“Gentlemen,” he said, “if we are going to show ourselves at the Darlington ball we’ll have to run along.”
Below, in the coat room, Claiborne was fastening the frogs of his military overcoat when Armitage, who had waited for the opportunity, spoke to him.
“That story is a lie, Claiborne. That man never saw me or my cigarette case in Berlin; and moreover, I was never at Bar Harbor in my life. I gave you some account of myself on the King Edward—every word of it is true.”
“You should face him—you must have it out with him!” exclaimed Claiborne, and Armitage saw the conflict and uncertainty in the officer’s eyes.
“But the time hasn’t come for that—”
“Then if there is something between you,”—began Claiborne, the doubt now clearly dominant.
“There is undoubtedly a great deal between us, and there will be more before we reach the end.”
Dick Claiborne was a perfectly frank, outspoken fellow, and this hint of mystery by a man whose character had just been boldly assailed angered him.
“Good God, man! I know as much about Chauvenet as I do about you. This thing is ugly, as you must see. I don’t like it, I tell you! You’ve got to do more than deny a circumstantial story like that by a fellow whose standing here is as good as yours! If you don’t offer some better explanation of this by to-morrow night I shall have to ask you to cut my acquaintance—and the acquaintance of my family!”
Armitage’s face was grave, but he smiled as he took his hat and stick.
“I shall not be able to satisfy you of my respectability by to-morrow night, Captain Claiborne. My own affairs must wait on larger matters.”
“Then you need never take the trouble!”
“In my own time you shall be quite fully satisfied,” said Armitage quietly, and turned away.
He was not among the others of the Claiborne party when they got into their carriages to go to the ball. He went, in fact, to the telegraph office and sent a message to Oscar Breunig, Lamar, Virginia, giving notice of a shipment of steers.
Then he returned to the New American and packed his belongings.
A CAMP IN THE MOUNTAINS
—Who climbed the blue Virginia hills
Against embattled foes;
And planted there, in valleys fair,
The lily and the rose;
Whose fragrance lives in many lands,
Whose beauty stars the earth,
And lights the hearths of happy homes
With loveliness and worth.
—Francis O. Ticknor.
The study of maps and time-tables is a far more profitable business than appears. John Armitage possessed a great store of geographical knowledge as interpreted in such literature. He could tell you, without leaving his room, and probably without opening his trunk, the quickest way out of Tokio, or St. Petersburg, or Calcutta, or Cinch Tight, Montana, if you suddenly received a cablegram calling you to Vienna or Paris or Washington from one of those places.