The Port of Missing Men
"Who Are You, John Armitage?"
"Morbleu, Monsieur, you give me too much majesty," said
—The History of Henry Esmond
"These gentlemen doubtless wish to confer—let them sequester themselves!"
and Armitage waved his hand to the line of empty sleeping-rooms. "I believe
Monsieur Durand already knows the way about—he may wish to explore my trunks
again," and Armitage bowed to the two men, who, with their wrists tied behind
them and a strap linking them together, looked the least bit absurd.
"Now, Claiborne, that foolish Oscar has a first-aid kit of some sort that he
used on me a couple of weeks ago. Dig it out of his simple cell back there and
we'll clear up this mess in my shoulder. Twice on the same side,—but I believe
they actually cracked a bone this time."
He lay down on a long bench and Claiborne cut off his coat.
"I'd like to hold a little private execution for this," growled the officer.
"A little lower and it would have caught you in the heart."
"Don't be spiteful! I'm as sound as wheat. We have them down and the victory
is ours. The great fun is to come when the good Baron von Marhof gets here. If I
were dying I believe I could hold on for that."
"You're not going to die, thank God! Just a minute more until I pack this
shoulder with cotton. I can't do anything for that smashed bone, but Bledsoe is
the best surgeon in the army, and he'll fix you up in a jiffy."
"That will do now. I must have on a coat when our honored guests arrive, even
if we omit one sleeve—yes, I guess we'll have to, though it does seem a bit
affected. Dig out the brandy bottle from the cupboard there in the corner, and
then kindly brush my hair and straighten up the chairs a bit. You might even
toss a stick on the fire. That potato sack you may care to keep as a souvenir."
"Be quiet, now! Remember, you are my prisoner, Mr. Armitage."
"I am, I am! But I will wager ten courses at Sherry's the Baron will be glad
to let me off."
He laughed softly and began repeating:
"'Why, hear you, my masters: was it for me to kill the heir apparent? Should
I turn upon the true prince? Why, thou knowest I am as valiant as Hercules; but
beware instinct; the lion will not touch the true prince. Instinct is a great
matter; I was a coward on instinct. I shall think the better of myself and thee
during my life; I for a valiant lion, and thou for a true prince.'"
Claiborne forced him to lie down on the bench, and threw a blanket over him,
and in a moment saw that he slept. In an inner room the voices of the prisoners
occasionally rose shrilly as they debated their situation and prospects.
Claiborne chewed a cigar and watched and waited. Armitage wakened suddenly, sat
up and called to Claiborne with a laugh:
"I had a perfectly bully dream, old man. I dreamed that I saw the ensign of
Austria-Hungary flying from the flag-staff of this shanty; and by Jove, I'll
take the hint! We owe it to the distinguished Ambassador who now approaches to
fly his colors over the front door. We ought to have a trumpeter to herald his
arrival—but the white and red ensign with the golden crown—it's in the
leather-covered trunk in my room—the one with the most steamer labels on it—go
bring it, Claiborne, and we'll throw it to the free airs of Virginia. And be
quick—they ought to be here by this time!"
He stood in the door and watched Claiborne haul up the flag, and he made a
mockery of saluting it as it snapped out in the fresh morning air.
"The Port of Missing Men! It was designed to be extra-territorial, and
there's no treason in hauling up an alien flag," and his high spirits returned,
and he stalked back to the fireplace, chaffing Claiborne and warning him against
ever again fighting under an unknown banner.
"Here they are," called Claiborne, and flung open the door as Shirley, her
father and Baron von Marhof rode up under the billowing ensign. Dick stepped out
to meet them and answer their questions.
"Mr. Armitage is here. He has been hurt and we have sent for a doctor;
but"—and he looked at Shirley.
"If you will do me the honor to enter—all of you!" and Armitage came out
quickly and smiled upon them.
"We had started off to look for Dick when we met your man," said Shirley,
standing on the steps, rein in hand.
"What has happened, and how was Armitage injured?" demanded Judge Claiborne.
"There was a battle," replied Dick, grinning, "and Mr. Armitage got in the
way of a bullet."
Her ride through the keen morning air had flooded Shirley's cheeks with
color. She wore a dark blue skirt and a mackintosh with the collar turned up
about her neck, and a red scarf at her throat matched the band of her soft felt
hat. She drew off her gauntlets and felt in her pocket for a handkerchief with
which to brush some splashes of mud that had dried on her cheek, and the action
was so feminine, and marked so abrupt a transition from the strange business of
the night and morning, that Armitage and Dick laughed and Judge Claiborne turned
upon them frowningly.
Shirley had been awake much of the night. On returning from the ball at the
inn she found Dick still absent, and when at six o'clock he had not returned she
called her father and they had set off together for the hills, toward which, the
stablemen reported, Dick had ridden. They had met Oscar just outside the
Springs, and had returned to the hotel for Baron von Marhof. Having performed
her office as guide and satisfied herself that Dick was safe, she felt her
conscience eased, and could see no reason why she should not ride home and leave
the men to their council. Armitage saw her turn to her horse, whose nose was
exploring her mackintosh pockets, and he stepped quickly toward her.
"You see, Miss Claiborne, your brother is quite safe, but I very much hope
you will not run away. There are some things to be explained which it is only
fair you should hear."
"Wait, Shirley, and we will all go down together," said Judge Claiborne
Baron von Marhof, very handsome and distinguished, but mud-splashed, had tied
his horse to a post in the driveway, and stood on the veranda steps, his hat in
his hand, staring, a look of bewilderment on his face. Armitage, bareheaded,
still in his riding leggings, his trousers splashed with mud, his left arm
sleeveless and supported by a handkerchief swung from his neck, shook hands with
"Baron von Marhof, allow me to present Mr. Armitage," said Dick, and Armitage
walked to the steps and bowed. The Ambassador did not offer his hand.
"Won't you please come in?" said Armitage, smiling upon them, and when they
were seated he took his stand by the fireplace, hesitated a moment, as though
weighing his words, and began:
"Baron von Marhof, the events that have led to this meeting have been
somewhat more than unusual—they are unique. And complications have arisen which
require prompt and wise action. For this reason I am glad that we shall have the
benefit of Judge Claiborne's advice."
"Judge Claiborne is the counsel of our embassy," said the Ambassador. His
gaze was fixed intently on Armitage's face, and he hitched himself forward in
his chair impatiently, grasping his crop nervously across his knees.
"You were anxious to find me, Baron, and I may have seemed hard to catch, but
I believe we have been working at cross-purposes to serve the same interests."
The Baron nodded.
"Yes, I dare say," he remarked dryly.
"And some other gentlemen, of not quite your own standing, have at the same
time been seeking me. It will give me great pleasure to present one of
them—one, I believe, will be enough. Mr. Claiborne, will you kindly allow
Monsieur Jules Chauvenet to stand in the door for a moment? I want to ask him a
Shirley, sitting farthest from Armitage, folded her hands upon the long table
and looked toward the door into which her brother vanished. Then Jules Chauvenet
stood before them all, and as his eyes met hers for a second the color rose to
his face, and he broke out angrily:
"This is infamous! This is an outrage! Baron von Marhof, as an Austrian
subject, I appeal to you for protection from this man!"
"Monsieur, you shall have all the protection Baron von Marhof cares to give
you; but first I wish to ask you a question—just one. You followed me to
America with the fixed purpose of killing me. You sent a Servian assassin after
me—a fellow with a reputation for doing dirty work—and he tried to stick a
knife into me on the deck of the King Edward. I shall not recite my
subsequent experiences with him or with you and Monsieur Durand. You announced
at Captain Claiborne's table at the Army and Navy Club in Washington that I was
an impostor, and all the time, Monsieur, you have really believed me to be some
one—some one in particular."
Armitage's eyes glittered and his voice faltered with intensity as he uttered
these last words. Then he thrust his hand into his coat pocket, stepped back,
"Who am I, Monsieur?"
Chauvenet shifted uneasily from one foot to another under the gaze of the
five people who waited for his answer; then he screamed shrilly:
"You are the devil—an impostor, a liar, a thief!"
Baron von Marhof leaped to his feet and roared at Chauvenet in English:
"Who is this man? Whom do you believe him to be?"
"Answer and be quick about it!" snapped Claiborne.
"I tell you"—began Chauvenet fiercely.
"Who am I?" asked Armitage again.
"I don't know who you are—"
"You do not! You certainly do not!" laughed Armitage; "but whom have you
believed me to be, Monsieur?"
"Yes; you thought—"
"I thought—there seemed reasons to believe—"
"Yes; and you believe it; go on!"
Chauvenet's eyes blinked for a moment as he considered the difficulties of
his situation. The presence of Baron von Marhof sobered him. America might not,
after all, be so safe a place from which to conduct an Old World conspiracy, and
this incident must, if possible, be turned to his own account. He addressed the
Baron in German:
"This man is a designing plotter; he is bent upon mischief and treason; he
has contrived an attempt against the noble ruler of our nation—he is a menace
to the throne—"
"Who is he?" demanded Marhof impatiently; and his eyes and the eyes of all
fell upon Armitage.
"I tell you we found him lurking about in Europe, waiting his chance, and we
drove him away—drove him here to watch him. See these things—that sword—those
orders! They belonged to the Archduke Karl. Look at them and see that it is
true! I tell you we have rendered Austria a high service. One death—one
death—at Vienna—and this son of a madman would be king! He is Frederick
Augustus, the son of the Archduke Karl!"
The room was very still as the last words rang out. The old Ambassador's gaze
clung to Armitage; he stepped nearer, the perspiration breaking out upon his
brow, and his lips trembled as he faltered:
"He would be king; he would be king!"
Then Armitage spoke sharply to Claiborne.
"That will do. The gentleman may retire now."
As Claiborne thrust Chauvenet out of the room, Armitage turned to the little
"I am not Frederick Augustus, the son of the Archduke Karl," he said quietly;
"nor did I ever pretend that I was, except to lead those men on in their
conspiracy. The cigarette case that caused so much trouble at Mr. Claiborne's
supper-party belongs to me. Here it is."
The old Ambassador snatched it from him eagerly.
"This device—the falcon poised upon a silver helmet! You have much to
"It is the coat-of-arms of the house of Schomburg. The case belonged to
Frederick Augustus, Karl's son; and this sword was his; and these orders and
that cloak lying yonder—all were his. They were gifts from his father. And
believe me, my friends, I came by them honestly."
The Baron bent over the table and spilled the orders from their silver box
and scanned them eagerly. The colored ribbons, the glittering jewels, held the
eyes of all. Many of them were the insignia of rare orders no longer conferred.
There were the crown and pendant cross of the Invincible Knights of Zaringer;
the white falcon upon a silver helmet, swung from a ribbon of cloth of gold—the
familiar device of the house of Schomburg, the gold Maltese cross of the
Chevaliers of the Blessed Sacrament; the crossed swords above an iron crown of
the Ancient Legion of Saint Michael and All Angels; and the full-rigged ship
pendant from triple anchors—the decoration of the rare Spanish order of the
Star of the Seven Seas. Silence held the company as the Ambassador's fine old
hands touched one after another. It seemed to Shirley that these baubles again
bound the New World, the familiar hills of home, the Virginia shores, to the
wallowing caravels of Columbus.
The Ambassador closed the silver box the better to examine the white falcon
upon its lid. Then he swung about and confronted Armitage.
"Where is he, Monsieur?" he asked, his voice sunk to a whisper, his eyes
sweeping the doors and windows.
"The Archduke Karl is dead; his son Frederick Augustus, whom these
conspirators have imagined me to be—he, too, is dead."
"You are quite sure—you are quite sure, Mr. Armitage?"
"I am quite sure."
"That is not enough! We have a right to ask more than your word!"
"No, it is not enough," replied Armitage quietly. "Let me make my story
brief. I need not recite the peculiarities of the Archduke—his dislike of
conventional society, his contempt for sham and pretense. After living a hermit
life at one of the smallest and most obscure of the royal estates for several
years, he vanished utterly. That was fifteen years ago."
"Yes; he was mad—quite mad," blurted the Baron.
"That was the common impression. He took his oldest son and went into exile.
Conjectures as to his whereabouts have filled the newspapers sporadically ever
since. He has been reported as appearing in the South Sea Islands, in India, in
Australia, in various parts of this country. In truth he came directly to
America and established himself as a farmer in western Canada. His son was
killed in an accident; the Archduke died within the year."
Judge Claiborne bent forward in his chair as Armitage paused.
"What proof have you of this story, Mr. Armitage?"
"I am prepared for such a question, gentlemen. His identity I may establish
by various documents which he gave me for the purpose. For greater security I
locked them in a safety box of the Bronx Loan and Trust Company in New York. To
guard against accidents I named you jointly with myself as entitled to the
contents of that box. Here is the key."
As he placed the slim bit of steel on the table and stepped back to his old
position on the hearth, they saw how white he was, and that his hand shook, and
Dick begged him to sit down.
"Yes; will you not be seated, Monsieur?" said the Baron kindly.
"No; I shall have finished in a moment. The Archduke gave those documents to
me, and with them a paper that will explain much in the life of that unhappy
gentleman. It contains a disclosure that might in certain emergencies be of very
great value. I beg of you, believe that he was not a fool, and not a madman. He
sought exile for reasons—for the reason that his son Francis, who has been
plotting the murder of the new Emperor-king, is not his son!"
"What!" roared the Baron.
"It is as I have said. The faithlessness of his wife, and not madness, drove
him into exile. He intrusted that paper to me and swore me to carry it to Vienna
if Francis ever got too near the throne. It is certified by half a dozen
officials authorized to administer oaths in Canada, though they, of course,
never knew the contents of the paper to which they swore him. He even carried it
to New York and swore to it there before the consul-general of Austria-Hungary
in that city. There was a certain grim humor in him; he said he wished to have
the affidavit bear the seal of his own country, and the consul-general assumed
that it was a document of mere commercial significance."
The Baron looked at the key; he touched the silver box; his hand rested for a
moment on the sword.
"It is a marvelous story—it is wonderful! Can it be true—can it be true?"
murmured the Ambassador.
"The documents will be the best evidence. We can settle the matter in
twenty-four hours," said Judge Claiborne.
"You will pardon me for seeming incredulous, sir," said the Baron, "but it is
all so extraordinary. And these men, these prisoners—"
"They have pursued me under the impression that I am Frederick Augustus.
Oddly enough, I, too, am Frederick Augustus," and Armitage smiled. "I was within
a few months of his age, and I had a little brush with Chauvenet and Durand in
Geneva in which they captured my cigarette case—it had belonged to Frederick,
and the Archduke gave it to me—and my troubles began. The Emperor-king was old
and ill; the disorders in Hungary were to cloak the assassination of his
successor; then the Archduke Francis, Karl's reputed son, was to be installed
upon the throne."
"Yes; there has been a conspiracy; I—"
"And there have been conspirators! Two of them are safely behind that door;
and, somewhat through my efforts, their chief, Winkelried, should now be under
arrest in Vienna. I have had reasons, besides my pledge to Archduke Karl, for
taking an active part in these affairs. A year ago I gave Karl's repudiation of
his second son to Count Ferdinand von Stroebel, the prime minister. The
statement was stolen from him for the Winkelried conspirators by these men we
now have locked up in this house."
The Ambassador's eyes blazed with excitement as these statements fell one by
one from Armitage's lips; but Armitage went on:
"I trust that my plan for handling these men will meet with your approval.
They have chartered the George W. Custis, a fruit-carrying steamer lying
at Morgan's wharf in Baltimore, in which they expected to make off after they
had finished with me. At one time they had some idea of kidnapping me; and it
isn't my fault they failed at that game. But I leave it to you, gentlemen, to
deal with them. I will suggest, however, that the presence just now in the West
Indies, of the cruiser Sophia Margaret, flying the flag of
Austria-Hungary, may be suggestive."
He smiled at the quick glance that passed between the Ambassador and Judge
Then Baron von Marhof blurted out the question that was uppermost in the
minds of all.
"Who are you, John Armitage?"
And Armitage answered, quite simply and in the quiet tone that he had used
"I am Frederick Augustus von Stroebel, the son of your sister and of the
Count Ferdinand von Stroebel. The Archduke's son and I were school-fellows and
playmates; you remember as well as I my father's place near the royal lands. The
Archduke talked much of democracy and the New World, and used to joke about the
divine right of kings. Let me make my story short—I found out their plan of
flight and slipped away with them. It was believed that I had been carried away
"Yes, that is true; it is all true! And you never saw your father—you never
went to him?"
"I was only thirteen when I ran away with Karl. When I appeared before my
father in Paris last year he would have sent me away in anger, if it had not
been that I knew matters of importance to Austria—Austria, always Austria!"
"Yes; that was quite like him," said the Ambassador. "He served his country
with a passionate devotion. He hated America—he distrusted the whole democratic
idea. It was that which pointed his anger against you—that you should have
chosen to live here."
"Then when I saw him at Geneva—that last interview—he told me that Karl's
statement had been stolen, and he had his spies abroad looking for the thieves.
He was very bitter against me. It was only a few hours before he was killed, as
a part of the Winkelried conspiracy. He had given his life for Austria. He told
me never to see him again—never to claim my own name until I had done something
for Austria. And I went to Vienna and knelt in the crowd at his funeral, and no
one knew me, and it hurt me, oh, it hurt me to know that he had grieved for me;
that he had wanted a son to carry on his own work, while I had grown away from
the whole idea of such labor as his. And now—"
He faltered, his hoarse voice broke with stress of feeling, and his pallor
"It was not my fault—it was really not my fault! I did the best I could,
and, by God, I've got them in the room there where they can't do any harm!—and
Dick Claiborne, you are the finest fellow in the world, and the squarest and
bravest, and I want to take your hand before I go to sleep; for I'm sick—yes,
I'm sick—and sleepy—and you'd better haul down that flag over the door—it's
treason, I tell you!—and if you see Shirley, tell her I'm John Armitage—tell
her I'm John Armitage, John Arm—"
The room and its figures rushed before his eyes, and as he tried to stand
erect his knees crumpled under him, and before they could reach him he sank to
the floor with a moan. As they crowded about he stirred slightly, sighed deeply,
and lay perfectly still.