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Chapter 8 "THE KING IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE KING"

  • > 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.