Armitage pointed down the road with his riding-crop. As Chauvenet walked slowly away, swinging his stick, Armitage turned toward the hotel. The shadow of night was enfolding the hills, and it was quite dark when he found Oscar and the horses.
He mounted, and they rode through the deepening April dusk, up the winding trail that led out of Storm Valley.
SHIRLEY LEARNS A SECRET
Nightingales warble about it
All night under blossom and star;
The wild swan is dying without it,
And the eagle crieth afar;
The sun, he doth mount but to find it
Searching the green earth o’er;
But more doth a man’s heart mind it—
O more, more, more!
Shirley Claiborne was dressed for a ride, and while waiting for her horse she re-read her brother’s letter; and the postscript, which follows, she read twice:
“I shall never live down my acquaintance with the delectable Armitage. My brother officers insist on rubbing it in. I even hear, ma cherie, that you have gone into retreat by reason of the exposure. I’ll admit, for your consolation, that he really took me in; and, further, I really wonder who the devil he is,—or was! Our last interview at the Club, after Chauvenet told his story, lingers with me disagreeably. I was naturally pretty hot to find him playing the darkly mysterious, which never did go with me,—after eating my bird and drinking my bottle. As a precaution I have looked up Chauvenet to the best of my ability. At the Austro-Hungarian Embassy they speak well of him. He’s over here to collect the price of a few cruisers or some such rubbish from one of our sister republics below the Gulf. But bad luck to all foreigners! Me for America every time!”
* * * * *
“Dear old Dick!” and she dropped the letter into a drawer and went out into the sunshine, mounted her horse and turned toward the hills.
She had spent the intermediate seasons of the year at Storm Springs ever since she could remember, and had climbed the surrounding hills and dipped into the valleys with a boy’s zest and freedom. The Virginia mountains were linked in her mind to the dreams of her youth, to her earliest hopes and aspirations, and to the books she had read, and she galloped happily out of the valley to the tune of an old ballad. She rode as a woman should, astride her horse and not madly clinging to it in the preposterous ancient fashion. She had known horses from early years, in which she had tumbled from her pony’s back in the stable-yard, and she knew how to train a horse to a gait and how to master a beast’s fear; and even some of the tricks of the troopers in the Fort Myer drill she had surreptitiously practised in the meadow back of the Claiborne stable.
It was on Tuesday that John Armitage had appeared before her in the pergola. It was now Thursday afternoon, and Chauvenet had been to see her twice since, and she had met him the night before at a dance at one of the cottages.