> Low he lies, yet high and great > Looms he, lying thus in state.— > How exalted o'er ye when > Dead, my lords and gentlemen!
> —James Whitcomb Riley.
John Armitage lingered in New York for a week, not to press the Claibornes to_losely, then went to Washington. He wrote himself down on the register of th_ew American as John Armitage, Cinch Tight, Montana, and took a suite of room_igh up, with an outlook that swept Pennsylvania Avenue. It was on the evenin_f a bright April day that he thus established himself; and after he ha_npacked his belongings he stood long at the window and watched the light_eap out of the dusk over the city. He was in Washington because Shirle_laiborne lived there, and he knew that even if he wished to do so he could n_onger throw an air of inadvertence into his meetings with her. He had bee_ery lonely in those days when he first saw her abroad; the sight of her ha_ifted his mood of depression; and now, after those enchanted hours at sea, his coming to Washington had been inevitable.
Many things passed through his mind as he stood at the open window. His life, he felt, could never be again as it had been before, and he sighed deeply a_e recalled his talk with the old prime minister at Geneva. Then he laughe_uietly as he remembered Chauvenet and Durand and the dark house on th_oulevard Froissart; but the further recollection of the attack made on hi_ife on the deck of the _King Edward_ sobered him, and he turned away from th_indow impatiently. He had seen the sick second-cabin passenger leave th_teamer at New York, but had taken no trouble either to watch or to avoid him.
Very likely the man was under instructions, and had been told to follow th_laibornes home; and the thought of their identification with himself by hi_nemies angered him. Chauvenet was likely to appear in Washington at any time, and would undoubtedly seek the Claibornes at once. The fact that the man was _coundrel might, in some circumstances, have afforded Armitage comfort, bu_ere again Armitage's mood grew dark. Jules Chauvenet was undoubtedly a rasca_f a shrewd and dangerous type; but who, pray, was John Armitage?
The bell in his entry rang, and he flashed on the lights and opened the door.
"Well, I like this! Setting yourself up here in gloomy splendor and neve_aying a word. You never deserved to have any friends, John Armitage!"
"Jim Sanderson, come in!" Armitage grasped the hands of a red-bearded giant o_orty, the possessor of alert brown eyes and a big voice.
"It's my rural habit of reading the register every night in search o_onstituents that brings me here. They said they guessed you were in, so _ust came up to see whether you were opening a poker game or had come to snea_ claim past the watch-dog of the treasury."
The caller threw himself into a chair and rolled a fat, unlighted cigar abou_n his mouth. "You're a peach, all right, and as offensively hale and handsom_s ever. When are you going to the ranch?"
"Well, not just immediately; I want to sample the flesh-pots for a day o_wo."
"You're getting soft,—that's what's the matter with you! You're afraid of th_pring zephyrs on the Montana range. Well, I'll admit that it's rather mor_iverting here."
"There is no debating that, Senator. How do you like being a statesman? It wa_o sudden and all that. I read an awful roast of you in an English paper. The_ook your election to the Senate as another evidence of the complet_omination of our politics by the plutocrats."
Sanderson winked prodigiously.
"The papers _have_ rather skinned me; but on the whole, I'll do very well.
They say it isn't respectable to be a senator these days, but they oughtn't t_old it up against a man that he's rich. If the Lord put silver in th_ountains of Montana and let me dig it out, it's nothing against me, is it?"
"Decidedly not! And if you want to invest it in a senatorship it's the Lord'_and again."
"Why sure!" and the Senator from Montana winked once more. "But it'_xpensive. I've got to be elected again next winter—I'm only filling ou_illings' term—and I'm not sure I can go up against it."
"But you are nothing if not unselfish. If the good of the country demands i_ou'll not falter, if I know you."
"There's hot water heat in this hotel, so please turn off the hot air. I sa_our foreman in Helena the last time I was out there, and he was sober. _ention the fact, knowing that I'm jeopardizing my reputation for veracity, but it's the Lord's truth. Of course you spent Christmas at the old home i_ngland—one of those yule-log and plum-pudding Christmases you read of i_ovels. You Englishmen—"
"My dear Sanderson, don't call me English! I've told you a dozen times tha_'m not English."
"So you did; so you did! I'd forgotten that you're so damned sensitive abou_t;" and Sanderson's eyes regarded Armitage intently for a moment, as thoug_e were trying to recall some previous discussion of the young man's nativity.
"I offer you free swing at the bar, Senator. May I summon a Montana cocktail?
You taught me the ingredients once—three dashes orange bitters; two dashe_cid phosphate; half a jigger of whisky; half a jigger of Italian vermuth. Yo_ndermined the constitutions of half Montana with that mess."
Sanderson reached for his hat with sudden dejection.
"The sprinkling cart for me! I've got a nerve specialist engaged by the yea_o keep me out of sanatoriums. See here, I want you to go with us to-night t_he Secretary of State's push. Not many of the Montana boys get this far fro_ome, and I want you for exhibition purposes. Say, John, when I saw Cinc_ight, Montana, written on the register down there it increased my circulatio_even beats! You're all right, and I guess you're about as good an American a_hey make—anywhere—John Armitage!"
The function for which the senator from Montana provided an invitation fo_rmitage was a large affair in honor of several new ambassadors. At te_'clock Senator Sanderson was introducing Armitage right and left as one o_is representative constituents. Armitage and he owned adjoining ranches i_ontana, and Sanderson called upon his neighbor to stand up boldly for thei_tate before the minions of effete monarchies.
Mrs. Sanderson had asked Armitage to return to her for a little Montana talk, as she put it, after the first rush of their entrance was over, and as h_aited in the drawing-room for an opportunity of speaking to her, he chatte_ith Franzel, an attaché of the Austrian embassy, to whom Sanderson ha_ntroduced him. Franzel was a gloomy young man with a monocle, and he wa_aiting for a particular girl, who happened to be the daughter of the Spanis_mbassador. And, this being his object, he had chosen his position with care, near the door of the drawing-room, and Armitage shared for the moment th_dvantage that lay in the Austrian's point of view. Armitage had half expecte_hat the Claibornes would be present at a function as comprehensive of th_igher official world as this, and he intended asking Mrs. Sanderson if sh_new them as soon as opportunity offered. The Austrian attaché prove_iresome, and Armitage was about to drop him, when suddenly he caught sight o_hirley Claiborne at the far end of the broad hall. Her head was turned partl_oward him; he saw her for an instant through the throng; then his eyes fel_pon Chauvenet at her side, talking with liveliest animation. He was not mor_han her own height, and his profile presented the clean, sharp effect of _ameo. The vivid outline of his dark face held Armitage's eyes; then a_hirley passed on through an opening in the crowd her escort turned, holdin_he way open for her, and Armitage met the man's gaze.
It was with an accented gravity that Armitage nodded his head to som_eclaration of the melancholy attaché at this moment. He had known when h_eft Geneva that he had not done with Jules Chauvenet; but the man's promp_ppearance surprised Armitage. He ran over the names of the steamers by whic_hauvenet might easily have sailed from either a German or a French port an_eached Washington quite as soon as himself. Chauvenet was in Washington, a_ny rate, and not only there, but socially accepted and in the good graces o_hirley Claiborne.
The somber attaché was speaking of the Japanese.
"They must be crushed—crushed," said Franzel. The two had been conversing i_rench.
"Yes, _he_ must be crushed," returned Armitage absent-mindedly, in English; then, remembering himself, he repeated the affirmation in French, changing th_ronoun.
Mrs. Sanderson was now free. She was a pretty, vivacious woman, much younge_han her stalwart husband,—a college graduate whom he had found teachin_chool near one of his silver mines.
"Welcome once more, constituent! We're proud to see you, I can tell you. Ou_ost owns some marvelous tapestries and they're hung out to-night for th_orld to see." She guided Armitage toward the Secretary's gallery on an uppe_loor. Their host was almost as famous as a connoisseur as for hi_chievements in diplomacy, and the gallery was a large apartment in whic_very article of furniture, as well as the paintings, tapestries and specimen_f pottery, was the careful choice of a thoroughly cultivated taste.
"It isn't merely an art gallery; it's the most beautiful room in America,"
murmured Mrs. Sanderson.
"I can well believe it. There's my favorite Vibert,—I wondered what had becom_f it."
"It isn't surprising that the Secretary is making a great reputation by hi_ealings with foreign powers. It's a poor ambassador who could not b_ersuaded after an hour in this splendid room. The ordinary affairs of lif_hould not be mentioned here. A king's coronation would not be out o_lace,—in fact, there's a chair in the corner against that Gobelin that woul_erve the situation. The old gentleman by that cabinet is the Baron vo_arhof, the Ambassador from Austria-Hungary. He's a brother-in-law of Coun_on Stroebel, who was murdered so horribly in a railway carriage a few week_go."
"Ah, to be sure! I haven't seen the Baron in years. He has changed little."
"Then you knew him,—in the old country?"
"Yes; I used to see him—when I was a boy," remarked Armitage.
Mrs. Sanderson glanced at Armitage sharply. She had dined at his ranch hous_n Montana and knew that he lived like a gentleman,—that his house, it_ppointments and service were unusual for a western ranchman. And sh_ecalled, too, that she and her husband had often speculated as to Armitage'_ntecedents and history, without arriving at any conclusion in regard to him.
The room had slowly filled and they strolled about, dividing attention betwee_istinguished personages and the not less celebrated works of art.
"Oh, by the way, Mr. Armitage, there's the girl I have chosen for you t_arry. I suppose it would be just as well for you to meet her now, though tha_ark little foreigner seems to be monopolizing her."
"I am wholly agreeable," laughed Armitage. "The sooner the better, and be don_ith it."
"Don't be so frivolous. There—you can look safely now. She's stopped to spea_o that bald and pink Justice of the Supreme Court,—the girl with the brow_yes and hair,—have a care!"
Shirley and Chauvenet left the venerable Justice, and Mrs. Sanderso_ntercepted them at once.
"To think of all these beautiful things in our own America!" exclaime_hirley. "And you, Mr. Armitage,—"
"Among the other curios, Miss Claiborne," laughed John, taking her hand.
"But I haven't introduced you yet"—began Mrs. Sanderson, puzzled.
"No; the _King Edward_ did that. We crossed together. Oh, Monsieur Chauvenet, let me present Mr. Armitage," said Shirley, seeing that the men had no_poken.
The situation amused Armitage and he smiled rather more broadly than wa_ecessary in expressing his pleasure at meeting Monsieur Chauvenet. The_egarded each other with the swift intentness of men who are used to the shar_xercise of their eyes; and when Armitage turned toward Shirley and Mrs.
Sanderson, he was aware that Chauvenet continued to regard him with fixe_aze.
"Miss Claiborne is a wonderful sailor; the Atlantic is a little tumultuous a_imes in the spring, but she reported to the captain every day."
"Miss Claiborne is nothing if not extraordinary," declared Mrs. Sanderson wit_rank admiration.
"The word seems to have been coined for her," said Chauvenet, his white teet_howing under his thin black mustache.
"And still leaves the language distinguished chiefly for its poverty," adde_rmitage; and the men bowed to Shirley and then to Mrs. Sanderson, and agai_o each other. It was like a rehearsal of some trifle in a comedy.
"How charming!" laughed Mrs. Sanderson. "And this lovely room is just th_lace for it."
They were still talking together as Franzel, with whom Armitage had spoke_elow, entered hurriedly. He held a crumpled note, whose contents, it seemed, had shaken him out of his habitual melancholy composure.
"Is Baron von Marhof in the room?" he asked of Armitage, fumbling nervously a_is monocle.
The Austrian Ambassador, with several ladies, and led by Senator Sanderson, was approaching.
The attaché hurried to his chief and addressed him in a low tone. Th_mbassador stopped, grew very white, and stared at the messenger for a momen_n blank unbelief.
The young man now repeated, in English, in a tone that could be heard in al_arts of the hushed room:
"His Majesty, the Emperor Johann Wilhelm, died suddenly to-night, in Vienna,"
he said, and gave his arm to his chief.
It was a strange place for the delivery of such a message, and the strangenes_f it was intensified to Shirley by the curious glance that passed betwee_ohn Armitage and Jules Chauvenet. Shirley remembered afterward that as th_ttaché's words rang out in the room, Armitage started, clenched his hands, and caught his breath in a manner very uncommon in men unless they are greatl_oved. The Ambassador walked directly from the room with bowed head, and ever_ne waited in silent sympathy until he had gone.
The word passed swiftly through the great house, and through the open window_he servants were heard crying loudly for Baron von Marhof's carriage in th_ourt below.
"The King is dead; long live the King!" murmured Shirley.
"Long live the King!" repeated Chauvenet and Mrs. Sanderson, in unison; an_hen Armitage, as though mastering a phrase they were teaching him, raised hi_ead and said, with an unction that surprised them, "Long live the Emperor an_ing! God save Austria!"
Then he turned to Shirley with a smile.
"It is very pleasant to see you on your own ground. I hope your family ar_ell."
"Thank you; yes. My father and mother are here somewhere."
"And Captain Claiborne?"
"He's probably sitting up all night to defend Fort Myer from the crafts an_ssaults of the enemy. I hope you will come to see us, Mr. Armitage."
"Thank you; you are very kind," he said gravely. "I shall certainly giv_yself the pleasure very soon."
As Shirley passed on with Chauvenet Mrs. Sanderson launched upon the girl'_raises, but she found him suddenly preoccupied.
"The girl has gone to your head. Why didn't you tell me you knew th_laibornes?"
"I don't remember that you gave me a chance; but I'll say now that I intend t_now them better."
She bade him take her to the drawing-room. As they went down through the hous_hey found that the announcement of the Emperor Johann Wilhelm's death ha_ast a pall upon the company. All the members of the diplomatic corps ha_ithdrawn at once as a mark of respect and sympathy for Baron von Marhof, an_t midnight the ball-room held all of the company that remained. Armitage ha_ot sought Shirley again. He found a room that had been set apart for smokers, threw himself into a chair, lighted a cigar and stared at a picture that ha_o interest for him whatever. He put down his cigar after a few whiffs, an_is hand went to the pocket in which he had usually carried his cigarett_ase.
"Ah, Mr. Armitage, may I offer you a cigarette?"
He turned to find Chauvenet close at his side. He had not heard the man enter, but Chauvenet had been in his thoughts and he started slightly at finding hi_o near. Chauvenet held in his white-gloved hand a gold cigarette case, whic_e opened with a deliberate care that displayed its embellished side. Th_mooth golden surface gleamed in the light, the helmet in blue, and the whit_alcon flashed in Armitage's eyes. The meeting was clearly by intention, and _light smile played about Chauvenet's lips in his enjoyment of the situation.
Armitage smiled up at him in amiable acknowledgment of his courtesy, and rose.
"You are very considerate, Monsieur. I was just at the moment regretting ou_istinguished host's oversight in providing cigars alone. Allow me!"
He bent forward, took the outstretched open case into his own hands, removed _igarette, snapped the case shut and thrust it into his trousers pocket,—all, as it seemed, at a single stroke.
"My dear sir," began Chauvenet, white with rage.
"My dear Monsieur Chauvenet," said Armitage, striking a match, "I am indebte_o you for returning a trinket that I value highly."
The flame crept half the length of the stick while they regarded each other; then Armitage raised it to the tip of his cigarette, lifted his head and ble_ cloud of smoke.
"Are you able to prove your property, Mr. Armitage?" demanded Chauvene_uriously.
"My dear sir, they have a saying in this country that possession is nin_oints of the law. You had it—now I have it—wherefore it must be mine!"
Chauvenet's rigid figure suddenly relaxed; he leaned against a chair with _eturn of his habitual nonchalant air, and waved his hand carelessly.
"Between gentlemen—so small a matter!"
"To be sure—the merest trifle," laughed Armitage with entire good humor.
"And where a gentleman has the predatory habits of a burglar an_ousebreaker—"
"Then lesser affairs, such as picking up trinkets—"
"Come naturally—quite so!" and Chauvenet twisted his mustache with an air o_mmense satisfaction.
"But the genial art of assassination—there's a business that requires _alculating hand, my dear Monsieur Chauvenet!"
Chauvenet's hand went again to his lip.
"To be sure!" he ejaculated with zest.
"But alone—alone one can do little. For larger operations one requires—_hould say—courageous associates. Now in my affairs—would you believe me?—I a_bliged to manage quite alone."
"How melancholy!" exclaimed Chauvenet.
"It is indeed very sad!" and Armitage sighed, tossed his cigarette into th_moldering grate and bade Chauvenet a ceremonious good night.
"Ah, we shall meet again, I dare say!"
"The thought does credit to a generous nature!" responded Armitage, and passe_ut into the house.