“For the Empire—something for the Empire?” murmured the young man, wondering.
Count Ferdinand von Stroebel rose.
“You will accept the commission—I am quite sure you will accept. I leave on an early train, and I shall not see you again.” As he took Armitage’s hand he scrutinized him once more with particular care; there was a lingering caress in his touch as he detained the young man for an instant; then he sighed heavily.
“Good night; good-by!” he said abruptly, and waved his caller toward the door.
THE CLAIBORNES, OF WASHINGTON
—the Englishman who is not an Englishman and therefore doubly incomprehensible.—The Naulahka.
The girl with the white-plumed hat started and flushed slightly, and her brother glanced over his shoulder toward the restaurant door to see what had attracted her attention.
“’Tis he, the unknown, Dick.”
“I must say I like his persistence!” exclaimed the young fellow, turning again to the table. “In America I should call him out and punch his head, but over here—”
“Over here you have better manners,” replied the girl, laughing. “But why trouble yourself? He doesn’t even look at us. We are of no importance to him whatever. We probably speak a different language.”
“But he travels by the same trains; he stops at the same inns; he sits near us at the theater—he even affects the same pictures in the same galleries! It’s growing a trifle monotonous; it’s really insufferable. I think I shall have to try my stick on him.”
“You flatter yourself, Richard,” mocked the girl. “He’s fully your height and a trifle broader across the shoulders. The lines about his mouth are almost—yes, I should say, quite as firm as yours, though he is a younger man. His eyes are nice blue ones, and they are very steady. His hair is”—she paused to reflect and tilted her head slightly, her eyes wandering for an instant to the subject of her comment—“light brown, I should call it. And he is beardless, as all self-respecting men should be. I’m sure that he is an exemplary person—kind to his sisters and aunts, very willing to sacrifice himself for others and light the candles on his nephews’ and nieces’ Christmas trees.”
She rested her cheek against her lightly-clasped hands and sighed deeply to provoke a continuation of her brother’s growling disdain.
The young gentleman to whom she had referred had seated himself at a table not far distant, given an order with some particularity, and settled himself to the reading of a newspaper which he had drawn from the pocket of his blue serge coat. He was at once absorbed, and the presence of the Claibornes gave him apparently not the slightest concern.
“He has a sense of humor,” the girl resumed. “I saw him yesterday—”
“You’re always seeing him: you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”