AN ENFORCED INTERVIEW
En, garde, Messieurs! And if my hand is
Remember I’ve been buffeting at will;
I am a whit impatient, and ’tis ill
To cross a hungry dog. Messieurs, en garde.
Armitage uncovered smilingly. Chauvenet stared mutely as Armitage paused with his back to the Claiborne gate. Chauvenet was dressed with his usual care, and wore the latest carnation in the lapel of his top-coat. He struck the ground with his stick, his look of astonishment passed, and he smiled pleasantly as he returned Armitage’s salutation.
“My dear Armitage!” he murmured.
“I didn’t go to Mexico after all, my good Chauvenet. The place is full of fevers; I couldn’t take the risk.”
“He is indeed a wise man who safeguards his health,” replied the other.
“You are quite right. And when one has had many narrow escapes, one may be excused for exercising rather particular care. Do you not find it so?” mocked Armitage.
“My dear fellow, my life is one long fight against ennui. Danger, excitement, the hazard of my precious life—such pleasures of late have been denied me.”
“But you are young and of intrepid spirit, Monsieur. It would be quite surprising if some perilous adventure did not overtake you before the silver gets in your hair.”
“Ah! I assure you the speculation interests me; but I must trouble you to let me pass,” continued Chauvenet, in the same tone. “I shall quite forget that I set out to make a call if I linger longer in your charming society.”
“But I must ask you to delay your call for the present. I shall greatly value your company down the road a little way. It is a trifling favor, and you are a man of delightful courtesy.”
Chauvenet twisted his mustache reflectively. His mind had been busy seeking means of turning the meeting to his own advantage. He had met Armitage at quite the least imaginable spot in the world for an encounter between them; and he was not a man who enjoyed surprises. He had taken care that the exposure of Armitage at Washington should be telegraphed to every part of the country, and put upon the cables. He had expected Armitage to leave Washington, but he had no idea that he would turn up at a fashionable resort greatly affected by Washingtonians and only a comparatively short distance from the capital. He was at a great disadvantage in not knowing Armitage’s plans and strategy; his own mind was curiously cunning, and his reasoning powers traversed oblique lines. He was thus prone to impute similar mental processes to other people; simplicity and directness he did not understand at all. He had underrated Armitage’s courage and daring; he wished to make no further mistakes, and he walked back toward the hotel with apparent good grace. Armitage spoke now in a very different key, and the change displeased Chauvenet, for he much affected ironical raillery, and his companion’s sterner tones disconcerted him.