“But, surely, this is not all news to you?” I began. “Have you not seen the Baroness von Ritz? Has she not made her report?”
“The baroness?” queried Calhoun. “That stormy petrel—that advance agent of events! Did she indeed sail with the British ships from Montreal? Did you find her there—in Oregon?”
“Yes, and lost her there! She started east last summer, and beat me fairly in the race. Has she not made known her presence here? She told me she was going to Washington.”
He shook his head in surprise. “Trouble now, I fear! Pakenham has back his best ally, our worst antagonist.”
“That certainly is strange,” said I. “She had five months the start of me, and in that time there is no telling what she has done or undone. Surely, she is somewhere here, in Washington! She held Texas in her shoes. I tell you she holds Oregon in her gloves to-day!”
I started up, my story half untold.
“Where are you going?” asked Mr. Calhoun of me. Doctor Ward looked at me, smiling. “He does not inquire of a certain young lady—”
“I am going to find the Baroness von Ritz!” said I. I flushed red under my tan, I doubt not; but I would not ask a word regarding Elisabeth.
Doctor Ward came and laid a hand on my shoulder. “Republics forget,” said he, “but men from South Carolina do not. Neither do girls from Maryland. Do you think so?”
“That is what I am going to find out.”
“How then? Are you going to Elmhurst as you look now?”
“No. I shall find out many things by first finding the Baroness von Ritz.” And before they could make further protests, I was out and away.
I hurried now to a certain side street, of which I have made mention, and knocked confidently at a door I knew. The neighborhood was asleep in the warm sun. I knocked a second time, and began to doubt, but at last heard slow footsteps.
There appeared at the crack of the door the wrinkled visage of the old serving-woman, Threlka. I knew that she would be there in precisely this way, because there was every reason in the world why it should not have been. She paused, scanning me closely, then quickly opened the door and allowed me to step inside, vanishing as was her wont. I heard another step in a half-hidden hallway beyond, but this was not the step which I awaited; it was that of a man, slow, feeble, hesitating. I started forward as a face appeared at the parted curtains. A glad cry welcomed me in turn. A tall, bent form approached me, and an arm was thrown about my shoulder. It was my whilom friend, our ancient scientist, Von Rittenhofen! I did not pause to ask how he happened to be there. It was quite natural, since it was wholly impossible. I made no wonder at the Chinese dog Chow, or the little Indian maid, who both came, stared, and silently vanished. Seeing these, I knew that their strange protector must also have won through safe.