> 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."
"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."
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?"
"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, 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.