The Port of Missing Men
The Lady Of The Pergola
Laugh, thy girlish laughter;
Then, the moment after,
Weep thy girlish, tears!
April, that mine ears
Like a lover greetest,
If I tell thee, sweetest,
All my hopes and fears,
Laugh thy golden laughter,
But, the moment after,
Weep thy golden tears!
A few photographs of foreign scenes tacked on the walls; a Roman blanket hung
as a tapestry over the mantel; a portfolio and traveler's writing materials
distributed about a table produced for the purpose, and additions to the meager
book-shelf—a line of Baedekers, a pocket atlas, a comprehensive American
railway guide, several volumes of German and French poetry—and the place was
not so bad. Armitage slept for an hour after a simple luncheon had been prepared
by Oscar, studied his letters and cablegrams—made, in fact, some notes in
regard to them—and wrote replies. Then, at four o'clock, he told Oscar to
saddle the horses.
"It is spring, and in April a man's blood will not be quiet. We shall go
forth and taste the air."
He had studied the map of Lamar County with care, and led the way out of his
own preserve by the road over which they had entered in the morning. Oscar and
his horses were a credit to the training of the American army, and would have
passed inspection anywhere. Armitage watched his adjutant with approval. The man
served without question, and, quicker of wit than of speech, his buff-gauntleted
hand went to his hat-brim whenever Armitage addressed him.
They sought again the spot whence Armitage had first looked down upon Storm
Valley, and he opened his pocket map, the better to clarify his ideas of the
"We shall go down into the valley, Oscar," he said; and thereafter it was he
They struck presently into an old road that had been an early highway across
the mountains. Above and below the forest hung gloomily, and passing clouds
darkened the slopes and occasionally spilled rain. Armitage drew on his cloak
and Oscar enveloped himself in a slicker as they rode through a sharp shower. At
a lower level they came into fair weather again, and, crossing a bridge, rode
down into Storm Valley. The road at once bore marks of care; and they passed a
number of traps that spoke unmistakably of cities, and riders whose mounts knew
well the bridle-paths of Central Park. The hotel loomed massively before them,
and beyond were handsome estates and ambitious mansions scattered through the
valley and on the lower slopes.
Armitage paused in a clump of trees and dismounted.
"You will stay here until I come back. And remember that we don't know any
one; and at our time of life, Oscar, one should be wary of making new
He tossed his cloak over the saddle and walked toward the inn. The size of
the place and the great number of people going and coming surprised him, but in
the numbers he saw his own security, and he walked boldly up the steps of the
main hotel entrance. He stepped into the long corridor of the inn, where many
people lounged about, and heard with keen satisfaction and relief the click of a
telegraph instrument that seemed at once to bring him into contact with the
remote world. He filed his telegrams and walked the length of the broad hall,
his riding-crop under his arm. The gay banter and laughter of a group of young
men and women just returned from a drive gave him a touch of heartache, for
there was a girl somewhere in the valley whom he had followed across the sea,
and these people were of her own world—they undoubtedly knew her; very likely
she came often to this huge caravansary and mingled with them.
At the entrance he passed Baron von Marhof, who, by reason of the death of
his royal chief, had taken a cottage at the Springs to emphasize his abstention
from the life of the capital. The Ambassador lifted his eyes and bowed to
Armitage, as he bowed to a great many young men whose names he never remembered;
but, oddly enough, the Baron paused, stared after Armitage for a moment, then
shook his head and walked on with knit brows. Armitage had lifted his hat and
passed out, tapping his leg with his crop.
He walked toward the private houses that lay scattered over the valley and
along the gradual slope of the hills as though carelessly flung from a dice box.
Many of the places were handsome estates, with imposing houses set amid
beautiful gardens. Half a mile from the hotel he stopped a passing negro to ask
who owned a large house that stood well back from the road. The man answered; he
seemed anxious to impart further information, and Armitage availed himself of
"How near is Judge Claiborne's place?" he asked.
The man pointed. It was the next house, on the right-hand side; and Armitage
smiled to himself and strolled on.
He looked down in a moment upon a pretty estate, distinguished by its formal
garden, but with the broad acres of a practical farm stretching far out into the
valley. The lawn terraces were green, broken only by plots of spring flowers;
the walks were walled in box and privet; the house, of the pillared colonial
type, crowned a series of terraces. A long pergola, with pillars topped by red
urns, curved gradually through the garden toward the mansion. Armitage followed
a side road along the brick partition wall and contemplated the inner landscape.
The sharp snap of a gardener's shears far up the slope was the only sound that
reached him. It was a charming place, and he yielded to a temptation to explore
it. He dropped over the wall and strolled away through the garden, the smell of
warm earth, moist from the day's light showers, and the faint odor of green
things growing, sweet in his nostrils. He walked to the far end of the pergola,
sat down on a wooden bench, and gave himself up to reverie. He had been
denounced as an impostor; he was on Claiborne soil; and the situation required
It was while he thus pondered his affairs that Shirley, walking over the soft
lawn from a neighboring estate, came suddenly upon him.
Her head went up with surprise and—he was sure—with disdain. She stopped
abruptly as he jumped to his feet.
"I am caught—in flagrante delicto! I can only plead guilty and pray
"They said—they said you had gone to Mexico?" said Shirley questioningly.
"Plague take the newspapers! How dare they so misrepresent me!" he laughed.
"Yes, I read those newspaper articles with a good deal of interest. And my
"Yes, your brother—he is the best fellow in the world!"
She mused, but a smile of real mirth now played over her face and lighted her
"Those are generous words, Mr. Armitage. My brother warned me against you in
quite unequivocal language. He told me about your match-box—"
"Oh, the cigarette case!" and he held it up. "It's really mine—and I'm going
to keep it. It was very damaging evidence. It would argue strongly against me in
any court of law."
"Yes, I believe that is true." And she looked at the trinket with frank
"But I particularly do not wish to have to meet that charge in any court of
law, Miss Claiborne."
She met his gaze very steadily, and her eyes were grave. Then she asked, in
much the same tone that she would have used if they had been very old friends
and he had excused himself for not riding that day, or for not going upon a
hunt, or to the theater:
"Because I have a pledge to keep and a work to do, and if I were forced to
defend myself from the charge of being the false Baron von Kissel, everything
would be spoiled. You see, unfortunately—most unfortunately—I am not quite
without responsibilities, and I have come down into the mountains, where I hope
not to be shot and tossed over a precipice until I have had time to watch
certain people and certain events a little while. I tried to say as much to
Captain Claiborne, but I saw that my story did not impress him. And now I have
said the same thing to you—"
He waited, gravely watching her, hat in hand.
"And I have stood here and listened to you, and done exactly what Captain
Claiborne would not wish me to do under any circumstances," said Shirley.
"You are infinitely kind and generous—"
"No. I do not wish you to think me either of those things—of course not!"
Her conclusion was abrupt and pointed.
"Then I will tell you—what I have not told any one else—that I know very
well that you are not the person who appeared at Bar Harbor three years ago and
palmed himself off as the Baron von Kissel."
"You know it—you are quite sure of it?" he asked blankly.
"Certainly. I saw that person—at Bar Harbor. I had gone up from Newport for
a week—I was even at a tea where he was quite the lion, and I am sure you are
not the same person."
Her direct manner of speech, her decisive tone, in which she placed the
matter of his identity on a purely practical and unsentimental plane, gave him a
new impression of her character.
"But Captain Claiborne—"
He ceased suddenly and she anticipated the question at which he had faltered,
and answered, a little icily:
"I do not consider it any of my business to meddle in your affairs with my
brother. He undoubtedly believes you are the impostor who palmed himself off at
Bar Harbor as the Baron von Kissel. He was told so—"
"By Monsieur Chauvenet."
"So he said."
"And of course he is a capital witness. There is no doubt of Chauvenet's
entire credibility," declared Armitage, a little airily.
"I should say not," said Shirley unresponsively. "I am quite as sure that he
was not the false baron as I am that you were not."
"That is a little pointed."
"It was meant to be," said Shirley sternly. "It is"—she weighed the
word—"ridiculous that both of you should be here."
"Thank you, for my half! I didn't know he was here! But I am not exactly
here—I have a much, safer place,"—he swept the blue-hilled horizon with
his hand. "Monsieur Chauvenet and I will not shoot at each other in the hotel
dining-room. But I am really relieved that he has come. We have an interesting
fashion of running into each other; it would positively grieve me to be obliged
to wait long for him."
He smiled and thrust his hat under his arm. The sun was dropping behind the
great western barricade, and a chill wind crept sharply over the valley.
He started to walk beside her as she turned away, but she paused abruptly.
"Oh, this won't do at all! I can't be seen with you, even in the shadow of my
own house. I must trouble you to take the side gate,"—and she indicated it by a
nod of her head.
"Not if I know myself! I am not a fraudulent member of the German
nobility—you have told me so yourself. Your conscience is clear—I assure you
mine is equally so! And I am not a person, Miss Claiborne, to sneak out by side
gates—particularly when I came over the fence! It's a long way around
anyhow—and I have a horse over there somewhere by the inn."
"Is at Fort Myer, of course. At about this hour they are having dress parade,
and he is thoroughly occupied."
"But—there is Monsieur Chauvenet. He has nothing to do but amuse himself."
They had reached the veranda steps, and she ran to the top and turned for a
moment to look at him. He still carried his hat and crop in one hand, and had
dropped the other into the side pocket of his coat. He was wholly at ease, and
the wind ruffled his hair and gave him a boyish look that Shirley liked. But she
had no wish to be found with him, and she instantly nodded his dismissal and
half turned away to go into the house, when he detained her for a moment.
"I am perfectly willing to afford Monsieur Chauvenet all imaginable
entertainment. We are bound to have many meetings. I am afraid he reached this
charming valley before me; but—as a rule—I prefer to be a little ahead of him;
it's a whim—the merest whim, I assure you."
He laughed, thinking little of what he said, but delighting in the picture
she made, the tall pillars of the veranda framing her against the white wall of
the house, and the architrave high above speaking, so he thought, for the
amplitude, the breadth of her nature. Her green cloth gown afforded the happiest
possible contrast with the white background; and her hat—(for a gown, let us
remember, may express the dressmaker, but a hat expresses the woman who wears
it)—her hat, Armitage was aware, was a trifle of black velvet caught up at one
side with snowy plumes well calculated to shock the sensibilities of the Audubon
Society. Yet the bird, if he knew, doubtless rejoiced in his fate! Shirley's
hand, thrice laid down, and there you have the length of that velvet cap, plume
and all. Her profile, as she half turned away, must awaken regret that Reynolds
and Gainsborough paint no more; yet let us be practical: Sargent, in this
particular, could not serve us ill.
Her annoyance at finding herself lingering to listen to him was marked in an
almost imperceptible gathering of her brows. It was all the matter of an
instant. His heart beat fast in his joy at the sight of her, and the tongue that
years of practice had skilled in reserve and evasion was possessed by a reckless
She nodded carelessly, but said nothing, waiting for him to go on.
"But when I wait for people they always come—even in a strange pergola!" he
added daringly. "Now, in Geneva, not long ago—"
He lost the profile and gained her face as he liked it best, though her head
was lifted a little high in resentment against her own yielding curiosity. He
was speaking rapidly, and the slight hint of some other tongue than his usually
fluent English arrested her ear now, as it had at other times.
"In Geneva, when I told a young lady that I was waiting for a very wicked man
to appear—it was really the oddest thing in the world that almost immediately
Monsieur Jules Chauvenet arrived at mine own inn! It is inevitable; it is always
sure to be my fate," he concluded mournfully.
He bowed low, restored the shabby hat to his head with the least bit of a
flourish and strolled away through the garden by a broad walk that led to the
He would have been interested to know that when he was out of sight Shirley
walked to the veranda rail and bent forward, listening to his steps on the
gravel, after the hedge and shrubbery had hidden him. And she stood thus until
the faint click of the gate told her that he had gone.
She did not know that as the gate closed upon him he met Chauvenet face to