The Port of Missing Men
Captain Claiborne On Duty
When he came where the trees were thin,
The moon sat waiting there to see;
On her worn palm she laid her chin,
And laughed awhile in sober glee
To think how strong this knight had been.
—William Vaughn Moody
In some mystification Captain Richard Claiborne packed a suit-case in his
quarters at Fort Myer. Being a soldier, he obeyed orders; but being human, he
was also possessed of a degree of curiosity. He did not know just the series of
incidents and conferences that preceded his summons to Washington, but they may
be summarized thus:
Baron von Marhof was a cautious man. When the young gentlemen of his legation
spoke to him in awed whispers of a cigarette case bearing an extraordinary
device that had been seen in Washington he laughed them away; then, possessing a
curious and thorough mind, he read all the press clippings relating to the false
Baron von Kissel, and studied the heraldic emblems of the Schomburgs. As he
pondered, he regretted the death of his eminent brother-in-law, Count Ferdinand
von Stroebel, who was not a man to stumble over so negligible a trifle as a
cigarette case. But Von Marhof himself was not without resources. He told the
gentlemen of his suite that he had satisfied himself that there was nothing in
the Armitage mystery; then he cabled Vienna discreetly for a few days, and
finally consulted Hilton Claiborne, the embassy's counsel, at the Claiborne home
at Storm Springs.
They had both gone hurriedly to Washington, where they held a long conference
with the Secretary of State. Then the state department called the war department
by telephone, and quickly down the line to the commanding officer at Fort Myer
went a special assignment for Captain Claiborne to report to the Secretary of
State. A great deal of perfectly sound red tape was reduced to minute particles
in these manipulations; but Baron von Marhof's business was urgent; it was also
of a private and wholly confidential character. Therefore, he returned to his
cottage at Storm Springs, and the Washington papers stated that he was ill and
had gone back to Virginia to take the waters.
The Claiborne house was the pleasantest place in Storm Valley, and the
library a comfortable place for a conference. Dick Claiborne caught the gravity
of the older men as they unfolded to him the task for which they had asked his
services. The Baron stated the case in these words:
"You know and have talked with this man Armitage; you saw the device on the
cigarette case; and asked an explanation, which he refused; and you know also
Chauvenet, whom we suspect of complicity with the conspirators at home. Armitage
is not the false Baron von Kissel—we have established that from Senator
Sanderson beyond question. But Sanderson's knowledge of the man is of
comparatively recent date—going back about five years to the time Armitage
purchased his Montana ranch. Whoever Armitage may be, he pays his bills; he
conducts himself like a gentleman; he travels at will, and people who meet him
say a good word for him."
"He is an agreeable man and remarkably well posted in European politics,"
said Judge Claiborne. "I talked with him a number of times on the King
Edward and must say that I liked him."
"Chauvenet evidently knows him; there was undoubtedly something back of that
little trick at my supper party at the Army and Navy," said Dick.
"It might be explained—" began the Baron; then he paused and looked from
father to son. "Pardon me, but they both manifest some interest in Miss
"We met them abroad," said Dick; "and they both turned up again in
"One of them is here, or has been here in the valley—why not the other?"
asked Judge Claiborne.
"But, of course, Shirley knows nothing of Armitage's whereabouts," Dick
"Certainly not," declared his father.
"How did you make Armitage's acquaintance?" asked the Ambassador. "Some one
must have been responsible for introducing him—if you can remember."
"It was in the Monte Rosa, at Geneva. Shirley and I had been chaffing each
other about the persistence with which Armitage seemed to follow us. He was
taking déjeuner at the same hour, and he passed us going out. Old Arthur
Singleton—the ubiquitous—was talking to us, and he nailed Armitage with his
customary zeal and introduced him to us in quite the usual American fashion.
Later I asked Singleton who he was and he knew nothing about him. Then Armitage
turned up on the steamer, where he made himself most agreeable. Next, Senator
Sanderson vouched for him as one of his Montana constituents. You know the rest
of the story. I swallowed him whole; he called at our house on several
occasions, and came to the post, and I asked him to my supper for the Spanish
"And now, Dick, we want you to find him and get him into a room with
ourselves, where we can ask him some questions," declared Judge Claiborne.
They discussed the matter in detail. It was agreed that Dick should remain at
the Springs for a few days to watch Chauvenet; then, if he got no clue to
Armitage's whereabouts, he was to go to Montana, to see if anything could be
"We must find him—there must be no mistake about it," said the Ambassador to
Judge Claiborne, when they were alone. "They are almost panic-stricken in
Vienna. What with the match burning close to the powder in Hungary and clever
heads plotting in Vienna this American end of the game has dangerous
"And when we have young Armitage—" the Judge began.
"Then we shall know the truth."
"But suppose—suppose," and Judge Claiborne glanced at the door, "suppose
Charles Louis, Emperor-king of Austria-Hungary, should
"We will assume nothing of the kind!" ejaculated the Ambassador sharply. "It
is impossible." Then to Captain Claiborne: "You must pardon me if I do not
explain further. I wish to find Armitage; it is of the greatest importance. It
would not aid you if I told you why I must see and talk with him."
And as though to escape from the thing of which his counsel had hinted, Baron
von Marhof took his departure at once.
Shirley met her brother on the veranda. His arrival had been unheralded and
she was frankly astonished to see him.
"Well, Captain Claiborne, you are a man of mystery. You will undoubtedly be
court-martialed for deserting—and after a long leave, too."
"I am on duty. Don't forget that you are the daughter of a diplomat."
"Humph! It doesn't follow, necessarily, that I should be stupid!"
"You couldn't be that, Shirley, dear."
"Thank you, Captain."
They discussed family matters for a few minutes; then she said, with
"Well, we must hope that your appearance will cause no battles to be fought
in our garden. There was enough fighting about here in old times."
"Take heart, little sister, I shall protect you. Oh, it's rather decent of
Armitage to have kept away from you, Shirley, after all that fuss about the
"Which he wasn't—"
"Well, Sanderson says he couldn't have been, and the rogues' gallery pictures
don't resemble our friend at all."
"Ugh; don't speak of it!" and Shirley shrugged her shoulders. She suffered
her eyes to climb the slopes of the far hills. Then she looked steadily at her
brother and laughed.
"What do you and father and Baron von Marhof want with Mr. John Armitage?"
"Guess again!" exclaimed Dick hurriedly. "Has that been the undercurrent of
your conversation? As I may have said before in this connection, you disappoint
me, Shirley. You seem unable to forget that fellow."
He paused, grew very serious, and bent forward in his wicker chair.
"Have you seen John Armitage since I saw him?"
"Impertinent! How dare you?"
"But Shirley, the question is fair!"
"Is it, Richard?"
"And I want you to answer me."
He rose and took several steps toward her. She stood against the railing with
her hands behind her back.
"Shirley, you are the finest girl in the world, but you wouldn't do
"This what, Dick?"
"You know what I mean. I ask you again—have you or have you not seen
Armitage since you came to the Springs?"
He spoke impatiently, his eyes upon hers. A wave of color swept her face, and
then her anger passed and she was her usual good-natured self.
"Baron von Marhof is a charming old gentleman, isn't he?"
"He's a regular old brick," declared Dick solemnly.
"It's a great privilege for a young man like you to know him, Dick, and to
have private talks with him and the governor—about subjects of deep importance.
The governor is a good deal of a man himself."
"I am proud to be his son," declared Dick, meeting Shirley's eyes
Shirley was silent for a moment, while Dick whistled a few bars from the
"A captain—a mere captain of the line—is not often plucked out of his post
when in good health and standing—after a long leave for foreign travel—and
sent away to visit his parents—and help entertain a distinguished Ambassador."
"Thanks for the 'mere captain,' dearest. You needn't rub it in."
"I wouldn't. But you are fair game—for your sister only! And you're better
known than you were before that little supper for the Spanish attaché. It rather
directed attention to you, didn't it, Dick?"
"It certainly did."
"And if you should meet Monsieur Chauvenet, who caused the trouble—"
"I have every intention of meeting him!"
"Of course, I shall meet him—some time, somewhere. He's at the Springs,
"Am I a hotel register that I should know? I haven't seen him for several
"What I should like to see," said Dick, "is a meeting between Armitage and
Chauvenet. That would really be entertaining. No doubt Chauvenet could whip your
He looked away, with an air of unconcern, at the deepening shadows on the
"Dear Dick, I am quite sure that if you have been chosen out of all the
United States army to find Mr. John Armitage, you will succeed without any help
"That doesn't answer my question. You don't know what you are doing. What if
father knew that you were seeing this adventurer—"
"Oh, of course, if you should tell father! I haven't said that I had seen Mr.
Armitage; and you haven't exactly told me that you have a warrant for his
arrest; so we are quits, Captain. You had better look in at the hotel dance
to-night. There are girls there and to spare."
"When I find Mr. Armitage—"
"You seem hopeful, Captain. He may be on the high seas."
"I shall find him there—or here!"
"Good luck to you, Captain!"
There was the least flash of antagonism in the glance that passed between
them, and Captain Claiborne clapped his hands together impatiently and went into