> April, April, > 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, > April, April, > Laugh thy golden laughter, > But, the moment after, > Weep thy golden tears!
> —William Watson.
A few photographs of foreign scenes tacked on the walls; a Roman blanket hun_s a tapestry over the mantel; a portfolio and traveler's writing material_istributed about a table produced for the purpose, and additions to th_eager book-shelf—a line of Baedekers, a pocket atlas, a comprehensiv_merican railway guide, several volumes of German and French poetry—and th_lace was not so bad. Armitage slept for an hour after a simple luncheon ha_een prepared by Oscar, studied his letters and cablegrams—made, in fact, som_otes in regard to them—and wrote replies. Then, at four o'clock, he tol_scar to saddle the horses.
"It is spring, and in April a man's blood will not be quiet. We shall go fort_nd taste the air."
He had studied the map of Lamar County with care, and led the way out of hi_wn preserve by the road over which they had entered in the morning. Oscar an_is horses were a credit to the training of the American army, and would hav_assed inspection anywhere. Armitage watched his adjutant with approval. Th_an 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 Stor_alley, and he opened his pocket map, the better to clarify his ideas of th_egion.
"We shall go down into the valley, Oscar," he said; and thereafter it was h_hat led.
They struck presently into an old road that had been an early highway acros_he mountains. Above and below the forest hung gloomily, and passing cloud_arkened the slopes and occasionally spilled rain. Armitage drew on his cloa_nd 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 the_assed a number of traps that spoke unmistakably of cities, and riders whos_ounts knew well the bridle-paths of Central Park. The hotel loomed massivel_efore them, and beyond were handsome estates and ambitious mansions scattere_hrough 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 an_ne; and at our time of life, Oscar, one should be wary of making ne_cquaintances."
He tossed his cloak over the saddle and walked toward the inn. The size of th_lace and the great number of people going and coming surprised him, but i_he numbers he saw his own security, and he walked boldly up the steps of th_ain hotel entrance. He stepped into the long corridor of the inn, where man_eople lounged about, and heard with keen satisfaction and relief the click o_ telegraph instrument that seemed at once to bring him into contact with th_emote 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 youn_en and women just returned from a drive gave him a touch of heartache, fo_here 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 likel_he 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 hi_oyal chief, had taken a cottage at the Springs to emphasize his abstentio_rom the life of the capital. The Ambassador lifted his eyes and bowed t_rmitage, as he bowed to a great many young men whose names he neve_emembered; but, oddly enough, the Baron paused, stared after Armitage for _oment, then shook his head and walked on with knit brows. Armitage had lifte_is hat and passed out, tapping his leg with his crop.
He walked toward the private houses that lay scattered over the valley an_long the gradual slope of the hills as though carelessly flung from a dic_ox. Many of the places were handsome estates, with imposing houses set ami_eautiful gardens. Half a mile from the hotel he stopped a passing negro t_sk who owned a large house that stood well back from the road. The ma_nswered; he seemed anxious to impart further information, and Armitag_vailed 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 Armitag_miled to himself and strolled on.
He looked down in a moment upon a pretty estate, distinguished by its forma_arden, but with the broad acres of a practical farm stretching far out int_he valley. The lawn terraces were green, broken only by plots of sprin_lowers; the walks were walled in box and privet; the house, of the pillare_olonial type, crowned a series of terraces. A long pergola, with pillar_opped by red urns, curved gradually through the garden toward the mansion.
Armitage followed a side road along the brick partition wall and contemplate_he inner landscape. The sharp snap of a gardener's shears far up the slop_as the only sound that reached him. It was a charming place, and he yielde_o a temptation to explore it. He dropped over the wall and strolled awa_hrough the garden, the smell of warm earth, moist from the day's ligh_howers, and the faint odor of green things growing, sweet in his nostrils. H_alked to the far end of the pergola, sat down on a wooden bench, and gav_imself up to reverie. He had been denounced as an impostor; he was o_laiborne soil; and the situation required thought.
It was while he thus pondered his affairs that Shirley, walking over the sof_awn from a neighboring estate, came suddenly upon him.
Her head went up with surprise and—he was sure—with disdain. She stoppe_bruptly as he jumped to his feet.
"I am caught— _in flagrante delicto_! I can only plead guilty and pray fo_ercy."
"They said—they said you had gone to Mexico?" said Shirley questioningly.
"Plague take the newspapers! How dare they so misrepresent me!" he laughed.
"Yes, I read those newspaper articles with a good deal of interest. And m_rother—"
"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 he_yes.
"Those are generous words, Mr. Armitage. My brother warned me against you i_uite 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 goin_o keep it. It was very damaging evidence. It would argue strongly against m_n any court of law."
"Yes, I believe that is true." And she looked at the trinket with fran_nterest.
"But I particularly do not wish to have to meet that charge in any court o_aw, Miss Claiborne."
She met his gaze very steadily, and her eyes were grave. Then she asked, i_uch the same tone that she would have used if they had been very old friend_nd he had excused himself for not riding that day, or for not going upon _unt, or to the theater:
"Because I have a pledge to keep and a work to do, and if I were forced t_efend myself from the charge of being the false Baron von Kissel, everythin_ould be spoiled. You see, unfortunately—most unfortunately—I am not quit_ithout responsibilities, and I have come down into the mountains, where _ope not to be shot and tossed over a precipice until I have had time to watc_ertain people and certain events a little while. I tried to say as much t_aptain Claiborne, but I saw that my story did not impress him. And now I hav_aid the same thing to you—"
He waited, gravely watching her, hat in hand.
"And I have stood here and listened to you, and done exactly what Captai_laiborne 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 not!"
Her conclusion was abrupt and pointed.
"Then I will tell you—what I have not told any one else—that I know very wel_hat you are not the person who appeared at Bar Harbor three years ago an_almed 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 _eek—I was even at a tea where he was quite the lion, and I am sure you ar_ot the same person."
Her direct manner of speech, her decisive tone, in which she placed the matte_f his identity on a purely practical and unsentimental plane, gave him a ne_mpression 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 m_rother. He undoubtedly believes you are the impostor who palmed himself of_t 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'_ntire credibility," declared Armitage, a little airily.
"I should say not," said Shirley unresponsively. "I am quite as sure that h_as 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 th_ord—"ridiculous that both of you should be here."
"Thank you, for my half! I didn't know he was here! But I am not exactl_here_ —I have a much, safer place,"—he swept the blue-hilled horizon with hi_and. "Monsieur Chauvenet and I will not shoot at each other in the hote_ining-room. But I am really relieved that he has come. We have an interestin_ashion of running into each other; it would positively grieve me to b_bliged to wait long for him."
He smiled and thrust his hat under his arm. The sun was dropping behind th_reat western barricade, and a chill wind crept sharply over the valley.
He started to walk beside her as she turned away, but she paused abruptly.
"Oh, this won't do at all! I can't be seen with you, even in the shadow of m_wn house. I must trouble you to take the side gate,"—and she indicated it b_ nod of her head.
"Not if I know myself! I am not a fraudulent member of the German nobility—yo_ave told me so yourself. Your conscience is clear—I assure you mine i_qually so! And I am not a person, Miss Claiborne, to sneak out by sid_ates—particularly when I came over the fence! It's a long way aroun_nyhow—and I have a horse over there somewhere by the inn."
"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 himself."
They had reached the veranda steps, and she ran to the top and turned for _oment to look at him. He still carried his hat and crop in one hand, and ha_ropped the other into the side pocket of his coat. He was wholly at ease, an_he wind ruffled his hair and gave him a boyish look that Shirley liked. Bu_he had no wish to be found with him, and she instantly nodded his dismissa_nd half turned away to go into the house, when he detained her for a moment.
"I am perfectly willing to afford Monsieur Chauvenet all imaginabl_ntertainment. We are bound to have many meetings. I am afraid he reached thi_harming 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 sh_ade, the tall pillars of the veranda framing her against the white wall o_he house, and the architrave high above speaking, so he thought, for th_mplitude, the breadth of her nature. Her green cloth gown afforded th_appiest 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 wh_ears it)—her hat, Armitage was aware, was a trifle of black velvet caught u_t one side with snowy plumes well calculated to shock the sensibilities o_he 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 velve_ap, plume and all. Her profile, as she half turned away, must awaken regre_hat 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 a_lmost imperceptible gathering of her brows. It was all the matter of a_nstant. His heart beat fast in his joy at the sight of her, and the tongu_hat years of practice had skilled in reserve and evasion was possessed by _eckless 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!" h_dded daringly. "Now, in Geneva, not long ago—"
He lost the profile and gained her face as he liked it best, though her hea_as lifted a little high in resentment against her own yielding curiosity. H_as speaking rapidly, and the slight hint of some other tongue than hi_sually fluent English arrested her ear now, as it had at other times.
"In Geneva, when I told a young lady that I was waiting for a very wicked ma_o appear—it was really the oddest thing in the world that almost immediatel_onsieur Jules Chauvenet arrived at mine own inn! It is inevitable; it i_lways sure to be my fate," he concluded mournfully.
He bowed low, restored the shabby hat to his head with the least bit of _lourish and strolled away through the garden by a broad walk that led to th_ront gate.
He would have been interested to know that when he was out of sight Shirle_alked to the veranda rail and bent forward, listening to his steps on th_ravel, after the hedge and shrubbery had hidden him. And she stood thus unti_he faint click of the gate told her that he had gone.
She did not know that as the gate closed upon him he met Chauvenet face t_ace.