> Ease, of all good gifts the best, > War and wave at last decree: > Love alone denies us rest, > Crueler than sword or sea.
> William Watson.
"I am Columbus every time I cross," said Shirley. "What lies out there in th_est is an undiscovered country."
"Then I shall have to take the part of the rebellious and doubting crew. Ther_s no America, and we're sure to get into trouble if we don't turn back."
"You shall be clapped into irons and fed on bread and water, and turned ove_o 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. _hoose 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 pla_ little on the eternal novelty of travel, and you have dropped me down 'ful_addom five.'"
"I'm sorry, but I have only revealed an honest tendency of character. Pirac_s probably a more profitable line of business than discovery. Discoverer_enefit mankind at great sacrifice and expense, and die before they ca_eceive the royal thanks. A pirate's business is all done over the counter o_ strictly cash basis."
They were silent for a moment, continuing their tramp. Pair weather wa_eopling the decks. Dick Claiborne was engrossed with a vivacious Californi_irl, and Shirley saw him only at meals; but he and Armitage held nigh_essions in the smoking-room, with increased liking on both sides.
"Armitage isn't a bad sort," Dick admitted to Shirley. "He's either an awfu_iar, or he's seen a lot of the world."
"Of course, he has to travel to sell his glassware," observed Shirley. "I'_urprised at your seeming intimacy with a mere 'peddler,'—and you an office_n the finest cavalry in the world."
"Well, if he's a peddler he's a high-class one—probably the junior member o_he firm that owns the works."
Armitage saw something of all the Claibornes every day in the pleasan_ntimacy of ship life, and Hilton Claiborne found the young man an interestin_alker. Judge Claiborne is, as every one knows, the best-posted American o_is time in diplomatic history; and when they were together Armitage suggeste_opics that were well calculated to awaken the old lawyer's interest.
"The glass-blower's a deep one, all right," remarked Dick to Shirley. "H_ollies me occasionally, just to show there's no hard feeling; then he jollie_he governor; and when I saw our mother footing it on his arm this afternoon _lmost 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 tel_er 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 o_ot!"
"My sister—my own sister says this to me! This is quite the unkindest. I'_oing to offer myself to the daughter of the redwoods at once."
Shirley and Armitage talked—as people will on ship-board—of everything unde_he sun. Shirley's enthusiasms were in themselves interesting; but she wa_nformed in the world's larger affairs, as became the daughter of a man wh_as an authority in such matters, and found it pleasant to discuss them wit_rmitage. He felt the poetic quality in her; it was that which had firs_ppealed to him; but he did not know that something of the same sort i_imself touched her; it was enough for those days that he was courteous an_musing, and gained a trifle in her eyes from the fact that he had no tangibl_ackground.
Then came the evening of the fifth day. They were taking a turn after dinne_n the lighted deck. The spring stars hung faint and far through thin cloud_nd the wind was keen from the sea. A few passengers were out; the dec_tewards went about gathering up rugs and chairs for the night.
"Time oughtn't to be reckoned at all at sea, so that people who fee_hemselves getting old might sail forth into the deep and defy the old ma_ith the hour-glass."
"I like the idea. Such people could become fishers—permanently, and grow ver_ise from so much brain food."
"They wouldn't eat, Mr. Armitage. Brain-food forsooth! You talk like _reakfast-food advertisement. My idea—mine, please note—is for such fortunat_eople to sail in pretty little boats with orange-tinted sails and pick u_ost 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 muc_how. And dreams passing over—the idea is pretty, and is creditable to you_magination. But I thought your fancy was more militant. Now, for example, yo_ike 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 strictl_ersonal matter. That was a wonderful collection of military and battl_ictures shown in Paris last winter."
She half withdrew her hand from his arm, and turned away. The sea winds di_ot wholly account for the sudden color in her cheeks. She had seen Armitag_n 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 remembere_ith instant consciousness the hours of absorption she had spent before thos_anvases.
"It was a public exhibition, I believe; there was no great harm in seeing it."
"No; there certainly was not!" He laughed, then was serious at once. Shirley'_ense, arrested figure, her bright, eager eyes, her parted lips, as he saw he_efore the battle pictures in the gallery at Paris, came up before him an_ave him pause. He could not play upon that stolen glance or tease he_uriosity in respect to it. If this were a ship flirtation, it might be wel_nough; 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 h_ad followed her about—and caught her, there at Paris, in an exalted mood, t_hich she had been wrought by the moving incidents of war.
"I was in Paris during the exhibition," he said quietly. "Ormsby, the America_ainter—the man who did the _High Tide at Gettysburg_ —is an acquaintance o_ine."
It was Ormsby's painting that had particularly captivated Shirley. She ha_eturned to it day after day; and the thought that Armitage had take_dvantage 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 th_arriage door in Geneva—that he expected the slayer of the old Austrian prim_inister to pass that way. Armitage had not referred to the crime in any wa_n his talks with her on the _King Edward_ ; their conversations had bee_itched usually in a light and frivolous key, or if one were disposed to b_erious the other responded in a note of levity.
"We're all imperialists at heart," said Shirley, referring to a talk betwee_hem earlier in the day. "We Americans are hungry for empire; we're simpl_aiting for the man on horseback to gallop down Broadway and up Fifth Avenu_ith a troop of cavalry at his heels and proclaim the new dispensation."
"And before he'd gone a block a big Irish policeman would arrest him fo_isorderly conduct or disturbing the peace, or for giving a show without _icense, and the republic would continue to do business at the old stand."
"No; the police would have been bribed in advance, and would deliver the key_f the city to the new emperor at the door of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and hi_ajesty would go to Sherry's for luncheon, and sign a few decrees, and orde_he 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 o_he temples and the plundering of banks—if the thing is bound to be—I shoul_ike to share in the general joy. But I have an idea, Miss Claiborne," h_xclaimed, 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 th_ssue offered by this turn of their nonsense.
"I seem to give your Majesty difficulty; the silence isn't flattering," sh_aid mockingly; but she was conscious of a certain excitement as she walke_he 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! I_merica is to be an empire, then of course you would be an empress. So ther_ou are answered."
They passed laughingly on to the other phases of the matter in the whimsica_ein that was natural in her, and to which he responded. They watched th_ights of an east-bound steamer that was passing near. The exchange of rocke_ignals—that pretty and graceful parley between ships that pass in th_ight—interested them for a moment. Then the deck lights went out so suddenl_t 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 th_eck 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 voice_ear 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 figur_eemed to be crouching close by, and she felt its furtive movements and kne_hat it had passed but remained a few feet away. Her hand on Armitage's ar_ightened.
"What is that?—there is some one following us," she said.
At the same moment Armitage, too, became aware of the presence of a stoopin_igure 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 figur_ose not a yard from him and a long arm shot high above his head and descende_wiftly. They were close to the rail, and a roll of the ship sent Armitage of_is feet and away from his assailant. Shirley at the same moment threw out he_ands, defensively or for support, and clutched the arm and shoulder of th_an who had assailed Armitage. He had driven a knife at John Armitage, and wa_oising himself for another attempt when Shirley seized his arm. As he dre_ack a fold of his cloak still lay in Shirley's grasp, and she gave a shar_ittle cry as the figure, with a quick jerk, released the cloak and slippe_way into the shadows. A moment later the lights were restored, and she sa_rmitage 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 o_ight, and asked whether anything was wrong. Armitage turned the matter off.
"I guess it was a sea-serpent," he said. "It bit a hole in my ulster, fo_hich I am not grateful." Then in a lower tone to Shirley: "That was certainl_ strange proceeding. I am sorry you were startled; and I am under greates_bligations to you, Miss Claiborne. Why, you actually pulled the fellow away!"
"Oh, no," she returned lightly, but still breathing hard; "it was the instinc_f self-preservation. I was unsteady on my feet for a moment, and sough_omething to take hold of. That pirate was the nearest thing, and I caugh_old of his cloak; I'm sure it was a cloak, and that makes me sure he was _uman 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 matter—"
"Some lunatic escaped from the steerage, probably. I shall report it to th_fficers."
"Yes, it should be reported," said Shirley.
"It was very strange. Why, the deck of the _King Edward_ is the safest plac_n the world; but it's something to have had hold of a sea-serpent, or _irate! 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 wa_y no means trivial, as he knew. Passengers on the great transatlanti_teamers are safeguarded by every possible means; and the fact that he ha_een attacked in the few minutes that the deck lights had been out of orde_ointed to an espionage that was both close and daring. He was greatl_urprised and more shaken than he wished Shirley to believe. The thing wa_isquieting enough, and it could not but impress her strangely that he, of al_he persons on board, should have been the object of so unusual an assault. H_as in the disagreeable plight of having subjected her to danger, and as the_ntered the brilliant saloon he freed himself of the ulster with its telltal_ash and sought to minimize her impression of the incident.
Shirley did not refer to the matter again, but resolved to keep her ow_ounsel. She felt that any one who would accept the one chance in a thousan_f striking down an enemy on a steamer deck must be animated by very bitte_atred. She knew that to speak of the affair to her father or brother would b_o alarm them and prejudice them against John Armitage, about whom he_rother, at least, had entertained doubts. And it is not reassuring as to _an 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 swif_eaction his wits were at work. He at once sought the purser and scrutinize_very name on the passenger list. It was unlikely that a steerage passenge_ould 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. H_id not believe that Chauvenet or Durand had boarded the _King Edward_. H_imself had made the boat only by a quick dash, and he had left those tw_entlemen at Geneva with much to consider.
It was, however, quite within the probabilities that they would send some on_o watch him, for the two men whom he had overheard in the dark house on th_oulevard Froissart were active and resourceful rascals, he had no doubt.
Whether they would be able to make anything of the cigarette case he ha_tupidly left behind he could not conjecture; but the importance of recoverin_he packet he had cut from Chauvenet's coat was not a trifle that rogues o_heir caliber would ignore. There was, the purser said, a sick man in th_econd cabin, who had kept close to his berth. The steward believed the man t_e a continental of some sort, who spoke bad German. He had taken the boat a_iverpool, paid for his passage in gold, and, complaining of illness, retired, evidently for the voyage. His name was Peter Ludovic, and the stewar_escribed him in detail.
"Big fellow; bullet head; bristling mustache; small eyes—"
"That will do," said Armitage, grinning at the ease with which he identifie_he man.
"You understand that it is wholly irregular for us to let such a matter pas_ithout acting—" said the purser.
"It would serve no purpose, and might do harm. I will take th_esponsibility."
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 pinne_nto an inner pocket of his waistcoat, and since boarding the _King Edward _h_ad examined it twice daily to see that it was intact. The three red wax seal_ere in blank, replacing those of like size that had originally been affixe_o the envelope; and at once after the attack on the dark deck he opened th_acket and examined the papers—some half-dozen sheets of thin linen, writte_n 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 Vienn_ad come again into Armitage's hands. He was daily tempted to destroy it an_ast it in bits to the sea winds; but he was deterred by the remembrance o_is last interview with the old prime minister.
"Do something for Austria—something for the Empire." These phrases repeate_hemselves over and over again in his mind until they rose and fell with th_adence of the high, wavering voice of the Cardinal Archbishop of Vienna as h_hanted the mass of requiem for Count Ferdinand von Stroebel.