And Shirley went forward to greet Baron von Marhof.
A GENTLEMAN IN HIDING
Oh, sweetly fall the April days!
My love was made of frost and light,
Of light to warm and frost to blight
The sweet, strange April of her ways.
Eyes like a dream of changing skies,
And every frown and blush I prize.
With cloud and flush the spring comes in,
With frown and blush maids’ loves begin;
For love is rare like April days.
—L. Frank Tooker.
Mrs. Claiborne excused herself shortly, and Shirley, her father and the Ambassador talked to the accompaniment of the shower that drove in great sheets against the house. Shirley was wholly uncomfortable over the turn of affairs. The Ambassador would not leave until the storm abated, and meanwhile Armitage must remain where he was. If by any chance he should be discovered in the house no ordinary excuses would explain away his presence, and as she pondered the matter, it was Armitage’s plight—his injuries and the dangers that beset him—that was uppermost in her mind. The embarrassment that lay in the affair for herself if Armitage should be found concealed in the house troubled her little. Her heart beat wildly as she realized this; and the look in his eyes and the quick pain that twitched his face at the door haunted her.
The two men were talking of the new order of things in Vienna.
“The trouble is,” said the Ambassador, “that Austria-Hungary is not a nation, but what Metternich called Italy—a geographical expression. Where there are so many loose ends a strong grasp is necessary to hold them together.”
“And a weak hand,” suggested Judge Claiborne, “might easily lose or scatter them.”
“Precisely. And a man of character and spirit could topple down the card-house to-morrow, pick out what he liked, and create for himself a new edifice—and a stronger one. I speak frankly. Von Stroebel is out of the way; the new Emperor-king is a weakling, and if he should die to-night or to-morrow—”
The Ambassador lifted his hands and snapped his fingers.
“Yes; after him, what?”
“After him his scoundrelly cousin Francis; and then a stronger than Von Stroebel might easily fail to hold the disjecta membra of the Empire together.”
“But there are shadows on the screen,” remarked Judge Claiborne. “There was Karl—the mad prince.”
“Humph! There was some red blood in him; but he was impossible; he had a taint of democracy, treason, rebellion.”
Judge Claiborne laughed.
“I don’t like the combination of terms. If treason and rebellion are synonyms of democracy, we Americans are in danger.”
“No; you are a miracle—that is the only explanation,” replied Marhof.
“But a man like Karl—what if he were to reappear in the world! A little democracy might solve your problem.”