the fifth day. They were taking a turn after
dinner on the lighted deck. The spring stars hung faint and far through
thin clouds and the wind was keen from the sea. A few passengers were
out; the deck stewards went about gathering up rugs and chairs for the
"Time oughtn't to be reckoned at all at sea, so that people who feel
themselves getting old might sail forth into the deep and defy the old
man with the hour-glass."
"I like the idea. Such people could become fishers—permanently,
and grow very wise from so much brain food."
"They wouldn't eat, Mr. Armitage. Brain-food forsooth! You talk like a
breakfast-food advertisement. My idea—mine, please note—is for such
fortunate people to sail in pretty little boats with orange-tinted sails
and pick up lost dreams. I got a hint of that in a pretty poem once—
"'Time seemed to pause a little pace,
I heard a dream go by.'"
"But out here in mid-ocean a little boat with lateen sails wouldn't have
much show. And dreams passing over—the idea is pretty, and is creditable
to your imagination. But I thought your fancy was more militant. Now, for
example, you like battle pictures—" he said, and paused inquiringly.
She looked at him quickly.
"How do you know I do?"
"You like Detaille particularly."
"Am I to defend my taste?—what's the answer, if you don't mind?"
"Detaille is much to my liking, also; but I prefer Flameng, as a strictly
personal matter. That was a wonderful collection of military and battle
pictures shown in Paris last winter."
She half withdrew her hand from his arm, and turned away. The sea winds
did not wholly account for the sudden color in her cheeks. She had seen
Armitage in Paris—in cafés, at the opera, but not at the great
exhibition of world-famous battle pictures; yet undoubtedly he had seen
her; and she remembered with instant consciousness the hours of
absorption she had spent before those canvases.
"It was a public exhibition, I believe; there was no great harm in seeing
"No; there certainly was not!" He laughed, then was serious at once.
Shirley's tense, arrested figure, her bright, eager eyes, her parted
lips, as he saw her before the battle pictures in the gallery at Paris,
came up before him and gave him pause. He could not play upon that stolen
glance or tease her curiosity in respect to it. If this were a ship
flirtation, it might be well enough; but the very sweetness and
open-heartedness of her youth shielded her. It seemed to him in that
moment a contemptible and unpardonable thing that he had followed
her about—and caught her, there at Paris, in an exalted mood, to which
she had been wrought by the moving incidents of war.
"I was in Paris during the exhibition," he said quietly. "Ormsby, the
American painter—the man who did the High Tide at Gettysburg—is an
acquaintance of mine."
It was Ormsby's painting that had particularly captivated Shirley. She
had returned to it day after day; and the thought that Armitage had taken
advantage of her deep interest in Pickett's charging gray line was
annoying, and she abruptly changed the subject.
Shirley had speculated much as to the meaning of Armitage's remark at the
carriage door in Geneva—that he expected the slayer of the old Austrian
prime minister to pass that way. Armitage had not referred to the crime
in any way in his talks with her on the King Edward; their
conversations had been pitched usually in a light and frivolous key, or
if one were disposed to be serious the other responded in a note of
"We're all imperialists at heart," said Shirley, referring to a talk
between them earlier in the day. "We Americans are hungry for empire;
we're simply waiting for the man on horseback to gallop down Broadway and
up Fifth Avenue with a troop of cavalry at his heels and proclaim the new
"And before he'd gone a block a big Irish policeman would arrest him for
disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, or for giving a show without
a license, and the republic would continue to do business at the old
"No; the police would have been bribed in advance, and would deliver the
keys of the city to the new emperor at the door of St. Patrick's
Cathedral, and his majesty would go to Sherry's for luncheon, and sign a
few decrees, and order the guillotine set up in Union Square. Do you
follow me, Mr. Armitage?"
"Yes; to the very steps of the guillotine, Miss Claiborne. But the
looting of the temples and the plundering of banks—if the thing is bound
to be—I should like to share in the general joy. But I have an idea,
Miss Claiborne," he exclaimed, as though with inspiration.
"Yes—you have an idea—"
"Let me be the man on horseback; and you might be—"
"Yes—the suspense is terrible!—what might I be, your Majesty?"
"Well, we should call you—"
He hesitated, and she wondered whether he would be bold enough to meet
the issue offered by this turn of their nonsense.
"I seem to give your Majesty difficulty; the silence isn't flattering,"
she said mockingly; but she was conscious of a certain excitement as she
walked the deck beside him.
"Oh, pardon me! The difficulty is only as to title—you would, of course,
occupy the dais; but whether you should be queen or empress—that's the
rub! If America is to be an empire, then of course you would be an
empress. So there you are answered."
They passed laughingly on to the other phases of the matter in the
whimsical vein that was natural in her, and to which he responded. They
watched the lights of an east-bound steamer that was passing near. The
exchange of rocket signals—that pretty and graceful parley between ships
that pass in the night—interested them for a moment. Then the deck
lights went out so suddenly it seemed that a dark curtain had descended
and shut them in with the sea.
"Accident to the dynamo—we shall have the lights on in a moment!"
shouted the deck officer, who stood near, talking to a passenger.
"Shall we go in?" asked Armitage.
"Yes, it is getting cold," replied Shirley.
For a moment they were quite alone on the dark deck, though they heard
voices near at hand.
They were groping their way toward the main saloon, where they had left
Mr. and Mrs. Claiborne, when Shirley was aware of some one lurking near.
A figure seemed to be crouching close by, and she felt its furtive
movements and knew that it had passed but remained a few feet away. Her
hand on Armitage's arm tightened.
"What is that?—there is some one following us," she said.
At the same moment Armitage, too, became aware of the presence of a
stooping figure behind him. He stopped abruptly and faced about.
"Stand quite still, Miss Claiborne."
He peered about, and instantly, as though waiting for his voice, a tall
figure rose not a yard from him and a long arm shot high above his head
and descended swiftly. They were close to the rail, and a roll of the
ship sent Armitage off his feet and away from his assailant. Shirley
at the same moment threw out her hands, defensively or for support, and
clutched the arm and shoulder of the man who had assailed Armitage. He
had driven a knife at John Armitage, and was poising himself for another
attempt when Shirley seized his arm. As he drew back a fold of his cloak
still lay in Shirley's grasp, and she gave a sharp little cry as the
figure, with a quick jerk, released the cloak and slipped away into the
shadows. A moment later the lights were restored, and she saw Armitage
regarding ruefully a long slit in the left arm of his ulster.
"Are you hurt? What has happened?" she demanded.
"It must have been a sea-serpent," he replied, laughing.
The deck officer regarded them curiously as they blinked in the glare of
light, and asked whether anything was wrong. Armitage turned the matter
"I guess it was a sea-serpent," he said. "It bit a hole in my ulster, for
which I am not grateful." Then in a lower tone to Shirley: "That was
certainly a strange proceeding. I am sorry you were startled; and I am
under greatest obligations to you, Miss Claiborne. Why, you actually
pulled the fellow away!"
"Oh, no," she returned lightly, but still breathing hard; "it was the
instinct of self-preservation. I was unsteady on my feet for a moment,
and sought something to take hold of. That pirate was the nearest thing,
and I caught hold of his cloak; I'm sure it was a cloak, and that makes
me sure he was a human villain of some sort. He didn't feel in the least
like a sea-serpent. But some one tried to injure you—it is no jesting
"Some lunatic escaped from the steerage, probably. I shall report it to
"Yes, it should be reported," said Shirley.
"It was very strange. Why, the deck of the King Edward is the safest
place in the world; but it's something to have had hold of a sea-serpent,
or a pirate! I hope you will forgive me for bringing you into such an
encounter; but if you hadn't caught his cloak—"
Armitage was uncomfortable, and anxious to allay her fears. The incident
was by no means trivial, as he knew. Passengers on the great
transatlantic steamers are safeguarded by every possible means; and the
fact that he had been attacked in the few minutes that the deck lights
had been out of order pointed to an espionage that was both close and
daring. He was greatly surprised and more shaken than he wished Shirley
to believe. The thing was disquieting enough, and it could not but
impress her strangely that he, of all the persons on board, should have
been the object of so unusual an assault. He was in the disagreeable
plight of having subjected her to danger, and as they entered the
brilliant saloon he freed himself of the ulster with its telltale gash
and sought to minimize her impression of the incident.
Shirley did not refer to the matter again, but resolved to keep her own
counsel. She felt that any one who would accept the one chance in a
thousand of striking down an enemy on a steamer deck must be animated by
very bitter hatred. She knew that to speak of the affair to her father or
brother would be to alarm them and prejudice them against John Armitage,
about whom her brother, at least, had entertained doubts. And it is not
reassuring as to a man of whom little or nothing is known that he is
menaced by secret enemies.
The attack had found Armitage unprepared and off guard, but with swift
reaction his wits were at work. He at once sought the purser and
scrutinized every name on the passenger list. It was unlikely that a
steerage passenger could reach the saloon deck unobserved; a second cabin
passenger might do so, however, and he sought among the names in the
second cabin list for a clue. He did not believe that Chauvenet or Durand
had boarded the King Edward. He himself had made the boat only by a
quick dash, and he had left those two gentlemen at Geneva with much to
It was, however, quite within the probabilities that they would send some
one to watch him, for the two men whom he had overheard in the dark house
on the Boulevard Froissart were active and resourceful rascals, he had no
doubt. Whether they would be able to make anything of the cigarette case
he had stupidly left behind he could not conjecture; but the importance
of recovering the packet he had cut from Chauvenet's coat was not a
trifle that rogues of their caliber would ignore. There was, the purser
said, a sick man in the second cabin, who had kept close to his berth.
The steward believed the man to be a continental of some sort, who spoke
bad German. He had taken the boat at Liverpool, paid for his passage in
gold, and, complaining of illness, retired, evidently for the voyage. His
name was Peter Ludovic, and the steward described him in detail.
"Big fellow; bullet head; bristling mustache; small eyes—"
"That will do," said Armitage, grinning at the ease with which he
identified the man.
"You understand that it is wholly irregular for us to let such a matter
pass without acting—" said the purser.
"It would serve no purpose, and might do harm. I will take the
And John Armitage made a memorandum in his notebook:
"Zmai—; travels as Peter Ludovic."
Armitage carried the envelope which he had cut from Chauvenet's coat
pinned into an inner pocket of his waistcoat, and since boarding the
_King Edward _he had examined it twice daily to see that it was intact.
The three red wax seals were in blank, replacing those of like size that
had originally been affixed to the envelope; and at once after the attack
on the dark deck he opened the packet and examined the papers—some
half-dozen sheets of thin linen, written in a clerk's clear hand in
black ink. There had been no mistake in the matter; the packet which
Chauvenet had purloined from the old prime minister at Vienna had come
again into Armitage's hands. He was daily tempted to destroy it and
cast it in bits to the sea winds; but he was deterred by the remembrance
of his last interview with the old prime minister.
"Do something for Austria—something for the Empire." These phrases
repeated themselves over and over again in his mind until they rose and
fell with the cadence of the high, wavering voice of the Cardinal
Archbishop of Vienna as he chanted the mass of requiem for Count
Ferdinand von Stroebel.
"THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING"
Low he lies, yet high and great
Looms he, lying thus in state.—
How exalted o'er ye when
Dead, my lords and gentlemen!
—James Whitcomb Riley.
John Armitage lingered in New York for a week, not to press the
Claibornes too closely, then went to Washington. He wrote himself down on
the register of the New American as John Armitage, Cinch Tight, Montana,
and took a suite of rooms high up, with an outlook that swept
Pennsylvania Avenue. It was on the evening of a bright April day that he
thus established himself; and after he had unpacked his belongings he
stood long at the window and watched the lights leap out of the dusk over
the city. He was in Washington because Shirley Claiborne lived there, and
he knew that even if he wished to do so he could no longer throw an
air of inadvertence into his meetings with her. He had been very lonely
in those days when he first saw her abroad; the sight of her had lifted
his mood of depression; and now, after those enchanted hours at sea, his
coming to Washington had been inevitable.
Many things passed through his mind as he stood at the open window. His
life, he felt, could never be again as it had been before, and he sighed
deeply as he recalled his talk with the old prime minister at Geneva.
Then he laughed quietly as he remembered Chauvenet and Durand and the
dark house on the Boulevard Froissart; but the further recollection of
the attack made on his life on the deck of the King Edward sobered him,
and he turned away from the window impatiently. He had seen the sick
second-cabin passenger leave the steamer at New York, but had taken no
trouble either to watch or to avoid him. Very likely the man was under
instructions, and had been told to follow the Claibornes home; and the
thought of their identification with himself by his enemies angered him.
Chauvenet was likely to appear in Washington at any time, and would
undoubtedly seek the Claibornes at once. The fact that the man was a
scoundrel might, in some circumstances, have afforded Armitage comfort,
but here again Armitage's mood grew dark. Jules Chauvenet was undoubtedly
a rascal of a shrewd and dangerous type; but who, pray, was John
The bell in his entry rang, and he flashed on the lights and opened the
"Well, I like this! Setting yourself up here in gloomy splendor and never
saying a word. You never deserved to have any friends, John Armitage!"
"Jim Sanderson, come in!" Armitage grasped the hands of a red-bearded
giant of forty, the possessor of alert brown eyes and a big voice.
"It's my rural habit of reading the register every night in search of
constituents that brings me here. They said they guessed you were in, so
I just came up to see whether you were opening a poker game or had come
to sneak a claim past the watch-dog of the treasury."
The caller threw himself into a chair and rolled a fat, unlighted cigar
about in his mouth. "You're a peach, all right, and as offensively hale
and handsome as ever. When are you going to the ranch?"
"Well, not just immediately; I want to sample the flesh-pots for a day or
"You're getting soft,—that's what's the matter with you! You're afraid
of the spring zephyrs on the Montana range. Well, I'll admit that it's
rather more diverting here."
"There is no debating that, Senator. How do you like being a statesman?
It was so sudden and all that. I read an awful roast of you in an English
paper. They took your election to the Senate as another evidence of
the complete domination of our politics by the plutocrats."
Sanderson winked prodigiously.
"The papers have rather skinned me; but on the whole, I'll do very
well. They say it isn't respectable to be a senator these days, but they
oughtn't to hold it up against a man that he's rich. If the Lord put
silver in the mountains of Montana and let me dig it out, it's nothing
against me, is it?"
"Decidedly not! And if you want to invest it in a senatorship it's the
Lord's hand again."
"Why sure!" and the Senator from Montana winked once more. "But it's
expensive. I've got to be elected again next winter—I'm only filling out
Billings' term—and I'm not sure I can go up against it."
"But you are nothing if not unselfish. If the good of the country demands
it you'll not falter, if I know you."
"There's hot water heat in this hotel, so please turn off the hot air. I
saw your foreman in Helena the last time I was out there, and he was
sober. I mention the fact, knowing that I'm jeopardizing my reputation
for veracity, but it's the Lord's truth. Of course you spent Christmas at
the old home in England—one of those yule-log and plum-pudding
Christmases you read of in novels. You Englishmen—"
"My dear Sanderson, don't call me English! I've told you a dozen times
that I'm not English."
"So you did; so you did! I'd forgotten that you're so damned sensitive
about it;" and Sanderson's eyes regarded Armitage intently for a moment,
as though he were trying to recall some previous discussion of the
young man's nativity.
"I offer you free swing at the bar, Senator. May I summon a Montana
cocktail? You taught me the ingredients once—three dashes orange
bitters; two dashes acid phosphate; half a jigger of whisky; half a
jigger of Italian vermuth. You undermined the constitutions of half
Montana with that mess."
Sanderson reached for his hat with sudden dejection.
"The sprinkling cart for me! I've got a nerve specialist engaged by the
year to keep me out of sanatoriums. See here, I want you to go with us
to-night to the Secretary of State's push. Not many of the Montana boys
get this far from home, and I want you for exhibition purposes. Say,
John, when I saw Cinch Tight, Montana, written on the register down there
it increased my circulation seven beats! You're all right, and I guess
you're about as good an American as they make—anywhere—John Armitage!"
The function for which the senator from Montana provided an invitation
for Armitage was a large affair in honor of several new ambassadors. At
ten o'clock Senator Sanderson was introducing Armitage right and left
as one of his representative constituents. Armitage and he owned
adjoining ranches in Montana, and Sanderson called upon his neighbor to
stand up boldly for their state before the minions of effete monarchies.
Mrs. Sanderson had asked Armitage to return to her for a little Montana
talk, as she put it, after the first rush of their entrance was over, and
as he waited in the drawing-room for an opportunity of speaking to her,
he chatted with Franzel, an attaché of the Austrian embassy, to whom
Sanderson had introduced him. Franzel was a gloomy young man with a
monocle, and he was waiting for a particular girl, who happened to be the
daughter of the Spanish Ambassador. And, this being his object, he had
chosen his position with care, near the door of the drawing-room, and
Armitage shared for the moment the advantage that lay in the Austrian's
point of view. Armitage had half expected that the Claibornes would be
present at a function as comprehensive of the higher official world as
this, and he intended asking Mrs. Sanderson if she knew them as soon as
opportunity offered. The Austrian attaché proved tiresome, and Armitage
was about to drop him, when suddenly he caught sight of Shirley Claiborne
at the far end of the broad hall. Her head was turned partly toward him;
he saw her for an instant through the throng; then his eyes fell upon
Chauvenet at her side, talking with liveliest animation. He was not more
than her own height, and his profile presented the clean, sharp effect of
a cameo. The vivid outline of his dark face held Armitage's eyes; then as
Shirley passed on through an opening in the crowd her escort turned,
holding the way open for her, and Armitage met the man's gaze.
It was with an accented gravity that Armitage nodded his head to some
declaration of the melancholy attaché at this moment. He had known when
he left Geneva that he had not done with Jules Chauvenet; but the man's
prompt appearance surprised Armitage. He ran over the names of the
steamers by which Chauvenet might easily have sailed from either a German
or a French port and reached Washington quite as soon as himself.
Chauvenet was in Washington, at any rate, and not only there, but
socially accepted and in the good graces of Shirley Claiborne.
The somber attaché was speaking of the Japanese.
"They must be crushed—crushed," said Franzel. The two had been
conversing in French.
"Yes, he must be crushed," returned Armitage absent-mindedly, in
English; then, remembering himself, he repeated the affirmation in
French, changing the pronoun.
Mrs. Sanderson was now free. She was a pretty, vivacious woman, much
younger than her stalwart husband,—a college graduate whom he had found
teaching school near one of his silver mines.
"Welcome once more, constituent! We're proud to see you, I can tell you.
Our host owns some marvelous tapestries and they're hung out to-night for
the world to see." She guided Armitage toward the Secretary's gallery on
an upper floor. Their host was almost as famous as a connoisseur as for
his achievements in diplomacy, and the gallery was a large apartment in
which every article of furniture, as well as the paintings, tapestries
and specimens of pottery, was the careful choice of a thoroughly
"It isn't merely an art gallery; it's the most beautiful room in
America," murmured Mrs. Sanderson.
"I can well believe it. There's my favorite Vibert,—I wondered what had
become of it."
"It isn't surprising that the Secretary is making a great reputation
by his dealings with foreign powers. It's a poor ambassador who could
not be persuaded after an hour in this splendid room. The ordinary
affairs of life should not be mentioned here. A king's coronation would
not be out of place,—in fact, there's a chair in the corner against that
Gobelin that would serve the situation. The old gentleman by that cabinet
is the Baron von Marhof, the Ambassador from Austria-Hungary. He's a
brother-in-law of Count von Stroebel, who was murdered so horribly in a
railway carriage a few weeks ago."
"Ah, to be sure! I haven't seen the Baron in years. He has changed
"Then you knew him,—in the old country?"
"Yes; I used to see him—when I was a boy," remarked Armitage.
Mrs. Sanderson glanced at Armitage sharply. She had dined at his ranch
house in Montana and knew that he lived like a gentleman,—that his
house, its appointments and service were unusual for a western ranchman.
And she recalled, too, that she and her husband had often speculated as
to Armitage's antecedents and history, without arriving at any conclusion
in regard to him.
The room had slowly filled and they strolled about, dividing attention
between distinguished personages and the not less celebrated works of
"Oh, by the way, Mr. Armitage, there's the girl I have chosen for you to
marry. I suppose it would be just as well for you to meet her now, though
that dark little foreigner seems to be monopolizing her."
"I am wholly agreeable," laughed Armitage. "The sooner the better, and be
done with it."
"Don't be so frivolous. There—you can look safely now. She's stopped to
speak to that bald and pink Justice of the Supreme Court,—the girl with
the brown eyes and hair,—have a care!"
Shirley and Chauvenet left the venerable Justice, and Mrs. Sanderson
intercepted them at once.
"To think of all these beautiful things in our own America!" exclaimed
Shirley. "And you, Mr. Armitage,—"
"Among the other curios, Miss Claiborne," laughed John, taking her hand.
"But I haven't introduced you yet"—began Mrs. Sanderson, puzzled.
"No; the King Edward did that. We crossed together. Oh, Monsieur
Chauvenet, let me present Mr. Armitage," said Shirley, seeing that the
men had not spoken.
The situation amused Armitage and he smiled rather more broadly than was
necessary in expressing his pleasure at meeting Monsieur Chauvenet. They
regarded each other with the swift intentness of men who are used to the
sharp exercise of their eyes; and when Armitage turned toward Shirley and
Mrs. Sanderson, he was aware that Chauvenet continued to regard him with
"Miss Claiborne is a wonderful sailor; the Atlantic is a little
tumultuous at times in the spring, but she reported to the captain every
"Miss Claiborne is nothing if not extraordinary," declared Mrs. Sanderson
with frank admiration.
"The word seems to have been coined for her," said Chauvenet, his white
teeth showing under his thin black mustache.
"And still leaves the language distinguished chiefly for its poverty,"
added Armitage; and the men bowed to Shirley and then to Mrs. Sanderson,
and again to each other. It was like a rehearsal of some trifle in a
"How charming!" laughed Mrs. Sanderson. "And this lovely room is just the
place for it."
They were still talking together as Franzel, with whom Armitage had
spoken below, entered hurriedly. He held a crumpled note, whose contents,
it seemed, had shaken him out of his habitual melancholy composure.
"Is Baron von Marhof in the room?" he asked of Armitage, fumbling
nervously at his monocle.
The Austrian Ambassador, with several ladies, and led by Senator
Sanderson, was approaching.
The attaché hurried to his chief and addressed him in a low tone. The
Ambassador stopped, grew very white, and stared at the messenger for a
moment in blank unbelief.
The young man now repeated, in English, in a tone that could be heard in
all parts of the hushed room:
"His Majesty, the Emperor Johann Wilhelm, died suddenly to-night, in
Vienna," he said, and gave his arm to his chief.
It was a strange place for the delivery of such a message, and the
strangeness of it was intensified to Shirley by the curious glance that
passed between John Armitage and Jules Chauvenet. Shirley remembered
afterward that as the attaché's words rang out in the room, Armitage
started, clenched his hands, and caught his breath in a manner very
uncommon in men unless they are greatly moved. The Ambassador walked
directly from the room with bowed head, and every one waited in silent
sympathy until he had gone.
The word passed swiftly through the great house, and through the open
windows the servants were heard crying loudly for Baron von Marhof's
carriage in the court below.
"The King is dead; long live the King!" murmured Shirley.
"Long live the King!" repeated Chauvenet and Mrs. Sanderson, in unison;
and then Armitage, as though mastering a phrase they were teaching him,
raised his head and said, with an unction that surprised them, "Long live
the Emperor and King! God save Austria!"
Then he turned to Shirley with a smile.
"It is very pleasant to see you on your own ground. I hope your family
"Thank you; yes. My father and mother are here somewhere."
"And Captain Claiborne?"
"He's probably sitting up all night to defend Fort Myer from the crafts
and assaults of the enemy. I hope you will come to see us, Mr. Armitage."
"Thank you; you are very kind," he said gravely. "I shall certainly give
myself the pleasure very soon."
As Shirley passed on with Chauvenet Mrs. Sanderson launched upon the
girl's praises, but she found him suddenly preoccupied.
"The girl has gone to your head. Why didn't you tell me you knew the
"I don't remember that you gave me a chance; but I'll say now that I
intend to know them better."
She bade him take her to the drawing-room. As they went down through the
house they found that the announcement of the Emperor Johann Wilhelm's
death had cast a pall upon the company. All the members of the diplomatic
corps had withdrawn at once as a mark of respect and sympathy for Baron
von Marhof, and at midnight the ball-room held all of the company that
remained. Armitage had not sought Shirley again. He found a room that had
been set apart for smokers, threw himself into a chair, lighted a cigar
and stared at a picture that had no interest for him whatever. He put
down his cigar after a few whiffs, and his hand went to the pocket in
which he had usually carried his cigarette case.
"Ah, Mr. Armitage, may I offer you a cigarette?"
He turned to find Chauvenet close at his side. He had not heard the man
enter, but Chauvenet had been in his thoughts and he started slightly at
finding him so near. Chauvenet held in his white-gloved hand a gold
cigarette case, which he opened with a deliberate care that displayed its
embellished side. The smooth golden surface gleamed in the light, the
helmet in blue, and the white falcon flashed in Armitage's eyes. The
meeting was clearly by intention, and a slight smile played about
Chauvenet's lips in his enjoyment of the situation. Armitage smiled up at
him in amiable acknowledgment of his courtesy, and rose.
"You are very considerate, Monsieur. I was just at the moment regretting
our distinguished host's oversight in providing cigars alone. Allow me!"
He bent forward, took the outstretched open case into his own hands,
removed a cigarette, snapped the case shut and thrust it into his
trousers pocket,—all, as it seemed, at a single stroke.
"My dear sir," began Chauvenet, white with rage.
"My dear Monsieur Chauvenet," said Armitage, striking a match, "I am
indebted to you for returning a trinket that I value highly."
The flame crept half the length of the stick while they regarded each
other; then Armitage raised it to the tip of his cigarette, lifted his
head and blew a cloud of smoke.
"Are you able to prove your property, Mr. Armitage?" demanded Chauvenet
"My dear sir, they have a saying in this country that possession is nine
points of the law. You had it—now I have it—wherefore it must be mine!"
Chauvenet's rigid figure suddenly relaxed; he leaned against a chair with
a return of his habitual nonchalant air, and waved his hand carelessly.
"Between gentlemen—so small a matter!"
"To be sure—the merest trifle," laughed Armitage with entire good humor.
"And where a gentleman has the predatory habits of a burglar and
"Then lesser affairs, such as picking up trinkets—"
"Come naturally—quite so!" and Chauvenet twisted his mustache with an
air of immense satisfaction.
"But the genial art of assassination—there's a business that requires a
calculating hand, my dear Monsieur Chauvenet!"
Chauvenet's hand went again to his lip.
"To be sure!" he ejaculated with zest.
"But alone—alone one can do little. For larger operations one
requires—I should say—courageous associates. Now in my affairs—would
you believe me?—I am obliged to manage quite alone."
"How melancholy!" exclaimed Chauvenet.
"It is indeed very sad!" and Armitage sighed, tossed his cigarette into
the smoldering grate and bade Chauvenet a ceremonious good night.
"Ah, we shall meet again, I dare say!"
"The thought does credit to a generous nature!" responded Armitage, and
passed out into the house.
"THIS IS AMERICA, ME. ARMITAGE"
Lo! as I came to the crest of the hill, the sun on the heights had
The dew on the grass was shining, and white was the mist on the vale;
Like a lark on the wing of the dawn I sang; like a guiltless one freed
from his prison,
As backward I gazed through the valley, and saw no one on my trail.
—L. Frank Tooker.
Spring, planting green and gold banners on old Virginia battle-fields,
crossed the Potomac and occupied Washington.
Shirley Claiborne called for her horse and rode forth to greet the
conqueror. The afternoon was keen and sunny, and she had turned
impatiently from a tea, to which she was committed, to seek the open. The
call of the outdoor gods sang in her blood. Daffodils and crocuses lifted
yellow flames and ruddy torches from every dooryard. She had pinned a
spray of arbutus to the lapel of her tan riding-coat; it spoke to her of
the blue horizons of the near Virginia hills. The young buds in the
maples hovered like a mist in the tree-tops. Towering over all, the
incomparable gray obelisk climbed to the blue arch and brought it nearer
earth. Washington, the center of man's hope, is also, in spring, the
capital of the land of heart's desire.
With a groom trailing after her, Shirley rode toward Rock Creek,—that
rippling, murmuring, singing trifle of water that laughs day and night at
the margin of the beautiful city, as though politics and statesmanship
were the hugest joke in the world. The flag on the Austro-Hungarian
embassy hung at half-mast and symbols of mourning fluttered from the
entire front of the house. Shirley lifted her eyes gravely as she passed.
Her thoughts flew at once to the scene at the house of the Secretary of
State a week before, when Baron von Marhof had learned of the death of
his sovereign; and by association she thought, too, of Armitage, and of
his, look and voice as he said:
"Long live the Emperor and King! God save Austria!"
Emperors and kings! They were as impossible today as a snowstorm. The
grave ambassadors as they appeared at great Washington functions, wearing
their decorations, always struck her as being particularly distinguished.
It just now occurred to her that they were all linked to the crown and
scepter; but she dismissed the whole matter and bowed to two dark ladies
in a passing victoria with the quick little nod and bright smile that
were the same for these titled members of the Spanish Ambassador's
household as for the young daughters of a western senator, who
democratically waved their hands to her from a doorstep.
Armitage came again to her mind. He had called at the Claiborne house
twice since the Secretary's ball, and she had been surprised to find how
fully she accepted him as an American, now that he was on her own soil.
He derived, too, a certain stability from the fact that the Sandersons
knew him; he was, indeed, an entirely different person since the Montana
Senator definitely connected him with an American landscape. She had kept
her own counsel touching the scene on the dark deck of the King Edward,
but it was not a thing lightly to be forgotten. She was half angry with
herself this mellow afternoon to find how persistently Armitage came into
her thoughts, and how the knife-thrust on the steamer deck kept recurring
in her mind and quickening her sympathy for a man of whom she knew
so little; and she touched her horse impatiently with the crop and rode
into the park at a gait that roused the groom to attention.
At a bend of the road Chauvenet and Franzel, the attaché, swung into
view, mounted, and as they met, Chauvenet turned his horse and rode
"Ah, these American airs! This spring! Is it not good to be alive, Miss
"It is all of that!" she replied. It seemed to her that the day had not
needed Chauvenet's praise.
"I had hoped to see you later at the Wallingford tea!" he continued.
"No teas for me on a day like this! The thought of being indoors is
She wished that he would leave her, for she had ridden out into the
spring sunshine to be alone. He somehow did not appear to advantage in
his riding-coat,—his belongings were too perfect. She had really enjoyed
his talk when they had met here and there abroad; but she was in no mood
for him now; and she wondered what he had lost by the transfer to
America. He ran on airily in French, speaking of the rush of great and
small social affairs that marked the end of the season.
"Poor Franzel is indeed triste. He is taking the death of Johann
Wilhelm quite hard. But here in America the death of an emperor seems
less important. A king or a peasant, what does it matter!"
"Better ask the robin in yonder budding chestnut tree, Monsieur. This is
not an hour for hard questions!"
"Ah, you are very cruel! You drive me back to poor, melancholy Franzel,
who is indeed a funeral in himself."
"That is very sad, Monsieur,"—and she smiled at him with mischief in her
eyes. "My heart goes out to any one who is left to mourn—alone."
He gathered his reins and drew up his horse, lifting his hat with a
"There are sadder blows than losing one's sovereign, Mademoiselle!" and
he shook his bared head mournfully and rode back to find his friend.
She sought now her favorite bridle-paths and her heart was light with the
sweetness and peace of the spring as she heard the rush and splash of the
creek, saw the flash of wings and felt the mystery of awakened life
throbbing about her. The heart of a girl in spring is the home of dreams,
and Shirley's heart overflowed with them, until her pulse thrilled and
sang in quickening cadences. The wistfulness of April, the dream of
unfathomable things, shone in her brown eyes; and a girl with dreams in
her eyes is the divinest work of the gods. Into this twentieth century,
into the iron heart of cities, she still comes, and the clear, high stars
of April nights and the pensive moon of September are glad because of
The groom marveled at the sudden changes of gait, the gallops that fell
abruptly to a walk with the alterations of mood in the girl's heart, the
pauses that marked a moment of meditation as she watched some green
curving bank, or a plunge of the mad little creek that sent a glory of
spray whitely into the sunlight. It grew late and the shadows of waning
afternoon crept through the park. The crowd had hurried home to escape
the chill of the spring dusk, but she lingered on, reluctant to leave,
and presently left her horse with the groom that she might walk alone
beside the creek in a place that was beautifully wild. About her lay a
narrow strip of young maples and beyond this the wide park road wound at
the foot of a steep wooded cliff. The place was perfectly quiet save for
the splash and babble of the creek.
Several minutes passed. Once she heard her groom speak to the horses,
though she could not see him, but the charm of the place held her. She
raised her eyes from the tumbling water before her and looked off through
the maple tangle. Then she drew back quickly, and clasped her riding-crop
tightly. Some one had paused at the farther edge of the maple brake and
dismounted, as she had, for a more intimate enjoyment of the place. It
was John Armitage, tapping his riding-boot idly with his crop as he
leaned against a tree and viewed the miniature valley.
He was a little below her, so that she saw him quite distinctly,
and caught a glimpse of his horse pawing, with arched neck, in the
bridle-path behind him. She had no wish to meet him there and turned to
steal back to her horse when a movement in the maples below caught her
eye. She paused, fascinated and alarmed by the cautious stir of the
undergrowth. The air was perfectly quiet; the disturbance was not caused
by the wind. Then the head and shoulders of a man were disclosed as he
crouched on hands and knees, watching Armitage. His small head and big
body as he crept forward suggested to Shirley some fantastic monster of
legend, and her heart beat fast with terror as a knife flashed in his
hand. He moved more rapidly toward the silent figure by the tree, and
still Shirley watched wide-eyed, her figure tense and trembling, the hand
that held the crop half raised to her lips, while the dark form rose and
poised for a spring.
Then she cried out, her voice ringing clear and high across the little
vale and sounding back from the cliff.
"Oh! Oh!" and Armitage leaped forward and turned. His crop fell first
upon the raised hand, knocking the knife far into the trees, then upon
the face and shoulders of the Servian. The fellow turned and fled through
the maple tangle, Armitage after him, and Shirley ran back toward the
bridge where she had left her groom and met him half-way hurrying toward
"What is it, Miss? Did you call?"
"No; it was nothing, Thomas—nothing at all," and she mounted and turned
Her heart was still pounding with excitement and she walked her horse to
gain composure. Twice, in circumstances most unusual and disquieting, she
had witnessed an attack on John Armitage by an unknown enemy. She
recalled now a certain pathos of his figure as she first saw him leaning
against the tree watching the turbulent little stream, and she was
impatient to find how her sympathy went out to him. It made no difference
who John Armitage was; his enemy was a coward, and the horror of such a
menace to a man's life appalled her. She passed a mounted policeman, who
recognized her and raised his hand in salute, but the idea of reporting
the strange affair in the strip of woodland occurred to her only to be
dismissed. She felt that here was an ugly business that was not within
the grasp of a park patrolman, and, moreover, John Armitage was entitled
to pursue his own course in matters that touched his life so closely. The
thought of him reassured her; he was no simple boy to suffer such attacks
to pass unchallenged; and so, dismissing him, she raised her head and saw
him gallop forth from a by-path and rein his horse beside her.
The suppressed feeling in his tone made the moment tense and she saw that
his lips trembled. It was a situation that must have its quick relief, so
she said instantly, in a mockery of his own tone:
"Mr. Armitage!" She laughed. "I am almost caught in the dark. The
blandishments of spring have beguiled me."
He looked at her with a quick scrutiny. It did not seem possible that
this could be the girl who had called to him in warning scarce five
minutes before; but he knew it had been she,—he would have known her
voice anywhere in the world. They rode silent beside the creek, which was
like a laughing companion seeking to mock them into a cheerier mood. At
an opening through the hills they saw the western horizon aglow in tints
of lemon deepening into gold and purple. Save for the riot of the brook
the world was at peace. She met his eyes for an instant, and their
gravity, and the firm lines in which his lips were set, showed that the
shock of his encounter had not yet passed.
"You must think me a strange person, Miss Claiborne. It seems
inexplicable that a man's life should be so menaced in a place like this.
If you had not called to me—"
"Please don't speak of that! It was so terrible!"
"But I must speak of it! Once before the same attempt was made—that
night on the King Edward."
"Yes; I have not forgotten."
"And to-day I have reason to believe that the same man watched his
chance, for I have ridden here every day since I came, and he must have
kept track of me."
"But this is America, Mr. Armitage!"
"That does not help me with you. You have every reason to resent my
bringing you into such dangers,—it is unpardonable—indefensible!"
She saw that he was greatly troubled.
"But you couldn't help my being in the park to-day! I have often stopped
just there before. It's a favorite place for meditations. If you know the
"I know the man."
"Then the law will certainly protect you, as you know very well. He was a
dreadful-looking person. The police can undoubtedly find and lock him
She was seeking to minimize the matter,—to pass it off as a commonplace
affair of every day. They were walking their horses; the groom followed
Armitage was silent, a look of great perplexity on his face. When he
spoke he was quite calm.
"Miss Claiborne, I must tell you that this is an affair in which I can't
ask help in the usual channels. You will pardon me if I seem to make a
mystery of what should be ordinarily a bit of business between myself and
the police; but to give publicity to these attempts to injure me just now
would be a mistake. I could have caught that man there in the wood; but I
let him go, for the reason—for the reason that I want the men back of
him to show themselves before I act. But if it isn't presuming—"
He was quite himself again. His voice was steady and deep with the ease
and assurance that she liked in him. She had marked to-day in his
earnestness, more than at any other time, a slight, an almost
indistinguishable trace of another tongue in his English.
"How am I to know whether it would be presuming?" she asked.
"But I was going to say—"
"When rudely interrupted!" She was trying to make it easy for him to say
whatever he wished.
"—that these troubles of mine are really personal. I have committed no
crime and am not fleeing from justice."
She laughed and urged her horse into a gallop for a last stretch of road
near the park limits.
"How uninteresting! We expect a Montana ranchman to have a spectacular
"But not to carry it, I hope, to Washington. On the range I might become
a lawless bandit in the interest of picturesqueness; but here—"
"Here in the world of frock-coated statesmen nothing really interesting
is to be expected."
She walked her horse again. It occurred to her that he might wish an
assurance of silence from her. What she had seen would make a capital bit
of gossip, to say nothing of being material for the newspapers, and her
conscience, as she reflected, grew uneasy at the thought of shielding
him. She knew that her father and mother, and, even more strictly, her
brother, would close their doors on a man whose enemies followed him over
seas and lay in wait for him in a peaceful park; but here she tested him.
A man of breeding would not ask protection of a woman on whom he had no
claim, and it was certainly not for her to establish an understanding
with him in so strange and grave a matter.
"It must be fun having a ranch with cattle on a thousand hills. I always
wished my father would go in for a western place, but he can't travel so
far from home. Our ranch is in Virginia."
"You have a Virginia farm? That is very interesting."
"Yes; at Storm Springs. It's really beautiful down there," she said
It was on his tongue to tell her that he, too, owned a bit of Virginia
soil, but he had just established himself as a Montana ranchman, and it
seemed best not to multiply his places of residence. He had, moreover,
forgotten the name of the county in which his preserve lay. He said, with
"I know nothing of Virginia or the South; but I have viewed the landscape
from Arlington and some day I hope to go adventuring in the Virginia
"Then you should not overlook our valley. I am sure there must be
adventures waiting for somebody down there. You can tell our place by
the spring lamb on the hillside. There's a huge inn that offers the
long-distance telephone and market reports and golf links and very good
horses, and lots of people stop there as a matter of course in their
flight between Florida and Newport. They go up and down the coast like
the mercury in a thermometer—up when it's warm, down when it's cold.
There's the secret of our mercurial temperament."
A passing automobile frightened her horse, and he watched her perfect
coolness in quieting the animal with rein and voice.
"He's just up from the farm and doesn't like town very much. But he shall
go home again soon," she said as they rode on.
"Oh, you go down to shepherd those spring lambs!" he exclaimed, with
misgiving in his heart. He had followed her across the sea and now she
was about to take flight again!
"Yes; and to escape from the tiresome business of trying to remember
"Then you reverse the usual fashionable process—you go south to meet the
"I hadn't thought of it, but that is so. I dearly love a hillside, with
pines and cedars, and sloping meadows with sheep—and rides over mountain
roads to the gate of dreams, where Spottswood's golden horseshoe knights
ride out at you with a grand sweep of their plumed hats. Now what have
you to say to that?"
"Nothing, but my entire approval," he said.
He dimly understood, as he left her in this gay mood, at the Claiborne
house, that she had sought to make him forget the lurking figure in the
park thicket and the dark deed thwarted there. It was her way of
conveying to him her dismissal of the incident, and it implied a greater
kindness than any pledge of secrecy. He rode away with grave eyes, and a
new hope filled his heart.
JOHN ARMITAGE IS SHADOWED
Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.
Armitage dined alone that evening and left the hotel at nine o'clock for
a walk. He unaffectedly enjoyed paved ground and the sights and ways of
cities, and he walked aimlessly about the lighted thoroughfares of the
capital with conscious pleasure in the movement and color of life. He let
his eyes follow the Washington Monument's gray line starward; and he
stopped to enjoy the high-poised equestrian statue of Sherman, to which
the starry dusk gave something of legendary and Old World charm.
Coming out upon Pennsylvania Avenue he strolled past the White House,
and, at the wide-flung gates, paused while a carriage swept by him at the
driveway. He saw within the grim face of Baron von Marhof and
unconsciously lifted his hat, though the Ambassador was deep in thought
and did not see him. Armitage struck the pavement smartly with his stick
as he walked slowly on, pondering; but he was conscious a moment later
that some one was loitering persistently in his wake. Armitage was at
once on the alert with all his faculties sharpened. He turned and
gradually slackened his pace, and the person behind him immediately did
The sensation of being followed is at first annoying; then a pleasant
zest creeps into it, and in Armitage's case the reaction was immediate.
He was even amused to reflect that the shadow had chosen for his exploit
what is probably the most conspicuous and the best-guarded spot in
America. It was not yet ten o'clock, but the streets were comparatively
free of people. He slackened his pace gradually, and threw open his
overcoat, for the night was warm, to give an impression of ease, and when
he had reached the somber facade of the Treasury Building he paused and
studied it in the glare of the electric lights, as though he were a
chance traveler taking a preliminary view of the sights of the capital. A
man still lingered behind him, drawing nearer now, at a moment when they
had the sidewalk comparatively free to themselves. The fellow was short,
but of soldierly erectness, and even in his loitering pace lifted his
feet with the quick precision of the drilled man. Armitage walked to the
corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and Fifteenth Street, then turned and
retraced his steps slowly past the Treasury Building. The man who had
been following faced about and walked slowly in the opposite direction,
and Armitage, quickening his own pace, amused himself by dogging the
fellow's steps closely for twenty yards, then passed him.
When he had gained the advantage of a few feet, Armitage stopped suddenly
and spoke to the man in the casual tone he might have used in addressing
a passing acquaintance.
"My friend," he said, "there are two policemen across the street; if you
continue to follow me I shall call their attention to you."
"You are watching me; and the thing won't do."
"Yes, I'm watching you; but—"
"But the thing won't do! If you are hired—"
"Nein! Nein! You do me a wrong, sir."
"Then if you are not hired you are your own master, and you serve
yourself ill when you take the trouble to follow me. Now I'm going to
finish my walk, and I beg you to keep out of my way. This is not a place
where liberties may be infringed with impunity. Good evening, sir."
Armitage wheeled about sharply, and as his face came into the full light
of the street lamps the stranger stared at him intently.
Armitage was fumbling in his pocket for a coin, but this impertinence
caused him to change his mind. Two policemen were walking slowly toward
them, and Armitage, annoyed by the whole incident, walked quickly away.
He was not wholly at ease over the meeting. The fact that Chauvenet had
so promptly put a spy as well as the Servian assassin on his trail
quickened his pulse with anger for an instant and then sobered him.
He continued his walk, and paused presently before an array of books
in a shop window. Then some one stopped at his side and he looked up to
find the same man he had accosted at the Treasury Building lifting his
hat,—an American soldier's campaign hat. The fellow was an extreme
blond, with a smooth-shaven, weather-beaten face, blue eyes and light
"Pardon me! You are mistaken; I am not a spy. But it is wonderful; it is
The man's face was alight with discovery, with an alert pleasure that
"My dear fellow, you really become annoying," and Armitage again thrust
his hand into his trousers pocket. "I should hate awfully to appeal to
the police; but you must not crowd me too far."
The man seemed moved by deep feeling, and his eyes were bright with
excitement. His hands clasped tightly the railing that protected the
glass window of the book shop. As Armitage turned away impatiently the
man ejaculated huskily, as though some over-mastering influence wrung the
words from him:
"Don't you know me? I am Oscar—don't you remember me, and the great
forest, where I taught you to shoot and fish? You are—"
He bent toward Armitage with a fierce insistence, his eyes blazing in his
eagerness to be understood.
John Armitage turned again to the window, leaned lightly upon the iron
railing and studied the title of a book attentively. He was silently
absorbed for a full minute, in which the man who had followed him waited.
Taking his cue from Armitage's manner he appeared to be deeply interested
in the bookseller's display; but the excitement still glittered in his
Armitage was thinking swiftly, and his thoughts covered a very wide range
of time and place as he stood there. Then he spoke very deliberately and
coolly, but with a certain peremptory sharpness.
"Go ahead of me to the New American and wait in the office until I come."
The man's hand went to his hat.
"None of that!"
Armitage arrested him with a gesture. "My name is Armitage,—John
Armitage," he said. "I advise you to remember it. Now go!"
The man hurried away, and Armitage slowly followed.
It occurred to him that the man might be of use, and with this in mind he
returned to the New American, got his key from the office, nodded to his
acquaintance of the street and led the way to the elevator.
Armitage put aside his coat and hat, locked the hall door, and then, when
the two stood face to face in his little sitting-room, he surveyed the
"What do you want?" he demanded bluntly.
He took a cigarette from a box on the table, lighted it, and then, with
an air of finality, fixed his gaze upon the man, who eyed him with a kind
of stupefied wonder. Then there flashed into the fellow's bronzed face
something of dignity and resentment. He stood perfectly erect with his
felt hat clasped in his hand. His clothes were cheap, but clean, and his
short coat was buttoned trimly about him.
"I want nothing, Mr. Armitage," he replied humbly, speaking slowly and
with a marked German accent.
"Then you will be easily satisfied," said Armitage. "You said your name
Armitage sat down and scrutinized the man again without relaxing his
"You think you have seen me somewhere, so you have followed me in the
streets to make sure. When did this idea first occur to you?"
"I saw you at Fort Myer at the drill last Friday. I have been looking for
you since, and saw you leave your horse at the hotel this afternoon. You
ride at Rock Creek—yes?"
"What do you do for a living, Mr. Breunig?" asked Armitage.
"I was in the army, but served out my time and was discharged
a few months ago and came to Washington to see where they make the
government—yes? I am going to South America. Is it Peru? Yes; there will
be a revolution."
He paused, and Armitage met his eyes; they were very blue and kind,—eyes
that spoke of sincerity and fidelity, such eyes as a leader of forlorn
hopes would like to know were behind him when he gave the order to
charge. Then a curious thing happened. It may have been the contact of
eye with eye that awoke question and response between them; it may have
been a need in one that touched a chord of helplessness in the other; but
suddenly Armitage leaped to his feet and grasped the outstretched hands
of the little soldier.
"Oscar!" he said; and repeated, very softly, "Oscar!"
The man was deeply moved and the tears sprang into his eyes. Armitage
laughed, holding him at arm's length.
"None of that nonsense! Sit down!" He turned to the door, opened it, and
peered into the hall, locked the door again, then motioned the man to a
"So you deserted your mother country, did you, and have borne arms for
the glorious republic?"
"I served in the Philippines,—yes?"
"Rank, titles, emoluments, Oscar?"
"I was a sergeant; and the surgeon could not find the bullet after Big
Bend, Luzon; so they were sorry and gave me a certificate and two dollars
a month to my pay," said the man, so succinctly and colorlessly that
"Yon have done well, Oscar; honor me by accepting a cigar."
The man took a cigar from the box which Armitage extended, but would not
light it. He held it rather absent-mindedly in his hand and continued to
"You are not dead,—Mr.—Armitage; but your father—?"
"My father is dead, Oscar."
"He was a good man," said the soldier.
"Yes; he was a good man," repeated Armitage gravely. "I am alive, and yet
I am dead, Oscar; do you grasp the idea? You were a good friend when we
were lads together in the great forest. If I should want you to help
The man jumped to his feet and stood at attention so gravely that
Armitage laughed and slapped his knee.
"You are well taught, Sergeant Oscar! Sit down. I am going to trust you.
My affairs just now are not without their trifling dangers."
"There are enemies—yes?" and Oscar nodded his head solemnly in
acceptance of the situation.
"I am going to trust you absolutely. You have no confidants—you are not
"How should a man be married who is a soldier? I have no friends; they
are unprofitable," declared Oscar solemnly.
"I fear you are a pessimist, Oscar; but a pessimist who keeps his mouth
shut is a good ally. Now, if you are not afraid of being shot or struck
with a knife, and if you are willing to obey my orders for a few weeks we
may be able to do some business. First, remember that I am Mr. Armitage;
you must learn that now, and remember it for all time. And if any one
should ever suggest anything else—"
The man nodded his comprehension.
"That will be the time for Oscar to be dumb. I understand, Mr. Armitage."
Armitage smiled. The man presented so vigorous a picture of health, his
simple character was so transparently reflected in his eyes and face that
he did not in the least question him.
"You are an intelligent person, Sergeant. If you are equally
discreet—able to be deaf when troublesome questions are asked, then I
think we shall get on."
"You should remember—" began Oscar.
"I remember nothing," observed Armitage sharply; and Oscar was quite
humble again. Armitage opened a trunk and took out an envelope from which
he drew several papers and a small map, which he unfolded and spread on
the table. He marked a spot with his lead-pencil and passed the map to
"Do you think you could find that place?"
The man breathed hard over it for several minutes.
"Yes; it would be easy," and he nodded his head several times as he named
the railroad stations nearest the point indicated by Armitage. The place
was in one of the mountainous counties of Virginia, fifteen miles from an
east and west railway line. Armitage opened a duly recorded deed which
conveyed to himself the title to two thousand acres of land; also a
curiously complicated abstract of title showing the successive transfers
of ownership from colonial days down through the years of Virginia's
splendor to the dread time when battle shook the world. The title had
passed from the receiver of a defunct shooting-club to Armitage, who had
been charmed by the description of the property as set forth in an
advertisement, and lured, moreover, by the amazingly small price at which
the preserve was offered.
"It is a farm—yes?"
"It is a wilderness, I fancy," said Armitage. "I have never seen it;
I may never see it, for that matter; but you will find your way
there—going first to this town, Lamar, studying the country, keeping
your mouth shut, and seeing what the improvements on the ground amount
to. There's some sort of a bungalow there, built by the shooting-club.
Here's a description of the place, on the strength of which I bought it.
You may take these papers along to judge the size of the swindle."
"And a couple of good horses; plenty of commissary stores—plain military
necessities, you understand—and some bedding should be provided. I want
you to take full charge of this matter and get to work as quickly as
possible. It may be a trifle lonesome down there among the hills, but if
you serve me well you shall not regret it."
"Yes, I am quite satisfied with the job," said Oscar.
"And after you have reached the place and settled yourself you will tell
the postmaster and telegraph operator who you are and where you may be
found, so that messages may reach you promptly. If you get an unsigned
message advising you of—let me consider—a shipment of steers, you may
expect me any hour. On the other hand, you may not see me at all. We'll
consider that our agreement lasts until the first snow flies next winter.
You are a soldier. There need be no further discussion of this matter,
The man nodded gravely.
"And it is well for you not to reappear in this hotel. If you should be
questioned on leaving here—"
"I have not been, here—is it not?"
"It is," replied Armitage, smiling. "You read and write English?"
"Yes; one must, to serve in the army."
"If you should see a big Servian with a neck like a bull and a head the
size of a pea, who speaks very bad German, you will do well to keep out
of his way,—unless you find a good place to tie him up. I advise you not
to commit murder without special orders,—do you understand?"
"It is the custom of the country," assented Oscar, in a tone of deep
"To be sure," laughed Armitage; "and now I am going to give you money
enough to carry out the project I have indicated."
He took from his trunk a long bill-book, counted out twenty new
one-hundred-dollar bills and threw them on the table.
"It is much money," observed Oscar, counting the bills laboriously.
"It will be enough for your purposes. You can't spend much money up there
if you try. Bacon—perhaps eggs; a cow may be necessary,—who can tell
without trying it? Don't write me any letters or telegrams, and forget
that you have seen me if you don't hear from me again."
He went to the elevator and rode down to the office with Oscar and
dismissed him carelessly. Then John Armitage bought an armful of
magazines and newspapers and returned to his room, quite like any
traveler taking the comforts of his inn.
THE TOSS OF A NAPKIN
As music and splendor
Survive not the lamp and the lute,
The heart's echoes render
No song when the spirit is mute—
No songs but sad dirges,
Like the wind through a ruined cell,
Or the mournful surges
That ring the dead seaman's knell.
Captain Richard Claiborne gave a supper at the Army and Navy Club for ten
men in honor of the newly-arrived military attaché of the Spanish
legation. He had drawn his guests largely from his foreign acquaintances
in Washington because the Spaniard spoke little English; and Dick knew
Washington well enough to understand that while a girl and a man who
speak different languages may sit comfortably together at table, men in
like predicament grow morose and are likely to quarrel with their eyes
before the cigars are passed. It was Friday, and the whole party had
witnessed the drill at Fort Myer that afternoon, with nine girls to
listen to their explanation of the manoeuvers and the earliest spring
bride for chaperon. Shirley had been of the party, and somewhat the
heroine of it, too, for it was Dick who sat on his horse out in the
tanbark with the little whistle to his lips and manipulated the troop.
"Here's a confusion of tongues; I may need you to interpret," laughed
Dick, indicating a chair at his left; and when Armitage sat down he faced
Chauvenet across the round table.
With the first filling of glasses it was found that every one could speak
French, and the talk went forward spiritedly. The discussion of military
matters naturally occupied first place, and all were anxious to steer
clear of anything that might be offensive to the Spaniard, who had lost a
brother at San Juan. Claiborne thought it wisest to discuss nations that
were not represented at the table, and this made it very simple for all
to unite in rejecting the impertinent claims of Japan to be reckoned
among world powers, and to declare, for the benefit of the Russian
attaché, that Slav and Saxon must ultimately contend for the earth's
Then they fell to talking about individuals, chiefly men in the public
eye; and as the Austro-Hungarian embassy was in mourning and
unrepresented at the table, the new Emperor-king was discussed with
"He has not old Stroebel's right hand to hold him up," remarked a young
"Thereby hangs a dark tale," remarked Claiborne. "Somebody stuck a knife
into Count von Stroebel at a singularly inopportune moment. I saw him in
Geneva two days before he was assassinated, and he was very feeble and
seemed harassed. It gives a man the shudders to think of what might
happen if his Majesty, Charles Louis, should go by the board. His only
child died a year ago—after him his cousin Francis, and then the
"Bah! Francis is not as dark as he's painted. He's the most lied-about
prince in Europe," remarked Chauvenet. "He would most certainly be an
improvement on Charles Louis. But alas! Charles Louis will undoubtedly
live on forever, like his lamented father. The King is dead: long live
"Nothing can happen," remarked the German sadly. "I have lost much money
betting on upheavals in that direction. If there were a man in Hungary it
would be different; but riots are not revolutions."
"That is quite true," said Armitage quietly.
"But," observed the Spaniard, "if the Archduke Karl had not gone out of
his head and died in two or three dozen places, so that no one is sure he
is dead at all, things at Vienna might be rather more interesting.
Karl took a son with him into exile. Suppose one or the other of them
should reappear, stir up strife and incite rebellion—?"
"Such speculations are quite idle," commented Chauvenet. "There is no
doubt whatever that Karl is dead, or we should hear of him."
"Of course," said the German. "If he were not, the death of the old
Emperor would have brought him to life again."
"The same applies to the boy he carried away with him—undoubtedly
dead—or we should hear of him. Karl disappeared soon after his son
Francis was born. It was said—"
"A pretty tale it is!" commented the German—"that the child wasn't
exactly Karl's own. He took it quite hard—went away to hide his shame in
exile, taking his son Frederick Augustus with him."
"He was surely mad," remarked Chauvenet, sipping a cordial. "He is much
better dead and out of the way for the good of Austria. Francis, as I
say, is a good fellow. We have hunted together, and I know him well."
They fell to talking about the lost sons of royal houses—and a goodly
number there have been, even in these later centuries—and then of the
latest marriages between American women and titled foreigners. Chauvenet
was now leading the conversation; it might even have seemed to a critical
listener that he was guiding it with a certain intention.
He laughed as though at the remembrance of something amusing, and held
the little company while he bent over a candle to light a cigar.
"With all due respect to our American host, I must say that a title in
America goes further than anywhere else in the world. I was at Bar Harbor
three years ago when the Baron von Kissel devastated that region. He made
sad havoc among the ladies that summer; the rest of us simply had no
place to stand. You remember, gentlemen,"—and Chauvenet looked slowly
around the listening circle,—"that the unexpected arrival of the
excellent Ambassador of Austria-Hungary caused the Baron to leave Bar
Harbor between dark and daylight. The story was that he got off in a
sail-boat; and the next we heard of him he was masquerading under some
title in San Francisco, where he proved to be a dangerous forger. You all
remember that the papers were full of his performances for a while, but
he was a lucky rascal, and always disappeared at the proper psychological
moment. He had, as you may say, the cosmopolitan accent, and was the most
plausible fellow alive."
Chauvenet held his audience well in hand, for nearly every one remembered
the brilliant exploits of the fraudulent baron, and all were interested
in what promised to be some new information about him. Armitage,
listening intently to Chauvenet's recital, felt his blood quicken, and
his face flushed for a moment. His cigarette case lay upon the edge of
the table, and he snapped it shut and fingered it nervously as he
"It's my experience," continued Chauvenet, "that we never meet a person
once only—there's always a second meeting somewhere; and I was not at
all surprised when I ran upon my old friend the baron in Germany last
"At his old tricks, I suppose," observed some one.
"No; that was the strangest part of it. He's struck a deeper game—though
I'm blessed if I can make it out—he's dropped the title altogether, and
now calls himself Mister—I've forgotten for the moment the rest of it,
but it is an English name. He's made a stake somehow, and travels about
in decent comfort. He passes now as an American—his English is
excellent—and he hints at large American interests."
"He probably has forged securities to sell," commented the German. "I
know those fellows. The business is best done quietly."
"I dare say," returned Chauvenet.
"Of course, you greeted him as a long-lost friend," remarked Claiborne
"No; I wanted to make sure of him; and, strangely enough, he assisted me
in a very curious way."
All felt that they were now to hear the dénouement of the story, and
several men bent forward in their absorption with their elbows on the
table. Chauvenet smiled and resumed, with a little shrug of his
"Well, I must go back a moment to say that the man I knew at Bar Harbor
had a real crest—the ladies to whom he wrote notes treasured them, I
dare say, because of the pretty insignium. He had it engraved on his
cigarette case, a bird of some kind tiptoeing on a helmet, and beneath
there was a motto, Fide non armis."
"The devil!" exclaimed the young German. "Why, that's very like—"
"Very like the device of the Austrian Schomburgs. Well, I remembered the
cigarette case, and one night at a concert—in Berlin, you know—I
chanced to sit with some friends at a table quite near where he sat
alone; I had my eye on him, trying to assure myself of his identity,
when, in closing his cigarette case, it fell almost at my feet, and I
bumped heads with a waiter as I picked it up—I wanted to make sure—and
handed it to him, the imitation baron."
"That was your chance to startle him a trifle, I should say," remarked
"He was the man, beyond doubt. There was no mistaking the cigarette ease.
What I said was,"—continued Chauvenet,—"'Allow me, Baron!'"
"Well spoken!" exclaimed the Spanish officer.
"Not so well, either," laughed Chauvenet. "He had the best of it—he's a
clever man, I am obliged to admit! He said—" and Chauvenet's mirth
stifled him for a moment.
"Yes; what was it?" demanded the German impatiently.
"He said: 'Thank you, waiter!' and put the cigarette case back into his
They all laughed. Then Captain Claiborne's eyes fell upon the table and
rested idly on John Armitage's cigarette case—on the smoothly-worn gold
of the surface, on the snowy falcon and the silver helmet on which the
bird poised. He started slightly, then tossed his napkin carelessly on
the table so that it covered the gold trinket completely.
"Gentlemen," he said, "if we are going to show ourselves at the
Darlington ball we'll have to run along."
Below, in the coat room, Claiborne was fastening the frogs of his
military overcoat when Armitage, who had waited for the opportunity,
spoke to him.
"That story is a lie, Claiborne. That man never saw me or my cigarette
case in Berlin; and moreover, I was never at Bar Harbor in my life. I
gave you some account of myself on the King Edward—every word of it
"You should face him—you must have it out with him!" exclaimed
Claiborne, and Armitage saw the conflict and uncertainty in the officer's
"But the time hasn't come for that—"
"Then if there is something between you,"—began Claiborne, the doubt now
"There is undoubtedly a great deal between us, and there will be more
before we reach the end."
Dick Claiborne was a perfectly frank, outspoken fellow, and this hint of
mystery by a man whose character had just been boldly assailed angered
"Good God, man! I know as much about Chauvenet as I do about you. This
thing is ugly, as you must see. I don't like it, I tell you! You've got
to do more than deny a circumstantial story like that by a fellow whose
standing here is as good as yours! If you don't offer some better
explanation of this by to-morrow night I shall have to ask you to cut my
acquaintance—and the acquaintance of my family!"
Armitage's face was grave, but he smiled as he took his hat and stick.
"I shall not be able to satisfy you of my respectability by to-morrow
night, Captain Claiborne. My own affairs must wait on larger matters."
"Then you need never take the trouble!"
"In my own time you shall be quite fully satisfied," said Armitage
quietly, and turned away.
He was not among the others of the Claiborne party when they got into
their carriages to go to the ball. He went, in fact, to the telegraph
office and sent a message to Oscar Breunig, Lamar, Virginia, giving
notice of a shipment of steers.
Then he returned to the New American and packed his belongings.
A CAMP IN THE MOUNTAINS
—Who climbed the blue Virginia hills
Against embattled foes;
And planted there, in valleys fair,
The lily and the rose;
Whose fragrance lives in many lands,
Whose beauty stars the earth,
And lights the hearths of happy homes
With loveliness and worth.
—Francis O. Ticknor.
The study of maps and time-tables is a far more profitable business than
appears. John Armitage possessed a great store of geographical knowledge
as interpreted in such literature. He could tell you, without leaving his
room, and probably without opening his trunk, the quickest way out of
Tokio, or St. Petersburg, or Calcutta, or Cinch Tight, Montana, if you
suddenly received a cablegram calling you to Vienna or Paris or
Washington from one of those places.
Such being the case, it was remarkable that he should have started for a
point in the Virginia hills by way of Boston, thence to Norfolk by
coastwise steamer, and on to Lamar by lines of railroad whose schedules
would have been the despair of unhardened travelers. He had expressed his
trunks direct, and traveled with two suitcases and an umbrella. His
journey, since his boat swung out into Massachusetts Bay, had been spent
in gloomy speculations, and two young women booked for Baltimore wrongly
attributed his reticence and aloofness to a grievous disappointment in
He had wanted time to think—to ponder his affairs—to devise some way
out of his difficulties, and to contrive the defeat of Chauvenet.
Moreover, his relations to the Claibornes were in an ugly tangle:
Chauvenet had dealt him a telling blow in a quarter where he particularly
wished to appear to advantage.
He jumped out of the day coach in which he had accomplished the last
stage of his journey to Lamar, just at dawn, and found Oscar with two
"Good morning," said Oscar, saluting.
"You are prompt, Sergeant," and Armitage shook hands with him.
As the train roared on through the valley, Armitage opened one of the
suit-cases and took out a pair of leather leggings, which he strapped on.
Then Oscar tied the cases together with a rope and hung them across his
"The place—what of it?" asked Armitage.
"There may be worse—I have not decided."
Armitage laughed aloud.
"Is it as bad as that?"
The man was busy tightening the saddle girths, and he answered Armitage's
further questions with soldierlike brevity.
"You have been here—"
"Two weeks, sir."
"And nothing has happened? It is a good report."
"It is good for the soul to stand on mountains and look at the world. You
will like that animal—yes? He is lighter than a cavalry horse. Mine, you
will notice, is a trifle heavier. I bought them at a stock farm in
another valley, and rode them up to the place."
The train sent back loud echoes. A girl in a pink sun-bonnet rode up on a
mule and carried off the mail pouch. The station agent was busy inside at
his telegraph instruments and paid no heed to the horsemen. Save for a
few huts clustered on the hillside, there were no signs of human
habitation in sight. The lights in a switch target showed yellow against
the growing dawn.
"I am quite ready, sir," reported Oscar, touching his hat. "There is
nothing here but the station; the settlement is farther on our way."
"Then let us be off," said Armitage, swinging into the saddle.
Oscar led the way in silence along a narrow road that clung close to the
base of a great pine-covered hill. The morning was sharp and the horses
stepped smartly, the breath of their nostrils showing white on the air.
The far roar and whistle of the train came back more and more faintly,
and when it had quite ceased Armitage sighed, pushed his soft felt hat
from his face, and settled himself more firmly in his saddle. The keen
air was as stimulating as wine, and he put his horse to the gallop and
rode ahead to shake up his blood.
"It is good," said the stolid cavalryman, as Armitage wheeled again into
line with him.
"Yes, it is good," repeated Armitage.
A peace descended upon him that he had not known in many days. The light
grew as the sun rose higher, blazing upon them like a brazen target
through deep clefts in the mountains. The morning mists retreated before
them to farther ridges and peaks, and the beautiful gray-blue of the
Virginia hills delighted Armitage's eyes. The region was very wild. Here
and there from some mountaineer's cabin a light penciling of smoke stole
upward. They once passed a boy driving a yoke of steers. After several
miles the road, that had hung midway of the rough hill, dipped down
sharply, and they came out into another and broader valley, where there
were tilled farms, and a little settlement, with a blacksmith shop and a
country store, post-office and inn combined. The storekeeper stood in the
door, smoking a cob pipe. Seeing Oscar, he went inside and brought out
some letters and newspapers, which he delivered in silence.
"This is Lamar post-office," announced Oscar.
"There must be some mail here for me," said Armitage.
Oscar handed him several long envelopes—they bore the name of the Bronx
Loan and Trust Company, whose office in New York was his permanent
address, and he opened and read a number of letters and cablegrams that
had been forwarded. Their contents evidently gave him satisfaction, for
he whistled cheerfully as he thrust them into his pocket.
"You keep in touch with the world, do you, Oscar? It is commendable."
"I take a Washington paper—it relieves the monotony, and I can see where
the regiments are moving, and whether my old captain is yet out of the
hospital, and what happened to my lieutenant in his court-martial about
the pay accounts. One must observe the world—yes? At the post-office
back there"—he jerked his head to indicate—"it is against the law to
sell whisky in a post-office, so that storekeeper with the red nose and
small yellow eyes keeps it in a brown jug in the back room."
"To be sure," laughed Armitage. "I hope it is a good article."
"It is vile," replied Oscar. "His brother makes it up in the hills, and
it is as strong as wood lye."
"Moonshine! I have heard of it. We must have some for rainy days."
It was a new world to John Armitage, and his heart was as light as the
morning air as he followed Oscar along the ruddy mountain road. He was in
Virginia, and somewhere on this soil, perhaps in some valley like the one
through which he rode, Shirley Claiborne had gazed upon blue distances,
with ridge rising against ridge, and dark pine-covered slopes like these
he saw for the first time. He had left his affairs in Washington in a
sorry muddle; but he faced the new day with a buoyant spirit, and did not
trouble himself to look very far ahead. He had a definite business before
him; his cablegrams were reassuring on that point. The fact that he was,
in a sense, a fugitive did not trouble him in the least. He had no
intention of allowing Jules Chauvenet's assassins to kill him, or of
being locked up in a Washington jail as the false Baron von Kissel. If he
admitted that he was not John Armitage, it would be difficult to prove
that he was anybody else—a fact touching human testimony which Jules
Chauvenet probably knew perfectly well.
On the whole he was satisfied that he had followed the wisest course thus
far. The broad panorama of the morning hills communicated to his spirit a
growing elation. He began singing in German a ballad that recited the
sorrows of a pale maiden prisoner in a dark tower on the Rhine, whence
her true knight rescued her, after many and fearsome adventures. On the
last stave he ceased abruptly, and an exclamation of wonder broke from
They had been riding along a narrow trail that afforded, as Oscar said, a
short cut across a long timbered ridge that lay between them and
Armitage's property. The path was rough and steep, and the low-hanging
pine boughs and heavy underbrush increased the difficulties of ascent.
Straining to the top, a new valley, hidden until now, was disclosed in
long and beautiful vistas.
Armitage dropped the reins upon the neck of his panting horse.
"It is a fine valley—yes?" asked Oscar.
"It is a possession worthy of the noblest gods!" replied Armitage. "There
is a white building with colonnades away over there—is it the house of
the reigning deity?"
"It is not, sir," answered Oscar, who spoke English with a kind of dogged
precision, giving equal value to all words. "It is a vast hotel where
the rich spend much money. That place at the foot of the hills—do you
see?—it is there they play a foolish game with sticks and little
"Golf? Is it possible!"
"There is no doubt of it, sir. I have seen the fools myself—men and
women. The place is called Storm Valley."
Armitage slapped his thigh sharply, so that his horse started.
"Yes; you are probably right, Oscar, I have heard of the place. And those
houses that lie beyond there in the valley belong to gentlemen of taste
and leisure who drink the waters and ride horses and play the foolish
game you describe with little white balls."
"I could not tell it better," responded Oscar, who had dismounted, like a
good trooper, to rest his horse.
"And our place—is it below there?" demanded Armitage.
"It is not, sir. It lies to the west. But a man may come here when he is
lonesome, and look at the people and the gentlemen's houses. At night it
is a pleasure to see the lights, and sometimes, when the wind is right,
there is music of bands."
"Poor Oscar!" laughed Armitage.
His mood had not often in his life been so high.
On his flight northward from Washington and southward down the Atlantic
capes, the thought that Shirley Claiborne and her family must now believe
him an ignoble scoundrel had wrought misgivings and pain in his heart;
but at least he would soon be near her—even now she might be somewhere
below in the lovely valley, and he drew off his hat and stared down upon
what was glorified and enchanted ground.
"Let us go," he said presently.
Oscar saluted, standing bridle in hand.
"You will find it easier to walk," he said, and, leading their horses,
they retraced their steps for several hundred yards along the ridge, then
mounted and proceeded slowly down again until they came to a mountain
road. Presently a high wire fence followed at their right, where the
descent was sharply arrested, and they came to a barred wooden gate, and
beside it a small cabin, evidently designed for a lodge.
"This is the place, sir," and Oscar dismounted and threw open the gate.
The road within followed the rough contour of the hillside, that still
turned downward until it broadened into a wooded plateau. The flutter of
wings in the underbrush, the scamper of squirrels, the mad lope of a
fox, kept the eye busy. A deer broke out of a hazel thicket, stared at
the horsemen in wide-eyed amazement, then plunged into the wood and
"There are deer, and of foxes a great plenty," remarked Oscar.
He turned toward Armitage and added with lowered voice:
"It is different from our old hills and forests—yes? but sometimes I
have been homesick."
"But this is not so bad, Oscar; and some day you shall go back!"
"Here," said the soldier, as they swung out of the wood and into the
open, "is what they call the Port of Missing Men."
There was a broad park-like area that tended downward almost
imperceptibly to a deep defile. They dismounted and walked to the edge
and looked down the steep sides. A little creek flowed out of the wood
and emptied itself with a silvery rush into the vale, caught its breath
below, and became a creek again. A slight suspension bridge flung across
the defile had once afforded a short cut to Storm Springs, but it was now
in disrepair, and at either end was posted "No Thoroughfare." Armitage
stepped upon the loose planking and felt the frail thing vibrate under
"It is a bad place," remarked Oscar, as the bridge creaked and swung, and
Armitage laughed and jumped back to solid ground.
The surface of this harbor of the hills was rough with outcropping rock.
In some great stress of nature the trees had been destroyed utterly, and
only a scant growth of weeds and wild flowers remained. The place
suggested a battle-ground for the winds, where they might meet and
struggle in wild combat; or more practically, it was large enough for the
evolutions of a squadron of cavalry.
"Why the name?" asked Armitage.
"There were gray soldiers of many battles—yes?—who fought the long
fight against the blue soldiers in the Valley of Virginia; and after the
war was over some of them would not surrender—no; but they marched here,
and stayed a long time, and kept their last flag, and so the place was
called the Port of Missing Men. They built that stone wall over there
beyond the patch of cedars, and camped. And a few died, and their graves
are there by the cedars. Yes; they had brave hearts," and Oscar lifted
his hat as though he were saluting the lost legion.
They turned again to the road and went forward at a gallop, until, half a
mile from the gate, they came upon a clearing and a low, red-roofed
"Your house, sir," and Oscar swung himself down at the steps of a broad
veranda. He led the horses away to a barn beyond the house, while
Armitage surveyed the landscape. The bungalow stood on a rough knoll, and
was so placed as to afford a splendid view of a wide region. Armitage
traversed the long veranda, studying the landscape, and delighting in the
far-stretching pine-covered barricade of hills. He was aroused by Oscar,
who appeared carrying the suit-cases.
"There shall be breakfast," said the man.
He threw open the doors and they entered a wide, bare hall, with a
fireplace, into which Oscar dropped a match.
"All one floor—plenty of sleeping-rooms, sir—a place to eat here—a
kitchen beyond—a fair barracks for a common soldier; that is all."
"It is enough. Throw these bags into the nearest bedroom, if there is no
choice, and camp will be established."
"This is yours—the baggage that came by express is there. A wagon
goes with the place, and I brought the things up yesterday. There is a
shower-bath beyond the rear veranda. The mountain water is off the ice,
but—you will require hot water for shaving—is it not so?"
"You oppress me with luxuries, Oscar. Wind up the clock, and nothing will
Oscar unstrapped the trunks and then stood at attention in the door. He
had expected Armitage to condemn the place in bitter language, but the
proprietor of the abandoned hunting preserve was in excellent spirits,
and whistled blithely as he drew out his keys.
"The place was built by fools," declared Oscar gloomily.
"Undoubtedly! There is a saying that fools build houses and wise men live
in them—you see where that leaves us, Oscar. Let us be cheerful!"
He tried the shower and changed his raiment, while Oscar prepared coffee
and laid a cloth on the long table before the fire. When Armitage
appeared, coffee steamed in the tin pot in which it had been made. Bacon,
eggs and toast were further offered.
"You have done excellently well, Oscar. Go get your own breakfast."
Armitage dropped a lump of sugar into his coffee cup and surveyed the
A large map of Virginia and a series of hunting prints hung on the
untinted walls, and there were racks for guns, and a work-bench at one
end of the room, where guns might be taken apart and cleaned. A few
novels, several three-year-old magazines and a variety of pipes remained
on the shelf above the fireplace. The house offered possibilities of
meager comfort, and that was about all. Armitage remembered what the
agent through whom he had made the purchase had said—that the place had
proved too isolated for even a hunting preserve, and that its only value
was in the timber. He was satisfied with his bargain, and would not set
up a lumber mill yet a while. He lighted a cigar and settled himself in
an easy chair before the fire, glad of the luxury of peace and quiet
after his circuitous journey and the tumult of doubt and question that
had shaken him.
He slit the wrapper of the Washington newspaper that Oscar had brought
from the mountain post-office and scanned the head-lines. He read with
care a dispatch from London that purported to reflect the sentiment of
the continental capitals toward Charles Louis, the new Emperor-king of
Austria-Hungary, and the paper dropped upon his knees and he stared into
the fire. Then he picked up a paper of earlier date and read all the
foreign despatches and the news of Washington. He was about to toss the
paper aside, when his eyes fell upon a boldly-headlined article that
caused his heart to throb fiercely. It recited the sudden reappearance of
the fraudulent Baron von Kissel in Washington, and described in detail
the baron's escapades at Bar Harbor and his later career in California
and elsewhere. Then followed a story, veiled in careful phrases, but
based, so the article recited, upon information furnished by a gentleman
of extensive acquaintance on both sides of the Atlantic, that Baron von
Kissel, under a new pseudonym, and with even more daring effrontery, had
within a fortnight sought to intrench himself in the most exclusive
circles of Washington.
Armitage's cigar slipped from his fingers and fell upon the brick hearth
as he read:
"The boldness of this clever adventurer is said to have reached a climax
in this city within a few days. He had, under the name of Armitage,
palmed himself off upon members of one of the most distinguished families
of the capital, whom he had met abroad during the winter. A young
gentleman of this family, who, it will suffice to say, bears a commission
and title from the American government, entertained a small company of
friends at a Washington club only a few nights ago, and this plausible
adventurer was among the guests. He was recognized at once by one of the
foreigners present, who, out of consideration for the host and fellow
guests, held his tongue; but it is understood that this gentleman sought
Armitage privately and warned him to leave Washington, which accounts for
the fact that the sumptuous apartments at the New American in which Mr.
John Armitage, alias Baron von Kissel, had established himself were
vacated immediately. None of those present at the supper will talk of the
matter, but it has been the subject of lively gossip for several days,
and the German embassy is said to have laid before the Washington police
all the information in its archives relating to the American adventures
of this impudent scoundrel."
* * * * *
Armitage rose, dropped the paper into the fire, and, with his elbow
resting on the mantel-shelf, watched it burn. He laughed suddenly and
faced about, his back to the flames. Oscar stood at attention in the
middle of the room.
"Shall we unpack—yes?"
"It is a capital idea," said John Armitage.
"I was striker for my captain also, who had fourteen pairs of boots and a
bad disposition—and his uniforms—yes? He was very pretty to look at on
"The ideal is high, Oscar, but I shall do my best. That one first,
The contents of the two trunks were disposed of deftly by Oscar as
Armitage directed. One of the bedrooms was utilized as a closet, and
garments for every imaginable occasion were brought forth. There were
stout English tweeds for the heaviest weather, two dress suits, and
Norfolk jackets in corduroy. The owner's taste ran to grays and browns,
it seemed, and he whimsically ordered his raiment grouped by colors as he
lounged about with a pipe in his mouth.
"You may hang those scarfs on the string provided by my predecessor,
Sergeant. They will help our color scheme. That pale blue doesn't blend
well in our rainbow—put it in your pocket and wear it, with my
compliments; and those tan shoes are not bad for the Virginia mud—drop
them here. Those gray campaign hats are comfortable—give the oldest to
me. And there is a riding-cloak I had forgotten I ever owned—I gave gold
for it to a Madrid tailor. The mountain nights are cool, and the thing
may serve me well," he added whimsically.
He clapped on the hat and flung the cloak upon his shoulders. It fell to
his heels, and he gathered it together with one hand at the waist and
strutted out into the hall, whither Oscar followed, staring, as Armitage
began to declaim:
"'Give me my robe; put on my crown; I have
Immortal longings in me!'
"'Tis an inky cloak, as dark as Hamlet's mind; I will go forth upon a
bloody business, and who hinders me shall know the bitter taste of death.
Oscar, by the faith of my body, you shall be the Horatio of the tragedy.
Set me right afore the world if treason be my undoing, and while we await
the trumpets, cast that silly pair of trousers as rubbish to the void,
and choose of mine own raiment as thou wouldst, knave! And now—
"'Nothing can we call our own but death,
And that small model of the barren earth
Which serves as paste and cover to our bones.
For God's sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings.'"
Then he grew serious, tossed the cloak and hat upon a bench that ran
round the room, and refilled and lighted his pipe. Oscar, soberly
unpacking, saw Armitage pace the hall floor for an hour, deep in thought.
"Oscar," he called abruptly, "how far is it down to Storm Springs?"
"A forced march, and you are there in an hour and a half, sir."
THE LADY OF THE PERGOLA
Laugh, thy girlish laughter;
Then, the moment after,
Weep thy girlish, tears!
April, that mine ears
Like a lover greetest,
If I tell thee, sweetest,
All my hopes and fears,
Laugh thy golden laughter,
But, the moment after,
Weep thy golden tears!
A few photographs of foreign scenes tacked on the walls; a Roman blanket
hung as a tapestry over the mantel; a portfolio and traveler's writing
materials distributed about a table produced for the purpose, and
additions to the meager book-shelf—a line of Baedekers, a pocket atlas,
a comprehensive American railway guide, several volumes of German and
French poetry—and the place was not so bad. Armitage slept for an hour
after a simple luncheon had been prepared by Oscar, studied his letters
and cablegrams—made, in fact, some notes in regard to them—and wrote
replies. Then, at four o'clock, he told Oscar to saddle the horses.
"It is spring, and in April a man's blood will not be quiet. We shall go
forth and taste the air."
He had studied the map of Lamar County with care, and led the way out of
his own preserve by the road over which they had entered in the morning.
Oscar and his horses were a credit to the training of the American army,
and would have passed inspection anywhere. Armitage watched his adjutant
with approval. The man served without question, and, quicker of wit than
of speech, his buff-gauntleted hand went to his hat-brim whenever
Armitage addressed him.
They sought again the spot whence Armitage had first looked down upon
Storm Valley, and he opened his pocket map, the better to clarify his
ideas of the region.
"We shall go down into the valley, Oscar," he said; and thereafter it was
he that led.
They struck presently into an old road that had been an early highway
across the mountains. Above and below the forest hung gloomily, and
passing clouds darkened the slopes and occasionally spilled rain.
Armitage drew on his cloak and Oscar enveloped himself in a slicker as
they rode through a sharp shower. At a lower level they came into fair
weather again, and, crossing a bridge, rode down into Storm Valley. The
road at once bore marks of care; and they passed a number of traps that
spoke unmistakably of cities, and riders whose mounts knew well the
bridle-paths of Central Park. The hotel loomed massively before them, and
beyond were handsome estates and ambitious mansions scattered through the
valley and on the lower slopes.
Armitage paused in a clump of trees and dismounted.
"You will stay here until I come back. And remember that we don't know
any one; and at our time of life, Oscar, one should be wary of making new
He tossed his cloak over the saddle and walked toward the inn. The size
of the place and the great number of people going and coming surprised
him, but in the numbers he saw his own security, and he walked boldly up
the steps of the main hotel entrance. He stepped into the long corridor
of the inn, where many people lounged about, and heard with keen
satisfaction and relief the click of a telegraph instrument that seemed
at once to bring him into contact with the remote world. He filed his
telegrams and walked the length of the broad hall, his riding-crop under
his arm. The gay banter and laughter of a group of young men and women
just returned from a drive gave him a touch of heartache, for there was a
girl somewhere in the valley whom he had followed across the sea, and
these people were of her own world—they undoubtedly knew her; very
likely she came often to this huge caravansary and mingled with them.
At the entrance he passed Baron von Marhof, who, by reason of the death
of his royal chief, had taken a cottage at the Springs to emphasize his
abstention from the life of the capital. The Ambassador lifted his eyes
and bowed to Armitage, as he bowed to a great many young men whose names
he never remembered; but, oddly enough, the Baron paused, stared after
Armitage for a moment, then shook his head and walked on with knit brows.
Armitage had lifted his hat and passed out, tapping his leg with his
He walked toward the private houses that lay scattered over the valley
and along the gradual slope of the hills as though carelessly flung from
a dice box. Many of the places were handsome estates, with imposing
houses set amid beautiful gardens. Half a mile from the hotel he stopped
a passing negro to ask who owned a large house that stood well back from
the road. The man answered; he seemed anxious to impart further
information, and Armitage availed himself of the opportunity.
"How near is Judge Claiborne's place?" he asked.
The man pointed. It was the next house, on the right-hand side; and
Armitage smiled to himself and strolled on.
He looked down in a moment upon a pretty estate, distinguished by its
formal garden, but with the broad acres of a practical farm stretching
far out into the valley. The lawn terraces were green, broken only by
plots of spring flowers; the walks were walled in box and privet; the
house, of the pillared colonial type, crowned a series of terraces. A
long pergola, with pillars topped by red urns, curved gradually through
the garden toward the mansion. Armitage followed a side road along the
brick partition wall and contemplated the inner landscape. The sharp snap
of a gardener's shears far up the slope was the only sound that reached
him. It was a charming place, and he yielded to a temptation to explore
it. He dropped over the wall and strolled away through the garden, the
smell of warm earth, moist from the day's light showers, and the faint
odor of green things growing, sweet in his nostrils. He walked to the far
end of the pergola, sat down on a wooden bench, and gave himself up to
reverie. He had been denounced as an impostor; he was on Claiborne soil;
and the situation required thought.
It was while he thus pondered his affairs that Shirley, walking over the
soft lawn from a neighboring estate, came suddenly upon him.
Her head went up with surprise and—he was sure—with disdain. She
stopped abruptly as he jumped to his feet.
"I am caught—in flagrante delicto! I can only plead guilty and pray
"They said—they said you had gone to Mexico?" said Shirley
"Plague take the newspapers! How dare they so misrepresent me!" he
"Yes, I read those newspaper articles with a good deal of interest. And
"Yes, your brother—he is the best fellow in the world!"
She mused, but a smile of real mirth now played over her face and lighted
"Those are generous words, Mr. Armitage. My brother warned me against you
in quite unequivocal language. He told me about your match-box—"
"Oh, the cigarette case!" and he held it up. "It's really mine—and I'm
going to keep it. It was very damaging evidence. It would argue strongly
against me in any court of law."
"Yes, I believe that is true." And she looked at the trinket with frank
"But I particularly do not wish to have to meet that charge in any court
of law, Miss Claiborne."
She met his gaze very steadily, and her eyes were grave. Then she asked,
in much the same tone that she would have used if they had been very old
friends and he had excused himself for not riding that day, or for not
going upon a hunt, or to the theater:
"Because I have a pledge to keep and a work to do, and if I were
forced to defend myself from the charge of being the false Baron von
Kissel, everything would be spoiled. You see, unfortunately—most
unfortunately—I am not quite without responsibilities, and I have
come down into the mountains, where I hope not to be shot and tossed over
a precipice until I have had time to watch certain people and certain
events a little while. I tried to say as much to Captain Claiborne, but I
saw that my story did not impress him. And now I have said the same thing
He waited, gravely watching her, hat in hand.
"And I have stood here and listened to you, and done exactly what Captain
Claiborne would not wish me to do under any circumstances," said Shirley.
"You are infinitely kind and generous—"
"No. I do not wish you to think me either of those things—of course
Her conclusion was abrupt and pointed.
"Then I will tell you—what I have not told any one else—that I know
very well that you are not the person who appeared at Bar Harbor three
years ago and palmed himself off as the Baron von Kissel."
"You know it—you are quite sure of it?" he asked blankly.
"Certainly. I saw that person—at Bar Harbor. I had gone up from Newport
for a week—I was even at a tea where he was quite the lion, and I am
sure you are not the same person."
Her direct manner of speech, her decisive tone, in which she placed the
matter of his identity on a purely practical and unsentimental plane,
gave him a new impression of her character.
"But Captain Claiborne—"
He ceased suddenly and she anticipated the question at which he had
faltered, and answered, a little icily:
"I do not consider it any of my business to meddle in your affairs with
my brother. He undoubtedly believes you are the impostor who palmed
himself off at Bar Harbor as the Baron von Kissel. He was told so—"
"By Monsieur Chauvenet."
"So he said."
"And of course he is a capital witness. There is no doubt of Chauvenet's
entire credibility," declared Armitage, a little airily.
"I should say not," said Shirley unresponsively. "I am quite as sure that
he was not the false baron as I am that you were not."
"That is a little pointed."
"It was meant to be," said Shirley sternly. "It is"—she weighed the
word—"ridiculous that both of you should be here."
"Thank you, for my half! I didn't know he was here! But I am not exactly
here—I have a much, safer place,"—he swept the blue-hilled horizon
with his hand. "Monsieur Chauvenet and I will not shoot at each other in
the hotel dining-room. But I am really relieved that he has come. We have
an interesting fashion of running into each other; it would positively
grieve me to be obliged to wait long for him."
He smiled and thrust his hat under his arm. The sun was dropping behind
the great western barricade, and a chill wind crept sharply over the
He started to walk beside her as she turned away, but she paused
"Oh, this won't do at all! I can't be seen with you, even in the shadow
of my own house. I must trouble you to take the side gate,"—and she
indicated it by a nod of her head.
"Not if I know myself! I am not a fraudulent member of the German
nobility—you have told me so yourself. Your conscience is clear—I
assure you mine is equally so! And I am not a person, Miss Claiborne, to
sneak out by side gates—particularly when I came over the fence! It's a
long way around anyhow—and I have a horse over there somewhere by the
"Is at Fort Myer, of course. At about this hour they are having dress
parade, and he is thoroughly occupied."
"But—there is Monsieur Chauvenet. He has nothing to do but amuse
They had reached the veranda steps, and she ran to the top and turned for
a moment to look at him. He still carried his hat and crop in one hand,
and had dropped the other into the side pocket of his coat. He was wholly
at ease, and the wind ruffled his hair and gave him a boyish look that
Shirley liked. But she had no wish to be found with him, and she
instantly nodded his dismissal and half turned away to go into the house,
when he detained her for a moment.
"I am perfectly willing to afford Monsieur Chauvenet all imaginable
entertainment. We are bound to have many meetings. I am afraid he reached
this charming valley before me; but—as a rule—I prefer to be a little
ahead of him; it's a whim—the merest whim, I assure you."
He laughed, thinking little of what he said, but delighting in the
picture she made, the tall pillars of the veranda framing her against the
white wall of the house, and the architrave high above speaking, so he
thought, for the amplitude, the breadth of her nature. Her green cloth
gown afforded the happiest possible contrast with the white background;
and her hat—(for a gown, let us remember, may express the dressmaker,
but a hat expresses the woman who wears it)—her hat, Armitage was aware,
was a trifle of black velvet caught up at one side with snowy plumes well
calculated to shock the sensibilities of the Audubon Society. Yet the
bird, if he knew, doubtless rejoiced in his fate! Shirley's hand, thrice
laid down, and there you have the length of that velvet cap, plume and
all. Her profile, as she half turned away, must awaken regret that
Reynolds and Gainsborough paint no more; yet let us be practical:
Sargent, in this particular, could not serve us ill.
Her annoyance at finding herself lingering to listen to him was marked in
an almost imperceptible gathering of her brows. It was all the matter of
an instant. His heart beat fast in his joy at the sight of her, and the
tongue that years of practice had skilled in reserve and evasion was
possessed by a reckless spirit.
She nodded carelessly, but said nothing, waiting for him to go on.
"But when I wait for people they always come—even in a strange pergola!"
he added daringly. "Now, in Geneva, not long ago—"
He lost the profile and gained her face as he liked it best, though her
head was lifted a little high in resentment against her own yielding
curiosity. He was speaking rapidly, and the slight hint of some other
tongue than his usually fluent English arrested her ear now, as it had at
"In Geneva, when I told a young lady that I was waiting for a very wicked
man to appear—it was really the oddest thing in the world that almost
immediately Monsieur Jules Chauvenet arrived at mine own inn! It is
inevitable; it is always sure to be my fate," he concluded mournfully.
He bowed low, restored the shabby hat to his head with the least bit of a
flourish and strolled away through the garden by a broad walk that led to
the front gate.
He would have been interested to know that when he was out of sight
Shirley walked to the veranda rail and bent forward, listening to his
steps on the gravel, after the hedge and shrubbery had hidden him. And
she stood thus until the faint click of the gate told her that he had
She did not know that as the gate closed upon him he met Chauvenet face
AN ENFORCED INTERVIEW
En, garde, Messieurs! And if my hand is hard,
Remember I've been buffeting at will;
I am a whit impatient, and 'tis ill
To cross a hungry dog. Messieurs, en garde.
Armitage uncovered smilingly. Chauvenet stared mutely as Armitage paused
with his back to the Claiborne gate. Chauvenet was dressed with his usual
care, and wore the latest carnation in the lapel of his top-coat. He
struck the ground with his stick, his look of astonishment passed, and he
smiled pleasantly as he returned Armitage's salutation.
"My dear Armitage!" he murmured.
"I didn't go to Mexico after all, my good Chauvenet. The place is full of
fevers; I couldn't take the risk."
"He is indeed a wise man who safeguards his health," replied the other.
"You are quite right. And when one has had many narrow escapes, one may
be excused for exercising rather particular care. Do you not find it so?"
"My dear fellow, my life is one long fight against ennui. Danger,
excitement, the hazard of my precious life—such pleasures of late have
been denied me."
"But you are young and of intrepid spirit, Monsieur. It would be quite
surprising if some perilous adventure did not overtake you before the
silver gets in your hair."
"Ah! I assure you the speculation interests me; but I must trouble you to
let me pass," continued Chauvenet, in the same tone. "I shall quite
forget that I set out to make a call if I linger longer in your charming
"But I must ask you to delay your call for the present. I shall greatly
value your company down the road a little way. It is a trifling favor,
and you are a man of delightful courtesy."
Chauvenet twisted his mustache reflectively. His mind had been busy
seeking means of turning the meeting to his own advantage. He had met
Armitage at quite the least imaginable spot in the world for an encounter
between them; and he was not a man who enjoyed surprises. He had taken
care that the exposure of Armitage at Washington should be telegraphed to
every part of the country, and put upon the cables. He had expected
Armitage to leave Washington, but he had no idea that he would turn up at
a fashionable resort greatly affected by Washingtonians and only a
comparatively short distance from the capital. He was at a great
disadvantage in not knowing Armitage's plans and strategy; his own mind
was curiously cunning, and his reasoning powers traversed oblique lines.
He was thus prone to impute similar mental processes to other people;
simplicity and directness he did not understand at all. He had underrated
Armitage's courage and daring; he wished to make no further mistakes, and
he walked back toward the hotel with apparent good grace. Armitage spoke
now in a very different key, and the change displeased Chauvenet, for he
much affected ironical raillery, and his companion's sterner tones
"I take this opportunity to give you a solemn warning, Monsieur Jules
Chauvenet, alias Rambaud, and thereby render you a greater service than
you know. You have undertaken a deep and dangerous game—it is
spectacular—it is picturesque—it is immense! It is so stupendous that
the taking of a few lives seems trifling in comparison with the end to be
attained. Now look about you for a moment, Monsieur Jules Chauvenet! In
this mountain air a man may grow very sane and see matters very clearly.
London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna—they are a long way off, and the things
they stand for lose their splendor when a man sits among these American
mountains and reflects upon the pettiness and sordidness of man's common
"Is this exordium or peroration, my dear fellow?"
"It is both," replied Armitage succinctly, and Chauvenet was sorry he had
spoken, for Armitage stopped short in a lonely stretch of the highway and
continued in a disagreeable, incisive tone:
"I ran away from Washington after you told that story at Claiborne's
supper-table, not because I was afraid of your accusation, but because I
wanted to watch your plans a little in security. The only man who could
have helped me immediately was Senator Sanderson, and I knew that he was
Chauvenet smiled with a return of assurance.
"Of course. The hour was chosen well!"
"More wisely, in fact, than your choice of that big assassin of yours.
He's a clumsy fellow, with more brawn than brains. I had no trouble in
shaking him off in Boston, where you probably advised him I should be
taking the Montreal express."
Chauvenet blinked. This was precisely what he had told Zmai to expect. He
shifted from one foot to another, and wondered just how he was to escape
from Armitage. He had gone to Storm Springs to be near Shirley Claiborne,
and he deeply resented having business thrust upon him.
"He is a wise man who wields the knife himself, Monsieur Chauvenet. In
the taking of poor Count von Stroebel's life so deftly and secretly, you
prove my philosophy. It was a clever job, Monsieur!"
Chauvenet's gloved fingers caught at his mustache.
"That is almost insulting, Monsieur Armitage. A distinguished statesman
is killed—therefore I must have murdered him. You forget that there's a
difference between us—you are an unknown adventurer, carried on the
books of the police as a fugitive from justice, and I can walk to the
hotel and get twenty reputable men to vouch for me. I advise you to be
careful not to mention my name in connection with Count von Stroebel's
He had begun jauntily, but closed in heat, and when he finished Armitage
nodded to signify that he understood perfectly.
"A few more deaths and you would be in a position to command tribute from
a high quarter, Monsieur."
"Your mind seems to turn upon assassination. If you know so much about
Stroebel's death, it's unfortunate that you left Europe at a time when
you might have rendered important aid in finding the murderer. It's a bit
suspicious, Monsieur Armitage! It is known at the Hotel Monte Rosa in
Geneva that you were the last person to enjoy an interview with the
venerable statesman—you see I am not dull, Monsieur Armitage!"
"You are not dull, Chauvenet; you are only shortsighted. The same
witnesses know that John Armitage was at the Hotel Monte Rosa for
twenty-four hours following the Count's departure. Meanwhile, where
were you, Jules Chauvenet?"
Chauvenet's hand again went to his face, which whitened, though he sought
refuge again in flippant irony.
"To be sure! Where was I, Monsieur? Undoubtedly you know all my
movements, so that it is unnecessary for me to have any opinions in the
"Quite so! Your opinions are not of great value to me, for I employed
agents to trace every move you made during the month in which Count von
Stroebel was stabbed to death in his railway carriage. It is so
interesting that I have committed the record to memory. If the story
would interest you—"
The hand that again sought the slight mustache trembled slightly; but
"You should write the memoirs of your very interesting career, my dear
fellow. I can not listen to your babble longer."
"I do not intend that you shall; but your whereabouts on Monday night,
March eighteenth, of this year, may need explanation, Monsieur
"If it should, I shall call upon you, my dear fellow!"
"Save yourself the trouble! The bureau I employed to investigate the
matter could assist you much better. All I could offer would be copies of
its very thorough reports. The number of cups of coffee your friend
Durand drank for breakfast this morning at his lodgings in Vienna will
reach me in due course!"
"You are really a devil of a fellow, John Armitage! So much knowledge! So
acute an intellect! You are too wise to throw away your life futilely."
"You have been most generous in sparing it thus far!" laughed Armitage,
and Chauvenet took instant advantage of his change of humor.
"Perhaps—perhaps—I have pledged my faith in the wrong quarter,
Monsieur. If I may say it, we are both fairly clever men; together we
could achieve much!"
"So you would sell out, would you?" laughed Armitage. "You miserable
little blackguard, I should like to join forces with you! Your knack of
getting the poison into the right cup every time would be a valuable
asset! But we are not made for each other in this world. In the next—who
"As you will! I dare say you would be an exacting partner."
"All of that, Chauvenet! You do best to stick to your present employer.
He needs you and the like of you—I don't! But remember—if there's a
sudden death in Vienna, in a certain high quarter, you will not live
to reap the benefits. Charles Louis rules Austria-Hungary; his cousin,
your friend Francis, is not of kingly proportions. I advise you to cable
the amiable Durand of a dissolution of partnership. It is now too late
for you to call at Judge Claiborne's, and I shall trouble you to walk on
down the road for ten minutes. If you look round or follow me, I shall
certainly turn you into something less attractive than a pillar of salt.
You do well to consult your watch—forward!"
Armitage pointed down the road with his riding-crop. As Chauvenet walked
slowly away, swinging his stick, Armitage turned toward the hotel. The
shadow of night was enfolding the hills, and it was quite dark when he
found Oscar and the horses.
He mounted, and they rode through the deepening April dusk, up the
winding trail that led out of Storm Valley.
SHIRLEY LEARNS A SECRET
Nightingales warble about it
All night under blossom and star;
The wild swan is dying without it,
And the eagle crieth afar;
The sun, he doth mount but to find it
Searching the green earth o'er;
But more doth a man's heart mind it—
O more, more, more!
Shirley Claiborne was dressed for a ride, and while waiting for her horse
she re-read her brother's letter; and the postscript, which follows, she
"I shall never live down my acquaintance with the delectable Armitage. My
brother officers insist on rubbing it in. I even hear, ma chérie, that
you have gone into retreat by reason of the exposure. I'll admit, for
your consolation, that he really took me in; and, further, I really
wonder who the devil he is,—or was! Our last interview at the Club,
after Chauvenet told his story, lingers with me disagreeably. I was
naturally pretty hot to find him playing the darkly mysterious, which
never did go with me,—after eating my bird and drinking my bottle. As a
precaution I have looked up Chauvenet to the best of my ability. At the
Austro-Hungarian Embassy they speak well of him. He's over here to
collect the price of a few cruisers or some such rubbish from one of our
sister republics below the Gulf. But bad luck to all foreigners! Me for
America every time!"
* * * * *
"Dear old Dick!" and she dropped the letter into a drawer and went out
into the sunshine, mounted her horse and turned toward the hills.
She had spent the intermediate seasons of the year at Storm Springs ever
since she could remember, and had climbed the surrounding hills and
dipped into the valleys with a boy's zest and freedom. The Virginia
mountains were linked in her mind to the dreams of her youth, to her
earliest hopes and aspirations, and to the books she had read, and she
galloped happily out of the valley to the tune of an old ballad. She rode
as a woman should, astride her horse and not madly clinging to it in the
preposterous ancient fashion. She had known horses from early years, in
which she had tumbled from her pony's back in the stable-yard, and she
knew how to train a horse to a gait and how to master a beast's fear; and
even some of the tricks of the troopers in the Fort Myer drill she had
surreptitiously practised in the meadow back of the Claiborne stable.
It was on Tuesday that John Armitage had appeared before her in the
pergola. It was now Thursday afternoon, and Chauvenet had been to see her
twice since, and she had met him the night before at a dance at one of
Judge Claiborne was distinguished for his acute and sinewy mind; but he
had, too, a strong feeling for art in all its expressions, and it was his
gift of imagination,—the ability to forecast the enemy's strategy and
then strike his weakest point,—that had made him a great lawyer and
diplomat. Shirley had played chess with her father until she had learned
to see around corners as he did, and she liked a problem, a test of wit,
a contest of powers. She knew how to wait and ponder in silence, and
therein lay the joy of the saddle, when she could ride alone with no
groom to bother her, and watch enchantments unfold on the hilltops.
Once free of the settlement she rode far and fast, until she was quite
beyond the usual routes of the Springs excursionists; then in mountain
byways she enjoyed the luxury of leisure and dismounted now and then to
delight in the green of the laurel and question the rhododendrons.
Jules Chauvenet had scoured the hills all day and explored many
mountain paths and inquired cautiously of the natives. The telegraph
operator at the Storm Springs inn was a woman, and the despatch and
receipt by Jules Chauvenet of long messages, many of them in cipher,
piqued her curiosity. No member of the Washington diplomatic circle who
came to the Springs,—not even the shrewd and secretive Russian
Ambassador,—received longer or more cryptic cables. With the social
diversions of the Springs and the necessity for making a show of having
some legitimate business in America, Jules Chauvenet was pretty well
occupied; and now the presence of John Armitage in Virginia added to his
He was tired and perplexed, and it was with unaffected pleasure that he
rode out of an obscure hill-path into a bit of open wood overhanging a
curious defile and came upon Shirley Claiborne.
The soil was soft and his horse carried him quite near before she heard
him. A broad sheet of water flashed down the farther side of the narrow
pass, sending up a pretty spurt of spray wherever it struck the jutting
rock. As Shirley turned toward him he urged his horse over the springy
"A pity to disturb the picture, Miss Claiborne! A thousand pardons! But I
really wished to see whether the figure could come out of the canvas. Now
that I have dared to make the test, pray do not send me away."
Her horse turned restlessly and brought her face to face with Chauvenet.
"Steady, Fanny! Don't come near her, please—" this last to Chauvenet,
who had leaped down and put out his hand to her horse's bridle. She had
the true horsewoman's pride in caring for herself and her eyes flashed
angrily for a moment at Chauvenet's proffered aid. A man might open a
door for her or pick up her handkerchief, but to touch her horse was an
altogether different business. The pretty, graceful mare was calm in a
moment and arched her neck contentedly under the stroke of Shirley's
"Beautiful! The picture is even more perfect, Mademoiselle!"
"Fanny is best in action, and splendid when she runs away. She hasn't run
away to-day, but I think she is likely to before I get home."
She was thinking of the long ride which she had no intention of taking in
Chauvenet's company. He stood uncovered beside her, holding his horse.
"But the danger, Mademoiselle! You should not hazard your life with a
runaway horse on these roads. It is not fair to your friends."
"You are a conservative, Monsieur. I should be ashamed to have a runaway
in a city park, but what does one come to the country for?"
"What, indeed, but for excitement? You are not of those tame young women
across the sea who come out into the world from a convent, frightened at
all they see and whisper 'Yes, Sister,' 'No, Sister,' to everything they
"Yes; we Americans are deficient in shyness and humility. I have often
heard it remarked, Monsieur Chauvenet."
"No! No! You misunderstand! Those deficiencies, as you term them, are
delightful; they are what give the charm to the American woman. I hope
you would not believe me capable of speaking in disparagement,
Mademoiselle,—you must know—"
The water tumbled down the rock into the vale; the soft air was sweet
with the scent of pines. An eagle cruised high against the blue overhead.
Shirley's hand tightened on the rein, and Fanny lifted her head
Chauvenet went on rapidly in French:
"You must know why I am here—why I have crossed the sea to seek you in
your own home. I have loved you, Mademoiselle, from the moment I first
saw you in Florence. Here, with only the mountains, the sky, the wood,
I must speak. You must hear—you must believe, that I love you! I offer
you my life, my poor attainments—"
"Monsieur, you do me a great honor, but I can not listen. What you ask is
impossible, quite impossible. But, Monsieur—"
Her eyes had fallen upon a thicket behind him where something had
stirred. She thought at first that it was an animal of some sort; but she
saw now quite distinctly a man's shabby felt hat that rose slowly until
the bearded face of its wearer was disclosed.
"Monsieur!" cried Shirley in a low tone; "look behind you and be careful
what you say or do. Leave the man to me."
Chauvenet turned and faced a scowling mountaineer who held a rifle and
drew it to his shoulder as Chauvenet threw out his arms, dropped them to
his thighs and laughed carelessly.
"What is it, my dear fellow—my watch—my purse—my horse?" he said in
"He wants none of those things," said Shirley, urging her horse a few
steps toward the man. "The mountain people are not robbers. What can we
do for you?" she asked pleasantly.
"You cain't do nothin' for me," drawled the man. "Go on away, Miss. I
want to see this little fella'. I got a little business with him."
"He is a foreigner—he knows little of our language. You will do best to
let me stay," said Shirley.
She had not the remotest idea of what the man wanted, but she had known
the mountain folk from childhood and well understood that familiarity
with their ways and tact were necessary in dealing with them.
"Miss, I have seen you befo', and I reckon we ain't got no cause for
trouble with you; but this little fella' ain't no business up hy'eh. Them
hotel people has their own places to ride and drive, and it's all right
for you, Miss; but what's yo' frien' ridin' the hills for at night? He's
lookin' for some un', and I reckon as how that some un' air me!"
He spoke drawlingly with a lazy good humor in his tones, and Shirley's
wits took advantage of his deliberation to consider the situation from
several points of view. Chauvenet stood looking from Shirley to the man
and back again. He was by no means a coward, and he did not in the least
relish the thought of owing his safety to a woman. But the confidence
with which Shirley addressed the man, and her apparent familiarity with
the peculiarities of the mountaineers impressed him. He spoke to her
rapidly in French.
"Assure the man that I never heard of him before in my life—that the
idea of seeking him never occurred to me."
The rifle—a repeater of the newest type—went to the man's shoulder in a
flash and the blue barrel pointed at Chauvenet's head.
"None o' that! I reckon the American language air good enough for these
Chauvenet shrugged his shoulders; but he gazed into the muzzle of the
"The gentleman was merely explaining that you are mistaken; that he does
not know you and never heard of you before, and that he has not been
looking for you in the mountains or anywhere else."
As Shirley spoke these words very slowly and distinctly she questioned
for the first time Chauvenet's position. Perhaps, after all, the
mountaineer had a real cause of grievance. It seemed wholly unlikely, but
while she listened to the man's reply she weighed the matter judicially.
They were in an unfrequented part of the mountains, which cottagers and
hotel guests rarely explored. The mountaineer was saying:
"Mountain folks air slow, and we don't know much, but a stranger don't
ride through these hills more than once for the scenery; the second time
he's got to tell why; and the third time—well, Miss, you kin tell the
little fella' that there ain't no third time."
Chauvenet flushed and he ejaculated hotly:
"I have never been here before in my life."
The man dropped the rifle into his arm without taking his eyes from
Chauvenet. He said succinctly, but still with his drawl:
"You air a liar, seh!"
Chauvenet took a step forward, looked again into the rifle barrel, and
stopped short. Fanny, bored by the prolonged interview, bent her neck and
nibbled at a weed.
"This gentleman has been in America only a few weeks; you are certainly
mistaken, friend," said Shirley boldly. Then the color flashed into her
face, as an explanation of the mountaineer's interest in a stranger
riding the hills occurred to her.
"My friend," she said, "I am Miss Claiborne. You may know my father's
house down in the valley. We have been coming here as far back as I can
The mountaineer listened to her gravely, and at her last words he
unconsciously nodded his head. Shirley, seeing that he was interested,
seized her advantage.
"I have no reason for misleading you. This gentleman is not a revenue
man. He probably never heard of a—still, do you call it?—in his
life—" and she smiled upon him sweetly. "But if you will let him go I
promise to satisfy you entirely in the matter."
Chauvenet started to speak, but Shirley arrested him with a gesture, and
spoke again to the mountaineer in her most engaging tone:
"We are both mountaineers, you and I, and we don't want any of our people
to be carried off to jail. Isn't that so? Now let this gentleman ride
away, and I shall stay here until I have quite assured you that you are
mistaken about him."
She signaled Chauvenet to mount, holding the mystified and reluctant
mountaineer with her eyes. Her heart was thumping fast and her hand shook
a little as she tightened her grasp on the rein. She addressed Chauvenet
in English as a mark of good faith to their captor.
"Ride on, Monsieur; do not wait for me."
"But it is growing dark—I can not leave you alone, Mademoiselle. You
have rendered me a great service, when it is I who should have extricated
"Pray do not mention it! It is a mere chance that I am able to help. I
shall be perfectly safe with this gentleman."
The mountaineer took off his hat.
"Thank ye, Miss," he said; and then to Chauvenet: "Get out!"
"Don't trouble about me in the least, Monsieur Chauvenet," and Shirley
affirmed the last word with a nod as Chauvenet jumped into his saddle and
rode off. When the swift gallop of his horse had carried him out of
sight and sound down the road, Shirley faced the mountaineer.
"What is your name?"
"Whom did you take that man to be, Mr. Selfridge?" asked Shirley, and in
her eagerness she bent down above the mountaineer's bared tangle of tow.
"The name you called him ain't it. It's a queer name I never heerd tell
on befo'—it's—it's like the a'my—"
"Is it Armitage?" asked Shirley quickly.
"That's it, Miss! The postmaster over at Lamar told me to look out fer
'im. He's moved up hy'eh, and it ain't fer no good. The word's out that a
city man's lookin' for some_thing_ or some_body_ in these hills. And
the man's stayin'—"
"At the huntin' club where folks don't go no more. I ain't seen him, but
th' word's passed. He's a city man and a stranger, and got a little
fella' that's been a soldier into th' army stayin' with 'im. I thought
yo' furriner was him, Miss, honest to God I did."
The incident amused Shirley and she laughed aloud. She had undoubtedly
gained information that Chauvenet had gone forth to seek; she had—and
the thing was funny—served Chauvenet well in explaining away his
presence in the mountains and getting him out of the clutches of the
mountaineer, while at the same time she was learning for herself the fact
of Armitage's whereabouts and keeping it from Chauvenet. It was a curious
adventure, and she gave her hand smilingly to the mystified and still
"I give you my word of honor that neither man is a government officer and
neither one has the slightest interest in you—will you believe me?"
"I reckon I got to, Miss."
"Good; and now, Mr. Selfridge, it is growing dark and I want you to walk
down this trail with me until we come to the Storm Springs road."
"I'll do it gladly, Miss."
"Thank you; now let us be off."
She made him turn back when they reached a point from which they could
look upon the electric lights of the Springs colony, and where the big
hotel and its piazzas shone like a steamship at night. A moment later
Chauvenet, who had waited impatiently, joined her, and they rode down
together. She referred at once to the affair with the mountaineer in her
most frivolous key.
"They are an odd and suspicious people, but they're as loyal as the
stars. And please let us never mention the matter again—not to any one,
if you please, Monsieur!"
The black-caps pipe among the reeds,
And there'll be rain to follow;
There is a murmur as of wind
In every coign and hollow;
The wrens do chatter of their fears
While swinging on the barley-ears.
The Judge and Mrs. Claiborne were dining with some old friends in the
valley, and Shirley, left alone, carried to the table several letters
that had come in the late mail. The events of the afternoon filled her
mind, and she was not sorry to be alone. It occurred to her that she was
building up a formidable tower of strange secrets, and she wondered
whether, having begun by keeping her own counsel as to the attempts she
had witnessed against John Armitage's life, she ought now to unfold all
she knew to her father or to Dick. In the twentieth century homicide was
not a common practice among men she knew or was likely to know; and the
feeling of culpability for her silence crossed lances with a deepening
sympathy for Armitage. She had learned where he was hiding, and she
smiled at the recollection of the trifling bit of strategy she had
practised upon Chauvenet.
The maid who served Shirley noted with surprise the long pauses in which
her young mistress sat staring across the table lost in reverie. A pretty
picture was Shirley in these intervals: one hand raised to her cheek,
bright from the sting of the spring wind in the hills. Her forearm, white
and firm and strong, was circled by a band of Roman gold, the only
ornament she wore, and when she lifted her hand with its quick deft
gesture, the trinket flashed away from her wrist and clasped the warm
flesh as though in joy of the closer intimacy. Her hair was swept up high
from her brow; her nose, straight, like her father's, was saved from
arrogance by a sensitive mouth, all eloquent of kindness and wholesome
mirth—but we take unfair advantage! A girl dining in candle-light with
only her dreams for company should be safe from impertinent eyes.
She had kept Dick's letter till the last. He wrote often and in the key
of his talk. She dropped a lump of sugar into her coffee-cup and read his
"What do you think has happened now? I have fourteen dollars' worth of
telegrams from Sanderson—wiring from some God-forsaken hole in Montana,
that it's all rot about Armitage being that fake Baron von Kissel. The
newspaper accounts of the exposé at my supper party had just reached
him, and he says Armitage was on his (Armitage's) ranch all that summer
the noble baron was devastating our northern sea-coast. Where, may I ask,
does this leave me? And what cad gave that story to the papers? And
where and who is John Armitage? Keep this mum for the present—even
from the governor. If Sanderson is right, Armitage will undoubtedly turn
up again—he has a weakness for turning up in your neighborhood!—and
sooner or later he's bound to settle accounts with Chauvenet. Now that I
think of it, who in the devil is he! And why didn't Armitage call him
down there at the club? As I think over the whole business my mind grows
addled, and I feel as though I had been kicked by a horse."
* * * * *
Shirley laughed softly, keeping the note open before her and referring to
it musingly as she stirred her coffee. She could not answer any of Dick's
questions, but her interest in the contest between Armitage and Chauvenet
was intensified by this latest turn in the affair. She read for an hour
in the library, but the air was close, and she threw aside her book, drew
on a light coat and went out upon the veranda. A storm was stealing down
from the hills, and the fitful wind tasted of rain. She walked the length
of the veranda several times, then paused at the farther end of it, where
steps led out into the pergola. There was still a mist of starlight, and
she looked out upon the vague outlines of the garden with thoughts of its
needs and the gardener's work for the morrow. Then she was aware of a
light step far out in the pergola, and listened carelessly to mark it,
thinking it one of the house servants returning from a neighbor's; but
the sound was furtive, and as she waited it ceased abruptly. She was
about to turn into the house to summon help when she heard a stir in the
shrubbery in quite another part of the garden, and in a moment the
stooping figure of a man moved swiftly toward the pergola.
Shirley stood quite still, watching and listening. The sound of steps in
the pergola reached her again, then the rush of flight, and out in the
garden a flying figure darted in and out among the walks. For several
minutes two dark figures played at vigorous hide-and-seek. Occasionally
gravel crunched underfoot and shrubbery snapped back with a sharp swish
where it was caught and held for support at corners. Pursued and pursuer
were alike silent; the scene was like a pantomime.
Then the tables seemed to be turned; the bulkier figure of the pursuer
was now in flight; and Shirley lost both for a moment, but immediately a
dark form rose at the wall; she heard the scratch of feet upon the brick
surface as a man gained the top, turned and lifted his arm as though
aiming a weapon.
Then a dark object, hurled through the air, struck him squarely in the
face and he tumbled over the wall, and Shirley heard him crash through
the hedge of the neighboring estate, then all was quiet again.
The game of hide-and-seek in the garden and the scramble over the wall
had consumed only two or three minutes, and Shirley now waited, her eyes
bent upon the darkly-outlined pergola for some manifestation from the
remaining intruder. A man now walked rapidly toward the veranda, carrying
a cloak on his arm. She recognized Armitage instantly. He doffed his hat
and bowed. The lights of the house lamps shone full upon him, and she saw
that he was laughing a little breathlessly.
"This is really fortunate, Miss Claiborne. I owe your house an apology,
and if you will grant me audience I will offer it to you."
He threw the cloak over his shoulder and fanned himself with his hat.
"You are a most informal person, Mr. Armitage," said Shirley coldly.
"I'm afraid I am! The most amazing ill luck follows me! I had dropped in
to enjoy the quiet and charm of your garden, but the tranquil life is not
for me. There was another gentleman, equally bent on enjoying the
pergola. We engaged in a pretty running match, and because I was fleeter
of foot he grew ugly and tried to put me out of commission."
He was still laughing, but Shirley felt that he was again trying to make
light of a serious situation, and a further tie of secrecy with Armitage
was not to her liking. As he walked boldly to the veranda steps, she
stepped back from him.
"No! No! This is impossible—it will not do at all, Mr. Armitage. It is
not kind of you to come here in this strange fashion."
"In this way forsooth! How could I send in my card when I was being
chased all over the estate! I didn't mean to apologize for coming"—and
he laughed again, with a sincere mirth that shook her resolution to deal
harshly with him. "But," he went on, "it was the flowerpot! He was mad
because I beat him in the foot-race and wanted to shoot me from the wall,
and I tossed him a potted geranium—geraniums are splendid for the
purpose—and it caught him square in the head. I have the knack of it!
Once before I handed him a boiling-pot!"
"It must have hurt him," said Shirley; and he laughed at her tone that
was meant to be severe.
"I certainly hope so; I most devoutly hope he felt it! He was most
tenderly solicitous for my health; and if he had really shot me there in
the garden it would have had an ugly look. Armitage, the false baron,
would have been identified as a daring burglar, shot while trying to
burglarize the Claiborne mansion! But I wouldn't take the Claiborne plate
for anything, I assure you!"
"I suppose you didn't think of us—all of us, and the unpleasant
consequences to my father and brother if something disagreeable happened
There was real anxiety in her tone, and he saw that he was going too far
with his light treatment of the affair. His tone changed instantly.
"Please forgive me! I would not cause embarrassment or annoyance to any
member of your family for kingdoms. I didn't know I was being followed—I
had come here to see you. That is the truth of it."
"You mustn't try to see me! You mustn't come here at all unless you come
with the knowledge of my father. And the very fact that your life is
sought so persistently—at most unusual times and in impossible places,
leaves very much to explain."
"I know that! I realize all that!"
"Then you must not come! You must leave instantly."
She walked away toward the front door; but he followed, and at the door
she turned to him again. They were in the full glare of the door lamps,
and she saw that his face was very earnest, and as he began to speak he
flinched and shifted the cloak awkwardly.
"You have been hurt—why did you not tell me that?"
"It is nothing—the fellow had a knife, and he—but it's only a trifle in
the shoulder. I must be off!"
The lightning had several times leaped sharply out of the hills; the wind
was threshing the garden foliage, and now the rain roared on the tin roof
of the veranda.
As he spoke a carriage rolled into the grounds and came rapidly toward
"I'm off—please believe in me—a little."
"You must not go if you are hurt—and you can't run away now—my father
and mother are at the door."
There was an instant's respite while the carriage drew up to the veranda
steps. She heard the stable-boy running out to help with the horses.
"You can't go now; come in and wait."
There was no time for debate. She flung open the door and swept him past
her with a gesture—through the library and beyond, into a smaller room
used by Judge Claiborne as an office. Armitage sank down on a leather
couch as Shirley flung the portieres together with a sharp rattle of the
She walked toward the hall door as her father and mother entered from the
"Ah, Miss Claiborne! Your father and mother picked me up and brought me
in out of the rain. Your Storm Valley is giving us a taste of its
And Shirley went forward to greet Baron von Marhof.
A GENTLEMAN IN HIDING
Oh, sweetly fall the April days!
My love was made of frost and light,
Of light to warm and frost to blight
The sweet, strange April of her ways.
Eyes like a dream of changing skies,
And every frown and blush I prize.
With cloud and flush the spring comes in,
With frown and blush maids' loves begin;
For love is rare like April days.
—L. Frank Tooker.
Mrs. Claiborne excused herself shortly, and Shirley, her father and the
Ambassador talked to the accompaniment of the shower that drove in great
sheets against the house. Shirley was wholly uncomfortable over the turn
of affairs. The Ambassador would not leave until the storm abated, and
meanwhile Armitage must remain where he was. If by any chance he should
be discovered in the house no ordinary excuses would explain away his
presence, and as she pondered the matter, it was Armitage's plight—his
injuries and the dangers that beset him—that was uppermost in her mind.
The embarrassment that lay in the affair for herself if Armitage should
be found concealed in the house troubled her little. Her heart beat
wildly as she realized this; and the look in his eyes and the quick pain
that twitched his face at the door haunted her.
The two men were talking of the new order of things in Vienna.
"The trouble is," said the Ambassador, "that Austria-Hungary is not a
nation, but what Metternich called Italy—a geographical expression.
Where there are so many loose ends a strong grasp is necessary to hold
"And a weak hand," suggested Judge Claiborne, "might easily lose or
"Precisely. And a man of character and spirit could topple down the
card-house to-morrow, pick out what he liked, and create for himself a
new edifice—and a stronger one. I speak frankly. Von Stroebel is out of
the way; the new Emperor-king is a weakling, and if he should die
to-night or to-morrow—"
The Ambassador lifted his hands and snapped his fingers.
"Yes; after him, what?"
"After him his scoundrelly cousin Francis; and then a stronger than Von
Stroebel might easily fail to hold the disjecta membra of the Empire
"But there are shadows on the screen," remarked Judge Claiborne. "There
was Karl—the mad prince."
"Humph! There was some red blood in him; but he was impossible; he had a
taint of democracy, treason, rebellion."
Judge Claiborne laughed.
"I don't like the combination of terms. If treason and rebellion are
synonyms of democracy, we Americans are in danger."
"No; you are a miracle—that is the only explanation," replied Marhof.
"But a man like Karl—what if he were to reappear in the world! A little
democracy might solve your problem."
"No, thank God! he is out of the way. He was sane enough to take himself
off and die."
"But his ghost walks. Not a year ago we heard of him; and he had a son
who chose his father's exile. What if Charles Louis, who is without
heirs, should die and Karl or his son—"
"In the providence of God they are dead. Impostors gain a little brief
notoriety by pretending to be the lost Karl or his son Frederick
Augustus; but Von Stroebel satisfied himself that Karl was dead. I am
quite sure of it. You know dear Stroebel had a genius for gaining
"I have heard as much," and Shirley and the Baron smiled at Judge
The storm was diminishing and Shirley grew more tranquil. Soon the
Ambassador would leave and she would send Armitage away; but the mention
of Stroebel's name rang oddly in her ears, and the curious way in which
Armitage and Chauvenet had come into her life awoke new and anxious
"Count von Stroebel was not a democrat, at any rate," she said. "He
believed in the divine right and all that."
"So do I, Miss Claiborne. It's all we've got to stand on!"
"But suppose a democratic prince were to fall heir to one of the European
thrones, insist on giving his crown to the poor and taking his oath in a
frock coat, upsetting the old order entirely—"
"He would be a fool, and the people would drag him to the block in a
week," declared the Baron vigorously.
They pursued the subject in lighter vein a few minutes longer, then the
Baron rose. Judge Claiborne summoned the waiting carriage from the
stable, and the Baron drove home.
"I ought to work for an hour on that Danish claims matter," remarked the
Judge, glancing toward his curtained den.
"You will do nothing of the kind! Night work is not permitted in the
"Thank you! I hoped you would say that, Shirley. I believe I am tired;
and now if you will find a magazine for me, I'll go to bed. Ring for
Thomas to close the house."
"I have a few notes to write; they'll take only a minute, and I'll write
She heard her father's door close, listened to be quite sure that the
house was quiet, and threw back the curtains. Armitage stepped out into
"You must go—you must go!" she whispered with deep tensity.
"Yes; I must go. You have been kind—you are most generous—"
But she went before him to the hall, waited, listened, for one instant;
then threw open the outer door and bade him go. The rain dripped heavily
from the eaves, and the cool breath of the freshened air was sweet and
stimulating. She was immensely relieved to have him out of the house, but
he lingered on the veranda, staring helplessly about.
"I shall go home," he said, but so unsteadily that she looked at him
quickly. He carried the cloak flung over his shoulder and in readjusting
it dropped it to the floor, and she saw in the light of the door lamps
that his arm hung limp at his side and the gray cloth of his sleeve was
heavy and dark with blood. With a quick gesture she stooped and picked up
"Come! Come! This is all very dreadful—you must go to a physician at
"My man and horse are waiting for me; the injury is nothing." But she
threw the cloak over his shoulders and led the way, across the veranda,
and out upon the walk.
"I do not need the doctor—not now. My man will care for me."
He started through the dark toward the outer wall, as though confused,
and she went before him toward the side entrance. He was aware of her
quick light step, of the soft rustle of her skirts, of a wish to send her
back, which his tongue could not voice; but he knew that it was sweet to
follow her leading. At the gate he took his bearings with a new assurance
"It seems that I always appear to you in some miserable fashion—it is
preposterous for me to ask forgiveness. To thank you—"
"Please say nothing at all—but go! Your enemies must not find you here
again—you must leave the valley!"
"I have a work to do! But it must not touch your life. Your happiness is
too much, too sweet to me."
"You must leave the bungalow—I found out to-day where you are staying.
There is a new danger there—the mountain people think you are a revenue
officer. I told one of them—"
"—that you are not! That is enough. Now hurry away. You must find your
horse and go."
He bent and kissed her hand.
"You trust me; that is the dearest thing in the world." His voice
faltered and broke in a sob, for he was worn and weak, and the mystery of
the night and the dark silent garden wove a spell upon him and his heart
leaped at the touch of his lips upon her fingers. Their figures were only
blurs in the dark, and their low tones died instantly, muffled by the
night. She opened the gate as he began to promise not to appear before
her again in any way to bring her trouble; but her low whisper arrested
"Do not let them hurt you again—" she said; and he felt her hand seek
his, felt its cool furtive pressure for a moment; and then she was gone.
He heard the house door close a moment later, and gazing across the
garden, saw the lights on the veranda flash out.
Then with a smile on his face he strode away to find Oscar and the
AN EXCHANGE OF MESSAGES
When youth was lord of my unchallenged fate,
And time seemed but the vassal of my will,
I entertained certain guests of state—
The great of older days, who, faithful still,
Have kept with me the pact my youth had made.
—S. Weir Mitchell.
"Who am I?" asked John Armitage soberly.
He tossed the stick of a match into the fireplace, where a pine-knot
smoldered, drew his pipe into a glow and watched Oscar screw the top on a
box of ointment which he had applied to Armitage's arm. The little
soldier turned and stood sharply at attention.
"Yon are Mr. John Armitage, sir. A man's name is what he says it is. It
is the rule of the country."
"Thank you, Oscar. Your words reassure me. There have been times lately
when I have been in doubt myself. You are a pretty good doctor."
"First aid to the injured; I learned the trick from a hospital steward.
If you are not poisoned, and do not die, you will recover—yes?"
"Thank you, Sergeant. You are a consoling spirit; but I assure you on my
honor as a gentleman that if I die I shall certainly haunt you. This is
the fourth day. To-morrow I shall throw away the bandage and be quite
ready for more trouble."
"It would be better on the fifth—"
"The matter is settled. You will now go for the mail; and do take care
that no one pots you on the way. Your death would be a positive loss to
me, Oscar. And if any one asks how My Majesty is—mark, My Majesty—pray
say that I am quite well and equal to ruling over many kingdoms."
And Armitage roared with laughter, as the little man, pausing as he
buckled a cartridge belt under his coat, bowed with a fine mockery of
"If a man were king he could have a devilish fine time of it, Oscar."
"He could review many troops and they would fire salutes until the powder
cost much money."
"You are mighty right, as we say in Montana; and I'll tell you quite
confidentially, Sergeant, that if I were out of work and money and needed
a job the thought of being king might tempt me. These gentlemen who are
trying to stick knives into me think highly of my chances. They may force
me into the business—" and Armitage rose and kicked the flaring knot.
Oscar drew on his gauntlet with a jerk.
"They killed the great prime minister—yes?"
"They undoubtedly did, Oscar."
"He was a good man—he was a very great man," said Oscar slowly, and went
quickly out and closed the door softly after him.
The life of the two men in the bungalow was established in a definite
routine. Oscar was drilled in habits of observation and attention and he
realized without being told that some serious business was afoot; he knew
that Armitage's life had been attempted, and that the receipt and
despatch of telegrams was a part of whatever errand had brought his
master to the Virginia hills. His occupations were wholly to his liking;
there was simple food to eat; there were horses to tend; and his errands
abroad were of the nature of scouting and in keeping with one's dignity
who had been a soldier. He rose often at night to look abroad, and
sometimes he found Armitage walking the veranda or returning from
a tramp through the wood. Armitage spent much time studying papers; and
once, the day after Armitage submitted his wounded arm to Oscar's care,
he had seemed upon the verge of a confidence.
"To save life; to prevent disaster; to do a little good in the world—to
do something for Austria—such things are to the soul's credit, Oscar,"
and then Armitage's mood changed and he had begun chaffing in a fashion
that was beyond Oscar's comprehension.
The little soldier rode over the hills to Lamar Station in the waning
spring twilight, asked at the telegraph office for messages, stuffed
Armitage's mail into his pockets at the post-office, and turned home as
the moonlight poured down the slopes and flooded the valleys. The
Virginia roads have been cursed by larger armies than any that ever
marched in Flanders, but Oscar was not a swearing man. He paused to rest
his beast occasionally and to observe the landscape with the eye
of a strategist. Moonlight, he remembered, was a useful accessory of the
assassin's trade, and the faint sounds of the spring night were all
promptly traced to their causes as they reached his alert ears.
At the gate of the hunting-park grounds he bent forward in the saddle to
lift the chain that held it; urged his horse inside, bent down to
refasten it, and as his fingers clutched the iron a man rose in the
shadow of the little lodge and clasped him about the middle. The iron
chain swung free and rattled against the post, and the horse snorted with
fright, then, at a word from Oscar, was still. There was the barest
second of waiting, in which the long arms tightened, and the great body
of his assailant hung heavily about him; then he dug spurs into the
horse's flanks and the animal leaped forward with a snort of rage, jumped
out of the path and tore away through the woods.
Oscar's whole strength was taxed to hold his seat as the burly figure
thumped against the horse's flanks. He had hoped to shake the man off,
but the great arms still clasped him. The situation could not last. Oscar
took advantage of the moonlight to choose a spot in which to terminate
it. He had his bearings now, and as they crossed an opening in the wood
he suddenly loosened his grip on the horse and flung himself backward.
His assailant, no longer supported, rolled to the ground with Oscar on
top of him, and the freed horse galloped away toward the stable.
A rough and tumble fight now followed. Oscar's lithe, vigorous body
writhed in the grasp of his antagonist, now free, now clasped by giant
arms. They saw each other's faces plainly in the clear moonlight, and at
breathless pauses in the struggle their eyes maintained the state of war.
At one instant, when both men lay with arms interlocked, half-lying on
their thighs, Oscar hissed in the giant's ear:
"You are a Servian: it is an ugly race."
And the Servian cursed him in a fierce growl.
"We expected you; you are a bad hand with the knife," grunted Oscar, and
feeling the bellows-like chest beside him expand, as though in
preparation for a renewal of the fight, he suddenly wrenched himself free
of the Servian's grasp, leaped away a dozen paces to the shelter of a
great pine, and turned, revolver in hand.
"Throw up your hands," he yelled.
The Servian fired without pausing for aim, the shot ringing out sharply
through the wood. Then Oscar discharged his revolver three times in quick
succession, and while the discharges were still keen on the air he drew
quickly back to a clump of underbrush, and crept away a dozen yards to
watch events. The Servian, with his eyes fixed upon the tree behind which
his adversary had sought shelter, grew anxious, and thrust his head
Then he heard a sound as of some one running through the wood to the left
and behind him, but still the man he had grappled on the horse made no
sign. It dawned upon him that the three shots fired in front of him had
been a signal, and in alarm he turned toward the gate, but a voice near
at hand called loudly, "Oscar!" and repeated the name several times.
Behind the Servian the little soldier answered sharply in English:
"All steady, sir!"
The use of a strange tongue added to the Servian's bewilderment, and he
fled toward the gate, with Oscar hard after him. Then Armitage suddenly
leaped out of the shadows directly in his path and stopped him with a
"Easy work, Oscar! Take the gentleman's gun and be sure to find his
The task was to Oscar's taste, and he made quick work of the Servian's
"Your horse was a good despatch bearer. You are all sound, Oscar?"
"Never better, sir. A revolver and two knives—" the weapons flashed in
the moonlight as he held them up.
"Good! Now start your friend toward the bungalow."
They set off at a quick pace, soon found the rough driveway, and trudged
along silently, the Servian between his captors.
When they reached the house Armitage flung open the door and followed
Oscar and the prisoner into the long sitting-room.
Armitage lighted a pipe at the mantel, readjusted the bandage on his arm,
and laughed aloud as he looked upon the huge figure of the Servian
standing beside the sober little cavalryman.
"Oscar, there are certainly giants in these days, and we have caught one.
You will please see that the cylinder of your revolver is in good order
and prepare to act as clerk of our court-martial. If the prisoner moves,
He spoke these last words very deliberately in German, and the
Servian's small eyes blinked his comprehension. Armitage sat down on the
writing-table, with his own revolver and the prisoner's knives and pistol
within reach of his available hand. A smile of amusement played over his
face as he scrutinized the big body and its small, bullet-like head.
"He is a large devil," commented Oscar.
"He is large, certainly," remarked Armitage. "Give him a chair. Now," he
said to the man in deliberate German, "I shall say a few things to you
which I am very anxious for you to understand. You are a Servian."
The man nodded.
"Your name is Zmai Miletich."
The man shifted his great bulk uneasily in his chair and fastened his
lusterless little eyes upon Armitage.
"Your name," repeated Armitage, "is Zmai Miletich; your home is, or was,
in the village of Toplica, where you were a blacksmith until you became a
thief. You are employed as an assassin by two gentlemen known as
Chauvenet and Durand—do you follow me?"
The man was indeed following him with deep engrossment. His narrow
forehead was drawn into minute wrinkles; his small eyes seemed to recede
into his head; his great body turned uneasily.
"I ask you again," repeated Armitage, "whether you follow me. There must
be no mistake."
Oscar, anxious to take his own part in the conversation, prodded Zmai in
the ribs with a pistol barrel, and the big fellow growled and nodded his
"There is a house in the outskirts of Vienna where you have been employed
at times as gardener, and another house in Geneva where you wait for
orders. At this latter place it was my great pleasure to smash you in the
head with a boiling-pot on a certain evening in March."
The man scowled and ejaculated an oath with so much venom that Armitage
"Your conspirators are engaged upon a succession of murders, and
when they have removed the last obstacle they will establish a new
Emperor-king in Vienna and you will receive a substantial reward for
what you have done—"
The blood suffused the man's dark face, and he half rose, a great roar of
angry denial breaking from him.
"That will do. You tried to kill me on the King Edward; you tried your
knife on me again down there in Judge Claiborne's garden; and you came up
here tonight with a plan to kill my man and then take your time to me.
Give me the mail, Oscar."
He opened the letters which Oscar had brought and scanned several that
bore a Paris postmark, and when he had pondered their contents a moment
he laughed and jumped from the table. He brought a portfolio from his
bedroom and sat down to write.
"Don't shoot the gentleman as long as he is quiet. You may even give him
a glass of whisky to soothe his feelings."
* * * * *
"Your assassin is a clumsy fellow and you will do well to send him back
to the blacksmith shop at Toplica. I learn that Monsieur Durand,
distressed by the delay in affairs in America, will soon join you—is
even now aboard the Tacoma, bound for New York. I am profoundly
grateful for this, dear Monsieur, as it gives me an opportunity to
conclude our interesting business in republican territory without
prejudice to any of the parties chiefly concerned.
"You are a clever and daring rogue, yet at times you strike me as
immensely dull, Monsieur. Ponder this: should it seem expedient for me to
establish my identity—which I am sure interests you greatly—before
Baron von Marhof, and, we will add, the American Secretary of State, be
quite sure that I shall not do so until I have taken precautions against
your departure in any unseemly haste. I, myself, dear friend, am not
without a certain facility in setting traps."
* * * * *
Armitage threw down the pen and read what he had written with care. Then
he wrote as signature the initials F.A., inclosed the note in an envelope
and addressed it, pondered again, laughed and slapped his knee and went
into his room, where he rummaged about until he found a small seal
beautifully wrought in bronze and a bit of wax. Returning to the table he
lighted a candle, and deftly sealed the letter. He held the red scar on
the back of the envelope to the lamp and examined it with interest. The
lines of the seal were deep cut, and the impression was perfectly
distinct, of F.A. in English script, linked together by the bar of the F.
"Oscar, what do you recommend that we do with the prisoner?"
"He should be tied to a tree and shot; or, perhaps, it would be better to
hang him to the rafters in the kitchen. Yet he is heavy and might pull
down the roof."
"You are a bloodthirsty wretch, and there is no mercy in you. Private
executions are not allowed in this country; you would have us before a
Virginia grand jury and our own necks stretched. No; we shall send him
back to his master."
"It is a mistake. If your Excellency would go away for an hour he should
never know where the buzzards found this large carcass."
"Tush! I would not trust his valuable life to you. Get up!" he commanded,
and Oscar jerked Zmai to his feet.
"You deserve nothing at my hands, but I need a discreet messenger, and
you shall not die to-night, as my worthy adjutant recommends. To-morrow
night, however, or the following night—or any other old night, as we say
in America—if you show yourself in these hills, my chief of staff shall
have his way with you—buzzard meat!"
"The orders are understood," said Oscar, thrusting the revolver into the
"Now, Zmai, blacksmith of Toplica, and assassin at large, here is a
letter for Monsieur Chauvenet. It is still early. When you have delivered
it, bring me back the envelope with Monsieur's receipt written right
here, under the seal. Do you understand?"
It had begun to dawn upon Zmai that his life was not in immediate danger,
and the light of intelligence kindled again in his strange little eyes.
Lest he might not fully grasp the errand with which Armitage intrusted
him, Oscar repeated what Armitage had said in somewhat coarser terms.
Again through the moonlight strode the three—out of Armitage's land to
the valley road and to the same point to which Shirley Claiborne had only
a few days before been escorted by the mountaineer.
There they sent the Servian forward to the Springs, and Armitage went
home, leaving Oscar to wait for the return of the receipt.
It was after midnight when Oscar placed it in Armitage's hands at the
"Oscar, it would be a dreadful thing to kill a man," Armitage declared,
holding the empty envelope to the light and reading the line scrawled
beneath the unbroken wax. It was in French:
"You are young to die, Monsieur."
"A man more or less!" and Oscar shrugged his shoulders.
"You are not a good churchman. It is a grievous sin to do murder."
"One may repent; it is so written. The people of your house are Catholics
"That is quite true, though I may seem to forget it. Our work will be
done soon, please God, and we shall ask the blessed sacrament somewhere
in these hills."
Oscar crossed himself and fell to cleaning his rifle.
CAPTAIN CLAIBORNE ON DUTY
When he came where the trees were thin,
The moon sat waiting there to see;
On her worn palm she laid her chin,
And laughed awhile in sober glee
To think how strong this knight had been.
—William Vaughn Moody.
In some mystification Captain Richard Claiborne packed a suit-case in his
quarters at Fort Myer. Being a soldier, he obeyed orders; but being
human, he was also possessed of a degree of curiosity. He did not know
just the series of incidents and conferences that preceded his summons to
Washington, but they may be summarized thus:
Baron von Marhof was a cautious man. When the young gentlemen of his
legation spoke to him in awed whispers of a cigarette case bearing an
extraordinary device that had been seen in Washington he laughed them
away; then, possessing a curious and thorough mind, he read all the press
clippings relating to the false Baron von Kissel, and studied the
heraldic emblems of the Schomburgs. As he pondered, he regretted the
death of his eminent brother-in-law, Count Ferdinand von Stroebel, who
was not a man to stumble over so negligible a trifle as a cigarette case.
But Von Marhof himself was not without resources. He told the gentlemen
of his suite that he had satisfied himself that there was nothing in the
Armitage mystery; then he cabled Vienna discreetly for a few days, and
finally consulted Hilton Claiborne, the embassy's counsel, at the
Claiborne home at Storm Springs.
They had both gone hurriedly to Washington, where they held a long
conference with the Secretary of State. Then the state department called
the war department by telephone, and quickly down the line to the
commanding officer at Fort Myer went a special assignment for Captain
Claiborne to report to the Secretary of State. A great deal of perfectly
sound red tape was reduced to minute particles in these manipulations;
but Baron von Marhof's business was urgent; it was also of a private
and wholly confidential character. Therefore, he returned to his cottage
at Storm Springs, and the Washington papers stated that he was ill and
had gone back to Virginia to take the waters.
The Claiborne house was the pleasantest place in Storm Valley, and the
library a comfortable place for a conference. Dick Claiborne caught the
gravity of the older men as they unfolded to him the task for which
they had asked his services. The Baron stated the case in these words:
"You know and have talked with this man Armitage; you saw the device on
the cigarette case; and asked an explanation, which he refused; and you
know also Chauvenet, whom we suspect of complicity with the conspirators
at home. Armitage is not the false Baron von Kissel—we have established
that from Senator Sanderson beyond question. But Sanderson's knowledge of
the man is of comparatively recent date—going back about five years to
the time Armitage purchased his Montana ranch. Whoever Armitage may be,
he pays his bills; he conducts himself like a gentleman; he travels at
will, and people who meet him say a good word for him."
"He is an agreeable man and remarkably well posted in European politics,"
said Judge Claiborne. "I talked with him a number of times on the King
Edward and must say that I liked him."
"Chauvenet evidently knows him; there was undoubtedly something back of
that little trick at my supper party at the Army and Navy," said Dick.
"It might be explained—" began the Baron; then he paused and looked from
father to son. "Pardon me, but they both manifest some interest in Miss
"We met them abroad," said Dick; "and they both turned up again in
"One of them is here, or has been here in the valley—why not the other?"
asked Judge Claiborne.
"But, of course, Shirley knows nothing of Armitage's whereabouts," Dick
"Certainly not," declared his father.
"How did you make Armitage's acquaintance?" asked the Ambassador. "Some
one must have been responsible for introducing him—if you can remember."
"It was in the Monte Rosa, at Geneva. Shirley and I had been chaffing
each other about the persistence with which Armitage seemed to follow us.
He was taking déjeuner at the same hour, and he passed us going out.
Old Arthur Singleton—the ubiquitous—was talking to us, and he nailed
Armitage with his customary zeal and introduced him to us in quite the
usual American fashion. Later I asked Singleton who he was and he knew
nothing about him. Then Armitage turned up on the steamer, where he made
himself most agreeable. Next, Senator Sanderson vouched for him as one of
his Montana constituents. You know the rest of the story. I swallowed him
whole; he called at our house on several occasions, and came to the post,
and I asked him to my supper for the Spanish attaché."
"And now, Dick, we want you to find him and get him into a room with
ourselves, where we can ask him some questions," declared Judge
They discussed the matter in detail. It was agreed that Dick should
remain at the Springs for a few days to watch Chauvenet; then, if he got
no clue to Armitage's whereabouts, he was to go to Montana, to see if
anything could be learned there.
"We must find him—there must be no mistake about it," said the
Ambassador to Judge Claiborne, when they were alone. "They are almost
panic-stricken in Vienna. What with the match burning close to the powder
in Hungary and clever heads plotting in Vienna this American end of the
game has dangerous possibilities."
"And when we have young Armitage—" the Judge began.
"Then we shall know the truth."
"But suppose—suppose," and Judge Claiborne glanced at the door,
"suppose Charles Louis, Emperor-king of Austria-Hungary, should
"We will assume nothing of the kind!" ejaculated the Ambassador sharply.
"It is impossible." Then to Captain Claiborne: "You must pardon me if I
do not explain further. I wish to find Armitage; it is of the greatest
importance. It would not aid you if I told you why I must see and talk
And as though to escape from the thing of which his counsel had hinted,
Baron von Marhof took his departure at once.
Shirley met her brother on the veranda. His arrival had been unheralded
and she was frankly astonished to see him.
"Well, Captain Claiborne, you are a man of mystery. You will undoubtedly
be court-martialed for deserting—and after a long leave, too."
"I am on duty. Don't forget that you are the daughter of a diplomat."
"Humph! It doesn't follow, necessarily, that I should be stupid!"
"You couldn't be that, Shirley, dear."
"Thank you, Captain."
They discussed family matters for a few minutes; then she said, with
"Well, we must hope that your appearance will cause no battles to be
fought in our garden. There was enough fighting about here in old times."
"Take heart, little sister, I shall protect you. Oh, it's rather decent
of Armitage to have kept away from you, Shirley, after all that fuss
about the bogus baron."
"Which he wasn't—"
"Well, Sanderson says he couldn't have been, and the rogues' gallery
pictures don't resemble our friend at all."
"Ugh; don't speak of it!" and Shirley shrugged her shoulders. She
suffered her eyes to climb the slopes of the far hills. Then she looked
steadily at her brother and laughed.
"What do you and father and Baron von Marhof want with Mr. John
Armitage?" she asked.
"Guess again!" exclaimed Dick hurriedly. "Has that been the undercurrent
of your conversation? As I may have said before in this connection, you
disappoint me, Shirley. You seem unable to forget that fellow."
He paused, grew very serious, and bent forward in his wicker chair.
"Have you seen John Armitage since I saw him?"
"Impertinent! How dare you?"
"But Shirley, the question is fair!"
"Is it, Richard?"
"And I want you to answer me."
He rose and took several steps toward her. She stood against the railing
with her hands behind her back.
"Shirley, you are the finest girl in the world, but you wouldn't do
"This what, Dick?"
"You know what I mean. I ask you again—have you or have you not seen
Armitage since you came to the Springs?"
He spoke impatiently, his eyes upon hers. A wave of color swept her face,
and then her anger passed and she was her usual good-natured self.
"Baron von Marhof is a charming old gentleman, isn't he?"
"He's a regular old brick," declared Dick solemnly.
"It's a great privilege for a young man like you to know him, Dick, and
to have private talks with him and the governor—about subjects of deep
importance. The governor is a good deal of a man himself."
"I am proud to be his son," declared Dick, meeting Shirley's eyes
Shirley was silent for a moment, while Dick whistled a few bars from the
"A captain—a mere captain of the line—is not often plucked out of his
post when in good health and standing—after a long leave for foreign
travel—and sent away to visit his parents—and help entertain a
"Thanks for the 'mere captain,' dearest. You needn't rub it in."
"I wouldn't. But you are fair game—for your sister only! And you're
better known than you were before that little supper for the Spanish
attaché. It rather directed attention to you, didn't it, Dick?"
"It certainly did."
"And if you should meet Monsieur Chauvenet, who caused the trouble—"
"I have every intention of meeting him!"
"Of course, I shall meet him—some time, somewhere. He's at the Springs,
"Am I a hotel register that I should know? I haven't seen him for several
"What I should like to see," said Dick, "is a meeting between Armitage
and Chauvenet. That would really be entertaining. No doubt Chauvenet
could whip your mysterious suitor."
He looked away, with an air of unconcern, at the deepening shadows on the
"Dear Dick, I am quite sure that if you have been chosen out of all the
United States army to find Mr. John Armitage, you will succeed without
any help from me."
"That doesn't answer my question. You don't know what you are doing. What
if father knew that you were seeing this adventurer—"
"Oh, of course, if you should tell father! I haven't said that I had seen
Mr. Armitage; and you haven't exactly told me that you have a warrant for
his arrest; so we are quits, Captain. You had better look in at the
hotel dance to-night. There are girls there and to spare."
"When I find Mr. Armitage—"
"You seem hopeful, Captain. He may be on the high seas."
"I shall find him there—or here!"
"Good luck to you, Captain!"
There was the least flash of antagonism in the glance that passed between
them, and Captain Claiborne clapped his hands together impatiently and
went into the house.
THE FIRST RIDE TOGETHER
My mistress bent that brow of hers;
Those deep dark eyes where pride demurs
When pity would be softening through,
Fixed me a breathing-while or two
With life or death in the balance: right!
The blood replenished me again;
My last thought was at least not vain:
I and my mistress, side by side
Shall be together, breathe and ride,
So, one day more am I deified.
Who knows but the world may end to-night?
"We shall be leaving soon," said Armitage, half to himself and partly to
Oscar. "It is not safe to wait much longer."
He tossed a copy of the Neue Freie Presse on the table. Oscar had been
down to the Springs to explore, and brought back news, gained from the
stablemen at the hotel, that Chauvenet had left the hotel, presumably for
Washington. It was now Wednesday in the third week in April.
"Oscar, you were a clever boy and knew more than you were told. You have
asked me no questions. There may be an ugly row before I get out of these
hills. I should not think hard of you if you preferred to leave."
"I enlisted for the campaign—yes?—I shall wait until I am discharged."
And the little man buttoned his coat.
"Thank you, Oscar. In a few days more we shall probably be through with
this business. There's another man coming to get into the game—he
reached Washington yesterday, and we shall doubtless hear of him shortly.
Very likely they are both in the hills tonight. And, Oscar, listen
carefully to what I say."
The soldier drew nearer to Armitage, who sat swinging his legs on the
table in the bungalow.
"If I should die unshriven during the next week, here's a key that opens
a safety-vault box at the Bronx Loan and Trust Company, in New York. In
case I am disabled, go at once with the key to Baron von Marhof,
Ambassador of Austria-Hungary, and tell him—tell him—"
He had paused for a moment as though pondering his words with care; then
he laughed and went on.
"—tell him, Oscar, that there's a message in that safety box from a
gentleman who might have been King."
Oscar stared at Armitage blankly.
"That is the truth, Sergeant. The message once in the good Baron's hands
will undoubtedly give him a severe shock. You will do well to go to bed.
I shall take a walk before I turn in."
"You should not go out alone—"
"Don't trouble about me; I shan't go far. I think we are safe until two
gentlemen have met in Washington, discussed their affairs, and come down
into the mountains again. The large brute we caught the other night is
undoubtedly on watch near by; but he is harmless. Only a few days more
and we shall perform a real service in the world, Sergeant,—I feel it in
He took his hat from a bench by the door and went out upon the veranda.
The moon had already slipped down behind the mountains, but the stars
trooped brightly across the heavens. He drank deep breaths of the cool
air of the mountain night, and felt the dark wooing him with its calm and
peace. He returned for his cloak and walked into the wood. He followed
the road to the gate, and then turned toward the Port of Missing Men. He
had formed quite definite plans of what he should do in certain
emergencies, and he felt a new strength in his confidence that he should
succeed in the business that had brought him into the hills.
At the abandoned bridge he threw himself down and gazed off through a
narrow cut that afforded a glimpse of the Springs, where the electric
lights gleamed as one lamp. Shirley Claiborne was there in the valley and
he smiled with the thought of her; for soon—perhaps in a few hours—he
would be free to go to her, his work done; and no mystery or dangerous
task would henceforth lie between them.
He saw march before him across the night great hosts of armed men,
singing hymns of war; and again he looked upon cities besieged; still
again upon armies in long alignment waiting for the word that would bring
the final shock of battle. The faint roar of water far below added an
under-note of reality to his dream; and still he saw, as upon a tapestry
held in his hand, the struggles of kingdoms, the rise and fall of
empires. Upon the wide seas smoke floated from the guns of giant ships
that strove mightily in battle. He was thrilled by drum-beats and the cry
of trumpets. Then his mood changed and the mountains and calm stars
spoke an heroic language that was of newer and nobler things; and he
shook his head impatiently and gathered his cloak about him and rose.
"God said, 'I am tired of kings,'" he muttered. "But I shall keep my
pledge; I shall do Austria a service," he said; and then laughed a little
to himself. "To think that it may be for me to say!" And with this he
walked quite to the brink of the chasm and laid his hand upon the iron
cable from which swung the bridge.
"I shall soon be free," he said with a deep sigh; and looked across the
Then the cable under his hand vibrated slightly; at first he thought it
the night wind stealing through the vale and swaying the bridge above the
sheer depth. But still he felt the tingle of the iron rope in his clasp,
and his hold tightened and he bent forward to listen. The whole bridge
now audibly shook with the pulsation of a step—a soft, furtive step, as
of one cautiously groping a way over the unsubstantial flooring. Then
through the starlight he distinguished a woman's figure, and drew back. A
loose plank in the bridge floor rattled, and as she passed it freed
itself and he heard it strike the rocks faintly far below; but the figure
stole swiftly on, and he bent forward with a cry of warning on his lips,
and snatched away the light barricade that had been nailed across the
When he looked up, his words of rebuke, that had waited only for the
woman's security, died on his lips.
"Shirley!" he cried; and put forth both hands and lifted her to firm
A little sigh of relief broke from her. The bridge still swayed from her
weight; and the cables hummed like the wires of a harp; near at hand the
waterfall tumbled down through the mystical starlight.
"I did not know that dreams really came true," he said, with an awe in
his voice that the passing fear had left behind.
She began abruptly, not heeding his words.
"You must go away—at once—I came to tell you that you can not stay
"But it is unfair to accept any warning from you! You are too generous,
too kind,"—he began.
"It is not generosity or kindness, but this danger that follows you—it
is an evil thing and it must not find you here. It is impossible that
such a thing can be in America. But you must go—you must seek the law's
"How do you know I dare—"
"I don't know—that you dare!"
"I know that you have a great heart and that I love you," he said.
She turned quickly toward the bridge as though to retrace her steps.
"I can't be paid for a slight, a very slight service by fair words, Mr.
Armitage. If you knew why I came—"
"If I dared think or believe or hope—"
"You will dare nothing of the kind, Mr. Armitage!" she replied; "but I
will tell you, that I came out of ordinary Christian humanity. The idea
of friends, of even slight acquaintances, being assassinated in these
Virginia hills does not please me."
"How do you classify me, please—with friends or acquaintances?"
He laughed; then the gravity of what she was doing changed his tone.
"I am John Armitage. That is all you know, and yet you hazard your life
to warn me that I am in danger?"
"If you called yourself John Smith I should do exactly the same thing. It
makes not the slightest difference to me who or what you are."
"You are explicit!" he laughed. "I don't hesitate to tell you that I
value your life much higher than you do."
"That is quite unnecessary. It may amuse you to know that, as I am a
person of little curiosity, I am not the least concerned in the solution
of—of—what might be called the Armitage riddle."
"Oh; I'm a riddle, am I?"
"Not to me, I assure you! You are only the object of some one's enmity,
and there's something about murder that is—that isn't exactly nice! It's
She had begun seriously, but laughed at the absurdity of her last words.
"You are amazingly impersonal. You would save a man's life without caring
in the least what manner of man he may be."
"You put it rather flatly, but that's about the truth of the matter. Do
you know, I am almost afraid—"
"Not of me, I hope—"
"Certainly not. But it has occurred to me that you may have the conceit
of your own mystery, that you may take rather too much pleasure in
mystifying people as to your identity."
"That is unkind,—that is unkind," and he spoke without resentment, but
softly, with a falling cadence.
He suddenly threw down the hat he had held in his hand, and extended his
arms toward her.
"You are not unkind or unjust. You have a right to know who I am and what
I am doing here. It seems an impertinence to thrust my affairs upon you;
but if you will listen I should like to tell you—it will take but a
moment—why and what—"
"Please do not! As I told you, I have no curiosity in the matter. I can't
allow you to tell me; I really don't want to know!"
"I am willing that every one should know—to-morrow—or the day
She lifted her head, as though with the earnestness of some new thought.
"The day after may be too late. Whatever it is that you have done—"
"I have done nothing to be ashamed of,—I swear I have not!"
"Whatever it is,—and I don't care what it is,"—she said deliberately,
"—it is something quite serious, Mr. Armitage. My brother—"
She hesitated for a moment, then spoke rapidly.
"My brother has been detailed to help in the search for you. He is at
Storm Springs now."
"But he doesn't understand—"
"My brother is a soldier and it is not necessary for him to understand."
"And you have done this—you have come to warn me—"
"It does look pretty bad," she said, changing her tone and laughing a
little. "But my brother and I—we always had very different ideas about
you, Mr. Armitage. We hold briefs for different sides of the case."
"Oh, I'm a case, am I?" and he caught gladly at the suggestion of
lightness in her tone. "But I'd really like to know what he has to do
with my affairs."
"Then you will have to ask him."
"To be sure. But the government can hardly have assigned Captain
Claiborne to special duty at Monsieur Chauvenet's request. I swear to you
that I'm as much in the dark as you are."
"I'm quite sure an officer of the line would not be taken from his duties
and sent into the country on any frivolous errand. But perhaps an
Ambassador from a great power made the request,—perhaps, for example,
it was Baron von Marhof."
Armitage laughed aloud.
"I beg your pardon! I really beg your pardon! But is the Ambassador
looking for me?"
"I don't know, Mr. Armitage. You forget that I'm only a traitor and not a
"You are the noblest woman in the world," he said boldly, and his heart
leaped in him and he spoke on with a fierce haste. "You have made
sacrifices for me that no woman ever made before for a man—for a man she
did not know! And my life—whatever it is worth, every hour and second of
it, I lay down before you, and it is yours to keep or throw away. I
followed you half-way round the world and I shall follow you again and as
long as I live. And to-morrow—or the day after—I shall justify these
great kindnesses—this generous confidence; but to-night I have a work to
As they stood on the verge of the defile, by the bridge that swung out
from the cliff like a fairy structure, they heard far and faint the
whistle and low rumble of the night train south-bound from Washington;
and to both of them the sound urged the very real and practical world
from which for a little time they had stolen away.
"I must go back," said Shirley, and turned to the bridge and put her hand
on its slight iron frame; but he seized her wrists and held them tight.
"You have risked much for me, but you shall not risk your life again, in
my cause. You can not venture cross that bridge again."
She yielded without further parley and he dropped her wrists at once.
"Please say no more. You must not make me sorry I came. I must go,—I
should have gone back instantly."
"But not across that spider's web. You must go by the long road. I will
give you a horse and ride with you into the valley."
"It is much nearer by the bridge,—and I have my horse over there."
"We shall get the horse without trouble," he said, and she walked beside
him through the starlighted wood. As they crossed the open tract she
"This is the Port of Missing Men."
"Yes, here the lost legion made its last stand. There lie the graves of
some of them. It's a pretty story; I hope some day to know more of it
from some such authority as yourself."
"I used to ride here on my pony when I was a little girl, and dream about
the gray soldiers who would not surrender. It was as beautiful as an old
ballad. I'll wait here. Fetch the horse," she said, "and hurry, please."
"If there are explanations to make," he began, looking at her gravely.
"I am not a person who makes explanations, Mr. Armitage. You may meet me
at the gate."
As he ran toward the house he met Oscar, who had become alarmed at his
absence and was setting forth in search of him.
"Come; saddle both the horses, Oscar," Armitage commanded.
They went together to the barn and quickly brought out the horses.
"You are not to come with me, Oscar."
"A captain does not go alone; it should be the sergeant who is
"It is not an affair of war, Oscar, but quite another matter. There is a
saddled horse hitched to the other side of our abandoned bridge. Get it
and ride it to Judge Claiborne's stables; and ask and answer no
A moment later he was riding toward the gate, the led-horse following.
He flung himself down, adjusting the stirrups and gave her a hand into
the saddle. They turned silently into the mountain road.
"The bridge would have been simpler and quicker," said Shirley; "as it
is, I shall be late to the ball."
"I am contrite enough; but you don't make explanations."
"No; I don't explain; and you are to come back as soon as we strike the
valley. I always send gentlemen back at that point," she laughed, and
went ahead of him into the narrow road. She guided the strange horse with
the ease of long practice, skilfully testing his paces, and when they
came to a stretch of smooth road sent him flying at a gallop over the
trail. He had given her his own horse, a hunter of famous strain, and she
at once defined and maintained a distance between them that made talk
Her short covert riding-coat, buttoned close, marked clearly in the
starlight her erect figure; light wisps of loosened hair broke free under
her soft felt hat, and when she turned her head the wind caught the brim
and pressed it back from her face, giving a new charm to her profile.
He called after her once or twice at the start, but she did not pause or
reply; and he could not know what mood possessed her; or that once in
flight, in the security the horse gave her, she was for the first time
afraid of him. He had declared his love for her, and had offered to break
down the veil of mystery that made him a strange and perplexing figure.
His affairs, whatever their nature, were now at a crisis, he had said;
quite possibly she should never see him again after this ride. As she
waited at the gate she had known a moment of contrition and doubt as to
what she had done. It was not fair to her brother thus to give away his
secret to the enemy; but as the horse flew down the rough road her
blood leaped with the sense of adventure, and her pulse sang with the joy
of flight. Her thoughts were free, wild things; and she exulted in the
great starry vault and the cool heights over which she rode. Who was John
Armitage? She did not know or care, now that she had performed for him
her last service. Quite likely he would fade away on the morrow like a
mountain shadow before the sun; and the song in her heart to-night was
not love or anything akin to it, but only the joy of living.
Where the road grew difficult as it dipped sharply down into the valley
she suffered him perforce to ride beside her.
"You ride wonderfully," he said.
"The horse is a joy. He's a Pendragon—I know them in the dark. He must
have come from this valley somewhere. We own some of his cousins, I'm
"You are quite right. He's a Virginia horse. You are incomparable—no
other woman alive could have kept that pace. It's a brave woman who isn't
a slave to her hair-pins—I don't believe you spilled one."
She drew rein at the cross-roads.
"We part here. How shall I return Bucephalus?"
"Let me go to your own gate, please!"
"Not at all!" she said with decision.
"Then Oscar will pick him up. If you don't see him, turn the horse loose.
But my thanks—for oh, so many things!" he pleaded.
"To-morrow—or the day after—or never!"
She laughed and put out her hand; and when he tried to detain her she
spoke to the horse and flashed away toward home. He listened, marking her
flight until the shadows of the valley stole sound and sight from him;
then he turned back into the hills.
Near her father's estate Shirley came upon a man who saluted in the
manner of a soldier.
It was Oscar, who had crossed the bridge and ridden down by the nearer
"It is my captain's horse—yes?" he said, as the slim, graceful animal
whinnied and pawed the ground. "I found a horse at the broken bridge and
took it to your stable—yes?"
A moment later Shirley walked rapidly through the garden to the veranda
of her father's house, where her brother Dick paced back and forth
"Where have you been, Shirley?"
"But you went for a ride—the stable-men told me."
"I believe that is true, Captain."
"And your horse was brought home half an hour ago by a strange fellow who
saluted like a soldier when I spoke to him, but refused to understand my
"Well, they do say English isn't very well taught at West Point,
Captain," she replied, pulling off her gloves. "You oughtn't to blame the
polite stranger for his courtesy."
"I believe you have been up to some mischief, Shirley. If you are seeing
that man Armitage—"
"Bah! What are you going to do now?"
"I'm going to the ball with you as soon as I can change my gown. I
suppose father and mother have gone."
"They have—for which you should be grateful!"
Captain Claiborne lighted a cigar and waited.
THE COMEDY OF A SHEEPFOLD
A glance, a word—and joy or pain
Befalls; what was no more shall be.
How slight the links are in the chain
That binds us to our destiny!
Oscar's eye, roaming the landscape as he left Shirley Claiborne and
started for the bungalow, swept the upland Claiborne acres and rested
upon a moving shadow. He drew rein under a clump of wild cherry-trees at
the roadside and waited. Several hundred yards away lay the Claiborne
sheepfold, with a broad pasture rising beyond. A shadow is not a thing to
be ignored by a man trained in the niceties of scouting. Oscar,
satisfying himself that substance lay behind the shadow, dismounted and
tied his horse. Then he bent low over the stone wall and watched.
"It is the big fellow—yes? He is a stealer of sheep, as I might have
Zmai was only a dim figure against the dark meadow, which he was slowly
crossing from the side farthest from the Claiborne house. He stopped
several times as though uncertain of his whereabouts, and then clambered
over a stone wall that formed one side of the sheepfold, passed it and
strode on toward Oscar and the road.
"It is mischief that brings him from the hills—yes?" Oscar reflected,
glancing up and down the highway. Faintly—very softly through the night
he heard the orchestra at the hotel, playing for the dance. The little
soldier unbuttoned his coat, drew the revolver from his belt, and thrust
it into his coat pocket. Zmai was drawing nearer, advancing rapidly, now
that he had gained his bearings. At the wall Oscar rose suddenly and
greeted him in mockingly-courteous tones:
"Good evening, my friend; it's a fine evening for a walk."
Zmai drew back and growled.
"Let me pass," he said in his difficult German.
"It is a long wall; there should be no difficulty in passing. This
country is much freer than Servia—yes?" and Oscar's tone was pleasantly
Zmai put his hand on the wall and prepared to vault.
"A moment only, comrade. You seem to be in a hurry; it must be a business
that brings you from the mountains—yes?"
"I have no time for you," snarled the Servian. "Be gone!" and he shook
himself impatiently and again put his hand on the wall.
"One should not be in too much haste, comrade;" and Oscar thrust Zmai
back with his finger-tips.
The man yielded and ran a few steps out of the clump of trees and sought
to escape there. It was clear to Oscar that Zmai was not anxious to
penetrate closer to the Claiborne house, whose garden extended quite
near. He met Zmai promptly and again thrust him back.
"It is a message—yes?" asked Oscar.
"It is my affair," blurted the big fellow. "I mean no harm to you."
"It was you that tried the knife on my body. It is much quieter than
shooting. You have the knife—yes?"
The little soldier whipped out his revolver.
"In which pocket is the business carried? A letter undoubtedly. They do
not trust swine to carry words—Ah!"
Oscar dropped below the wall as Zmai struck at him; when he looked up a
moment later the Servian was running back over the meadow toward the
sheepfold. Oscar, angry at the ease with which the Servian had evaded
him, leaped the wall and set off after the big fellow. He was quite sure
that the man bore a written message, and equally sure that it must be of
importance to his employer. He clutched his revolver tight, brought up
his elbows for greater ease in running, and sped after Zmai, now a blur
on the starlighted sheep pasture.
The slope was gradual and a pretty feature of the landscape by day; but
it afforded a toilsome path for runners. Zmai already realized that he
had blundered in not forcing the wall; he was running uphill, with a
group of sheds, another wall, and a still steeper and rougher field
beyond. His bulk told against him; and behind him he heard the quick
thump of Oscar's feet on the turf. The starlight grew dimmer through
tracts of white scud; the surface of the pasture was rougher to the feet
than it appeared to the eye. A hound in the Claiborne stable-yard bayed
suddenly and the sound echoed from the surrounding houses and drifted off
toward the sheepfold. Then a noble music rose from the kennels.
Captain Claiborne, waiting for his sister on the veranda, looked toward
the stables, listening.
Zmai approached the sheep-sheds rapidly, with still a hundred yards to
traverse beyond them before he should reach the pasture wall. His rage at
thus being driven by a small man for whom he had great contempt did not
help his wind or stimulate the flight of his heavy legs, and he saw now
that he would lessen the narrowing margin between himself and his pursuer
if he swerved to the right to clear the sheds. He suddenly slackened his
pace, and with a vicious tug settled his wool hat more firmly upon his
small skull. He went now at a dog trot and Oscar was closing upon him
rapidly; then, quite near the sheds, Zmai wheeled about and charged his
pursuer headlong. At the moment he turned, Oscar's revolver bit keenly
into the night. Captain Claiborne, looking toward the slope, saw the
flash before the hounds at the stables answered the report.
At the shot Zmai cried aloud in his curiously small voice and clapped his
hands to his head.
"Stop; I want the letter!" shouted Oscar in German. The man turned
slowly, as though dazed, and, with a hand still clutching his head,
half-stumbled and half-ran toward the sheds, with Oscar at his heels.
Claiborne called to the negro stable-men to quiet the dogs, snatched a
lantern, and ran away through the pergola to the end of the garden and
thence into the pasture beyond. Meanwhile Oscar, thinking Zmai badly
hurt, did not fire again, but flung himself upon the fellow's broad
shoulders and down they crashed against the door of the nearest pen. Zmai
swerved and shook himself free while he fiercely cursed his foe. Oscar's
hands slipped on the fellow's hot blood that ran from a long crease in
the side of his head.
As they fell the pen door snapped free, and out into the starry pasture
thronged the frightened sheep.
"The letter—give me the letter!" commanded Oscar, his face close to the
Servian's. He did not know how badly the man was injured, but he was
anxious to complete his business and be off. Still the sheep came
huddling through the broken door, across the prostrate men, and scampered
away into the open. Captain Claiborne, running toward the fold with his
lantern and not looking for obstacles, stumbled over their bewildered
advance guard and plunged headlong into the gray fleeces. Meanwhile into
the pockets of his prostrate foe went Oscar's hands with no result. Then
he remembered the man's gesture in pulling the hat close upon his ears,
and off came the hat and with it a blood-stained envelope. The last sheep
in the pen trooped out and galloped toward its comrades.
Oscar, making off with the letter, plunged into the rear guard of the
sheep, fell, stumbled to his feet, and confronted Captain Claiborne as
that gentleman, in soiled evening dress, fumbled for his lantern and
swore in language unbecoming an officer and a gentleman.
"Damn the sheep!" roared Claiborne.
"It is sheep—yes?" and Oscar started to bolt.
The authority of the tone rang familiarly in Oscar's ears. He had, after
considerable tribulation, learned to stop short when an officer spoke to
him, and the gentleman of the sheepfold stood straight in the starlight
and spoke like an officer.
"What in the devil are you doing here, and who fired that shot?"
Oscar saluted and summoned his best English.
"It was an accident, sir."
"Why are you running and why did you fire? Understand you are a
trespasser here, and I am going to turn you over to the constable."
"There was a sheep-stealer—yes? He is yonder by the pens—and we had
some little fighting; but he is not dead—no?"
At that moment Claiborne's eyes caught sight of a burly figure rising and
threshing about by the broken pen door.
"That is the sheep-stealer," said Oscar. "We shall catch him—yes?"
Zmai peered toward them uncertainly for a moment; then turned abruptly
and ran toward the road. Oscar started to cut off his retreat, but
Claiborne caught the sergeant by the shoulder and flung him back.
"One of you at a time! They can turn the hounds on the other rascal.
What's that you have there? Give it to me—quick!"
"It's a piece of wool—"
But Claiborne snatched the paper from Oscar's hand, and commanded the man
to march ahead of him to the house. So over the meadow and through the
pergola they went, across the veranda and into the library. The power of
army discipline was upon Oscar; if Claiborne had not been an officer he
would have run for it in the garden. As it was, he was taxing his wits to
find some way out of his predicament. He had not the slightest idea as to
what the paper might be. He had risked his life to secure it, and now
the crumpled, blood-stained paper had been taken away from him by a
person whom it could not interest in any way whatever.
He blinked under Claiborne's sharp scrutiny as they faced each other in
"You are the man who brought a horse back to our stable an hour ago."
"You have been a soldier."
"In the cavalry, sir. I have my discharge at home."
"Where do you live?"
"I work as teamster in the coal mines—yes?—they are by Lamar, sir."
Claiborne studied Oscar's erect figure carefully.
"Let me see your hands," he commanded; and Oscar extended his palms.
"You are lying; you do not work in the coal mines. Your clothes are not
those of a miner; and a discharged soldier doesn't go to digging coal.
Stand where you are, and it will be the worse for you if you try to
Claiborne turned to the table with the envelope. It was not sealed, and
he took out the plain sheet of notepaper on which was written:
Not later than Friday.
Claiborne read and re-read these eight words; then he spoke bluntly to
"Where did you get this?"
"From the hat of the sheep-stealer up yonder."
"Who is he and where did he get it?"
"I don't know, sir. He was of Servia, and they are an ugly race—yes?"
"What were you going to do with the paper?"
"If I could read it—yes; I might know; but if Austria is in the paper,
then it is mischief; and maybe it would be murder; who knows?"
Claiborne looked frowningly from the paper to Oscar's tranquil eyes.
"Dick!" called Shirley from the hall, and she appeared in the doorway,
drawing on her gloves; but paused at seeing Oscar.
"Shirley, I caught this man in the sheepfold. Did you ever see him
"I think not, Dick."
"It was he that brought your horse home."
"To be sure it is! I hadn't recognized him. Thank you very much;" and she
smiled at Oscar.
Dick frowned fiercely and referred again to the paper.
"Where is Monsieur Chauvenet—have you any idea?"
"If he isn't at the hotel or in Washington, I'm sure I don't know. If we
are going to the dance—"
"Plague the dance! I heard a shot in the sheep pasture a bit ago and ran
out to find this fellow in a row with another man, who got away."
"I heard the shot and the dogs from my window. You seem to have been in a
fuss, too, from the looks of your clothes;" and Shirley sat down and
smoothed her gloves with provoking coolness.
Dick sent Oscar to the far end of the library with a gesture, and held up
the message for Shirley to read.
"Don't touch it!" he exclaimed; and when she nodded her head in sign that
she had read it, he said, speaking earnestly and rapidly:
"I suppose I have no right to hold this message; I must send the man to
the hotel telegraph office with it. But where is Chauvenet? What is his
business in the valley? And what is the link between Vienna and these
"Don't you know what you are doing here?" she asked, and he flushed.
"I know what, but not why!" he blurted irritably; "but that's enough!"
"You know that Baron von Marhof wants to find Mr. John Armitage; but you
don't know why."
"I have my orders and I'm going to find him, if it takes ten years."
Shirley nodded and clasped her fingers together. Her elbows resting on
the high arms of her chair caused her cloak to flow sweepingly away from
her shoulders. At the end of the room, with his back to the portieres,
stood Oscar, immovable. Claiborne reexamined the message, and extended it
again to Shirley.
"There's no doubt of that being Chauvenet's writing, is there?"
"I think not, Dick. I have had notes from him now and then in that hand.
He has taken pains to write this with unusual distinctness."
The color brightened in her cheeks suddenly as she looked toward Oscar.
The curtains behind him swayed, but so did the curtain back of her. A
May-time languor had crept into the heart of April, and all the windows
were open. The blurred murmurs of insects stole into the house. Oscar,
half-forgotten by his captor, heard a sound in the window behind him and
a hand touched him through the curtain.
Claiborne crumpled the paper impatiently.
"Shirley, you are against me! I believe you have seen Armitage here, and
I want you to tell me what you know of him. It is not like you to shield
a scamp of an adventurer—an unknown, questionable character. He has
followed you to this valley and will involve you in his affairs without
the slightest compunction, if he can. It's most infamous, outrageous, and
when I find him I'm going to thrash him within an inch of his life before
I turn him over to Marhof!"
Shirley laughed for the first time in their interview, and rose and
placed her hands on her brother's shoulders.
"Do it, Dick! He's undoubtedly a wicked, a terribly wicked and dangerous
"I tell you I'll find him," he said tensely, putting up his hands to
hers, where they rested on his shoulders. She laughed and kissed him, and
when her hands fell to her side the message was in her gloved fingers.
"I'll help you, Dick," she said, buttoning her glove.
"That's like you, Shirley."
"If you want to find Mr. Armitage—"
"Of course I want to find him—" His voice rose to a roar.
"Then turn around; Mr. Armitage is just behind you!"
"Yes; I needed my man for other business," said Armitage, folding his
arms, "and as you were very much occupied I made free with the rear
veranda and changed places with him."
Claiborne walked slowly toward him, the anger glowing in his face.
"You are worse than I thought—eavesdropper, housebreaker!"
"Yes; I am both those things, Captain Claiborne. But I am also in a great
hurry. What do you want with me?"
"You are a rogue, an impostor—"
"We will grant that," said Armitage quietly. "Where is your warrant for
"That will be forthcoming fast enough! I want you to understand that I
have a personal grievance against you."
"It must wait until day after to-morrow, Captain Claiborne. I will come
to you here or wherever you say on the day after to-morrow."
Armitage spoke with a deliberate sharp decision that was not the tone of
a rogue or a fugitive. As he spoke he advanced until he faced Claiborne
in the center of the room. Shirley still stood by the window, holding the
soiled paper in her hand. She had witnessed the change of men at the end
of the room; it had touched her humor; it had been a joke on her brother;
but she felt that the night had brought a crisis: she could not continue
to shield a man of whom she knew nothing save that he was the object of a
curious enmity. Her idle prayer that her own land's commonplace
sordidness might be obscured by the glamour of Old World romance came
back to her; she had been in touch with an adventure that was certainly
proving fruitful of diversion. The coup de théâtre by which Armitage
had taken the place of his servant had amused her for a moment; but she
was vexed and angry now that he had dared come again to the house.
"You are under arrest, Mr. Armitage; I must detain you here," said
"In America—in free Virginia—without legal process?" asked Armitage,
"You are a housebreaker, that is enough. Shirley, please go!"
"You were not detached from the army to find a housebreaker. But I will
make your work easy for you—day after to-morrow I will present myself to
you wherever you say. But now—that cable message which my man found in
your sheep pasture is of importance. I must trouble you to read it to
"No!" shouted Claiborne.
Armitage drew a step nearer.
"You must take my word for it that matters of importance, of far-reaching
consequence, hang upon that message. I must know what it is."
"You certainly have magnificent cheek! I am going to take that paper to
Baron von Marhof at once."
"Do so!—but I must know first! Baron von Marhof and I are on the same
side in this business, but he doesn't understand it, and it is clear you
don't. Give me the message!"
He spoke commandingly, his voice thrilling with earnestness, and jerked
out his last words with angry impatience. At the same moment he and
Claiborne stepped toward each other, with their hands clenched at their
"I don't like your tone, Mr. Armitage!"
"I don't like to use that tone, Captain Claiborne."
Shirley walked quickly to the table and put down the message. Then, going
to the door, she paused as though by an afterthought, and repeated quite
slowly the words:
"Winkelried—Vienna—not later than Friday—Chauvenet."
"Shirley!" roared Claiborne.
John Armitage bowed to the already vacant doorway; then bounded into the
hall out upon the veranda and ran through the garden to the side gate,
where Oscar waited.
Half an hour later Captain Claiborne, after an interview with Baron von
Marhof, turned his horse toward the hills.
THE PRISONER AT THE BUNGALOW
So, exultant of heart, with front toward the bridges of
Sat they the whole night long, and the fires that they kindled
E'en as the stars in her train, with the moon as she walketh
Blaze forth bright in the heavens on nights when the welkin
Nights when the mountain peaks, their jutting cliffs, and
All are disclosed to the eye, and above them the fathomless
Opens to star after star, and glad is the heart of the shepherd—
Such and so many the fires 'twixt the ships and the streams
of the Xanthus
Kept ablaze by the Trojans in front of the darkening city.
Over the plains were burning a thousand fires, and beside
Each sat fifty men in the firelight glare; and the horses,
Champing their fodder and barley white, and instant for
Stood by the chariot-side and awaited the glory of morning.
The Iliad: Translation of Prentiss Cummings.
"In Vienna, Friday!"
"There should be great deeds, my dear Jules;" and Monsieur Durand
adjusted the wick of a smoking brass lamp that hung suspended from the
ceiling of a room of the inn, store and post-office at Lamar.
"Meanwhile, this being but Wednesday, we have our work to do."
"Which is not so simple after all, as one studies the situation. Mr.
Armitage is here, quite within reach. We suspect him of being a person of
distinction. He evinced unusual interest in a certain document that was
once in your own hands—"
"Our own hands, if you would be accurate!"
"You are captious; but granted so, we must get them back. The gentleman
is dwelling in a bungalow on the mountain side, for greater convenience
in watching events and wooing the lady of his heart's desire. We employed
a clumsy clown to put him out of the world; but he dies hard, and now we
have got to get rid of him. But if he hasn't the papers on his clothes
then you have this pleasant scheme for kidnapping him, getting him down
to your steamer at Baltimore and cruising with him until he is ready to
come to terms. The American air has done much for your imagination, my
dear Jules; or possibly the altitude of the hills has over-stimulated
"You are not the fool you look, my dear Durand. You have actually taken a
pretty fair grasp of the situation."
"But the adorable young lady, the fair Mademoiselle Claiborne,—what
becomes of her in these transactions?"
"That is none of your affair," replied Chauvenet, frowning. "I am quite
content with my progress. I have not finished in that matter."
"Neither, it would seem, has Mr. John Armitage! But I am quite well
satisfied to leave it to you. In a few days we shall know much more than
we do now. I should be happier if you were in charge in Vienna. A false
step there—ugh! I hesitate to think of the wretched mess there would
"Trust Winkelried to do his full duty. You must not forget that the acute
Stroebel now sleeps the long sleep and that many masses have already been
said for the repose of his intrepid soul."
"The splendor of our undertaking is enough to draw his ghost from the
grave. Ugh! By this time Zmai should have filed our cablegram at the
Springs and got your mail at the hotel. I hope you have not misplaced
your confidence in the operator there. Coming back, our giant must pass
"Trust him to pass it! His encounters with Armitage have not been to his
The two men were dressed in rough clothes, as for an outing, and in spite
of the habitual trifling tone of their talk, they wore a serious air.
Durand's eyes danced with excitement and he twisted his mustache
nervously. Chauvenet had gone to Washington to meet Durand, to get from
him news of the progress of the conspiracy in Vienna, and, not least, to
berate him for crossing the Atlantic. "I do not require watching, my dear
Durand," he had said.
"A man in love, dearest Jules, sometimes forgets;" but they had gone into
the Virginia hills amicably and were quartered with the postmaster. They
waited now for Zmai, whom they had sent to the Springs with a message and
to get Chauvenet's mail. Armitage, they had learned, used the Lamar
telegraph office and they had decided to carry their business elsewhere.
While they waited in the bare upper room of the inn for Zmai, the big
Servian tramped up the mountain side with an aching head and a heart
heavy with dread. The horse he had left tied in a thicket when he plunged
down through the Claiborne place had broken free and run away; so that he
must now trudge back afoot to report to his masters. He had made a mess
of his errands and nearly lost his life besides. The bullet from Oscar's
revolver had cut a neat furrow in his scalp, which was growing sore and
stiff as it ceased bleeding. He would undoubtedly be dealt with harshly
by Chauvenet and Durand, but he knew that the sooner he reported his
calamities the better; so he stumbled toward Lamar, pausing at times to
clasp his small head in his great hands. When he passed the wild tangle
that hid Armitage's bungalow he paused and cursed the two occupants in
his own dialect with a fierce vile tongue. It was near midnight when he
reached the tavern and climbed the rickety stairway to the room where the
two men waited.
Chauvenet opened the door at his approach, and they cried aloud as the
great figure appeared before them and the lamplight fell upon his dark
"The letters!" snapped Chauvenet.
"Is the message safe?" demanded Durand.
"Lost; lost; they are lost! I lost my way and he nearly killed me,—the
little soldier,—as I crossed a strange field."
When they had jerked the truth from Zmai, Chauvenet flung open the door
and bawled through the house for the innkeeper.
"Horses; saddle our two horses quick—and get another if you have to
steal it," he screamed. Then he turned into the room to curse Zmai, while
Durand with a towel and water sought to ease the ache in the big fellow's
head and cleanse his face.
"So that beggarly little servant did it, did he? He stole that paper I
had given you, did he? What do you imagine I brought you to this country
for if you are to let two stupid fools play with you as though you were a
The Servian, on his knees before Durand, suffered the torrent of abuse
meekly. He was a scoundrel, hired to do murder; and his vilification by
an angered employer did not greatly trouble him, particularly since he
understood little of Chauvenet's rapid German.
In half an hour Chauvenet was again in a fury, learning at Lamar that the
operator had gone down the road twenty miles to a dance and would not be
back until morning.
The imperturbable Durand shivered in the night air and prodded Chauvenet
"We have no time to lose. That message must go tonight. You may be sure
Monsieur Armitage will not send it for us. Come, we've got to go down to
They rode away in the starlight, leaving the postmaster alarmed and
wondering. Chauvenet and Durand were well mounted on horses that
Chauvenet had sent into the hills in advance of his own coming. Zmai rode
grim and silent on a clumsy plow-horse, which was the best the publican
could find for him. The knife was not the only weapon he had known in
Servia; he carried a potato sack across his saddle-bow. Chauvenet and
Durand sent him ahead to set the pace with his inferior mount. They
talked together in low tones as they followed.
"He is not so big a fool, this Armitage," remarked Durand. "He is quite
deep, in fact. I wish it were he we are trying to establish on a throne,
and not that pitiful scapegrace in Vienna."
"I gave him his chance down there in the valley and he laughed at me. It
is quite possible that he is not a fool; and quite certain that he is not
"Then he would not be a safe king. Our young friend in Vienna is a good
deal of a fool and altogether a coward. We shall have to provide him with
a spine at his coronation."
"If we fail—" began Chauvenet.
"You suggest a fruitful but unpleasant topic. If we fail we shall be
fortunate if we reach the hospitable shores of the Argentine for future
residence. Paris and Vienna would not know us again. If Winkelried
succeeds in Vienna and we lose here, where do we arrive?"
"We arrive quite where Mr. Armitage chooses to land us. He is a gentleman
of resources; he has money; he laughs cheerfully at misadventures; he has
had you watched by the shrewdest eyes in Europe,—and you are considered
a hard man to keep track of, my dear Durand. And not least important,—he
has to-night snatched away that little cablegram that was the signal to
Winkelried to go ahead. He is a very annoying and vexatious person, this
Armitage. Even Zmai, whose knife made him a terror in Servia, seems
unable to cope with him."
"And the fair daughter of the valley—"
"Pish! We are not discussing the young lady."
"I can understand how unpleasant the subject must be to you, my dear
Jules. What do you imagine she knows of Monsieur Armitage? If he is
the man we think he is and a possible heir to a great throne it would be
impossible for her to marry him."
"His tastes are democratic. In Montana he is quite popular."
Durand flung away his cigarette and laughed suddenly.
"Has it occurred to you that this whole affair is decidedly amusing? Here
we are, in one of the free American states, about to turn a card that
will dethrone a king, if we are lucky. And here is a man we are trying to
get out of the way—a man we might make king if he were not a fool! In
America! It touches my sense of humor, my dear Jules!"
An exclamation from Zmai arrested them. The Servian jerked up his horse
and they were instantly at his side. They had reached a point near the
hunting preserve in the main highway. It was about half-past one o'clock,
an hour at which Virginia mountain roads are usually free of travelers,
and they had been sending their horses along as briskly as the uneven
roads and the pace of Zmai's laggard beast permitted.
The beat of a horse's hoofs could be heard quite distinctly in the road
ahead of them. The road tended downward, and the strain of the ascent was
marked in the approaching animal's walk; in a moment the three men heard
the horse's quick snort of satisfaction as it reached leveler ground;
then scenting the other animals, it threw up its head and neighed
In the dusk of starlight Durand saw Zmai dismount and felt the Servian's
big rough hand touch his in passing the bridle of his horse.
"Wait!" said the Servian.
The horse of the unknown paused, neighed again, and refused to go
farther. A man's deep voice encouraged him in low tones. The horses of
Chauvenet's party danced about restlessly, responsive to the nervousness
of the strange beast before them.
"Who goes there?"
The stranger's horse was quiet for an instant and the rider had forced
him so near that the beast's up-reined head and the erect shoulders of
the horseman were quite clearly defined.
"Who goes there?" shouted the rider; while Chauvenet and Durand bent
their eyes toward him, their hands tight on their bridles, and listened,
waiting for Zmai. They heard a sudden rush of steps, the impact of his
giant body as he flung himself upon the shrinking horse; and then a cry
of alarm and rage. Chauvenet slipped down and ran forward with the quick,
soft glide of a cat and caught the bridle of the stranger's horse. The
horseman struggled in Zmai's great arms, and his beast plunged wildly. No
words passed. The rider had kicked his feet out of the stirrups and
gripped the horse hard with his legs. His arms were flung up to protect
his head, over which Zmai tried to force the sack.
"The knife?" bawled the Servian.
"No!" answered Chauvenet.
"The devil!" yelled the rider; and dug his spurs into the rearing beast's
Chauvenet held on valiantly with both hands to the horse's head. Once the
frightened beast swung him clear of the ground. A few yards distant
Durand sat on his own horse and held the bridles of the others. He
soothed the restless animals in low tones, the light of his cigarette
shaking oddly in the dark with the movement of his lips.
The horse ceased to plunge; Zmai held its rider erect with his left arm
while the right drew the sack down over the head and shoulders of the
"Tie him," said Chauvenet; and Zmai buckled a strap about the man's arms
and bound them tight.
The dust in the bag caused the man inside to cough, but save for the one
exclamation he had not spoken. Chauvenet and Durand conferred in low
tones while Zmai drew out a tether strap and snapped it to the curb-bit
of the captive's horse.
"The fellow takes it pretty coolly," remarked Durand, lighting a fresh
cigarette. "What are you going to do with him ?"
"We will take him to his own place—it is near—and coax the papers out
of him; then we'll find a precipice and toss him over. It is a simple
Zmai handed Chauvenet the revolver he had taken from the silent man on
"I am ready," he reported.
"Go ahead; we follow;" and they started toward the bungalow, Zmai riding
beside the captive and holding fast to the led-horse. Where the road was
smooth they sent the horses forward at a smart trot; but the captive
accepted the gait; he found the stirrups again and sat his saddle
straight. He coughed now and then, but the hemp sack was sufficiently
porous to give him a little air. As they rode off his silent submission
caused Durand to ask:
"Are you sure of the man, my dear Jules?"
"Undoubtedly. I didn't get a square look at him, but he's a gentleman by
the quality of his clothes. He is the same build; it is not a plow-horse,
but a thoroughbred he's riding. The gentlemen of the valley are in their
beds long ago."
"Would that we were in ours! The spring nights are cold in these hills!"
"The work is nearly done. The little soldier is yet to reckon with; but
we are three; and Zmai did quite well with the potato sack."
Chauvenet rode ahead and addressed a few words to Zmai.
"The little man must be found before we finish. There must be no mistake
They exercised greater caution as they drew nearer the wood that
concealed the bungalow, and Chauvenet dismounted, opened the gate and set
a stone against it to insure a ready egress; then they walked their
horses up the driveway.
Admonished by Chauvenet, Durand threw away his cigarette with a sigh.
"You are convinced this is the wise course, dearest Jules?"
"Be quiet and keep your eyes open. There's the house."
He halted the party, dismounted and crept forward to the bungalow. He
circled the veranda, found the blinds open, and peered into the long
lounging-room, where a few embers smoldered in the broad fireplace, and
an oil lamp shed a faint light. One man they held captive; the other was
not in sight; Chauvenet's courage rose at the prospect of easy victory.
He tried the door, found it unfastened, and with his revolver ready in
his hand, threw it open. Then he walked slowly toward the table, turned
the wick of the lamp high, and surveyed the room carefully. The doors of
the rooms that opened from the apartment stood ajar; he followed the wall
cautiously, kicked them open, peered into the room where Armitage's
things were scattered about, and found his iron bed empty. Then he walked
quickly to the veranda and summoned the others.
"Bring him in!" he said, without taking his eyes from the room.
A moment later Zmai had lifted the silent rider to the veranda, and flung
him across the threshold. Durand, now aroused, fastened the horses to the
Chauvenet caught up some candles from the mantel and lighted them.
"Open the trunks in those rooms and be quick; I will join you in a
moment;" and as Durand turned into Armitage's room, Chauvenet peered
again into the other chambers, called once or twice in a low tone; then
turned to Zmai and the prisoner.
"Take off the bag," he commanded.
Chauvenet studied the lines of the erect, silent figure as Zmai loosened
the strap, drew off the bag, and stepped back toward the table on which
he had laid his revolver for easier access.
"Mr. John Armitage—"
Chauvenet, his revolver half raised, had begun an ironical speech, but
the words died on his lips. The man who stood blinking from the sudden
burst of light was not John Armitage, but Captain Claiborne.
The perspiration on Claiborne's face had made a paste of the dirt from
the potato sack, which gave him a weird appearance. He grinned broadly,
adding a fantastic horror to his visage which caused Zmai to leap back
toward the door. Then Chauvenet cried aloud, a cry of anger, which
brought Durand into the hall at a jump. Claiborne shrugged his shoulders,
shook the blood into his numbed arms; then turned his besmeared face
toward Durand and laughed. He laughed long and loud as the stupefaction
deepened on the faces of the two men.
The objects which Durand held caused Claiborne to stare, and then he
laughed again. Durand had caught up from a hook in Armitage's room a
black cloak, so long that it trailed at length from his arms, its red
lining glowing brightly where it lay against the outer black. From the
folds of the cloak a sword, plucked from a trunk, dropped upon the floor
with a gleam of its bright scabbard. In his right hand he held a silver
box of orders, and as his arm fell at the sight of Claiborne, the gay
ribbons and gleaming pendants flashed to the floor.
"It is not Armitage; we have made a mistake!" muttered Chauvenet tamely,
his eyes falling from Claiborne's face to the cloak, the sword, the
tangled heap of ribbons on the floor.
Durand stepped forward with an oath.
"Who is the man?" he demanded.
"It is my friend Captain Claiborne. We owe the gentleman an apology—"
"You put it mildly," cried Claiborne in English, his back to the
fireplace, his arms folded, and the smile gone from his face. "I don't
know your companions, Monsieur Chauvenet, but you seem inclined to the
gentle arts of kidnapping and murder. Really, Monsieur—"
"It is a mistake! It is unpardonable! I can only offer you
reparation—anything you ask," stammered Chauvenet.
"You are looking for John Armitage, are you?" demanded Claiborne hotly,
without heeding Chauvenet's words. "Mr. Armitage is not here; he was in
Storm Springs to-night, at my house. He is a brave gentleman, and I warn
you that you will injure him at your peril. You may kill me here or
strangle me or stick a knife into me, if you will be better satisfied
that way; or you may kill him and hide his body in these hills; but, by
God, there will be no escape for you! The highest powers of my government
know that I am here; Baron von Marhof knows that I am here. I have an
engagement to breakfast with Baron von Marhof at his house at eight
o'clock in the morning, and if I am not there every agency of the
government will be put to work to find you, Mr. Jules Chauvenet, and
these other scoundrels who travel with you."
"You are violent, my dear sir—" began Durand, whose wits were coming
back to him much quicker than Chauvenet's.
"I am not as violent as I shall be if I get a troop of cavalry from Port
Myer down here and hunt you like rabbits through the hills. And I advise
you to cable Winkelried at Vienna that the game is all off!"
Chauvenet suddenly jumped toward the table, the revolver still swinging
at arm's length.
"You know too much!"
"I don't know any more than Armitage, and Baron von Marhof and my father,
and the Honorable Secretary of State, to say nothing of the equally
Honorable Secretary of War."
Claiborne stretched out his arms and rested them along the shelf of the
mantel, and smiled with a smile which the dirt on his face weirdly
accented. His hat was gone, his short hair rumpled; he dug the bricks of
the hearth with the toe of his riding-boot as an emphasis of his
contentment with the situation.
"You don't understand the gravity of our labors. The peace of a great
Empire is at stake in this business. We are engaged on a patriotic
mission of great importance."
It was Durand who spoke. Outside, Zmai held the horses in readiness.
"You are a fine pair of patriots, I swear," said Claiborne. "What in the
devil do you want with John Armitage?"
"He is a menace to a great throne—an impostor—a—"
Chauvenet's eyes swept with a swift glance the cloak, the sword, the
scattered orders. Claiborne followed the man's gaze, but he looked
quickly toward Durand and Chauvenet, not wishing them to see that the
sight of these things puzzled him.
"Pretty trinkets! But such games as yours, these pretty baubles—are not
for these free hills."
"Where is John Armitage?"
Chauvenet half raised his right arm as he spoke and the steel of his
Claiborne did not move; he smiled upon them, recrossed his legs, and
settled his back more comfortably against the mantel-shelf.
"I really forget where he said he would be at this hour. He and his man
may have gone to Washington, or they may have started for Vienna, or they
may be in conference with Baron von Marhof at my father's, or they may be
waiting for you at the gate. The Lord only knows!"
"Come; we waste time," said Durand in French. "It is a trap. We must not
be caught here!"
"Yes; you'd better go," said Claiborne, yawning and settling himself in a
new pose with his back still to the fireplace. "I don't believe Armitage
will care if I use his bungalow occasionally during my sojourn in the
hills; and if you will be so kind as to leave my horse well tied out
there somewhere I believe I'll go to bed. I'm sorry, Mr. Chauvenet, that
I can't just remember who introduced you to me and my family. I owe that
person a debt of gratitude for bringing so pleasant a scoundrel to my
He stepped to the table, his hands in his pockets, and bowed to them.
"Good night, and clear out," and he waved his arm in dismissal.
"Come!" said Durand peremptorily, and as Chauvenet hesitated, Durand
seized him by the arm and pulled him toward the door.
As they mounted and turned to go they saw Claiborne standing at the
table, lighting a cigarette from one of the candles. He walked to the
veranda and listened until he was satisfied that they had gone; then went
in and closed the door. He picked up the cloak and sword and restored the
insignia to the silver box. The sword he examined with professional
interest, running his hand over the embossed scabbard, then drawing the
bright blade and trying its balance and weight.
As he held it thus, heavy steps sounded at the rear of the house, a door
was flung open and Armitage sprang into the room with Oscar close at his
THE VERGE OF MORNING
O to mount again where erst I haunted;
Where the old red hills are bird-enchanted,
And the low green meadows
Bright with sward;
And when even dies, the million-tinted,
And the night has come, and planets glinted,
Lo! the valley hollow,
"I hope you like my things, Captain Claiborne!"
Armitage stood a little in advance, his hand on Oscar's arm to check the
rush of the little man.
Claiborne sheathed the sword, placed it on the table and folded his arms.
"Yes; they are very interesting."
"And those ribbons and that cloak,—I assure you they are of excellent
quality. Oscar, put a blanket on this gentleman's horse. Then make some
coffee and wait."
As Oscar closed the door, Armitage crossed to the table, flung down his
gauntlets and hat and turned to Claiborne.
"I didn't expect this of you; I really didn't expect it. Now that you
have found me, what in the devil do you want?"
"I don't know—I'll be damned if I know!" and Claiborne grinned, so
that the grotesque lines of his soiled countenance roused Armitage's
"You'd better find out damned quick! This is my busy night and if you
can't explain yourself I'm going to tie you hand and foot and drop you
down the well till I finish my work. Speak up! What are you doing on my
grounds, in my house, at this hour of the night, prying into my affairs
and rummaging in my trunks?"
"I didn't come here, Armitage; I was brought—with a potato sack over
my head. There's the sack on the floor, and any of its dirt that isn't on
my face must be permanently settled in my lungs."
"What are you doing up here in the mountains—why are you not at your
station? The potato-sack story is pretty flimsy. Do better than that and
"Armitage"—as he spoke, Claiborne walked to the table and rested his
finger-tips on it—"Armitage, you and I have made some mistakes during
our short acquaintance. I will tell you frankly that I have blown hot and
cold about you as I never did before with another man in my life. On the
ship coming over and when I met you in Washington I thought well of you.
Then your damned cigarette case shook my confidence in you there at the
Army and Navy Club that night; and now—"
"Damn my cigarette case!" bellowed Armitage, clapping his hand to his
pocket to make sure of it.
"That's what I say! But it was a disagreeable situation,—you must admit
"It was, indeed!"
"It requires some nerve for a man to tell a circumstantial story like
that to a tableful of gentlemen, about one of the gentlemen!"
"No doubt of it whatever, Mr. Claiborne."
Armitage unbuttoned his coat, and jerked back the lapels impatiently.
"And I knew as much about Monsieur Chauvenet as I did about you, or as I
do about you!"
"What you know of him, Mr. Claiborne, is of no consequence. And what you
don't know about me would fill a large volume. How did you get here, and
what do you propose doing, now that you are here? I am in a hurry and
have no time to waste. If I can't get anything satisfactory out of you
within two minutes I'm going to chuck you back into the sack."
"I came up here in the hills to look for you—you—you—! Do you
understand?" began Claiborne angrily. "And as I was riding along the road
about two miles from here I ran into three men on horseback. When I
stopped to parley with them and find out what they were doing, they crept
up on me and grabbed my horse and put that sack over my head. They had
mistaken me for you; and they brought me here, into your house, and
pulled the sack off and were decidedly disagreeable at finding they had
made a mistake. One of them had gone in to ransack your effects and when
they pulled off the bag and disclosed the wrong hare, he dropped his loot
on the floor; and then I told them to go to the devil, and I hope they've
done it! When you came in I was picking up your traps, and I submit that
the sword is handsome enough to challenge anybody's eye. And there's all
there is of the story, and I don't care a damn whether you believe it or
Their eyes were fixed upon each other in a gaze of anger and resentment.
Suddenly, Armitage's tense figure relaxed; the fierce light in his eyes
gave way to a gleam of humor and he laughed long and loud.
"Your face—your face, Claiborne; it's funny. It's too funny for any use.
When your teeth show it's something ghastly. For God's sake go in there
and wash your face!"
He made a light in his own room and plied Claiborne with towels, while he
continued to break forth occasionally in fresh bursts of laughter. When
they went into the hall both men were grave.
Armitage put out his hand and Claiborne took it in a vigorous clasp.
"You don't know who I am or what I am; and I haven't got time to tell
you now. It's a long story; and I have much to do, but I swear to you,
Claiborne, that my hands are clean; that the game I am playing is no
affair of my own, but a big thing that I have pledged myself to carry
through. I want you to ride down there in the valley and keep Marhof
quiet for a few hours; tell him I know more of what's going on in
Vienna than he does, and that if he will only sit in a rocking-chair
and tell you fairy stories till morning, we can all be happy. Is it a
bargain—or—must I still hang your head down the well till I get
"Marhof may go to the devil! He's a lot more mysterious than even you,
Armitage. These fellows that brought me up here to kill me in the belief
that I was you can not be friends of Marhof's cause."
"They are not; I assure you they are not! They are blackguards of the
"I believe you, Armitage."
"Thank you. Now your horse is at the door—run along like a good fellow."
Armitage dived into his room, caught up a cartridge belt and reappeared
buckling it on.
"Oscar!" he yelled, "bring in that coffee—with cups for two."
He kicked off his boots and drew on light shoes and leggings.
"Light marching orders for the rough places. Confound that buckle."
He rose and stamped his feet to settle the shoes.
"Your horse is at the door; that rascal Oscar will take off the blanket
for you. There's a bottle of fair whisky in the cupboard, if you'd like a
nip before starting. Bless me! I forgot the coffee! There on the table,
Oscar, and never mind the chairs," he added as Oscar came in with a tin
pot and the cups on a piece of plank.
"I'm taking the rifle, Oscar; and be sure those revolvers are loaded with
the real goods."
There was a great color in Armitage's face as he strode about preparing
to leave. His eyes danced with excitement, and between the sentences that
he jerked out half to himself he whistled a few bars from a comic opera
that was making a record run on Broadway. His steps rang out vigorously
from the bare pine floor.
"Watch the windows, Oscar; you may forgive a general anything but a
surprise—isn't that so, Claiborne?—and those fellows must be pretty mad
by this time. Excuse the coffee service, Claiborne. We always pour the
sugar from the paper bag—original package, you understand. And see if
you can't find Captain Claiborne a hat, Oscar—"
With a tin-cup of steaming coffee in his hand he sat on the table
dangling his legs, his hat on the back of his head, the cartridge belt
strapped about his waist over a brown corduroy hunting-coat. He was in a
high mood, and chaffed Oscar as to the probability of their breakfasting
another morning. "If we die, Oscar, it shall be in a good cause!"
He threw aside his cup with a clatter, jumped down and caught the sword
from the table, examined it critically, then sheathed it with a click.
Claiborne had watched Armitage with a growing impatience; he resented the
idea of being thus ignored; then he put his hand roughly on Armitage's
Armitage, intent with his own affairs, had not looked at Claiborne for
several minutes, but he glanced at him now as though just recalling a
"Lord, man! I didn't mean to throw you into the road! There's a clean bed
in there that you're welcome to—go in and get some sleep."
"I'm not going into the valley," roared Claiborne, "and I'm not going to
bed; I'm going with you, damn you!"
"But bless your soul, man, you can't go with me; you are as ignorant as a
babe of my affairs, and I'm terribly busy and have no time to talk to
you. Oscar, that coffee scalded me. Claiborne, if only I had time, you
know, but under existing circumstances—"
"I repeat that I'm going with you. I don't know why I'm in this row, and
I don't know what it's all about, but I believe what you say about it;
and I want you to understand that I can't be put in a bag like a prize
potato without taking a whack at the man who put me there."
"But if you should get hurt, Claiborne, it would spoil my plans. I never
could face your family again," said Armitage earnestly. "Take your horse
"I'm going back to the valley when you do."
"Humph! Drink your coffee! Oscar, bring out the rest of the artillery and
give Captain Claiborne his choice."
He picked up his sword again, flung the blade from the scabbard with a
swish, and cut the air with it, humming a few bars of a German
drinking-song. Then he broke out with:
"I do not think a braver gentleman,
More active-valiant or more valiant-young,
More daring or more bold, is now alive
To grace this latter age with noble deeds.
For my part, I may speak it to my shame,
I have a truant been to chivalry;—
"Lord, Claiborne, you don't know what's ahead of us! It's the greatest
thing that ever happened. I never expected anything like this—not on my
cheerfulest days. Dearest Jules is out looking for a telegraph office to
pull off the Austrian end of the rumpus. Well, little good it will do
him! And we'll catch him and Durand and that Servian devil and lock them
up here till Marhof decides what to do with him. We're off!"
"All ready, sir;" said Oscar briskly.
"It's half-past two. They didn't get off their message at Lamar, because
the office is closed and the operator gone, and they will keep out of the
valley and away from the big inn, because they are rather worried by this
time and not anxious to get too near Marhof. They've probably decided to
go to the next station below Lamar to do their telegraphing. Meanwhile
they haven't got me!"
"They had me and didn't want me," said Claiborne, mounting his own horse.
"They'll have a good many things they don't want in the next twenty-four
hours. If I hadn't enjoyed this business so much myself we might have had
some secret service men posted all along the coast to keep a lookout
for them. But it's been a great old lark. And now to catch them!"
Outside the preserve they paused for an instant.
"They're not going to venture far from their base, which is that inn and
post-office, where they have been rummaging my mail. I haven't studied
the hills for nothing, and I know short cuts about here that are not on
maps. They haven't followed the railroad north, because the valley
broadens too much and there are too many people. There's a trail up here
that goes over the ridge and down through a wind gap to a settlement
about five miles south of Lamar. If I'm guessing right, we can cut around
and get ahead of them and drive them back here to my land."
"To the Port of Missing Men! It was made for the business," said
"Oscar, patrol the road here, and keep an eye on the bungalow, and if you
hear us forcing them down, charge from this side. I'll fire twice when I
get near the Port to warn you; and if you strike them first, give the
same signal. Do be careful, Sergeant, how you shoot. We want prisoners,
you understand, not corpses."
Armitage found a faint trail, and with Claiborne struck off into the
forest near the main gate of his own grounds. In less than an hour they
rode out upon a low-wooded ridge and drew up their panting, sweating
horses—two shadowy videttes against the lustral dome of stars. A keen
wind whistled across the ridge and the horses pawed the unstable ground
restlessly. The men jumped down to tighten their saddle-girths, and they
turned up their coat collars before mounting again.
"Come! We're on the verge of morning," said Armitage, "and there's no
time to lose."
THE ATTACK IN THE ROAD
Cowards and laggards fall back; but alert to the saddle,
Straight, grim and abreast, vault our weather-worn galloping legion,
With a stirrup-cup each to the one gracious woman that loves him.
—Louise Imogen Guiney.
"There's an abandoned lumber camp down here, if I'm not mistaken, and if
we've made the right turns we ought to be south of Lamar and near the
Armitage passed his rein to Claiborne and plunged down the steep road to
"It's a strange business," Claiborne muttered half-aloud.
The cool air of the ridge sobered him, but he reviewed the events of the
night without regret. Every young officer in the service would envy him
this adventure. At military posts scattered across the continent men whom
he knew well were either abroad on duty, or slept the sleep of peace. He
lifted his eyes to the paling stars. Before long bugle and morning gun
would announce the new day at points all along the seaboard. His West
Point comrades were scattered far, and the fancy seized him that the
bugle brought them together every day of their lives as it sounded the
morning calls that would soon begin echoing down the coast from Kennebec
Arsenal and Fort Preble in Maine, through Myer and Monroe, to McPherson,
in Georgia, and back through Niagara and Wayne to Sheridan, and on to
Ringgold and Robinson and Crook, zigzagging back and forth over mountain
and plain to the Pacific, and thence ringing on to Alaska, and echoing
again from Hawaii to lonely outposts in Asian seas.
He was so intent with the thought that he hummed reveille, and was about
to rebuke himself for unsoldierly behavior on duty when Armitage whistled
for him to advance.
"It's all right; they haven't passed yet. I met a railroad track-walker
down there and he said he had seen no one between here and Lamar. Now
they're handicapped by the big country horse they had to take for that
Servian devil, and we can push them as hard as we like. We must get them
beyond Lamar before we crowd them; and don't forget that we want to drive
them into my land for the round-up. I'm afraid we're going to have a wet
They rode abreast beside the railroad through the narrow gap. A long
freight-train rumbled and rattled by, and a little later they passed a
coal shaft, where a begrimed night shift loaded cars under flaring
"Their message to Winkelried is still on this side of the Atlantic," said
Armitage; "but Winkelried is in a strong room by this time, if the
existing powers at Vienna are what they ought to be. I've done my best
to get him there. The message would only help the case against him if
they sent it."
Claiborne groaned mockingly.
"I suppose I'll know what it's all about when I read it in the morning
papers. I like the game well enough, but it might be more amusing to know
what the devil I'm fighting for."
"You enlisted without reading the articles of war, and you've got to take
the consequences. You've done what you set out to do—you've found me;
and you're traveling with me over the Virginia mountains to report my
capture to Baron von Marhof. On the way you are going to assist in
another affair that will be equally to your credit; and then if all goes
well with us I'm going to give myself the pleasure of allowing Monsieur
Chauvenet to tell you exactly who I am. The incident appeals to my sense
of humor—I assure you I have one! Of course, if I were not a person of
very great distinction Chauvenet and his friend Durand would not have
crossed the ocean and brought with them a professional assassin, skilled
in the use of smothering and knifing, to do away with me. You are in luck
to be alive. We are dangerously near the same size and build—and in the
"That was funny. I knew that if I ran for it they'd plug me for sure, and
that if I waited until they saw their mistake they would be afraid to
kill me. Ugh! I still taste the red soil of the Old Dominion."
"Come, Captain! Let us give the horses a chance to prove their blood.
These roads will be paste in a few hours."
The dawn was breaking sullenly, and out of a gray, low-hanging mist a
light rain fell in the soft, monotonous fashion of mountain rain. Much of
the time it was necessary to maintain single file; and Armitage rode
ahead. The fog grew thicker as they advanced; but they did not lessen
their pace, which had now dropped to a steady trot.
Suddenly, as they swept on beyond Lamar, they heard the beat of hoofs and
"Bully for us! We've cut in ahead of them. Can you count them,
"There are three horses all right enough, and they're forcing the beasts.
What's the word?"
"Drive them back! Ready—here we go!" roared Armitage in a voice intended
to be heard.
They yelled at the top of their voices as they charged, plunging into the
advancing trio after a forty-yard gallop.
"'Not later than Friday'—back you go!" shouted Armitage, and laughed
aloud at the enemy's rout. One of the horses—it seemed from its rider's
yells to be Chauvenet's—turned and bolted, and the others followed
back the way they had come.
Soon they dropped their pace to a trot, but the trio continued to fly
"They're rattled," said Claiborne, "and the fog isn't helping them any."
"We're getting close to my place," said Armitage; and as he spoke two
shots fired in rapid succession cracked faintly through the fog and they
jerked up their horses.
"It's Oscar! He's a good way ahead, if I judge the shots right."
"If he turns them back we ought to hear their horses in a moment,"
observed Claiborne. "The fog muffles sounds. The road's pretty level in
"We must get them out of it and into my territory for safety. We're
within a mile of the gate and we ought to be able to crowd them into that
long open strip where the fences are down. Damn the fog!"
The agreed signal of two shots reached them again, but clearer, like
drum-taps, and was immediately answered by scattering shots. A moment
later, as the two riders moved forward at a walk, a sharp volley rang out
quite clearly and they heard shouts and the crack of revolvers again.
"By George! They're coming—here we go!"
They put their horses to the gallop and rode swiftly through the fog. The
beat of hoofs was now perfectly audible ahead of them, and they heard,
quite distinctly, a single revolver snap twice.
"Oscar has them on the run—bully for Oscar! They're getting close—thank
the Lord for this level stretch—now howl and let 'er go!"
They went forward with a yell that broke weirdly and chokingly on the
gray cloak of fog, their horses' hoofs pounding dully on the earthen
road. The rain had almost ceased, but enough had fallen to soften the
"They're terribly brave or horribly seared, from their speed," shouted
Claiborne. "Now for it!"
They rose in their stirrups and charged, yelling lustily, riding neck and
neck toward the unseen foe, and with their horses at their highest pace
they broke upon the mounted trio that now rode upon them grayly out of
There was a mad snorting and shrinking of horses. One of the animals
turned and tried to bolt, and his rider, struggling to control him, added
to the confusion. The fog shut them in with each other; and Armitage and
Claiborne, having flung back their own horses at the onset, had an
instant's glimpse of Chauvenet trying to swing his horse into the road;
of Zmai half-turning, as his horse reared, to listen for the foe behind;
and of Durand's impassive white face as he steadied his horse with his
left hand and leveled a revolver at Armitage with his right.
With a cry Claiborne put spurs to his horse and drove him forward upon
Durand. His hand knocked the leveled revolver flying into the fog. Then
Zmai fired twice, and Chauvenet's frightened horse, panic-stricken at the
shots, reared, swung round and dashed back the way he had come, and
Durand and Zmai followed.
The three disappeared into the mist, and Armitage and Claiborne shook
themselves together and quieted their horses.
"That was too close for fun—are you all there?" asked Armitage.
"Still in it; but Chauvenet's friend won't miss every time. There's
murder in his eye. The big fellow seemed to be trying to shoot his own
"Oh, he's a knife and sack man and clumsy with the gun."
They moved slowly forward now and Armitage sent his horse across the
rough ditch at the roadside to get his bearings. The fog seemed at the
point of breaking, and the mass about them shifted and drifted in the
"This is my land, sure enough. Lord, man, I wish you'd get out of this
and go home. You see they're an ugly lot and don't use toy pistols."
"Remember the potato sack! That's my watchword," laughed Claiborne.
They rode with their eyes straight ahead, peering through the breaking,
floating mist. It was now so clear and light that they could see the wood
at either hand, though fifty yards ahead in every direction the fog still
lay like a barricade.
"I should value a change of raiment," observed Armitage. "There was an
advantage in armor—your duds might get rusty on a damp excursion, but
your shirt wouldn't stick to your hide."
"Who cares? Those devils are pretty quiet, and the little sergeant is
about due to bump into them again."
They had come to a gradual turn in the road at a point where a steep,
wooded incline swept up on the left. On the right lay the old hunting
preserve and Armitage's bungalow. As they drew into the curve they heard
a revolver crack twice, as before, followed by answering shots and cries
and the thump of hoofs.
"Ohee! Oscar has struck them again. Steady now! Watch your horse!" And
Armitage raised his arm high above his head and fired twice as a warning
The distance between the contending parties was shorter now than at the
first meeting, and Armitage and Claiborne bent forward in their saddles,
talking softly to their horses, that had danced wildly at Armitage's
"Lord! if we can crowd them in here now and back to the Port!"
Exclamations died on their lips at the instant. Ahead of them lay the
fog, rising and breaking in soft folds, and behind it men yelled and
several shots snapped spitefully on the heavy air. Then a curious picture
disclosed itself just at the edge of the vapor, as though it were a
curtain through which actors in a drama emerged upon a stage. Zmai and
Chauvenet flashed into view suddenly, and close behind them, Oscar,
yelling like mad. He drove his horse between the two men, threw himself
flat as Zmai fired at him, and turned and waved his hat and laughed at
them; then, just before his horse reached Claiborne and Armitage, he
checked its speed abruptly, flung it about and then charged back, still
yelling, upon the amazed foe.
"He's crazy—he's gone clean out of his head!" muttered Claiborne,
restraining his horse with difficulty. "What do you make of it?"
"He's having fun with them. He's just rattling them to warm himself
up—the little beggar. I didn't know it was in him."
Back went Oscar toward the two horsemen he had passed less than a minute
before, still yelling, and this time he discharged his revolver with
seeming unconcern, for the value of ammunition, and as he again dashed
between them, and back through the gray curtain, Armitage gave the word,
and he and Claiborne swept on at a gallop.
Durand was out of sight, and Chauvenet turned and looked behind him
uneasily; then he spoke sharply to Zmai. Oscar's wild ride back and forth
had demoralized the horses, which were snorting and plunging wildly. As
Armitage and Claiborne advanced Chauvenet spoke again to Zmai and drew
his own revolver.
"Oh, for a saber now!" growled Claiborne.
But it was not a moment for speculation or regret. Both sides were
perfectly silent as Claiborne, leading slightly, with Armitage pressing
close at his left, galloped toward the two men who faced them at the gray
wall of mist. They bore to the left with a view of crowding the two
horsemen off the road and into the preserve, and as they neared them they
heard cries through the mist and rapid hoof-beats, and Durand's horse
leaped the ditch at the roadside just before it reached Chauvenet and
Zmai and ran away through the rough underbrush into the wood, Oscar close
behind and silent now, grimly intent on his business.
The revolvers of Zmai and Chauvenet cracked together, and they, too,
turned their horses into the wood, and away they all went, leaving the
"My horse got it that time!" shouted Claiborne.
"So did I," replied Armitage; "but never you mind, old man, we've got
them cornered now."
Claiborne glanced at Armitage and saw his right hand, still holding his
revolver, go to his shoulder.
"It struck a hard place, but I am still fit."
The blood streamed from the neck of Claiborne's horse, which threw up its
head and snorted in pain, but kept bravely on at the trot in which
Armitage had set the pace.
"Poor devil! We'll have a reckoning pretty soon," cried Armitage
cheerily. "No kingdom is worth a good horse!"
They advanced at a trot toward the Port.
"You'll be afoot any minute now, but we're in good shape and on our own
soil, with those carrion between us and a gap they won't care to drop
into! I'm off for the gate—you wait here, and if Oscar fires the signal,
give the answer."
Armitage galloped off to the right and Claiborne jumped from his horse
just as the wounded animal trembled for a moment, sank to its knees and
rolled over dead.
THE PORT OF MISSING MEN
Fast they come, fast they come;
See how they gather!
Wide waves the eagle plume,
Blended with heather.
Cast your plaids, draw your blades,
Forward each man set!
Pibroch of Donuil Dhu
Knell for the onset!
—Sir Walter Scott.
Claiborne climbed upon a rock to get his bearings, and as he gazed off
through the wood a bullet sang close to his head and he saw a man
slipping away through the underbrush a hundred yards ahead of him. He
threw up his rifle and fired after the retreating figure, jerked the
lever spitefully and waited. In a few minutes Oscar rode alertly out of
the wood at his left.
"It was better for us a dead horse than a dead man—yes?" was the little
sergeant's comment. "We shall come back for the saddle and bridle."
"Humph! Where do you think those men are?"
"Behind some rocks near the edge of the gap. It is a poor position."
"I'm not sure of that. They'll escape across the old bridge."
"Nein. A sparrow would shake it down. Three men at once—they would not
need our bullets!"
Far away to the right two reports in quick succession gave news of
"It's the signal that he's got between them and the gate. Swing around to
the left and I will go straight to the big clearing, and meet you."
"You will have my horse—yes?" Oscar began to dismount.
"No; I do well enough this way. Forward!—the word is to keep them
between us and the gap until we can sit on them."
The mist was fast disappearing and swirling away under a sharp wind, and
the sunlight broke warmly upon the drenched world. Claiborne started
through the wet undergrowth at a dog trot. Armitage, he judged, was about
half a mile away, and to make their line complete Oscar should traverse
an equal distance. The soldier blood in Claiborne warmed at the prospect
of a definite contest. He grinned as it occurred to him that he had won
the distinction of having a horse shot under him in an open road fight,
almost within sight of the dome of the Capitol.
The brush grew thinner and the trees fewer, and he dropped down and
crawled presently to the shelter of a boulder, from which he could look
out upon the open and fairly level field known as the Port of Missing
Men. There as a boy he had dreamed of battles as he pondered the legend
of the Lost Legion. At the far edge of the field was a fringe of stunted
cedars, like an abatis, partly concealing the old barricade where, in
the golden days of their youth, he had played with Shirley at storming
the fort; and Shirley, in these fierce assaults, had usually tumbled over
upon the imaginary enemy ahead of him!
As he looked about he saw Armitage, his horse at a walk, ride slowly out
of the wood at his right. Claiborne jumped up and waved his hat and a
rifle-ball flicked his coat collar as lightly as though an unseen hand
had tried to brush a bit of dust from it. As he turned toward the
marksman behind the cedars three shots, fired in a volley, hummed about
him. Then it was very still, with the Sabbath stillness of early morning
in the hills, and he heard faintly the mechanical click and snap of the
rifles of Chauvenet's party as they expelled their exploded cartridges
and refilled their magazines.
"They're really not so bad—bad luck to them!" he muttered. "I'll be ripe
for the little brown men after I get through with this;" and Claiborne
laughed a little and watched Armitage's slow advance out into the open.
The trio behind the barricade had not yet seen the man they had crossed
the sea to kill, as the line of his approach closely paralleled the long
irregular wall with its fringe of cedars; but they knew from Claiborne's
signal that he was there. The men had picketed their horses back of the
little fort, and Claiborne commended their good generalship and wondered
what sort of beings they were to risk so much upon so wild an adventure.
Armitage rode out farther into the opening, and Claiborne, with his eyes
on the barricade, saw a man lean forward through the cedars in an effort
to take aim at the horseman. Claiborne drew up his own rifle and blazed
away. Bits of stone spurted into the air below the target's elbow, and
the man dropped back out of sight without firing.
"I've never been the same since that fever," growled Claiborne, and
snapped out the shell spitefully, and watched for another chance.
Being directly in front of the barricade, he was in a position to cover
Armitage's advance, and Oscar, meanwhile, had taken his cue from Armitage
and ridden slowly into the field from the left. The men behind the cedars
fired now from within the enclosure at both men without exposing
themselves; but their shots flew wild, and the two horsemen rode up to
Claiborne, who had emptied his rifle into the cedars and was reloading.
"They are all together again, are they?" asked Armitage, pausing a few
yards from Claiborne's rock, his eyes upon the barricade.
"The gentleman with the curly hair—I drove him in. He is a damned poor
Oscar tightened his belt and waited for orders, while Armitage and
Claiborne conferred in quick pointed sentences.
"Shall we risk a rush or starve them out? I'd like to try hunger on
them," said Armitage.
"They'll all sneak off over the bridge to-night if we pen them up. If
they all go at once they'll break it down, and we'll lose our quarry. But
you want to capture them—alive?"
"I certainly do!" Armitage replied, and turned to laugh at Oscar, who had
fired at the barricade from the back of his horse, which was resenting
the indignity by trying to throw his rider.
The enemy now concentrated a sharp fire upon Armitage, whose horse
snorted and pawed the ground as the balls cut the air and earth.
"For God's sake, get off that horse, Armitage!" bawled Claiborne, rising
upon, the rock. "There's no use in wasting yourself that way."
"My arm aches and I've got to do something. Let's try storming them just
for fun. It's a cavalry stunt, Claiborne, and you can play being the
artillery that's supporting our advance. Fall away there, Oscar, about
forty yards, and we'll race for it to the wall and over. That barricade
isn't as stiff as it looks from this side—know all about it. There are
great chunks out of it that can't be seen from this side."
"Thank me for that, Armitage. I tumbled down a good many yards of it when
I played up here as a kid. Get off that horse, I tell you! You've got a
hole in you now! Get down!"
"You make me tired, Claiborne. This beautiful row will all be over in a
few minutes. I never intended to waste much time on those fellows when I
got them where I wanted them."
His left arm hung quite limp at his side and his face was very white. He
had dropped his rifle in the road at the moment the ball struck his
shoulder, but he still carried his revolver. He nodded to Oscar, and they
both galloped forward over the open ground, making straight for the cedar
Claiborne was instantly up and away between the two riders. Their bold
advance evidently surprised the trio beyond the barricade, who shouted
hurried commands to one another as they distributed themselves along the
wall and awaited the onslaught. Then they grew still and lay low out of
sight as the silent riders approached. The hoofs of the onrushing horses
rang now and then on the harsh outcropping rock, and here and there
struck fire. Armitage sat erect and steady in his saddle, his horse
speeding on in great bounds toward the barricade. His lips moved in a
curious stiff fashion, as though he were ill, muttering:
"For Austria! For Austria! He bade me do something for the Empire!"
Beyond the cedars the trio held their fire, watching with fascinated eyes
the two riders, every instant drawing closer, and the runner who followed
"They can't jump this—they'll veer off before they get here," shouted
Chauvenet to his comrades. "Wait till they check their horses for the
"We are fools. They have got us trapped;" and Durand's hands shook as he
restlessly fingered a revolver. The big Servian crouched on his knees
near by, his finger on the trigger of his rifle. All three were hatless
and unkempt. The wound in Zmai's scalp had broken out afresh, and he had
twisted a colored handkerchief about it to stay the bleeding. A hundred
yards away the waterfall splashed down the defile and its faint murmur
reached them. A wild dove rose ahead of Armitage and flew straight before
him over the barricade. The silence grew tense as the horses galloped
nearer; the men behind the cedar-lined wall heard only the hollow thump
of hoofs and Claiborne's voice calling to Armitage and Oscar, to warn
them of his whereabouts.
But the eyes of the three conspirators were fixed on Armitage; it was his
life they sought; the others did not greatly matter. And so John Armitage
rode across the little plain where the Lost Legion had camped for a
year at the end of a great war; and as he rode on the defenders of the
boulder barricade saw his white face and noted the useless arm hanging
and swaying, and felt, in spite of themselves, the strength of his tall
Chauvenet, watching the silent rider, said aloud, speaking in German, so
that Zmai understood:
"It is in the blood; he is like a king."
But they could not hear the words that John Armitage kept saying over and
over again as he crossed the field:
"He bade me do something for Austria—for Austria!"
"He is brave, but he is a great fool. When he turns his horse we will
fire on him," said Zmai.
Their eyes were upon Armitage; and in their intentness they failed to
note the increasing pace of Oscar's horse, which was spurting slowly
ahead. When they saw that he would first make the sweep which they
assumed to be the contemplated strategy of the charging party, they
leveled their arms at him, believing that he must soon check his horse.
But on he rode, bending forward a little, his rifle held across the
saddle in front of him.
"Take him first," cried Chauvenet. "Then be ready for Armitage!"
Oscar was now turning his horse, but toward them and across Armitage's
path, with the deliberate purpose of taking the first fire. Before him
rose the cedars that concealed the line of wall; and he saw the blue
barrels of the waiting rifles. With a great spurt of speed he cut in
ahead of Armitage swiftly and neatly; then on, without a break or a
pause—not heeding Armitage's cries—on and still on, till twenty, then
ten feet lay between him and the wall, at a place where the cedar
barrier was thinnest. Then, as his horse crouched and rose, three rifles
cracked as one. With a great crash the horse struck the wall and tumbled,
rearing and plunging, through the tough cedar boughs. An instant later,
near the same spot, Armitage, with better luck clearing the wall, was
borne on through the confused line. When he flung himself down and ran
back Claiborne had not yet appeared.
Oscar had crashed through at a point held by Durand, who was struck down
by the horse's forefeet. He lay howling with pain, with the hind quarters
of the prostrate beast across his legs. Armitage, running back toward the
wall, kicked the revolver from his hand and left him. Zmai had started to
run as Oscar gained the wall and Chauvenet's curses did not halt the
Servian when he found Oscar at his heels.
Chauvenet stood impassively by the wall, his revolver raised and covering
Armitage, who walked slowly and doggedly toward him. The pallor in
Armitage's face gave him an unearthly look; he appeared to be trying
to force himself to a pace of which his wavering limbs were incapable. At
the moment that Claiborne sprang upon the wall behind Chauvenet Armitage
swerved and stumbled, then swayed from side to side like a drunken man.
His left arm swung limp at his side, and his revolver remained undrawn in
his belt. His gray felt hat was twitched to one side of his head, adding
a grotesque touch to the impression of drunkenness, and he was talking
"Shoot me, Mr. Chauvenet. Go on and shoot me! I am John Armitage, and I
live in Montana, where real people are. Go on and shoot! Winkelried's in
jail and the jig's up and the Empire and the silly King are safe. Go on
and shoot, I tell you!"
He had stumbled on until he was within a dozen steps of Chauvenet, who
lifted his revolver until it covered Armitage's head.
"Drop that gun—drop it damned quick!" and Dick Claiborne swung the butt
of his rifle high and brought it down with a crash on Chauvenet's head;
then Armitage paused and glanced about and laughed.
It was Claiborne who freed Durand from the dead horse, which had received
the shots fired at Oscar the moment he rose at the wall. The fight was
quite knocked out of the conspirator, and he swore under his breath,
cursing the unconscious Chauvenet and the missing Zmai and the ill
fortune of the fight.
"It's all over but the shouting—what's next?" demanded Claiborne.
"Tie him up—and tie the other one up," said Armitage, staring about
queerly. "Where the devil is Oscar?"
"He's after the big fellow. You're badly fussed, old man. We've got to
get out of this and fix you up."
"I'm all right. I've got a hole in my shoulder that feels as big and hot
as a blast furnace. But we've got them nailed, and it's all right, old
Durand continued to curse things visible and invisible as he rubbed his
leg, while Claiborne watched him impatiently.
"If you start to run I'll certainly kill you, Monsieur."
"We have met, my dear sir, under unfortunate circumstances. You should
not take it too much to heart about the potato sack. It was the fault of
my dear colleagues. Ah, Armitage, you look rather ill, but I trust you
will harbor no harsh feelings."
Armitage did not look at him; his eyes were upon the prostrate figure of
Chauvenet, who seemed to be regaining his wits. He moaned and opened his
"Search him, Claiborne, to make sure. Then get him on his legs and pinion
his arms, and tie the gentlemen together. The bridle on that dead horse
is quite the thing."
"But, Messieurs," began Durand, who was striving to recover his
composure—"this is unnecessary. My friend and I are quite willing to
give you every assurance of our peaceable intentions."
"I don't question it," laughed Claiborne.
"But, my dear sir, in America, even in delightful America, the law will
protect the citizens of another country."
"It will, indeed," and Claiborne grinned, put his revolver into
Armitage's hand, and proceeded to cut the reins from the dead horse. "In
America such amiable scoundrels as you are given the freedom of cities,
and little children scatter flowers in their path. You ought to write for
the funny papers, Monsieur."
"I trust your wounds are not serious, my dear Armitage—"
Armitage, sitting on a boulder, turned his eyes wearily upon Durand,
whose wrists Claiborne was knotting together with a strap. The officer
spun the man around viciously.
"You beast, if you address Mr. Armitage again I'll choke you!"
Chauvenet, sitting up and staring dully about, was greeted ironically by
"Prisoners, my dearest Jules; prisoners, do you understand? Will you
please arrange with dear Armitage to let us go home and be good?"
Claiborne emptied the contents of Durand's pockets upon the ground and
tossed a flask to Armitage.
"We will discuss matters at the bungalow. They always go to the nearest
farm-house to sign the treaty of peace. Let us do everything according to
the best traditions."
A moment later Oscar ran in from the direction of the gap, to find the
work done and the party ready to leave.
"Where is the Servian?" demanded Armitage.
The soldier saluted, glanced from Chauvenet to Durand, and from Claiborne
"He will not come back," said the sergeant quietly.
"That is bad," remarked Armitage. "Take my horse and ride down to Storm
Springs and tell Baron von Marhof and Judge Claiborne that Captain
Claiborne has found John Armitage, and that he presents his compliments
and wishes them to come to Mr. Armitage's house at once. Tell them that
Captain Claiborne sent you and that he wants them to come back with you
"But Armitage—not Marhof—for God's sake, not Marhof." Chauvenet
staggered to his feet and his voice choked as he muttered his appeal.
"We can fix this among ourselves—just wait a little, till we can talk
over our affairs. You have quite the wrong impression of us, I assure
you, Messieurs," protested Durand.
"That is your misfortune! Thanks for the brandy, Monsieur Durand. I feel
quite restored," said Armitage, rising; and the color swept into his face
and he spoke with quick decision.
"Oh, Claiborne, will you kindly give me the time?"
Claiborne laughed. It was a laugh of real relief at the change in
"It's a quarter of seven. This little scrap didn't take as much time as
you thought it would."
Oscar had mounted Armitage's horse and Claiborne stopped him as he rode
past on his way to the road.
"After you deliver Mr. Armitage's message, get a doctor and tell him to
be in a hurry about getting here."
"No!" began Armitage. "Good Lord, no! We are not going to advertise this
mess. You will spoil it all. I don't propose to be arrested and put in
jail, and a doctor would blab it all. I tell you, no!"
"Oscar, go to the hotel at the Springs and ask for Doctor Bledsoe. He's
an army surgeon on leave. Tell him I want him to bring his tools and come
to me at the bungalow. Now go!"
The conspirators' horses were brought up and Claiborne put Armitage upon
the best of them.
"Don't treat me as though I were a sick priest! I tell you, I feel bully!
If the prisoners will kindly walk ahead of us, we'll graciously ride
behind. Or we might put them both on one horse! Forward!"
Chauvenet and Durand, as they marched ahead of their captors, divided the
time between execrating each other and trying to make terms with
Armitage. The thought of being haled before Baron von Marhof gave them
"Wait a few hours, Armitage—let us sit down and talk it all over. We're
not as black as your imagination paints us!"
"Save your breath! You've had your fun so far, and now I'm going to have
mine. You fellows are all right to sit in dark rooms and plot murder and
treason; but you're not made for work in the open. Forward!"
They were a worn company that drew up at the empty bungalow, where the
lamp and candles flickered eerily. On the table still lay the sword, the
cloak, the silver box, the insignia of noble orders.
"WHO ARE YOU, JOHN ARMITAGE?"
"Morbleu, Monsieur, you give me too much majesty," said
the Prince.—The History of Henry Esmond.
"These gentlemen doubtless wish to confer—let them sequester
themselves!" and Armitage waved his hand to the line of empty
sleeping-rooms. "I believe Monsieur Durand already knows the way
about—he may wish to explore my trunks again," and Armitage bowed
to the two men, who, with their wrists tied behind them and a strap
linking them together, looked the least bit absurd.
"Now, Claiborne, that foolish Oscar has a first-aid kit of some sort that
he used on me a couple of weeks ago. Dig it out of his simple cell back
there and we'll clear up this mess in my shoulder. Twice on the same
side,—but I believe they actually cracked a bone this time."
He lay down on a long bench and Claiborne cut off his coat.
"I'd like to hold a little private execution for this," growled the
officer. "A little lower and it would have caught you in the heart."
"Don't be spiteful! I'm as sound as wheat. We have them down and the
victory is ours. The great fun is to come when the good Baron von Marhof
gets here. If I were dying I believe I could hold on for that."
"You're not going to die, thank God! Just a minute more until I pack this
shoulder with cotton. I can't do anything for that smashed bone, but
Bledsoe is the best surgeon in the army, and he'll fix you up in a
"That will do now. I must have on a coat when our honored guests arrive,
even if we omit one sleeve—yes, I guess we'll have to, though it does
seem a bit affected. Dig out the brandy bottle from the cupboard there in
the corner, and then kindly brush my hair and straighten up the chairs a
bit. You might even toss a stick on the fire. That potato sack you may
care to keep as a souvenir."
"Be quiet, now! Remember, you are my prisoner, Mr. Armitage."
"I am, I am! But I will wager ten courses at Sherry's the Baron will be
glad to let me off."
He laughed softly and began repeating:
"'Why, hear you, my masters: was it for me to kill the heir apparent?
Should I turn upon the true prince? Why, thou knowest I am as valiant as
Hercules; but beware instinct; the lion will not touch the true prince.
Instinct is a great matter; I was a coward on instinct. I shall think the
better of myself and thee during my life; I for a valiant lion, and thou
for a true prince.'"
Claiborne forced him to lie down on the bench, and threw a blanket over
him, and in a moment saw that he slept. In an inner room the voices of
the prisoners occasionally rose shrilly as they debated their situation
and prospects. Claiborne chewed a cigar and watched and waited. Armitage
wakened suddenly, sat up and called to Claiborne with a laugh:
"I had a perfectly bully dream, old man. I dreamed that I saw the ensign
of Austria-Hungary flying from the flag-staff of this shanty; and by
Jove, I'll take the hint! We owe it to the distinguished Ambassador who
now approaches to fly his colors over the front door. We ought to have a
trumpeter to herald his arrival—but the white and red ensign with the
golden crown—it's in the leather-covered trunk in my room—the one with
the most steamer labels on it—go bring it, Claiborne, and we'll throw it
to the free airs of Virginia. And be quick—they ought to be here by this
He stood in the door and watched Claiborne haul up the flag, and he made
a mockery of saluting it as it snapped out in the fresh morning air.
"The Port of Missing Men! It was designed to be extra-territorial, and
there's no treason in hauling up an alien flag," and his high spirits
returned, and he stalked back to the fireplace, chaffing Claiborne and
warning him against ever again fighting under an unknown banner.
"Here they are," called Claiborne, and flung open the door as Shirley,
her father and Baron von Marhof rode up under the billowing ensign. Dick
stepped out to meet them and answer their questions.
"Mr. Armitage is here. He has been hurt and we have sent for a doctor;
but"—and he looked at Shirley.
"If you will do me the honor to enter—all of you!" and Armitage came out
quickly and smiled upon them.
"We had started off to look for Dick when we met your man," said Shirley,
standing on the steps, rein in hand.
"What has happened, and how was Armitage injured?" demanded Judge
"There was a battle," replied Dick, grinning, "and Mr. Armitage got in
the way of a bullet."
Her ride through the keen morning air had flooded Shirley's cheeks with
color. She wore a dark blue skirt and a mackintosh with the collar turned
up about her neck, and a red scarf at her throat matched the band of her
soft felt hat. She drew off her gauntlets and felt in her pocket for a
handkerchief with which to brush some splashes of mud that had dried on
her cheek, and the action was so feminine, and marked so abrupt a
transition from the strange business of the night and morning, that
Armitage and Dick laughed and Judge Claiborne turned upon them
Shirley had been awake much of the night. On returning from the ball at
the inn she found Dick still absent, and when at six o'clock he had not
returned she called her father and they had set off together for the
hills, toward which, the stablemen reported, Dick had ridden. They had
met Oscar just outside the Springs, and had returned to the hotel for
Baron von Marhof. Having performed her office as guide and satisfied
herself that Dick was safe, she felt her conscience eased, and could see
no reason why she should not ride home and leave the men to their
council. Armitage saw her turn to her horse, whose nose was exploring her
mackintosh pockets, and he stepped quickly toward her.
"You see, Miss Claiborne, your brother is quite safe, but I very much
hope you will not run away. There are some things to be explained which
it is only fair you should hear."
"Wait, Shirley, and we will all go down together," said Judge Claiborne
Baron von Marhof, very handsome and distinguished, but mud-splashed, had
tied his horse to a post in the driveway, and stood on the veranda steps,
his hat in his hand, staring, a look of bewilderment on his face.
Armitage, bareheaded, still in his riding leggings, his trousers splashed
with mud, his left arm sleeveless and supported by a handkerchief swung
from his neck, shook hands with Judge Claiborne.
"Baron von Marhof, allow me to present Mr. Armitage," said Dick, and
Armitage walked to the steps and bowed. The Ambassador did not offer his
"Won't you please come in?" said Armitage, smiling upon them, and when
they were seated he took his stand by the fireplace, hesitated a moment,
as though weighing his words, and began:
"Baron von Marhof, the events that have led to this meeting have been
somewhat more than unusual—they are unique. And complications have
arisen which require prompt and wise action. For this reason I am glad
that we shall have the benefit of Judge Claiborne's advice."
"Judge Claiborne is the counsel of our embassy," said the Ambassador. His
gaze was fixed intently on Armitage's face, and he hitched himself
forward in his chair impatiently, grasping his crop nervously across his
"You were anxious to find me, Baron, and I may have seemed hard to catch,
but I believe we have been working at cross-purposes to serve the same
The Baron nodded.
"Yes, I dare say," he remarked dryly.
"And some other gentlemen, of not quite your own standing, have at the
same time been seeking me. It will give me great pleasure to present one
of them—one, I believe, will be enough. Mr. Claiborne, will you kindly
allow Monsieur Jules Chauvenet to stand in the door for a moment? I want
to ask him a question."
Shirley, sitting farthest from Armitage, folded her hands upon the long
table and looked toward the door into which her brother vanished. Then
Jules Chauvenet stood before them all, and as his eyes met hers for a
second the color rose to his face, and he broke out angrily:
"This is infamous! This is an outrage! Baron von Marhof, as an Austrian
subject, I appeal to you for protection from this man!"
"Monsieur, you shall have all the protection Baron von Marhof cares to
give you; but first I wish to ask you a question—just one. You followed
me to America with the fixed purpose of killing me. You sent a Servian
assassin after me—a fellow with a reputation for doing dirty work—and
he tried to stick a knife into me on the deck of the King Edward. I
shall not recite my subsequent experiences with him or with you and
Monsieur Durand. You announced at Captain Claiborne's table at the Army
and Navy Club in Washington that I was an impostor, and all the time,
Monsieur, you have really believed me to be some one—some one in
Armitage's eyes glittered and his voice faltered with intensity as he
uttered these last words. Then he thrust his hand into his coat pocket,
stepped back, and concluded:
"Who am I, Monsieur?"
Chauvenet shifted uneasily from one foot to another under the gaze of the
five people who waited for his answer; then he screamed shrilly:
"You are the devil—an impostor, a liar, a thief!"
Baron von Marhof leaped to his feet and roared at Chauvenet in English:
"Who is this man? Whom do you believe him to be?"
"Answer and be quick about it!" snapped Claiborne.
"I tell you"—began Chauvenet fiercely.
"Who am I?" asked Armitage again.
"I don't know who you are—"
"You do not! You certainly do not!" laughed Armitage; "but whom have you
believed me to be, Monsieur?"
"Yes; you thought—"
"I thought—there seemed reasons to believe—"
"Yes; and you believe it; go on!"
Chauvenet's eyes blinked for a moment as he considered the difficulties
of his situation. The presence of Baron von Marhof sobered him. America
might not, after all, be so safe a place from which to conduct an Old
World conspiracy, and this incident must, if possible, be turned to his
own account. He addressed the Baron in German:
"This man is a designing plotter; he is bent upon mischief and treason;
he has contrived an attempt against the noble ruler of our nation—he is
a menace to the throne—"
"Who is he?" demanded Marhof impatiently; and his eyes and the eyes of
all fell upon Armitage.
"I tell you we found him lurking about in Europe, waiting his chance, and
we drove him away—drove him here to watch him. See these things—that
sword—those orders! They belonged to the Archduke Karl. Look at them and
see that it is true! I tell you we have rendered Austria a high service.
One death—one death—at Vienna—and this son of a madman would be king!
He is Frederick Augustus, the son of the Archduke Karl!"
The room was very still as the last words rang out. The old Ambassador's
gaze clung to Armitage; he stepped nearer, the perspiration breaking out
upon his brow, and his lips trembled as he faltered:
"He would be king; he would be king!"
Then Armitage spoke sharply to Claiborne.
"That will do. The gentleman may retire now."
As Claiborne thrust Chauvenet out of the room, Armitage turned to the
little company, smiling.
"I am not Frederick Augustus, the son of the Archduke Karl," he said
quietly; "nor did I ever pretend that I was, except to lead those men on
in their conspiracy. The cigarette case that caused so much trouble
at Mr. Claiborne's supper-party belongs to me. Here it is."
The old Ambassador snatched it from him eagerly.
"This device—the falcon poised upon a silver helmet! You have much to
"It is the coat-of-arms of the house of Schomburg. The case belonged to
Frederick Augustus, Karl's son; and this sword was his; and these orders
and that cloak lying yonder—all were his. They were gifts from his
father. And believe me, my friends, I came by them honestly."
The Baron bent over the table and spilled the orders from their silver
box and scanned them eagerly. The colored ribbons, the glittering jewels,
held the eyes of all. Many of them were the insignia of rare orders no
longer conferred. There were the crown and pendant cross of the
Invincible Knights of Zaringer; the white falcon upon a silver helmet,
swung from a ribbon of cloth of gold—the familiar device of the house of
Schomburg, the gold Maltese cross of the Chevaliers of the Blessed
Sacrament; the crossed swords above an iron crown of the Ancient Legion
of Saint Michael and All Angels; and the full-rigged ship pendant from
triple anchors—the decoration of the rare Spanish order of the Star of
the Seven Seas. Silence held the company as the Ambassador's fine old
hands touched one after another. It seemed to Shirley that these baubles
again bound the New World, the familiar hills of home, the Virginia
shores, to the wallowing caravels of Columbus.
The Ambassador closed the silver box the better to examine the white
falcon upon its lid. Then he swung about and confronted Armitage.
"Where is he, Monsieur?" he asked, his voice sunk to a whisper, his eyes
sweeping the doors and windows.
"The Archduke Karl is dead; his son Frederick Augustus, whom these
conspirators have imagined me to be—he, too, is dead."
"You are quite sure—you are quite sure, Mr. Armitage?"
"I am quite sure."
"That is not enough! We have a right to ask more than your word!"
"No, it is not enough," replied Armitage quietly. "Let me make my story
brief. I need not recite the peculiarities of the Archduke—his dislike
of conventional society, his contempt for sham and pretense. After living
a hermit life at one of the smallest and most obscure of the royal
estates for several years, he vanished utterly. That was fifteen years
"Yes; he was mad—quite mad," blurted the Baron.
"That was the common impression. He took his oldest son and went into
exile. Conjectures as to his whereabouts have filled the newspapers
sporadically ever since. He has been reported as appearing in the South
Sea Islands, in India, in Australia, in various parts of this country. In
truth he came directly to America and established himself as a farmer in
western Canada. His son was killed in an accident; the Archduke died
within the year."
Judge Claiborne bent forward in his chair as Armitage paused.
"What proof have you of this story, Mr. Armitage?"
"I am prepared for such a question, gentlemen. His identity I may
establish by various documents which he gave me for the purpose. For
greater security I locked them in a safety box of the Bronx Loan and
Trust Company in New York. To guard against accidents I named you jointly
with myself as entitled to the contents of that box. Here is the key."
As he placed the slim bit of steel on the table and stepped back to his
old position on the hearth, they saw how white he was, and that his hand
shook, and Dick begged him to sit down.
"Yes; will you not be seated, Monsieur?" said the Baron kindly.
"No; I shall have finished in a moment. The Archduke gave those documents
to me, and with them a paper that will explain much in the life of that
unhappy gentleman. It contains a disclosure that might in certain
emergencies be of very great value. I beg of you, believe that he was not
a fool, and not a madman. He sought exile for reasons—for the reason
that his son Francis, who has been plotting the murder of the new
Emperor-king, is not his son!"
"What!" roared the Baron.
"It is as I have said. The faithlessness of his wife, and not madness,
drove him into exile. He intrusted that paper to me and swore me to carry
it to Vienna if Francis ever got too near the throne. It is certified by
half a dozen officials authorized to administer oaths in Canada, though
they, of course, never knew the contents of the paper to which they swore
him. He even carried it to New York and swore to it there before the
consul-general of Austria-Hungary in that city. There was a certain grim
humor in him; he said he wished to have the affidavit bear the seal of
his own country, and the consul-general assumed that it was a document of
mere commercial significance."
The Baron looked at the key; he touched the silver box; his hand rested
for a moment on the sword.
"It is a marvelous story—it is wonderful! Can it be true—can it be
true?" murmured the Ambassador.
"The documents will be the best evidence. We can settle the matter in
twenty-four hours," said Judge Claiborne.
"You will pardon me for seeming incredulous, sir," said the Baron, "but
it is all so extraordinary. And these men, these prisoners—"
"They have pursued me under the impression that I am Frederick Augustus.
Oddly enough, I, too, am Frederick Augustus," and Armitage smiled. "I was
within a few months of his age, and I had a little brush with Chauvenet
and Durand in Geneva in which they captured my cigarette case—it had
belonged to Frederick, and the Archduke gave it to me—and my troubles
began. The Emperor-king was old and ill; the disorders in Hungary were to
cloak the assassination of his successor; then the Archduke Francis,
Karl's reputed son, was to be installed upon the throne."
"Yes; there has been a conspiracy; I—"
"And there have been conspirators! Two of them are safely behind that
door; and, somewhat through my efforts, their chief, Winkelried, should
now be under arrest in Vienna. I have had reasons, besides my pledge to
Archduke Karl, for taking an active part in these affairs. A year ago I
gave Karl's repudiation of his second son to Count Ferdinand von
Stroebel, the prime minister. The statement was stolen from him for the
Winkelried conspirators by these men we now have locked up in this
The Ambassador's eyes blazed with excitement as these statements fell one
by one from Armitage's lips; but Armitage went on:
"I trust that my plan for handling these men will meet with your
approval. They have chartered the George W. Custis, a fruit-carrying
steamer lying at Morgan's wharf in Baltimore, in which they expected
to make off after they had finished with me. At one time they had some
idea of kidnapping me; and it isn't my fault they failed at that game.
But I leave it to you, gentlemen, to deal with them. I will suggest,
however, that the presence just now in the West Indies, of the cruiser
Sophia Margaret, flying the flag of Austria-Hungary, may be
He smiled at the quick glance that passed between the Ambassador and
Then Baron von Marhof blurted out the question that was uppermost in the
minds of all.
"Who are you, John Armitage?"
And Armitage answered, quite simply and in the quiet tone that he had
"I am Frederick Augustus von Stroebel, the son of your sister and
of the Count Ferdinand von Stroebel. The Archduke's son and I were
school-fellows and playmates; you remember as well as I my father's place
near the royal lands. The Archduke talked much of democracy and the New
World, and used to joke about the divine right of kings. Let me make my
story short—I found out their plan of flight and slipped away with them.
It was believed that I had been carried away by gipsies."
"Yes, that is true; it is all true! And you never saw your father—you
never went to him?"
"I was only thirteen when I ran away with Karl. When I appeared before my
father in Paris last year he would have sent me away in anger, if it had
not been that I knew matters of importance to Austria—Austria, always
"Yes; that was quite like him," said the Ambassador. "He served his
country with a passionate devotion. He hated America—he distrusted the
whole democratic idea. It was that which pointed his anger against
you—that you should have chosen to live here."
"Then when I saw him at Geneva—that last interview—he told me that
Karl's statement had been stolen, and he had his spies abroad looking for
the thieves. He was very bitter against me. It was only a few hours
before he was killed, as a part of the Winkelried conspiracy. He had
given his life for Austria. He told me never to see him again—never to
claim my own name until I had done something for Austria. And I went to
Vienna and knelt in the crowd at his funeral, and no one knew me, and it
hurt me, oh, it hurt me to know that he had grieved for me; that he had
wanted a son to carry on his own work, while I had grown away from the
whole idea of such labor as his. And now—"
He faltered, his hoarse voice broke with stress of feeling, and his
"It was not my fault—it was really not my fault! I did the best I could,
and, by God, I've got them in the room there where they can't do any
harm!—and Dick Claiborne, you are the finest fellow in the world, and
the squarest and bravest, and I want to take your hand before I go to
sleep; for I'm sick—yes, I'm sick—and sleepy—and you'd better haul
down that flag over the door—it's treason, I tell you!—and if you see
Shirley, tell her I'm John Armitage—tell her I'm John Armitage, John
The room and its figures rushed before his eyes, and as he tried to stand
erect his knees crumpled under him, and before they could reach him he
sank to the floor with a moan. As they crowded about he stirred slightly,
sighed deeply, and lay perfectly still.
To-morrow? 'Tis not ours to know
That we again shall see the flowers.
To-morrow is the gods'—but, oh!
To day is ours.
—C.E. Merrill, Jr.
Claiborne called Oscar through the soft dusk of the April evening. The
phalanx of stars marched augustly across the heavens. Claiborne lifted
his face gratefully to the cool night breeze, for he was worn with the
stress and anxiety of the day, and there remained much to do. The
bungalow had been speedily transformed into a hospital. One nurse,
borrowed from a convalescent patient at the Springs, was to be reinforced
by another summoned by wire from Washington. The Ambassador's demand
to be allowed to remove Armitage to his own house at the Springs had been
promptly rejected by the surgeon. A fever had hold of John Armitage, who
was ill enough without the wound in his shoulder, and the surgeon moved
his traps to the bungalow and took charge of the case. Oscar had brought
Claiborne's bag, and all was now in readiness for the night.
Oscar's erect figure at salute and his respectful voice brought Claiborne
down from the stars.
"We can get rid of the prisoners to-night—yes?"
"At midnight two secret service men will be here from Washington to
travel with them to Baltimore to their boat. The Baron and my father
arranged it over the telephone from the Springs. The prisoners understand
that they are in serious trouble, and have agreed to go quietly. The
government agents are discreet men. You brought up the buckboard?"
"But the men should be hanged—for they shot our captain, and he may
The little man spoke with sad cadence. A pathos in his erect, sturdy
figure, his lowered tone as he referred to Armitage, touched Claiborne.
"He will get well, Oscar. Everything will seem brighter to-morrow. You
had better sleep until it is time to drive to the train."
Oscar stepped nearer and his voice sank to a whisper.
"I have not forgotten the tall man who died; it is not well for him to go
unburied. You are not a Catholic—no?"
"You need not tell me how—or anything about it—but you are sure he is
"He is dead; he was a bad man, and died very terribly," said Oscar, and
he took off his hat and drew his sleeve across his forehead. "I will tell
you just how it was. When my horse took the wall and got their bullets
and tumbled down dead, the big man they called Zmai saw how it was, that
we were all coming over after them, and ran. He kept running through the
brambles and over the stones, and I thought he would soon turn and we
might have a fight, but he did not stop; and I could not let him get
away. It was our captain who said, 'We must take them prisoners,' was it
"Yes; that was Mr. Armitage's wish."
"Then I saw that we were going toward the bridge, the one they do not
use, there at the deep ravine. I had crossed it once and knew that it was
weak and shaky, and I slacked up and watched him. He kept on, and just
before he came to it, when I was very close to him, for he was a slow
runner—yes? being so big and clumsy, he turned and shot at me with his
revolver, but he was in a hurry and missed; but he ran on. His feet
struck the planks of the bridge with a great jar and creaking, but he
kept running and stumbled and fell once with a mad clatter of the planks.
He was a coward with a heart of water, and would not stop when I called,
and come back for a little fight. The wires of the bridge hummed and
the bridge swung and creaked. When he was almost midway of the bridge the
big wires that held it began to shriek out of the old posts that held
them—though I had not touched them—and it seemed many years that passed
while the whole of it dangled in the air like a bird-nest in a storm; and
the creek down below laughed at that big coward. I still heard his hoofs
thumping the planks, until the bridge dropped from under him and left him
for a long second with his arms and legs flying in the air. Yes; it was
very horrible to see. And then his great body went down, down—God! It
was a very dreadful way for a wicked man to die."
And Oscar brushed his hat with his sleeve and looked away at the purple
and gray ridges and their burden of stars.
"Yes, it must have been terrible," said Claiborne.
"But now he can not be left to lie down there on the rocks, though he was
so wicked and died like a beast. I am a bad Catholic, but when I was a
boy I used to serve mass, and it is not well for a man to lie in a wild
place where the buzzards will find him."
"But you can not bring a priest. Great harm would be done if news of this
affair were to get abroad. You understand that what has passed here must
never be known by the outside world. My father and Baron von Marhof have
counseled that, and you may be sure there are reasons why these things
must be kept quiet, or they would seek the law's aid at once."
"Yes; I have been a soldier; but after this little war I shall bury the
dead. In an hour I shall be back to drive the buckboard to Lamar
Claiborne looked at his watch.
"I will go with you," he said.
They started through the wood toward the Port of Missing Men; and
together they found rough niches in the side of the gap, down which they
made their way toilsomely to the boulder-lined stream that laughed and
tumbled foamily at the bottom of the defile. They found the wreckage of
the slender bridge, broken to fragments where the planking had struck the
rocks. It was very quiet in the mountain cleft, and the stars seemed
withdrawn to newer and deeper arches of heaven as they sought in the
debris for the Servian. They kindled a fire of twigs to give light for
their search, and soon found the great body lying quite at the edge of
the torrent, with arms flung out as though to ward off a blow. The face
twisted with terror and the small evil eyes, glassed in death, were not
good to see.
"He was a wicked man, and died in sin. I will dig a grave for him by
When the work was quite done, Oscar took off his hat and knelt down by
the side of the strange grave and bowed his head in silence for a moment.
Then he began to repeat words and phrases of prayers he had known
as a peasant boy in a forest over seas, and his voice rose to a kind of
chant. Such petitions of the Litany of the Saints as he could recall he
uttered, his voice rising mournfully among the rocks.
"From all evil; from all sin; from Thy wrath; from sudden and unprovided
death, O Lord, deliver us!"
Then he was silent, though in the wavering flame of the fire Claiborne
saw that his lips still muttered prayers for the Servian's soul. When
again his words grew audible he was saying:
"—That Thou wouldst not deliver it into the hand of the enemy, nor
forget it unto the end, out wouldst command it to be received by the Holy
Angels, and conducted to paradise, its true country; that, as in Thee it
hath hoped and believed, it may not suffer the pains of hell, but may
take possession of eternal joys."
He made the sign of the cross, rose, brushed the dirt from his knees and
put on his hat.
"He was a coward and died an ugly death, but I am glad I did not kill
"Yes, we were spared murder," said Claiborne; and when they had trodden
out the fire and scattered the embers into the stream, they climbed the
steep side of the gap and turned toward the bungalow. Oscar trudged
silently at Claiborne's side, and neither spoke. Both were worn to the
point of exhaustion by the events of the long day; the stubborn patience
and fidelity of the little man touched a chord in Claiborne. Almost
unconsciously he threw his arm across Oscar's shoulders and walked thus
beside him as they traversed the battle-field of the morning.
"You knew Mr. Armitage when he was a boy?" asked Claiborne.
"Yes; in the Austrian forest, on his father's place—the Count Ferdinand
von Stroebel. The young captain's mother died when he was a child; his
father was the great statesman, and did much for the Schomburgs and
Austria; but it did not aid his disposition—no?"
The secret service men had come by way of the Springs, and were waiting
at the bungalow to report to Claiborne. They handed him a sealed packet
of instructions from the Secretary of War. The deportation of Chauvenet
and Durand was to be effected at once under Claiborne's direction, and he
sent Oscar to the stables for the buckboard and sat down on the veranda
to discuss the trip to Baltimore with the two secret agents. They were to
gather up the personal effects of the conspirators at the tavern on the
drive to Lamar. The rooms occupied by Chauvenet at Washington had already
been ransacked and correspondence and memoranda of a startling character
seized. Chauvenet was known to be a professional blackmailer and plotter
of political mischief, and the embassy of Austria-Hungary had identified
Durand as an ex-convict who had only lately been implicated in the
launching of a dangerous issue of forged bonds in Paris. Claiborne had
been carefully coached by his father, and he answered the questions of
the officers readily:
"If these men give you any trouble, put them under arrest in the nearest
jail. We can bring them back here for attempted murder, if nothing worse;
and these mountain juries will see that they're put away for a long time.
You will accompany them on board the George W. Custis, and stay with
them until you reach Cape Charles. A lighthouse tender will follow the
steamer down Chesapeake Bay and take you off. If these gentlemen do not
give the proper orders to the captain of the steamer, you will put them
all under arrest and signal the tender."
Chauvenet and Durand had been brought out and placed in the buckboard,
and these orders were intended for their ears.
"We will waive our right to a writ of habeas corpus," remarked Durand
cheerfully, as Claiborne flashed a lantern over them. "Dearest Jules, we
shall not forget Monsieur Claiborne's courteous treatment of us."
"Shut up!" snapped Chauvenet.
"You will both of you do well to hold your tongues," remarked Claiborne
dryly. "One of these officers understands French, and I assure you they
can not be bought or frightened. If you try to bolt, they will certainly
shoot you. If you make a row about going on board your boat at Baltimore,
remember they are government agents, with ample authority for any
emergency, and that Baron von Marhof has the American State Department at
"You are wonderful, Captain Claiborne," drawled Durand.
"There is no trap in this? You give us the freedom of the sea?" demanded
"I gave you the option of a Virginia prison for conspiracy to murder, or
a run for your life in your own boat beyond the Capes. You have chosen
the second alternative; if you care to change your decision—"
Oscar gathered up the reins and waited for the word. Claiborne held his
watch to the lantern.
"We must not miss our train, my dear Jules!" said Durand.
"Bah, Claiborne! this is ungenerous of you. You know well enough this is
an unlawful proceeding—kidnapping us this way—without opportunity for
"And without benefit of clergy," laughed Claiborne. "Is it a dash for the
sea, or the nearest county jail? If you want to tackle the American
courts, we have nothing to venture. The Winkelried crowd are safe behind
the bars in Vienna, and publicity can do us no harm."
"Drive on!" ejaculated Chauvenet.
As the buckboard started, Baron von Marhof and Judge Claiborne rode up,
and watched the departure from their saddles.
"That's the end of one chapter," remarked Judge Claiborne.
"They're glad enough to go," said Dick. "What's the latest word from
"The conspirators were taken quietly; about one hundred arrests have been
made in all, and the Hungarian uprising has played out utterly—thanks to
Mr. John Armitage," and the Baron sighed and turned toward the bungalow.
When the two diplomats rode home half an hour later, it was with the
assurance that Armitage's condition was satisfactory.
"He is a hardy plant," said the surgeon, "and will pull through."
If so be, you can discover a mode of life more desirable than the being a
king, for those who shall be kings; then the true Ideal of the State will
become a possibility; but not otherwise.—Marius the Epicurean.
June roses overflowed the veranda rail of Baron von Marhof's cottage at
Storm Springs. The Ambassador and his friend and counsel, Judge Hilton
Claiborne, sat in a cool corner with a wicker table between them. The
representative of Austria-Hungary shook his glass with an impatience that
tinkled the ice cheerily.
"He's as obstinate as a mule!"
Judge Claiborne laughed at the Baron's vehemence.
"He comes by it honestly. I can imagine his father doing the same thing
under similar circumstances."
"What! This rot about democracy! This light tossing away of an honest
title, a respectable fortune! My dear sir, there is such a thing as
carrying democracy too far!"
"I suppose there is; but he's of age; he's a grown man. I don't see what
you're going to do about it."
"Neither do I! But think what he's putting aside. The boy's clever—he
has courage and brains, as we know; he could have position—the home
government is under immense obligations to him. A word from me to Vienna
and his services to the crown would be acknowledged in the most generous
fashion. And with his father's memory and reputation behind him—"
"But the idea of reward doesn't appeal to him. We canvassed that last
"There's one thing I haven't dared to ask him: to take his own name—to
become Frederick Augustus von Stroebel, even if he doesn't want his
father's money or the title. Quite likely he will refuse that, too."
"It is possible. Most things seem possible with Armitage."
"It's simply providential that he hasn't become a citizen of your
republic. That would have been the last straw!"
They rose as Armitage called to them from a French window near by.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen! When two diplomats get their heads together
on a summer afternoon, the universe is in danger."
He came toward them hatless, but trailing a stick that had been the prop
of his later convalescence. His blue serge coat, a negligée shirt and
duck trousers had been drawn a few days before from the trunks brought by
Oscar from the bungalow. He was clean-shaven for the first time since his
illness, and the two men looked at him with a new interest. His deepened
temples and lean cheeks and hands told their story; but his step was
regaining its old assurance, and his eyes were clear and bright. He
thrust the little stick under his arm and stood erect, gazing at the near
gardens and then at the hills. The wind tumbled his brown newly-trimmed
hair, and caught the loose ends of his scarf and whipped them free.
"Sit down. We were just talking of you. You are getting so much stronger
every day that we can't be sure of you long," said the Baron.
"You have spoiled me,—I am not at all anxious to venture back into the
world. These Virginia gardens are a dream world, where nothing is really
"Something must be done about your father's estate soon. It is yours,
waiting and ready."
The Baron bent toward the young man anxiously.
Armitage shook his head slowly, and clasped the stick with both hands and
held it across his knees.
"No,—no! Please let us not talk of that any more. I could not feel
comfortable about it. I have kept my pledge to do something for his
country—something that we may hope pleases him if he knows."
The three were silent for a moment. A breeze, sweet with pine-scent of
the hills, swept the valley, taking tribute of the gardens as it passed.
The Baron was afraid to venture his last request.
"But the name—the honored name of the greatest statesman Austria has
known—a name that will endure with the greatest names of Europe—surely
you can at least accept that."
The Ambassador's tone was as gravely importunate as though he were
begging the cession of a city from a harsh conqueror. Armitage rose and
walked the length of the veranda. He had not seen Shirley since that
morning when the earth had slipped from under his feet at the bungalow.
The Claibornes had been back and forth often between Washington and Storm
Springs. The Judge had just been appointed a member of the Brazilian
boundary commission which was to meet shortly in Berlin, and Mrs.
Claiborne and Shirley were to go with him. In the Claiborne garden,
beyond and below, he saw a flash of white here and there among the dark
green hedges. He paused, leaned against a pillar, and waited until
Shirley crossed one of the walks and passed slowly on, intent upon the
rose trees; and he saw—or thought he saw—the sun searching out the gold
in her brown hair. She was hatless. Her white gown emphasized the
straight line of her figure. She paused to ponder some new arrangement of
a line of hydrangeas, and he caught a glimpse of her against a pillar of
crimson ramblers. Then he went back to the Baron.
"How much of our row in the hills got into the newspapers?" he asked,
"Nothing,—absolutely nothing. The presence of the Sophia Margaret off
the capes caused inquiries to be made at the embassy, and several
correspondents came down here to interview me. Then the revenue officers
made some raids in the hills opportunely and created a local diversion.
You were hurt while cleaning your gun,—please do not forget that!—and
you are a friend of my family,—a very eccentric character, who has
chosen to live in the wilderness."
The Judge and Armitage laughed at these explanations, though there was a
little constraint upon them all. The Baron's question was still
"You ceased to be of particular interest some time ago. While you were
sick the fraudulent Von Kissel was arrested in Australia, and I believe
some of the newspapers apologized to you handsomely."
"That was very generous of them;" and Armitage shifted his position
slightly. A white skirt had flashed again in the Claiborne garden and he
was trying to follow it. At the same time there were questions he
wished to ask and have answered. The Baroness von Marhof had already gone
to Newport; the Baron lingered merely out of good feeling toward
Armitage—for it was as Armitage that he was still known to the people
of Storm Springs, to the doctor and nurses who tended him.
"The news from Vienna seems tranquil enough," remarked Armitage. He had
not yet answered the Baron's question, and the old gentleman grew
restless at the delay. "I read in the Neue Freie Presse a while ago
that Charles Louis is showing an unexpected capacity for affairs. It is
reported, too, that an heir is in prospect. The Winkelried conspiracy is
only a bad dream and we may safely turn to other affairs."
"Yes; but the margin by which we escaped is too narrow to contemplate."
"We have a saying that a miss is as good as a mile," remarked Judge
Claiborne. "We have never told Mr. Armitage that we found the papers in
the safety box at New York to be as he described them."
"They are dangerous. We have hesitated as to whether there was more risk
in destroying them than in preserving them," said the Baron.
Armitage shrugged his shoulders and laughed.
"They are out of my hands. I positively decline to accept their further
A messenger appeared with a telegram which the Baron opened and read.
"It's from the commander of the Sophia Margaret, who is just leaving
Rio Janeiro for Trieste, and reports his prisoners safe and in good
"It was a happy thought to have him continue his cruise to the Brazilian
coast before returning homeward. By the time he delivers those two
scoundrels to his government their fellow conspirators will have
forgotten they ever lived. But"—and Judge Claiborne shrugged his
shoulders and smiled disingenuously—"as a lawyer I deplore such methods.
Think what a stir would be made in this country if it were known that two
men had been kidnapped in the sovereign state of Virginia and taken out
to sea under convoy of ships carrying our flag for transfer to an
Austrian battle-ship! That's what we get for being a free republic that
can not countenance the extradition of a foreign citizen for a political
Armitage was not listening. Questions of international law and comity had
no interest for him whatever. The valley breeze, the glory of the blue
Virginia sky, the far-stretching lines of hills that caught and led the
eye like sea billows; the dark green of shrubbery, the slope of upland
meadows, and that elusive, vanishing gleam of white,—before such things
as these the splendor of empire and the might of armies were unworthy of
The Baron's next words broke harshly upon his mood.
"The gratitude of kings is not a thing to be despised. You could go to
Vienna and begin where most men leave off! Strong hands are needed in
Austria,—you could make yourself the younger—the great Stroebel—"
The mention of his name brought back the Baron's still unanswered
question. He referred to it now, as he stood before them smiling.
"I have answered all your questions but one; I shall answer that a little
later,—if you will excuse me for just a few minutes I will go and get
the answer,—that is, gentlemen, I hope I shall be able to bring it back
He turned and ran down the steps and strode away through the long shadows
of the garden. They heard the gate click after him as he passed into the
Claiborne grounds and then they glanced at each other with such a glance
as may pass between two members of a peace commission sitting on the same
side of the table, who will not admit to each other that the latest
proposition of the enemy has been in the nature of a surprise. They did
not, however, suffer themselves to watch Armitage, but diplomatically
refilled their glasses.
Through the green walls went Armitage. He had not been out of the Baron's
grounds before since he was carried thence from the bungalow; and it was
pleasant to be free once more, and able to stir without a nurse at his
heels; and he swung along with his head and shoulders erect, walking with
the confident stride of a man who has no doubt whatever of his immediate
At the pergola he paused to reconnoiter, finding on the bench certain
vestigia that interested him deeply,—a pink parasol, a contrivance of
straw, lace and pink roses that seemed to be a hat, and a June magazine.
He jumped upon the bench where once he had sat, an exile, a refugee, a
person discussed in disagreeable terms by the newspapers, and studied the
landscape. Then he went on up the gradual slope of the meadow, until he
came to the pasture wall. It was under the trees beneath which Oscar had
waited for Zmai that he found her.
"They told me you wouldn't dare venture out for a week," she said,
advancing toward him and giving him her hand.
"That was what they told me," he said, laughing; "but I escaped from my
"You will undoubtedly take cold,—without your hat!"
"Yes; I shall undoubtedly have pneumonia from exposure to the Virginia
sunshine. I take my chances."
"You may sit on the wall for three minutes; then you must go back. I can
not be responsible for the life of a wounded hero."
"Please!" He held up his hand. "That's what I came to talk to you about."
"About being a hero? You have taken an unfair advantage. I was going to
send for the latest designs in laurel wreaths to-morrow."
She sat down beside him on the wall. The sheep were a grayish blur
against the green. A little negro boy was shepherding them, and they
scampered before him toward the farther end of the pasture. The faint and
vanishing tinkle of a bell, and the boy's whistle, gave emphasis to the
country-quiet of the late afternoon. They spoke rapidly and impersonally
of his adventures in the hills and of his illness. When they looked at
each other it was with swift laughing glances. Her cheeks and hands
were-already brown,—an honest brown won from May and June in the open
field,—not that blistered, peeling scarlet that marks the insincere
devotee of racket, driver and oar, who jumps into the game in August, but
the real brown conferred by the dear mother of us all upon the faithful
who go forth to meet her in April. Her hands interested him particularly.
They were long, slender and supple; and she had a pretty way of folding
them upon her knees that charmed him.
"I didn't know, Miss Claiborne, that I was going to lose my mind that
morning at the bungalow or I should have asked your brother to conduct
you to the conservatory while I fainted. From what they told me I must
have been a little light-headed for a day or two. If I had been in my
right mind I shouldn't have let Captain Dick mix up in my business and
run the risk of getting killed in a nasty little row. Dear old Dick! I
made a mess of that whole business; I ought to have telegraphed for the
Storm Springs constable in the beginning, and told him that if he wasn't
careful the noble house of Schomburg would totter and fall."
"Yes; and just imagine the effect on our constable of telling him that
the fate of an empire lay in his hands. It's hard enough to get a man
arrested who beats his horse. But you must go back to your keepers. You
haven't your hat—"
"Neither have you; you shan't outdo me in recklessness. I inspected your
hat as I came through the pergola. I liked it immensely; I came near
seizing it as spoil of war,—the loot of the pergola!"
"There would be cause for another war; I have rarely liked any hat so
much. But the Baron will be after you in a moment. I can't be responsible
"The Baron annoys me. He has given me a lot of worry. And that's what I
have come to ask you about."
"Then I should say that you oughtn't to quarrel with a dear old man like
Baron von Marhof. Besides, he's your uncle."
"No! No! I don't want him to be my uncle! I don't need any uncle!"
He glanced about with an anxiety that made her laugh.
"I understand perfectly! My father told me that the events of April in
these hills were not to be mentioned. But don't worry; the sheep won't
tell—and I won't."
He was silent for a moment as he thought out the words of what he wished
to say to her. The sun was dipping down into the hills; the mellow air
was still; the voice of a negro singing as he crossed a distant field
stole sweetly upon them.
He touched her hand.
"Shirley!" and his fingers closed upon hers.
"I love you, Shirley! From those days when I saw you in Paris,—before
the great Gettysburg battle picture, I loved you. You had felt the cry of
the Old World, the story that is in its battle-fields, its beauty and
romance, just as I had felt the call of this new and more wonderful
world. I understood—I knew what was in your heart; I knew what those
things meant to you;—but I had put them aside; I had chosen another life
for myself. And the poor life that you saved, that is yours if you will
take it. I have told your father and Baron von Marhof that I would not
take the fortune my father left me; I would not go back there to be
thanked or to get a ribbon to wear in my coat. But my name, the name I
bore as a boy and disgraced in my father's eyes,—his name that he made
famous throughout the world, the name I cast aside with my youth, the
name I flung away in anger,—they wish me to take that."
She withdrew her hand and rose and looked away toward the western hills.
"The greatest romance in the world is here, Shirley. I have dreamed it
all over,—in the Canadian woods, on the Montana ranch as I watched the
herd at night. My father spent his life keeping a king upon his throne;
but I believe there are higher things and finer things than steadying a
shaking throne or being a king. And the name that has meant nothing to me
except dominion and power,—it can serve no purpose for me to take it
now. I learned much from the poor Archduke; he taught me to hate the sham
and shame of the life he had fled from. My father was the last great
defender of the divine right of kings; but I believe in the divine right
of men. And the dome of the Capitol in Washington does not mean to me
force or hatred or power, but faith and hope and man's right to live and
do and be whatever he can make himself. I will not go back or take the
old name unless,—unless you tell me I must, Shirley!"
There was an instant in which they both faced the westering sun. He
looked down suddenly and the deep feeling in his heart went to his lips.
"It was that way,—you were just like that when I saw you first, Shirley,
with the dreams in your eyes."
He caught her hand and kissed it,—bending very low indeed. Suddenly, as
he stood erect, her arms were about his neck and her cheek with its
warmth and color lay against his face.
"I do not know,"—and he scarcely heard the whispered words,—"I do not
know Frederick Augustus von Stroebel,—but I love—John Armitage," she
Then back across the meadow, through the rose-aisled ways of the quiet
garden, they went hand in hand together and answered the Baron's