Moreover, his relations to the Claibornes were in an ugly tangle: Chauvenet had dealt him a telling blow in a quarter where he particularly wished to appear to advantage. He jumped out of the day coach in which he had accomplished the last stage of his journey to Lamar, just at dawn, and found Oscar with two horses waiting. "Good morning," said Oscar, saluting.
He bowed to the Claibornes inclusively, nodded in response to Singleton's promise to look him up later, and left them. When Shirley and her brother reached their common sitting-room Dick Claiborne laughingly held up the copy of the Neue Freie Presse which Armitage had cast aside at their table. "Now we shall know!" he declared, unfolding the newspaper. "Know what, Dick?"
"I'm really getting sensitive about it," said Armitage, more to the Claibornes than to Singleton. "But must we all be from somewhere? Is it so melancholy a plight to be a man without a country?" The mockery in his tone was belied by the good humor in his face; his eyes caught Shirley's passingly, and she smiled at him it seemed a natural, a perfectly inevitable thing to do.
You gwine bust yo' dress buttons off in the back ef you don't mind." As the spirits of those about them mounted, the hearts of the two youths sank if it was like this among the Claibornes, what would it be at school and in the world at large when their failure to connect intention with result became village talk?
And from the name to the girl may you be forever denied a glimpse of Shirley Claiborne's pretty head, her brown hair and dream-haunted eyes, if you do not first murmur the name with honest liking. As the Claibornes lingered at their table a short stout man espied them from the door and advanced beamingly. "Ah, my dear Shirley, and Dick! Can it be possible!
"Why, Armitage, of all men!" and he rose, still facing the Claibornes, with an air of embracing the young Americans in his greetings. He never liked to lose an auditor; and he would, in no circumstances, miss a chance to display the wide circumference of his acquaintance. "Shirley Miss Claiborne allow me to present Mr. Armitage."
When this person learned that the Claibornes had left, he would doubtless hurry after them. This is the conclusion that was reached by Mr. Armitage, who, at times, was singularly happy in his speculations as to the mental processes of other people. Sometimes, however, he made mistakes, as will appear.
Very likely the man was under instructions, and had been told to follow the Claibornes home; and the thought of their identification with himself by his enemies angered him. Chauvenet was likely to appear in Washington at any time, and would undoubtedly seek the Claibornes at once.
"I'm surprised at your seeming intimacy with a mere 'peddler, and you an officer in the finest cavalry in the world." "Well, if he's a peddler he's a high-class one probably the junior member of the firm that owns the works." Armitage saw something of all the Claibornes every day in the pleasant intimacy of ship life, and Hilton Claiborne found the young man an interesting talker.
John Armitage lingered in New York for a week, not to press the Claibornes too closely, then went to Washington. He wrote himself down on the register of the New American as John Armitage, Cinch Tight, Montana, and took a suite of rooms high up, with an outlook that swept Pennsylvania Avenue.