The incident amused Shirley and she laughed aloud. She had undoubtedly gained information that Chauvenet had gone forth to seek; she had—and the thing was funny—served Chauvenet well in explaining away his presence in the mountains and getting him out of the clutches of the mountaineer, while at the same time she was learning for herself the fact of Armitage’s whereabouts and keeping it from Chauvenet. It was a curious adventure, and she gave her hand smilingly to the mystified and still doubting mountaineer.
“I give you my word of honor that neither man is a government officer and neither one has the slightest interest in you—will you believe me?”
“I reckon I got to, Miss.”
“Good; and now, Mr. Selfridge, it is growing dark and I want you to walk down this trail with me until we come to the Storm Springs road.”
“I’ll do it gladly, Miss.”
“Thank you; now let us be off.”
She made him turn back when they reached a point from which they could look upon the electric lights of the Springs colony, and where the big hotel and its piazzas shone like a steamship at night. A moment later Chauvenet, who had waited impatiently, joined her, and they rode down together. She referred at once to the affair with the mountaineer in her most frivolous key.
“They are an odd and suspicious people, but they’re as loyal as the stars. And please let us never mention the matter again—not to any one, if you please, Monsieur!”
The black-caps pipe among the reeds,
And there’ll be rain to follow;
There is a murmur as of wind
In every coign and hollow;
The wrens do chatter of their fears
While swinging on the barley-ears.
The Judge and Mrs. Claiborne were dining with some old friends in the valley, and Shirley, left alone, carried to the table several letters that had come in the late mail. The events of the afternoon filled her mind, and she was not sorry to be alone. It occurred to her that she was building up a formidable tower of strange secrets, and she wondered whether, having begun by keeping her own counsel as to the attempts she had witnessed against John Armitage’s life, she ought now to unfold all she knew to her father or to Dick. In the twentieth century homicide was not a common practice among men she knew or was likely to know; and the feeling of culpability for her silence crossed lances with a deepening sympathy for Armitage. She had learned where he was hiding, and she smiled at the recollection of the trifling bit of strategy she had practised upon Chauvenet.