In the morning Monsieur Pierre faithfully reported to his mistress the groom'_xtraordinary insolence and impudence of the night before. The girl struggle_ith and conquered her desire to laugh; for monsieur was somewhat grotesque i_is rage.
"Frightful, Mademoiselle, most frightful! He call me Pe_taire_ mos_isrrrespectful way, and eject me from zee stables. I can not call heem out; he ees a groom and knows nozzing uf zee _amende honorable._ "
Mademoiselle summoned M'sieu Zhames. She desired to make the comedy complet_n all its phases.
"James, whenever you are called upon to act in the capacity of butler, yo_ust clear the table after the guests leave it. This is imperative. I do no_ish the scullery girl to handle the porcelain save in the tubs. Do yo_nderstand?"
"Yes, Miss. There were no orders to that effect last night, however." He wa_ngry.
Monsieur Pierre puffed up like the lady-frog in Aesop's fables,
"And listen, Pierre," she said, collapsing the bubble of the chef's conceit,
"you must give no orders to James. I will do that. I do not wish any tale- bearing or quarreling among my servants. I insist upon this. Observe m_arefully, Pierre, and you, James."
James _did_ observe her carefully, so carefully, indeed, that her gaze wa_orced to wander to the humiliated countenance of Monsieur Pierre.
"James, you must not look at me like that. There is something in your eyes; _an't explain what it is, but it somehow lacks the respect due me." Thi_ommand was spoken coldly and sharply.
"Respect?" He drew back a step. "I disrespectful to you, Miss Annesley? Oh, you wrong me. There can not be any one more respectful to you than I am." Th_incerity of his tones could not be denied. In fact, he was almost to_incere.
"Nevertheless, I wish you to regard what I have said. Now, you two shak_ands."
The groom and the chef shook hands. I am ashamed to say that James squeeze_onsieur Pierre's flabby hand out of active service for several hours tha_ollowed. Beads of agony sparkled on Monsieur Pierre's expansive brow as h_urned to enter the kitchen.
"Shall we ride to-day, Miss?" he asked, inwardly amused.
"No, _I_ shall not ride this morning,"—calmly.
James bowed meekly under the rebuke. What did he care? Did he not possess _ose which had known the pressure of her lips, her warm, red lips?
"You may go," she said.
James went. James whistled on the way, too.
Would that it had been my good fortune to have witnessed the episode of tha_fternoon! My jehu, when he hears it related these days, smiles a sickly grin.
I do not believe that he ever laughed heartily over it. At three o'clock, while Warburton was reading the morning paper, interested especially in th_rmy news of the day, he heard Pierre's voice wailing.
"What's the fat fool want now?" James grumbled to William.
"Oh, he's always yelling for help. They've coddled him so long in the famil_hat he acts like a ten-year-old kid. I stole a kiss from Celeste one day, an_ will be shot if he didn't start to blubber."
"You stole a kiss, eh?" said James, admiringly.
"Only just for the sport of making him crazy, that was all." But William's re_isage belied his indifferent tone. "You'd better go and see what he wants. M_ands are all harness grease."
Warburton concluded to follow William's advice. He flung down his paper an_trode out to the rear porch, where he saw Pierre gesticulating wildly.
"What's the matter? What do you want?"—churlishly.
"Frightful! Zee stove-pipe ees vat you call _bust!_ "
"I can not rrreach eet. I can not cook till eet ees fix'. You are tall, eh?"—affably.
"All right; I'll help you fix it."
Grumbling, James went into the kitchen, mounted a chair, and began bangin_way at the pipe, very much after the fashion of Bunner's "Culpeppe_erguson." The pipe acted piggishly. James grew determined. One end slipped i_nd then the other slipped out, half a dozen times. James lost patience an_ecame angry; and in his anger he overreached himself. The chair slid back. H_ried to balance himself and, in the mad effort to maintain a perpendicula_osition, made a frantic clutch at the pipe. Ruin and devastation! Down cam_he pipe, and with it a peck of greasy soot.
Monsieur Pierre yelled with terror and despair. The pies on the rear end o_he stove were lost for ever. Mademoiselle Celeste screamed with laughter, whether at the sight of the pies or M'sieu Zhames, is more than I can say.
James rose to his feet, the cuss-words of a corporal rumbled behind his lips.
He sent an energetic kick toward Pierre, who succeeded in eluding it.
Pierre's eyes were full of tears. What a kitchen! What a kitchen! Soot, soot, everywhere, on the floor, on the tables, on the walls, in the air!
"Zee pipe!" he burst forth; "zee pipe! You haf zee house full of gas!"
James, blinking and sneezing, boiling with rage and chagrin, remounted th_hair and finally succeeded in joining the two lengths. Nothing happened thi_ime. But the door to the forward rooms opened, and Miss Annesley looked i_pon the scene.
"Merciful heavens!" she gasped, "what has happened?"
"Zee stove-pipe bust, Mees," explained Pierre.
The girl gave Warburton one look, balled her handkerchief against her mouth, and fled. This didn't add to his amiability. He left the kitchen in _ownright savage mood. He had appeared before her positively ridiculous, laughable. A woman never can love a man, nor entertain tender regard for hi_t whom she has laughed: And the girl had laughed, and doubtless was stil_aughing. (However, I do not offer his opinion as infallible.)
He stood in the roadway, looking around for some inanimate thing upon which h_ight vent his anger, when the sound of hoofs coming toward him distracte_im. He glanced over his shoulder… and his knees all but gave way under him.
Caught! The rider was none other than his sister Nancy! It was all over now, for a certainty. He knew it; he had about one minute to live. She was to_ear, so he dared not fly. Then a brilliant inspiration came to him. H_uickly passed his hand over his face. The disguise was complete. Vidocq'_onderful eye could not have penetrated to the flesh.
"James!" Miss Annesley was standing on the veranda. "Take charge of the horse.
Nancy, dear, I am so glad to see you!"
James was anything but glad.
"Betty, good gracious, whatever is the matter with this fellow? Has he th_lack plague? Ugh!" She slid from the saddle unaided.
James stolidly took the reins.
"The kitchen stove-pipe fell down," Betty replied, "and James stood in th_mmediate vicinity of it."
The two girls laughed joyously, but James did not even smile. He had half _otion to kiss Nancy, as he had planned to do that memorable night of the bal_t the British embassy. But even as the notion came to him, Nancy had climbe_p the steps and was out of harm's way.
"James," said Miss Annesley, "go and wash your face at once."
At the sound of his voice Nancy turned swiftly; but the groom had presente_is back and was leading the horse to the stables.
Nancy would never tell me the substance of her conversation with Miss Annesle_hat afternoon, but I am conceited enough to believe that a certain absen_entleman was the main topic. When she left, it was William who led out th_orse. He explained that James was still engaged with soap and water an_umice-stone. Miss Annesley's laughter rang out heartily, and Nancy could no_elp joining her.
"And have you heard from that younger brother of yours?" Betty asked, as he_riend settled herself in the saddle.
"Not a line, Betty, not a line; and I had set my heart on your meeting him. _o not know where he is, or when he will be back."
"Perhaps he is in quest of adventures."
"He is in Canada, hunting caribou."
"You don't tell me!"
"What a handsome girl you are, Betty!"—admiringly.
"What a handsome girl you are, Nancy!" mimicked the girl on the veranda. "I_our brother is only half as handsome, I do not know whatever will become o_his heart of mine when we finally meet." She smiled and drolly placed he_ands on her heart. "Don't look so disappointed, Nan; perhaps we may yet meet.
I have an idea that he will prove interesting and entertaining;"—and sh_aughed again.
"Whoa, Dandy! What _are_ you laughing at?" demanded Nancy.
"I was thinking of James and his soap and water and pumice-stone. That wa_ll, dear. Saturday afternoon, then, we shall ride to the club and have tea.
Good-by, and remember me to the baby."
"Good-by!"—and Nancy cantered away.
What a blissful thing the lack of prescience is, sometimes!
When James had scraped the soot from his face and neck and hands, and ha_udsed it from his hair, James observed, with some concern, that Pirate wa_oughing at a great rate. His fierce run against the wind the day before ha_iven him a cold. So James hunted about for the handy veterinarian.
"Where do you keep your books here?" he asked William. "Pirate's got a cold."
"In the house library. You just go in and get it. We always do that at home.
You'll find it on the lower shelf, to the right as you enter the door."
It was half after four when James, having taken a final look at his hands an_ails, proceeded to follow William's instructions. He found no one about.
Outside the kitchen the lower part of the house was deserted. To reach th_ibrary he had to pass through the music-room. He saw the violin-case on th_iano, and at once unconsciously pursed his lips into a noiseless whistle. H_assed on into the library. He had never been in any of these rooms in th_aytime. It was not very light, even now.
The first thing that caught his attention was a movable drawing- board, o_hich lay an uncompleted drawing. At one side stood a glass, into which wer_hrust numerous pens and brushes. Near this lay a small ball of crumple_ambric, such as women insist upon carrying in their street-car purses, _elicate, dainty, useless thing. So she drew pictures, too, he thought. Wa_here anything this beautiful creature could not do? Everything seemed t_uggest her presence. An indefinable feminine perfume still lingered on th_ir, speaking eloquently of her.
Curiosity impelled him to step forward and examine her work. He approache_ith all the stealth of a gentlemanly burglar. He expected to see some tree_nd hills and mayhap a brook, or some cows standing in a stream, or som_hildren picking daisies. He had a sister, and was reasonably familiar wit_he kind of subjects chosen by the lady- amateur.
A fortification plan!
He bent close to it. Here was the sea, here was the land, here the number o_oldiers, cannon, rounds of ammunition, resources in the matter of procurin_id, the telegraph, the railways, everything was here on this pale, waxe_loth, everything but a name. He stared at it, bewildered. He couldn'_nderstand what a plan of this sort was doing outside the War Department.
Instantly he became a soldier; he forgot that he was masquerading as a groom; he forgot everything but this mute thing staring up into his face. Underneath, on a little shelf, he saw a stack of worn envelopes. He looked at them. Roug_rafts of plans. Governor's Island! Fortress Monroe! What did it mean? Wha_could_ it mean? He searched and found plans, plans, plans of harbors, plan_f coast defenses, plans of ships building, plans of full naval and militar_trength; everything, everything! He straightened. How his breath pained him!
… And all this was the handiwork of the woman he loved! Good God, what wa_oing on in this house? What right had such things as these to be in a privat_ome? For what purpose had they been drawn? so accurately reproduced? For wha_urpose?
Oh, whatever the purpose was, _she_ was innocent; upon this conviction h_ould willingly stake his soul. Innocent, innocent! ticked the clock over th_antel. Yes, she was innocent. Else, how could she laugh in that light-hearte_ashion? How could the song tremble on her lips? How could her eyes shine s_right and merry?… Karloff, Annesley! Karloff the Russian, Annesley th_merican; the one a secret agent of his country, the other a former truste_fficial! No, no! He could not entertain so base a thought against the fathe_f the girl he loved. Had he not admired his clean record, his persona_ravery, his fearless honesty? And yet, that absent- mindedness, this care- worn countenance, these must mean something. The purpose, to find out th_urpose of these plans!
He took the handkerchief and hid it in his breast, and quietly stole away…. _andkerchief, a rose, and a kiss; yes, that was all that would ever be his.
Pirate nearly coughed his head off that night; but, it being William's nigh_ff, nobody paid any particular attention to that justly indignant animal.