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Chapter 19 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 hi_uarters at Fort Myer. Being a soldier, he obeyed orders; but being human, h_as also possessed of a degree of curiosity. He did not know just the serie_f incidents and conferences that preceded his summons to Washington, but the_ay be summarized thus:
  • Baron von Marhof was a cautious man. When the young gentlemen of his legatio_poke to him in awed whispers of a cigarette case bearing an extraordinar_evice that had been seen in Washington he laughed them away; then, possessin_ curious and thorough mind, he read all the press clippings relating to th_alse Baron von Kissel, and studied the heraldic emblems of the Schomburgs. A_e pondered, he regretted the death of his eminent brother-in-law, Coun_erdinand von Stroebel, who was not a man to stumble over so negligible _rifle 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 ther_as nothing in the Armitage mystery; then he cabled Vienna discreetly for _ew days, and finally consulted Hilton Claiborne, the embassy's counsel, a_he Claiborne home at Storm Springs.
  • They had both gone hurriedly to Washington, where they held a long conferenc_ith the Secretary of State. Then the state department called the wa_epartment by telephone, and quickly down the line to the commanding office_t Fort Myer went a special assignment for Captain Claiborne to report to th_ecretary of State. A great deal of perfectly sound red tape was reduced t_inute particles in these manipulations; but Baron von Marhof's business wa_rgent; it was also of a private and wholly confidential character. Therefore, he returned to his cottage at Storm Springs, and the Washington papers state_hat 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 librar_ comfortable place for a conference. Dick Claiborne caught the gravity of th_lder men as they unfolded to him the task for which they had asked hi_ervices. The Baron stated the case in these words:
  • "You know and have talked with this man Armitage; you saw the device on th_igarette case; and asked an explanation, which he refused; and you know als_hauvenet, whom we suspect of complicity with the conspirators at home.
  • Armitage is not the false Baron von Kissel—we have established that fro_enator Sanderson beyond question. But Sanderson's knowledge of the man is o_omparatively recent date—going back about five years to the time Armitag_urchased his Montana ranch. Whoever Armitage may be, he pays his bills; h_onducts himself like a gentleman; he travels at will, and people who meet hi_ay a good word for him."
  • "He is an agreeable man and remarkably well posted in European politics," sai_udge Claiborne. "I talked with him a number of times on the _King Edward_ an_ust say that I liked him."
  • "Chauvenet evidently knows him; there was undoubtedly something back of tha_ittle trick at my supper party at the Army and Navy," said Dick.
  • "It might be explained—" began the Baron; then he paused and looked fro_ather to son. "Pardon me, but they both manifest some interest in Mis_laiborne."
  • "We met them abroad," said Dick; "and they both turned up again i_ashington."
  • "One of them is here, or has been here in the valley—why not the other?" aske_udge Claiborne.
  • "But, of course, Shirley knows nothing of Armitage's whereabouts," Dic_rotested.
  • "Certainly not," declared his father.
  • "How did you make Armitage's acquaintance?" asked the Ambassador. "Some on_ust have been responsible for introducing him—if you can remember."
  • Dick laughed.
  • "It was in the Monte Rosa, at Geneva. Shirley and I had been chaffing eac_ther about the persistence with which Armitage seemed to follow us. He wa_aking _déjeuner_ at the same hour, and he passed us going out. Old Arthu_ingleton—the ubiquitous—was talking to us, and he nailed Armitage with hi_ustomary 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. The_rmitage turned up on the steamer, where he made himself most agreeable. Next, Senator Sanderson vouched for him as one of his Montana constituents. You kno_he rest of the story. I swallowed him whole; he called at our house o_everal occasions, and came to the post, and I asked him to my supper for th_panish attaché."
  • "And now, Dick, we want you to find him and get him into a room wit_urselves, where we can ask him some questions," declared Judge Claiborne.
  • They discussed the matter in detail. It was agreed that Dick should remain a_he Springs for a few days to watch Chauvenet; then, if he got no clue t_rmitage's whereabouts, he was to go to Montana, to see if anything could b_earned there.
  • "We must find him—there must be no mistake about it," said the Ambassador t_udge Claiborne, when they were alone. "They are almost panic-stricken i_ienna. What with the match burning close to the powder in Hungary and cleve_eads plotting in Vienna this American end of the game has dangerou_ossibilities."
  • "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, "suppos_harles Louis, Emperor-king of Austria-Hungary, should die—to-night—to- morrow—"
  • "We will assume nothing of the kind!" ejaculated the Ambassador sharply. "I_s impossible." Then to Captain Claiborne: "You must pardon me if I do no_xplain further. I wish to find Armitage; it is of the greatest importance. I_ould not aid you if I told you why I must see and talk with him."
  • And as though to escape from the thing of which his counsel had hinted, Baro_on Marhof took his departure at once.
  • Shirley met her brother on the veranda. His arrival had been unheralded an_he was frankly astonished to see him.
  • "Well, Captain Claiborne, you are a man of mystery. You will undoubtedly b_ourt-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 elaborat_rrelevance:
  • "Well, we must hope that your appearance will cause no battles to be fought i_ur garden. There was enough fighting about here in old times."
  • "Take heart, little sister, I shall protect you. Oh, it's rather decent o_rmitage to have kept away from you, Shirley, after all that fuss about th_ogus baron."
  • "Which he wasn't—"
  • "Well, Sanderson says he couldn't have been, and the rogues' gallery picture_on't resemble our friend at all."
  • "Ugh; don't speak of it!" and Shirley shrugged her shoulders. She suffered he_yes to climb the slopes of the far hills. Then she looked steadily at he_rother and laughed.
  • "What do you and father and Baron von Marhof want with Mr. John Armitage?" sh_sked.
  • "Guess again!" exclaimed Dick hurriedly. "Has that been the undercurrent o_our conversation? As I may have said before in this connection, yo_isappoint 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."
  • "That's different."
  • He rose and took several steps toward her. She stood against the railing wit_er hands behind her back.
  • "Shirley, you are the finest girl in the world, but you wouldn't do _this_ —"
  • "This what, Dick?"
  • "You know what I mean. I ask you again—have you or have you not seen Armitag_ince you came to the Springs?"
  • He spoke impatiently, his eyes upon hers. A wave of color swept her face, an_hen 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 t_ave private talks with him and the governor—about subjects of dee_mportance. The governor is a good deal of a man himself."
  • "I am proud to be his son," declared Dick, meeting Shirley's eye_nflinchingly.
  • Shirley was silent for a moment, while Dick whistled a few bars from th_atest waltz.
  • "A captain—a mere captain of the line—is not often plucked out of his pos_hen in good health and standing—after a long leave for foreign travel—an_ent away to visit his parents—and help entertain a distinguished Ambassador."
  • "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 bette_nown than you were before that little supper for the Spanish attaché. I_ather directed attention to you, didn't it, Dick?"
  • Dick colored.
  • "It certainly did."
  • "And if you should meet Monsieur Chauvenet, who caused the trouble—"
  • "I have every intention of meeting him!"
  • "Oh!"
  • "Of course, I shall meet him—some time, somewhere. He's at the Springs, isn'_e?"
  • "Am I a hotel register that I should know? I haven't seen him for severa_ays."
  • "What I should like to see," said Dick, "is a meeting between Armitage an_hauvenet. That would really be entertaining. No doubt Chauvenet could whi_our mysterious suitor."
  • He looked away, with an air of unconcern, at the deepening shadows on th_ountains.
  • "Dear Dick, I am quite sure that if you have been chosen out of all the Unite_tates army to find Mr. John Armitage, you will succeed without any help fro_e."
  • "That doesn't answer my question. You don't know what you are doing. What i_ather 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 hi_rrest; so we are quits, Captain. You had better look in at the hotel danc_o-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 betwee_hem, and Captain Claiborne clapped his hands together impatiently and wen_nto the house.