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Title: Castle Craneycrow
Author: McCutcheon, George Barr
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Castle Craneycrow" ***

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CASTLE CRANEYCROW

By George Barr McCutcheon

NEW YORK

1902



CASTLE CRANEYCROW



I. THE TAKING OF TURK


It was characteristic of Mr. Philip Quentin that he first lectured
his servant on the superiority of mind over matter and then took him
cheerfully by the throat and threw him into a far corner of the
room. As the servant was not more than half the size of the master,
his opposition was merely vocal, but it was nevertheless
unmistakable. His early career had increased his vocabulary and his
language was more picturesque than pretty. Yet of his loyalty and
faithfulness, there could be no doubt. During the seven years of his
service, he had been obliged to forget that he possessed such a name
as Turkington or even James. He had been Turk from the beginning,
and Turk he remained--and, in spite of occasional out breaks, he had
proved his devotion to the young gentleman whose goods and chattels
he guarded with more assiduity than he did his own soul or--what
meant more to him--his personal comfort. His employment came about in
an unusual way. Mr. Quentin had an apartment in a smart building
uptown. One night he was awakened by a noise in his room. In the
darkness he saw a man fumbling among his things, and in an instant
he had seized his revolver from the stand at his bedside and covered
the intruder. Then he calmly demanded: “Now, what are you doing
here?”

“I’m lookin’ for a boardin’ house,” replied the other, sullenly.

“You’re just a plain thief--that’s all.”

“Well, it won’t do me no good to say I’m a sleepwalker, will it?--er
a missionary, er a dream? But, on d’ dead, sport, I’m hungry, an’ I
wuz tryin’ to git enough to buy a meal an’ a bed. On d’ dead, I
wuz.”

“And a suit of clothes, and an overcoat, and a house and lot, I
suppose, and please don’t call me ‘sport’ again. Sit down--not oh
the floor; on that chair over there. I’m going to search you. Maybe
you’ve got something I need.” Mr. Quentin turned on the light and
proceeded to disarm the man, piling his miserable effects on a
chair. “Take off that mask. Lord! put it on again; you look much
better. So, you’re hungry, are you?”

“As a bear.”

Quentin never tried to explain his subsequent actions; perhaps he
had had a stupid evening. He merely yawned and addressed the burglar
with all possible respect. “Do you imagine I’ll permit any guest of
mine to go away hungry? If you’ll wait till I dress, we’ll stroll
over to a restaurant in the next street and get some supper.

“Police station, you mean.”

“Now, don’t be unkind, Mr. Burglar. I mean supper for two. I’m
hungry myself, but not a bit sleepy. Will you wait?”

“Oh, I’m in no particular hurry.”

Quentin dressed calmly. The burglar began whistling softly.

“Are you ready?” asked Philip, putting on his overcoat and hat.

“I haven’t got me overcoat on yet,” replied the burglar,
suggestively. Quentin saw he was dressed in the chilliest of rags.
He opened a closet door and threw him a long coat.

“Ah, here is your coat. I must have taken it from the club by
mistake. Pardon me.”

“T’anks; I never expected to git it back,” coolly replied the
burglar, donning the best coat that had ever touched his person.
“You didn’t see anything of my gloves and hat in there, did you?” A
hat and a pair of gloves were produced, not perfect in fit, but
quite respectable.

Soberly they walked out into the street and off through the
two-o’clock stillness. The mystified burglar was losing his
equanimity. He could not understand the captor’s motive, nor could
he much longer curb his curiosity. In his mind he was fully
satisfied that he was walking straight to the portals of the nearest
station. In all his career as a housebreaker, he had never before
been caught, and now to be captured in such a way and treated in
such a way was far past comprehension. Ten minutes before he was
looking at a stalwart figure with a leveled revolver, confidently
expecting to drop with the bullet in his body from an agitated
weapon. Indeed, he encountered conditions so strange that he felt a
doubt of their reality. He had, for some peculiar and amazing
reason, no desire to escape. There was something in the oddness of
the proceeding that made him wish to see it to an end. Besides, he
was quite sure the strapping young fellow would shoot if he
attempted to bolt.

“This is a fairly good eating house,” observed the would-be victim
as they came to an “all-nighter.” They entered and deliberately
removed their coats, the thief watching his host with shifty, even
twinkling eyes. “What shall it be, Mr. Robber? You are hungry, and
you may order the entire bill, from soup to the date line, if you
like. Pitch in.”

“Say, boss, what’s your game?” demanded the crook, suddenly. His
sharp, pinched face, with its week’s growth of beard, wore a new
expression--that of admiration. “I ain’t such a rube that I don’t
like a good t’ing even w’en it ain’t comin’ my way. You’se a dandy,
dat’s right, an’ I t’ink we’d do well in de business togedder. Put
me nex’ to yer game.”

“Game? The bill of fare tells you all about that. Here’s quail,
squab, duck--see? That’s the only game I’m interested in. Go on, and
order.”

“S’ ‘elp me Gawd if you ain’t a peach.”

For half an hour Mr. Burglar ate ravenously, Quentin watching him
through half-closed, amused eyes. He had had a dull, monotonous
week, and this was the novelty that lifted life out of the torpidity
into which it had fallen.

The host at this queer feast was at that time little more than
twenty-five years of age, a year out of Yale, and just back from a
second tour of South America. He was an orphan, coming into a big
fortune with his majority, and he had satiated an old desire to
travel in lands not visited by all the world. Now he was back in New
York to look after the investments his guardian had made, and he
found them so ridiculously satisfactory that they cast a shadow of
dullness across his mind, always hungry for activity.

“Have you a place to sleep?” he asked, at length.

“I live in Jersey City, but I suppose I can find a cheap lodgin’
house down by d’ river. Trouble is, I ain’t got d’ price.”

“Then come back home with me. You may sleep in Jackson’s room.
Jackson was my man till yesterday, when I dismissed him for stealing
my cigars and drinking my drinks. I won’t have anybody about me who
steals. Come along.”

Then they walked swiftly back to Quentin’s flat. The owner of the
apartment directed his puzzled guest to a small room off his own,
and told him to go to bed.

“By the way, what’s your name?” he asked, before he closed the door.

“Turkington--James Turkington, sir,” answered the now respectful
robber. And he wanted to say more, but the other interrupted.

“Well, Turk, when you get up in the morning, polish those shoes of
mine over there. We’ll talk it over after I’ve had my breakfast.
Good-night.”

And that is how Turk, most faithful and loyal of servants, began his
apparently endless employment with Mr. Philip Quentin, dabbler in
stocks, bonds and hearts. Whatever his ugly past may have been,
whatever his future may have promised, he was honest to a painful
degree in these days with Quentin. Quick-witted, fiery, willful and
as ugly as a little demon, Turk knew no law, no integrity except
that which benefitted his employer. Beyond a doubt, if Quentin had
instructed him to butcher a score of men, Turk would have proceeded
to do so and without argument. But Quentin instructed him to be
honest, law-abiding and cautious. It would be perfectly safe to
guess his age between forty and sixty, but it would not be wise to
measure his strength by the size of his body. The little ex-burglar
was like a piece of steel.



II. SOME RAIN AND ITS CONSEQUENCES


New York had never been so nasty and cold and disagreeable. For
three weeks it had rained--a steady, chilling drizzle. Quentin stood
it as long as he could, but the weather is a large factor in the
life of a gentleman of leisure. He couldn’t play Squash the entire
time, and Bridge he always maintained was more of a profession than
a pastime. So it was that one morning, as he looked out at the
sheets of water blowing across the city, his mind was made up.

“We’ll get out of this, Turk. I’ve had enough of it.”

“Where do we go, sir?” calmly asked the servant.

“Heaven knows! But be ready to start tomorrow. We’ll go somewhere
and dodge this blessed downpour. Call me a cab.”

As he drove to the club, he mentally tossed coppers as to his
destination. People were already coming back from Aiken and Palm
Beach, and those who had gone to the country were cooped up indoors
and shivering about the fireplaces. Where could he go? As he
entered the club a man hailed him from the front room.

“Quentin, you’re just the man I’m looking for. Come in here.”

It was the Earl of Saxondale--familiarly “Lord Bob”--an old chum of
Quentin’s. “My missus sent me with an invitation for you, and I’ve
come for your acceptance,” said the Englishman, when Quentin had
joined him.

“Come home with us. We’re sailing on the Lucania to-morrow, and
there are going to be some doings in England this month which you
mustn’t miss. Dickey Savage is coming, and we want you.”

Quentin looked at him and laughed. Saxondale was perfectly serious.
“We’re going to have some people up for Goodwood, and later we shall
have a house-boat for Henley. So you’d better come. It won’t be bad
sport.”

Quentin started to thank his friend and decline. Then he remembered
that he wanted to get away--there was absolutely nothing to keep him
at home, and, besides, he liked Lord Bob and his American wife.

Fashionable New York recalls the marriage of the Earl of Saxondale
and Frances Thornow when the ‘90’s were young, and everybody said it
was a love match. To be sure, she was wealthy, but so was he. She
had declined offers of a half-dozen other noblemen; therefore it was
not ambition on her part. He could have married any number of
wealthier American girls; therefore it was not avarice on his part.
He was a good-looking, stalwart chap with a very fetching drawl,
infinite gentility, and a man despite his monocle, while she was
beautiful, witty and womanly; therefore it is reasonable to suspect
that it must have been love that made her Lady Saxondale.

Lord Bob and Lady Frances were frequent visitors to New York. He
liked New York, and New Yorkers liked him. His wife was enough of a
true American to love the home of her forefathers. “What my wife
likes I seem to have a fondness for,” said he, complacently. He once
remarked that were she to fall in love with another man he would
feel in duty bound to like him.

Saxondale had money invested in American copper mines, and his wife
had railroad stocks. When they came to New York, once or twice a
year, they took a furnished apartment, entertained and were
entertained for a month or so, rushed their luggage back to the
steamer and sailed for home, perfectly satisfied with themselves
and--the markets.

Quentin looked upon Lord Bob’s invitation as a sporting proposition.
This would not be the first time he had taken a steamer on
twenty-four hours’ notice. The one question was accommodation, and a
long acquaintance with the agent helped him to get passage where
others would have failed.

So it happened that the next morning Turk was unpacking things in
Mr. Quentin’s cabin and establishing relations with the bath
steward.



III. PRINCE UGO


Several days out from New York found the weather fine and Lord
Saxondale’s party enjoying life thoroughly. Dickey and the
capricious Lady Jane were bright or squally with charming
uncertainty. Lady Jane, Lord Bob’s sister, certainly was not in love
with Mr. Savage, and he was too indolent to give his side of the
case continuous thought. Dimly he realized, and once lugubriously
admitted, that he was not quite heartwhole, but he had not reached a
positive understanding with himself.

“How do they steer the ship at night when it is so cloudy they can’t
see the north star?” she asked, as they leaned over the rail one
afternoon. Her pretty face was very serious, and there was a
philosophical pucker on her brow.

“With a rudder,” he answered, laconically.

“How very odd!” she said, with a malicious gleam in her eyes. “You
are as wonderfully well-informed concerning the sea as you are
on all other subjects. How good it must seem to be so awfully
intelligent.”

“It isn’t often that I find anyone who asks really intelligent
questions, you know, Lady Jane. Your profound quest for knowledge
forced my dormant intellect into action, and I remembered that a
ship invariably has a rudder or something like that.”

“I see it requires the weightiest of questions to arouse your
intellect.” The wind was blowing the stray hairs ruthlessly across
her face and she looked very, very pretty.

“Intellects are so very common nowadays that ‘most anything will
arouse them. Quentin says his man Turk has a brain, and if Turk has
a brain I don’t see how the rest of us can escape. I’d like to be a
porpoise.”

“What an ambition! Why not a whale or a shark?”

“If I were a shark you’d be afraid of me, and if I were a whale I
could not begin to get into your heart.”

“That’s the best thing you’ve said since you were seasick,” she
said, sweetly.

“I’m glad you didn’t hear what I said when I was seasick.”

“Oh! I’ve heard brother Bob say things,” loftily.

“But nobody can say things quite so impressively as an American.”

“Pooh! You boasting Americans think you can do everything better
than others. Now you claim that you can swear better. I won’t listen
to you,” and off she went toward the companionway. Dickey looked
mildly surprised, but did not follow. Instead, he joined Lady
Saxondale and Quentin in a stroll.

Four days later they were comfortably established with Saxondale in
London. That night Quentin met, for the first time, the reigning
society sensation, Prince Ugo Ravorelli, and his countrymen, Count
Sallaconi and the Duke of Laselli. All London had gone mad over the
prince.

There was something oddly familiar in the face and voice of the
Italian. Quentin sat with him for an hour, listening with puzzled
ears to the conversation that went on between him and Saxondale. On
several occasions he detected a curious, searching look in the
Italian’s dark eyes, and was convinced that the prince also had the
impression that they had met before. At last Quentin, unable to curb
his curiosity, expressed his doubt. Ravorelli’s gaze was penetrating
as he replied, but it was perfectly frank.

“I have the feeling that your face is not strange to me, yet I
cannot recall when or where I have seen you. Have you been in Paris
of late?” he asked, his English almost perfect. It seemed to Quentin
that there was a look of relief in his dark eyes, and there was a
trace of satisfaction in the long breath that followed the question.

“No,” he replied; “I seem in some way to associate you with Brazil
and the South American cities. Were you ever in Rio Janeiro?”

“I have never visited either of the Americas. We are doubtless
misled by a strange resemblance to persons we know quite well, but
who do not come to mind.”

“But isn’t it rather odd that we should have the same feeling? And
you have not been in New York?” persisted Phil.

“I have not been in America at all, you must remember,” replied the
prince, coldly.

“I’d stake my soul on it,” thought Quentin to himself, more fully
convinced than ever. “I’ve seen him before and more than once, too.
He remembers me, even though I can’t place him. It’s devilish
aggravating, but his face is as familiar as if I saw him yesterday.”

When they parted for the night Ravorelli’s glance again impressed
the American with a certainty that he, at least, was not in doubt as
to where and when they had met.

“You are trying to recall where we have seen one another,” said the
prince, smiling easily, his white teeth showing clearly between
smooth lips. “My cousin visited America some years ago, and there is
a strong family resemblance. Possibly you have our faces confused.”

“That may be the solution,” admitted Phil, but he was by no means
satisfied by the hypothesis.

In the cab, later on, Lord Bob was startled from a bit of doze by
hearing his thoughtful, abstracted companion exclaim:

“By thunder!”

“What’s up? Forgot your hat, or left something at the club?” he
demanded, sleepily.

“No; I remember something, that’s all. Bob, I know where I’ve seen
that Italian prince. He was in Rio Janeiro with a big Italian opera
company just before I left there for New York.”

“What! But he said he’d never been in America,” exclaimed Saxondale,
wide awake.

“Well, he lied, that’s all. I am positive he’s the man, and the best
proof in the world is the certainty that he remembers me. Of course
he denies it, but you know what he said when I first asked him if we
had met. He was the tenor in Pagani’s opera company, and he sang in
several of the big South American cities. They were in Rio Janeiro
for weeks, and we lived in the same hotel. There’s no mistake about
it, old man. This howling swell of to-day was Pagani’s tenor, and he
was a good one, too. Gad, what a Romeo he was! Imagine him in the
part, Bob. Lord, how the women raved about him!”

“I say, Phil, don’t be ass enough to tell anybody else about this,
even if you’re cocksure he’s the man. He was doubtless driven to the
stage for financial reasons, you know, and it wouldn’t be quite
right to bring it up now if he has a desire to suppress the truth.
Since he has come into the title and estates it might be deuced
awkward to have that sort of a past raked up.”

“I should say it would be awkward if that part of his past were
raked up. He wasn’t a Puritan, Bob.”

“They are a bit scarce at best.”

“He was known in those days as Giovanni Pavesi, and he wasn’t in
such dire financial straits, either. It was his money that backed
the enterprise, and it was common property, undenied by him or
anyone else, that the chief object in the speculation was the love
of the prima donna, Carmenita Malban. And, Bob, she was the most
beautiful woman I ever saw. The story was that she was a countess or
something of the sort. Poverty forced her to make use of a glorious
voice, and the devil sent Pagani to young Pavesi, who was then a
student with some ripping big master, in the hope that he would
interest the young man in a scheme to tour South America. It seems
that Signorita Malban’s beauty set his heart on fire, and he
promptly produced the coin to back the enterprise, the only
condition being that he was to sing the tenor roles. All this came
out in the trial, you know.”

“The trial! What trial?”

“Giovanni’s. Let me think a minute. She was killed on the 29th of
March, and he was not arrested until they had virtually convicted
one of the chorus men of the murder. Pagani and Pavesi quarrelled,
and the former openly accused his ‘angel’ of the crime. This led to
an arrest just as the tenor was getting away on a ship bound for
Spain.”

“Arrested him for the murder of the woman? On my life, Quentin, you
make a serious blunder unless you can prove all this. When did it
all happen?”

“Two years ago. Oh, I’m not mistaken about it; it is as clear as
sunlight to me now. They took him back and tried him. Members of the
troupe swore he had threatened on numerous occasions to kill her if
she continued to repulse him. On the night of the murder--it was
after the opera--he was heard to threaten her. She defied him, and
one of the women in the company testified that he sought to
intimidate Malban by placing the point of his stiletto against her
white neck. But, in spite of all this, he was acquitted. I was in
New York when the trial ended, but I read of the verdict in the
press dispatches. Some one killed her, that is certain, and the
nasty job was done in her room at the hotel. I heard some of the
evidence, and I’ll say that I believed he was the guilty man, but I
considered him insane when he committed the crime. He loved her to
the point of madness, and she would not yield to his passion. It was
shown that she loved the chorus singer who was first charged with
her murder.”

“Ravorelli doesn’t look like a murderer,” said Lord Bob, stoutly.

“But he remembers seeing me in that courtroom, Bob.”



IV. AND THE GIRL, TOO


“Now tell me all about our Italian friend,” said Quentin next
morning to Lady Frances, who had not lost her frank Americanism when
she married Lord Bob, The handsome face of the young prince had been
in his thoughts the night before until sleep came, and then there
were dreams in which the same face appeared vaguely sinister and
foreboding. He had acted on the advice of Lord Bob and had said
nothing of the Brazilian experiences.

“Prince Ugo? I supposed that every newspaper in New York had been
devoting columns to him. He is to marry an American heiress, and
some of the London journals say she is so rich that everybody else
looks poor beside her.”

“Lucky dog, eh? Everybody admires him, too, it seems. Do you know
him, Frances?”

“I’ve met him a number of times on the continent, but not often in
London. He is seldom here, you know. Really, he is quite a charming
fellow.”

“Yes,” laconically. “Are Italian princes as cheap as they used to
be? Mary Carrolton got that nasty little one of hers for two hundred
thousand, didn’t she? This one looks as though he might come a
little higher. He’s good-looking enough.”

“Oh, Ugo is not like the Carrolton investment. You see, this one is
vastly rich, and he’s no end of a swell in sunny Italy. Really, the
match is the best an American girl has made over here in--oh, in
centuries, I may say.”

“Pocahontas made a fairly decent one, I believe, and so did Frances
Thornow; but, to my limited knowledge, I think they are the only
satisfactory matches that have been pulled off in the last few
centuries. Strange, they both married Englishmen.”

“Thank you. You don’t like Italian princes, then?”

“Oh, if I could buy a steady, well-broken, tractable one, I’d take
him as an investment, perhaps, but I believe, on the whole, I’d
rather put the money into a general menagerie like Barnum’s or
Forepaugh’s. You get such a variety of beasts that way, you know.”

“Come, now, Phil, your sarcasm is unjust. Prince Ugo is very much of
a gentleman, and Bob says he is very clever, too. Did you see much
of him last night?”

“I saw him at the club and talked a bit with him. Then I saw him
while I slept. He is much better in the club than he is in a dream.”

“You dreamed of him last night? He certainly made an impression,
then,” she said.

“I dreamed I saw him abusing a harmless, overworked and underfed
little monkey on the streets of New York.”

“How absurd!”

“The monkey wouldn’t climb up to the window of my apartment to
collect nickels for the vilest hand-organ music a man ever heard,
even in a nightmare.”

“Phil Quentin, you are manufacturing that dream as you sit here.
Wait till you know him better and you will like him.”

“His friends, too? One of those chaps looks as if he might throw a
bomb with beautiful accuracy--the Laselli duke, I think. Come, now,
Frances, you’ll admit he’s an ugly brute, won’t you?”

“Yes, you are quite right, and I can’t say that the count impresses
me more favorably.”

“I’ll stake my head the duke’s ancestors were brigands or something
equally appalling. A couple of poor, foolish American girls elevate
them both to the position of money-spenders-in-chief though, I
presume, and the newspapers will sizzle.”

At dinner that evening the discussion was resumed, all those at the
table taking part. The tall young American was plainly prejudiced
against the Italian, but his stand was a mystery to all save Lord
Bob. Dickey Savage was laboriously non-committal until Lady Jane
took sides unequivocally with Quentin. Then he vigorously defended
the unlucky prince. Lady Saxondale and Sir James Graham, one of the
guests, took pains to place the Italian in the best light possible
before the critical American.

“I almost forgot to tell you, Phil,” suddenly cried Lady Saxondale,
her pretty face beaming with excitement. “The girl he is to marry is
an old flame of yours.”

“Quite impossible, Lady Frances. I never had a flame.”

“But she was, I’m sure.”

“Are you a theosophist?” asked Phil, gaily, but he listened
nevertheless. Who could she be? It seemed for the moment, as his
mind swept backward, that he had possessed a hundred sweethearts.
“I’ve had no sweetheart since I began existence in the present
form.”

“Good Lord!” ejaculated Dickey, solemnly and impressively.

“I’ll bet my soul Frances is right,” drawled Lord Bob. “She always
is, you know. My boy, if she says you had a sweetheart, you either
had one or somebody owes you one. You’ve never collected, perhaps.”

“If he collected them he’d have a harem,” observed Mr. Savage,
sagely. “He’s had so many he can’t count ‘em.”

“I should think it disgusting to count them, Mr. Savage, even if he
could,” said Lady Jane, severely.

“I can count mine backwards,” he said.

“Beginning at one?”

“Yes, Lady Jane; one in my teens, none at present. No task, at all,
to count mine.”

“Won’t you give me the name of that old sweetheart of mine, Lady
Saxondale? Whom is the prince to marry?” asked Quentin.

“Dorothy Garrison. She lived in your block seven or eight years ago,
up to the time she went to Brussels with her mother. Now, do you
remember?”

“You don’t mean it! Little Dorothy? By George, she was a pretty
girl, too. Of course, I remember her. But that was ages ago. She was
fourteen and I was nineteen. You are right, Lady Saxondale. I’ll
confess to having regarded her as the fairest creature the sun ever
shone upon. For six solid, delicious months she was the foundation
of every thought that touched my brain. And then--well, what
happened then? Oh, yes; we quarrelled and forgot each other. So
she’s the girl who’s to marry the prince, is she?” Quentin’s face
was serious for the moment; a far-off look of real concern came into
his eyes. He was recalling a sweet, dainty face, a girlish figure,
and the days gone by.

“How odd I did not think of it before. Really, you two were dreadful
spoons in those days. Mamma used to worry for fear you’d carry out
your threat to run away with her. And now she’s to be a real live
princess.” Lady Frances created a profound sensation when she
resurrected Quentin’s boyhood love affair with the one American girl
that all Europe talked about at that moment. Lord Bob was excited,
perhaps for the first time since he proposed to Frances Thornow.

“By Jove, old man, this is rare, devilish rare. No wonder you have
such a deuced antipathy to the prince. Intuition must have told you
that he was to marry one of the ladies of your past.”

“Why, Bob, we were children, and there was nothing to it. Truly, I
had forgotten that pretty child--that’s all she was--and I’ll warrant
she wouldn’t remember my name if some one spoke it in her presence.
Every boy and girl has had that sort of an affair.”

“She’s the most beautiful creature I ever saw,” cried Lady Jane,
ecstatically. Dickey Savage looked sharply at her vivacious face.
“When did you last see her, Mr. Quentin?”

“I can’t recall, but I know it was when her hair hung down her back.
She left New York before she was fifteen, I’m quite sure. I think I
was in love with a young widow fourteen years my senior, at the
time, and did not pay much heed to Dorothy’s departure. She and her
mother have been traveling since then?”

“They traveled for three years before Mrs. Garrison could make up
her mind to settle down in Brussels. I believe she said it reminded
her of Paris, only it was a little more so,” said Lord Bob. “We met
them in Paris five years ago, on our wedding trip, and she was
undecided until I told her she might take a house near the king’s
palace in Brussels, such as it is, and off she flew to be as close
to the crown as possible. She struck me as a gory old party who
couldn’t live comfortably unless she were dabbling in blue blood.
The girl was charming, though.”

“She’s in London now,” ventured Sir James. “The papers say she came
especially to see the boat races, but there is a pretty well
established belief that she came because the prince is here. Despite
their millions, I understand it is a love match.”

“I hope I may have a look at her while I’m here, just to see what
time has done for her,” said Quentin.

“You may have the chance to ask if she remembers you,” said Dickey.

“And if she thinks you’ve grown older,” added Lord Bob.

“Will you tell her you are not married?” demanded Lady Jane.

“I’ll do but one thing, judging from the way you describe the
goddess. Just stand with open mouth and marvel at her magnificence.
Somewhere among my traps I have a picture of her when she was
fourteen, taken with me one afternoon at a tin-typer’s. If I can
find it, I’ll show it to her, just to prove that we both lived ten
years ago. She’s doubtless lived so much since I saw her last that
she’ll deny an existence so far back as that.”

“You won’t be so deuced sarcastic when you see her, even if she is
to marry a prince. I tell you, Phil, she is something worth looking
at forever,” said Lord Bob.

“I never saw such eyes, such a complexion, such hair, such a
carriage,” cried Lady Frances.

“Has she any teeth?” asked Dickey, and was properly frowned upon by
Lady Jane.

“You describe her as completely in that sentence, Lady Frances, as a
novelist could in eight pages,” said Quentin.

“No novelist could describe her,” was the answer.

“It’s to be hoped no novelist may attempt it,” said Quentin. “She is
beautiful beyond description, she will be a princess, and she knew
me when I didn’t know enough to appreciate her. Her eyes were blue
in the old days, and her hair was almost black. Colors still obtain?
Then we have her description in advance. Now, let’s go on with the
romance.”



V. A SUNDAY ENCOUNTER


It was a sunny Sunday morning and the church parade was popular.
Lady Frances and Quentin were walking together when Prince Ugo
joined them. He looked hardly over twenty-five, his wavy black hair
giving him a picturesque look. He wore no beard, and his dark skin
was as clear as a girl’s.

“By the way,” said Quentin, “Lady Saxondale tells me you are to
marry a former acquaintance of mine.”

“Miss Garrison is an acquaintance?” cried the prince, lifting his
dark eyes. An instant later his gaze roamed away into the horde of
passing women, as if searching for the woman whose name brought
light to his soul.

“Was an acquaintance, I think I said. I doubt if she remembers me
now. She was a child when I knew her. Is she here this morning?”
 asked Phil, secretly amused by the anxious look in the Italian’s
eyes.

“She will be with Lady Marnham, Ah, I see them now.” The young
prince was looking eagerly ahead.

Quentin saw Miss Garrison and gasped with astonishment. Could that
stunning young woman be the little Dorothy of New York days? He
could scarcely believe his eyes and ears, notwithstanding the
introductions which followed.

“And here is an old New York friend. Miss Garrison, Mr. Philip
Quentin. You surely remember him, Miss Garrison,” said Lady Frances,
with a peculiar gleam in her eye. For a second the young lady at
Quentin’s side exhibited surprise; a faint flush swept into her
cheek, and then, with a rare smile, she extended her hand to the
American.

“Of course, I remember him. Phil and I were playmates in the old
days. Dear me, it seems a century ago,” she said.

“I cannot tell you how well the century has treated you,” he said,
gallantly. “It has not been so kind to me.”

“Years are never unkind to men,” she responded. She smiled upon the
adoring prince and turned again to Quentin. “Tell me about New York,
Phil. Tell me about yourself.”

“I can only say that New York has grown larger and better, and that
I have grown older and worse. Mrs. Garrison may doubt that I could
possibly grow worse, but I have proof positive. I am dabbling in
Wall street.”

“I can imagine nothing more reprehensible,” said Mrs. Garrison,
amiably. Quentin swiftly renewed his opinion of the mother. That
estimate coincided with the impression his youth had formed, and it
was not far in the wrong. Here was the mother with a hope loftier
than a soul. Purse-proud, ambitious, condescending to a degree--a
woman who would achieve what she set out to do at all hazards. Less
than fifty, still handsome, haughty and arrogant, descended through
a long line of American aristocracy, calm, resourceful, heartless.
For fifteen years a widow, with no other object than to live at the
top and to marry her only child into a realm far beyond the dreams
of other American mothers. Millions had she to flaunt in the faces
of an astonished, marveling people. Clever, tactful, aggressive,
capable of winning where others had failed, this American mother was
respected, even admired, in the class to which she had climbed. Here
was the woman who had won her way into continental society as have
few of her countrywomen. To none save a cold, discerning man from
her own land was she transparent. Lord Bob, however, had a faint
conception of her aims, her capacity.

As they walked on, Quentin scarcely took his eyes from Miss
Garrison’s face. He was wearing down the surprise that the
sweetheart of his boyhood had inspired, by deliberately seeking
flaws in her beauty, her figure, her manner. After a time he felt
her more wonderful than ever. Lord Bob joined the party, and Quentin
stopped a second to speak to him. As he did so Prince Ugo was at
Miss Garrison’s side in an instant.

“So she is the girl that damned Italian is to elevate?” said Mr.
Quentin to himself. “By George, it’s a shame!” He did not see Lord
Bob and his wife exchange a quick smile of significance.

As they all reached the corner, Quentin asked: “Are you in London
for long, Dorothy?” Lady Frances thought his tone a trifle eager.

“For ten days or so. Will you come to see me?” Their eyes met and he
felt certain that the invitation was sincerely given. “Lady Marnham
is having some people in to-morrow afternoon. Perhaps you’ll come
then,” she added, and Phil looked crestfallen.

“I’ll come,” he said. “I want to tell you the story of my past life.
You didn’t know I’d been prime minister of a South American
republic, did you?”

She nodded and they separated. Prince Ugo heard the last words of
the American, and a small, clear line appeared for an instant
between his black eyebrows.

Lady Frances solemnly and secretively shook her finger at Quentin,
and he laughed with the disdain of one who understands and denies
without the use of words. Lord Bob had wanted to kick him when he
mentioned South America, but he said nothing. Quentin was in
wonderful spirits all the way home.



VI. DOROTHY GARRISON


Quentin was driving with Lady Saxondale to the home of Miss
Garrison’s hostess. Phil’s fair, calculating companion said to
herself that she had never seen a handsomer fellow than this
stalwart American. There was about him that clean, strong, sweet
look of the absolutely healthy man, the man who has buffeted the
world and not been buffeted by the world. He was frank, bright,
straightforward, and there was that always-to-be-feared yet
ever-to-be-desired gleam of mastery in his eye. It may have been
sometimes a wicked mastery, and more than one woman who admired him
because she could not help herself had said, “There is a devil in
his eyes.”

They found Lady Marnham’s reception hall full of guests, few of whom
Quentin had seen before. He was relieved to find that the prince was
not present, and he made his way to Dorothy’s side, with Lady
Frances, coolly dropping into the chair which a young captain had
momentarily abandoned. Lady Frances sat beside Miss Garrison on the
divan.

“I am so glad you kept your promise, Phil, and came. It seems good
to see you after all these years. You bring back the dear days at
home,” said Dorothy, delight in her voice.

“From that I judge you sometimes long for them,” he said, simply. To
Lady Frances it sounded daring.

“Often, oh, so very often. I have not been in New York for years.
Lady Saxondale goes back so often that she doesn’t have the chance
to grow homesick.”

“I hear you are going over this fall,” said Quentin, with a fair
show of interest.

“Who--who told you so?” she asked, in some surprise. He could not
detect confusion.

“Prince Ravorelli. At least, he said he expected to make the trip
this fall. Am I wrong in suspecting that he is not going alone?”

“We mean to spend much of the winter in the United States, chiefly
in Florida. I shall depend on you, Phil, to be nice to him in New
York. You can do so much to make it pleasant for him. He has never
been in New York, you know.”

“It may depend on what he will consider pleasant. I don’t believe he
will enjoy all the things I like. But I’ll try. I’ll get Dickey
Savage to give a dinner for him, and if he can survive that, he’s
capable of having a good time anywhere. Dickey’s dinners are the
real test, you know. Americans stand them because they are rugged
and accustomed to danger.”

“You will find Prince Ugo rugged,” she said, flushing slightly, and
he imagined he could distinguish a softness in her tone.

“I am told he is an athlete, a great horseman, a marvelous
swordsman,” said Lady Frances.

“I am glad you have heard something about him that is true,” said
Dorothy, a trifle quickly. “Usually they say that princes are all
that is detestable and unmanly. I am sure you will like him, Phil.”

Mrs. Garrison came up at this moment with Lady Marnham, and Quentin
arose to greet the former as warmly as he could under the smooth
veil of hypocrisy. Again, just before Lady Frances signaled to him
that it was time for them to leave, he found himself in
conversation, over the teacups, with Dorothy Garrison. This time
they were quite alone.

“It doesn’t seem possible that you are the same Dorothy Garrison I
used to know,” he said, reflectively.

“Have I changed so much?” she asked, and there was in her manner an
icy barrier that would have checked a less confident man than Philip
Quentin.

“In every way. You were charming in those days.”

“And not charming now, I infer.”

“You are more than charming now. That is hardly a change, however,
is it? Then, you were very pretty, now you are beautiful. Then, you
were--”

“I don’t like flattery, Phil,” she said, hurt by what she felt to be
an indifferent effort on his part to please her vanity.

“I am quite sure you remember me well enough to know that I never
said nice things unless I meant them. But, now that I think of it,
it is the height of impropriety to speak so plainly even to an old
friend, and an old--er--chum.”

“Won’t you have a cup of tea?” she asked, as calmly as if he were
the merest stranger and had never seen her till this hour.

“A dozen, if it pleases you,” he said, laughingly, looking straight
into the dark eyes she was striving so hard to keep cold and
unfriendly.

“Then you must come another day,” she answered, brightly.

“I cannot come to-morrow,” he said.

“I did not say ‘to-morrow.’”

“But I’ll come on Friday,” he went on, decisively. She looked
concerned for an instant and then smiled.

“Lady Marnham will give you tea on Friday. I shall not be at home,”
 she said.

“But I am going back to New York next week,” he said, confidently.

“Next week? Are you so busy?”

“I am not anxious to return, but my man Turk says he hates London.
He says he’ll leave me if I stay here a month. I can’t afford to
lose Turk.”

“And he can’t afford to lose you. Stay, Phil; the Saxondales are
such jolly people.”

“How about the tea on Friday?”

“Oh, that is no consideration.”

“But it is, you know. You used to give me tea every day in the
week.” He saw at once that he had gone beyond the lines, and drew
back wisely. “Let me come on Friday, and we’ll have a good, sensible
chat.”

“On that one condition,” she said, earnestly.

“Thank you. Good-bye. I see Lady Frances is ready to go. Evidently I
have monopolized you to a somewhat thoughtless extent. Everybody is
looking daggers at me, including the prince, who came in ten minutes
ago.”

He arose and held her hand for a moment at parting. Her swift,
abashed glance toward Prince Ugo, whose presence she had not
observed, did not escape his eyes. She looked up and saw the
peculiar smile on Quentin’s lips, and there was deep meaning in her
next remark to him:

“You will meet the prince here on Friday. I shall ask him to come
early, that he may learn to know you better.”

“Thank you. I’d like to know him better. At what hour is he to
come?”

“By 3:30, at least,” she said, pointedly. “Too early to be correct,
you suspect?”

“I think not. You may expect me before three. I am not a stickler
for form.”

“We shall not serve tea until four o’clock,” she said, coldly.

“That’s my hour for tea--just my hour,” he said, blithely. She could
not repress the smile that his old willfulness brought to her lips
and eyes. “Thank you, for the smile. It was worth struggling for.”

He was gone before she could respond, but the smile lingered as her
eyes followed his tall figure across the room. She saw him pause and
speak to Prince Ugo, and then pass out with Lady Saxondale. Only
Lady Saxondale observed the dark gleam in the Italian’s eyes as he
responded to the big American’s unconventional greeting. On the way
home she found herself wondering if Dorothy had ever spoken to the
prince of Philip Quentin and those tender, foolish days of girlhood.

“Has she lost any of the charm?” she asked.

“I am not quite sure. I’m to find out on Friday.”

“Are you going back on Friday?” in surprise.

“To drink tea, you know.”

“Did she ask you to come?”

“Can’t remember, but I think I suggested it.”

“Be careful, Phil; I don’t want you to turn Dorothy Garrison’s
head.”

“You compliment me by even suspecting that I could. Her head is set;
it can’t be turned. It is set for that beautiful, bejewelled thing
they call a coronet. Besides, I don’t want to turn it.”

“I think the prince could become very jealous,” she went on,
earnestly.

“Which would mean stilettos for two, I presume.” After a moment’s
contemplative silence he said: “By Jove! she is beautiful, though.”

Quentin was always the man to rush headlong into the very thickest
of whatever won his interest, whether it was the tender encounter of
the drawing-room or the dangerous conflict of the field.

When he left Lady Marnham’s house late on Friday afternoon he was
more delighted than ever with the girl he had once loved. He was
with her for nearly an hour before the prince arrived, and he had
boldly dashed into the (he called them ridiculous) days when she had
been his little sweetheart, the days when both had sworn with young
fervor to be true till death. She did not take kindly at first to
these references to that early, mistaken affection, but his
persistence won. Before the prince arrived, the American had learned
how she met him, how he had wooed and won, and how she had inspired
jealousy in his hot Italian heart by speaking of the “big, handsome
boy” over in New York.

He secured her permission to join her in the Row on Tuesday. There
was resistance on her part at first, but he laughed it off.

“You should ask me to your wedding,” he said, as the prince came in.

“But you will not be here.”

“I’ve changed my mind,” he said, calmly, and then smiled into her
puzzled eyes. “Brussels, isn’t it?”

“Yes; the middle of September,” she said, dreamily.

“You’ll ask me to come?”

“I should have asked you, anyway.”

The two men shook hands. “Sorry I can’t stay for tea, Dorothy, but I
promised Lord Saxondale I’d meet him at four o’clock.” He did a
genuinely American thing as he walked up the street. He whistled a
lively air.



VII. THE WOMAN FROM PARIS


For two weeks Phil Quentin did not allow Dorothy to forget the old
association, and then came the day of her departure for Paris. Mrs.
Garrison was by no means reluctant to leave London,--not that she
disliked the place or the people, but that one Philip Quentin had
unceremoniously, even gracefully, stepped into the circle of her
contentment, rudely obliterating its symmetrical, well-drawn lines.

Mr. Quentin had much to overcome if he contemplated an assault upon
the icy reserve with which Dorothy Garrison’s mother regarded his
genial advances. She recalled the days when her daughter and he were
“silly, lovesick children,” and there was not much comfort to be
derived from the knowledge that he had grown older and more
attractive, and that he lost no opportunity to see the girl who once
held his heart in leash. The mother was too diplomatic to express
open displeasure or to offer the faintest objection to this renewal
of friendship. If it were known that she opposed the visits of the
handsome American, all London would wonder, speculate, and finally
understand. Her disapproval could only be construed as an
acknowledgment that she feared the consequences of association; it
would not be long before the story would be afloat that all was not
smooth in the love affairs of a certain prince, and that the fires
of an old affection were burning brightly and merrily in the face of
a wrathful parent’s opposition.

In secret, Dorothy herself was troubled more than she cared to admit
by the reappearance of one who could not but awaken memories of
other days, fondly foolish though they were. He was still the same
old Phil, grown older and handsomer, and he brought with him
embarrassing recollections. He was nothing more to her now than an
old-time friend, and she was nothing to him. She loved Ugo
Ravorelli, and, until he appeared suddenly before her in London,
Philip Quentin was dead to her thoughts. And yet she felt as if she
were playing with a fire that would leave its scar--not on her heart
or Quentin’s, perhaps, but on that of the man she was to marry.

It required no great strength of vision to see that Ravorelli was
jealous, and it was just as plain that Quentin saw and enjoyed the
uneasiness he was causing. She could not know, of course, that the
American had deliberately planned to play havoc with the peace and
comfort of her lover, for she recognized no motive. How could she
know that Giovanni Pavesi, the tenor, and Prince Ravorelli were one
and the same to Philip Quentin? How could she know that the
beautiful Malban was slain in Rio Janeiro, and that Philip Quentin
had seen a handsome, dark-eyed youth led to and from the murderer’s
dock in that far-away Brazilian city? How, then, could she
understand the conflict that waged with herself as the battlefield?

As for Quentin, he was bound by no law or duty to respect the
position of Prince Ravorelli. He was convinced that the sometime
Romeo had the stain of blood on his delicate hands and that in his
heart he concealed the secret of Carmenita Malban’s death. In his
mind, there was no mistake. Quentin’s composure was shaken but once
in the fortnight of pleasure preceding Dorothy’s departure for
Paris. That was when she indignantly, almost tearfully, called his
attention to the squib in a London society journal which rather
daringly prophesied a “break in the Ravorelli-Garrison match,” and
referred plainly to the renewal of an “across-the-Atlantic
affection.” When he wrathfully promised to thrash the editor of the
paper, she shocked him by saying that he had created “enough of a
sensation,” and he went home with the dazed feeling of one who has
suffered an unexpected blow.

On the evening before the Garrisons crossed the channel, Lord and
Lady Saxondale and Philip Quentin found themselves long after
midnight in talk about the coming marriage. Quentin was rather
silent. His thoughts seemed far from the room in which he sat, and
there was the shadow of a new line about the corners of his mouth.

“I am going to Brussels next week,” he said, deliberately. The
others stared at him in amazement.

“To Brussels? You mean New York,” said Lady Frances, faintly.

“New York won’t see me for some time. I’m going to make a tour of
the continent.

“This is going too far, old man,” cried Lord Bob. “You can’t gain
anything by following her, and you’ll only raise the devil of a row
all round. Dash it! stay in London.”

“Thanks for the invitation, Bob, but I’ve always had a desire to
learn something about the miniature Paris. I shall spend some time
in Paris, and then go up there to compare the places. Besides, there
won’t be any row.”

“But there will be, Phil,” cried Lady Saxondale. “You must keep out
of this affair. Why, all Europe knows of the wedding, and even now
the continent is quietly nursing the gossip of the past two weeks.”
 She dropped into a chair, perplexed and anxious.

“Let me tell you something, both of you. The events of the past two
weeks are tame in comparison with those of the next two months,”
 said Quentin, a new light in his eye. His tall figure straightened
and his nostrils expanded.

“Wha--what do you mean?” floundered Lord Bob.

“Just this: I love Dorothy Garrison, and I’m going to marry her.”

“Good heavens!” was the simultaneous gasp of Lord and Lady
Saxondale. And they could not dissuade him. Not only did he convince
them that he was in earnest, but before he left for Paris he had
made them allies. Ugo’s experience in Rio Janeiro shocked Lady
Frances so seriously that she became a champion of the American’s
cause and agreed with Lord Bob that Dorothy should not be sacrificed
if it were in their power to prevent. Of course Dickey Savage
approved of Quentin’s campaign and effectually disposed of Lady
Jane’s faint objections by saying:

“America for the Americans, Brussels for the Americans, England for
the Americans, everything and everybody for the Americans, but
nothing at all for these confounded foreigners. Let the Italian
marry anybody he pleases, just so long as he doesn’t interfere with
an American. Let the American marry anybody he pleases, and to
perdition with all interference. I’m for America against the world
in love or in war.”

“Don’t forget, Mr. Savage, that you are a foreigner when on British
soil,” remonstrated the Lady Jane, vigorously.

“My dear Lady Jane, an American is at home anywhere in this world.
If you could see some of the foreigners that land at Castle Garden
you wouldn’t blame an American for absolutely, irrevocably and
eternally refusing to be called a foreigner, even on the shores of
Madagascar. We are willing to be most anything, but I’ll be hanged
if we’ll be foreigners.”

A week later Quentin was in Paris. Savage was to join him in
Brussels about the middle of August, and Lord and Lady Saxondale
promised faithfully to come to that city at a moment’s notice. He
went blithely away with the firm conviction in his heart that it was
not to be a fool’s errand. But he was reckoning without the woman in
the case.

“If you do marry her, Quentin, I’ve got just the place for you to
live in, for a while at least. I bought an old castle in Luxemburg a
couple of years ago, just because the man who owned it was a friend
and needed a few thousand pounds. Frances calls it Castle
Craneycrow. It’s a romantic place, and would be a great deal better
than a cottage for love. You may have it whenever the time comes.
Nobody lives there now but the caretaker and a lot of deuced
traditions. We can discharge the caretaker and you can make fresh
traditions. Think it over, my boy, while you are dispatching the
prince, the mamma and the fair victim’s ambition to become a real
live princess.”

“Don’t be sarcastic, Bob,” exclaimed Quentin. “I’ll not need your
castle. We’re going to live in the clouds.”

“Beware of the prince,” said Lady Frances. “He is pretty high
himself, you know.”

“Let the prince beware,” laughed back the departing guest. “We can’t
both live in the same cloud, you know. I’ll push him off.”

On the day Quentin left Paris for Brussels he came face to face with
Prince Ugo on one of the Parisian boulevards. The handsome Italian
was driving with Count Sallaconi and two very attractive ladies.
That the meeting was unexpected and undesired was made manifest by
the anxious look which the prince shot over his shoulder after the
carriage had passed.

When Quentin left Paris that night with Turk and his luggage, he was
not the only passenger bound for Brussels. At the Gare du Nord two
men, one suspiciously like the Duke Laselli, took a compartment in
the coach just ahead of Quentin. The train was due to reach Brussels
shortly after midnight, and the American had telegraphed for
apartments at the Bellevue. There had been a drizzle of rain all the
evening, and it was good to be inside the car, even if the seats
were uncomfortable.

Turk and his master were the only passengers in the compartment. The
watchful eyes of the former had seen several persons, men and women,
pass through the aisle into which the section opened. One woman
paused at the entrance as if about to enter. She was fair to look
upon and Turk gallantly moved, presenting a roomy end of his seat to
her. She passed on, however, and the little ex-burglar glanced
sharply at his master as if to accuse him of frightening the fair
one away. But Quentin was lying back, half-asleep, and there was
nothing repellent about the untroubled expression on his face.

Before reaching Le Cateau the same lady passed the entrance and
again glanced inside. Turk was now asleep, but his master was
staring dreamily toward the aperture leading to the aisle. He saw
the woman’s face for an instant, and it gradually dawned upon him
that there was something familiar about its beauty. Where had he
seen her before? Like the curious American he was, he arose a few
minutes later and deliberately walked into the aisle. He passed two
compartments before he saw the young woman. She was alone and was
leaning back, her eyes closed. Quentin observed that she was young
and beautiful and possessed the marks of fashion and refinement. As
he stood for a moment looking upon the face of the dozing French
woman, more certain than ever that he had seen her recently, she
opened her eyes with an affrighted start.

He instantly and in some embarrassment turned to escape the eyes
which had caught him in a rare bit of impertinence, but was
surprised to hear her call softly:

“Monsieur!”

“Mademoiselle,” he replied, pausing, “can I be of service to you?”

“I must speak with you, M. Quentin. Come inside. I shall detain you
but a moment, and it is so very important that you should hear me.”
 She was now sitting upright, visibly excited and confused, but very
much in earnest.

“You know my name,” he said, entering and dropping to the seat
beside her. “Where have we met? Your face is familiar, but I am
ashamed to admit--”

“We have no time to talk of that. You have never met me, and would
not know who I am if I told you. Had it not been for that horrid
little man of yours I should have boldly addressed you sooner. I
must leave the train at Le Cateau, for I cannot go on to Quevy or
Mons. It would not be wise for me to leave France at this time. You
do not know me, but I wish to befriend you.”

“Befriend me? I am sure one could not ask for a more charming
friend,” said he, smiling gallantly, but now evincing a shade of
interest.

“No flattery, Monsieur! It is purely a personal matter with me; this
is by no means a pleasure trip. I am running a great risk, but it is
for my own sake as much as for yours, so do not thank me. I came
from Paris on this train because I could not speak to you at the
Gare du Nord. You were watched too closely.”

“Watched? What do you mean?” almost gasped Quentin.

“I can only say that you are in danger and that you have incurred
the displeasure of a man who brooks no interference.”

He stared at her for a moment, his mind in a whirl. The thought that
she might be mad grew, but was instantly succeeded by another which
came like a shock.

“Is this man of noble blood?”

“Yes,” she almost whispered, turning her eyes away.

“And he means to do me harm?”

“I am sure of it.”

“Because?”

“Because he fears your power.”

“In what direction?”

“You know without asking, M. Quentin.”

“And why do you take this interest in me? I am nothing to you.”

“It’s because you are not to be treated fairly. Listen. On this
train are two men who do not know that I am here, and who would be
confounded if they were to see me. They are in one of the forward
coaches, and they are emissaries sent on to watch your every
movement and to report the progress of your--your business in
Brussels. If you become too aggressive before the man who employs
them can arrange to come to Brussels, you are to be dealt with in a
manner effectual. What is to be done with you, I do not know, but I
am certain you are in great danger unless you--” She paused, and a
queer expression came into her wide eyes.

“Unless what? You interest me.”

“Unless you withdraw from the contest.”

“You assume that there is a contest of some sort. Well, admitting
there is one, I’ll say that you may go back to the prince and tell him
his scheme doesn’t work. This story of yours--pardon me, Mademoiselle
is a clever one, and you have done your part well, but I am not in
the least alarmed. Kindly return to the man who sent you and ask him
to come in your stead if he wants to frighten me. I am not afraid of
women, you know.”

“You wrong me, Monsieur; I am not his agent. I am acting purely on
my own responsibility, for myself alone. I have a personal object in
warning you, but that is neither here nor there. Let me add that I
wish you success in the undertaking which now interests you. You
must believe me, though, when I say that you are in danger.
Forewarned is forearmed. I do not know what steps are to be taken
against you; time will expose them. But I do know that you are not
to win what you seek.”

“This is a very strange proceeding,” began he, half-convinced of her
sincerity.

“We are nearing Le Cateau, and I must leave you. The men of whom I
speak are the Duke Laselli and a detective called Courant. I know
they are sent to watch you, and they mean you no good. Be careful,
for God’s sake, Monsieur, for I--I--want you to win!” She was standing
now, and with trembling fingers was adjusting a thick veil over her
face.

“Why are you so interested in me?” he asked, sharply. “Why do you
want me to win--to win, well, to win the battle?”

“Because--” she began, but checked herself. A deep blush spread over
her face just as she dropped the veil.

“The cad!” he said, understanding coming to him like a flash. “There
is more than one heart at stake.”

“Good-bye and good luck, Monsieur,” she whispered. He held her hand
for an instant as she passed him, then she was gone.

Mile after mile from Le Cateau to Quevy found him puzzling over the
odd experience of the night. Suddenly he started and muttered, half
aloud:

“By thunder, I remember now! It was she who sat beside him in the
carriage this morning!”



VIII. THE FATE OF A LETTER


At Quevy the customs officers went through the train, and Quentin
knew that he was in Belgium. For some time he had been weighing in
his mind the advisability of searching the train for a glimpse of
the duke and his companion, doubtful as to the sincerity of the
beautiful and mysterious stranger. It was not until the train
reached Mons that he caught sight of the duke. He had started out
deliberately at last to hunt for the Italian, and the latter
evidently had a similar design. They met on the platform and, though
it was quite dark, each recognized the other. The American was on
the point of addressing the duke when that gentleman abruptly turned
and reentered the train, one coach ahead of that occupied by
Quentin, who returned to his compartment and proceeded to awaken the
snoring man-servant. Without reserve he confided to Turk the whole
story of the night up to that point.

“I don’t know what their game is, Turk, but we must not be caught
napping. We have a friend in the pretty woman who got off in the
rain at Le Cateau. She loves the prince, and that’s why she’s with
us.”

“Say, did she look’s if she had royal blood in her? Mebby she’s a
queen er somethin’ like that. Blow me, if a feller c’n tell w’at
sort of a swell he’s goin’ up ag’inst over here. Dukes and lords are
as common as cabbies are in New York. Anyhow, this duke ain’t got no
bulge on us. We’re nex’ to him, all right, all right. Shall I crack
him on the knot when we git to this town we’re goin’ to? A good jolt
would put him out o’ d’ business fer a spell--”

“Now, look here, young man; don’t let me hear of you making a move
in this affair till I say the word. You are to keep your mouth
closed and your hands behind you. What I want you to do is to watch,
just as they are doing. Your early training ought to stand you well
in hand for this game. I believe you once said you had eyes in the
back of your head.”

“Eyes, nothin’! They is microscopes, Mr. Quentin.”

Quentin, during the remainder of the run to Brussels, turned the new
situation over and over in his mind. That the prince was ready to
acknowledge him as a dangerous rival gave him much satisfaction and
inspired the hope that Miss Garrison had given her lover some cause
for alarm. The decisive movement on the part of Prince Ugo to
forestall any advantage he might acquire while near her in Brussels
was a surprise and something of a shock to him. It was an admission,
despite his position and the pledge he had from the girl herself,
that the Italian did not feel secure in the premises, and was
willing to resort to trickery, if not villainy, to circumvent the
American who knew him in other days. Phil felt positive that the
move against him was the result of deliberate intent, else how
should his fair friend of the early evening know that a plot was
brewing? Unquestionably she had heard or learned of the prince’s
directions to the duke. Her own interest in the prince was, of
course, the inspiration. To no one but herself could she entrust the
delivery of the warning. Her agitated wish, openly expressed, that
Quentin might win the contest had a much deeper meaning than would
appear on the surface.

From the moment he received the warning the affair began to take on
a new aspect. Aside from the primal fact that he was desperately in
love with Dorothy Garrison, there was now the fresh incentive that
he must needs win her against uncertain odds and in the face of
surprising opposition. In this day and age of the world, in affairs
of the heart, an American does not look for rivalry that bears the
suggestion of medieval romance. The situation savored too much of
the story-books that are born of the days when knights held sway, to
appear natural in the eyes of an up-to-date, unromantic gentleman
from New York, that city where love affairs adjust themselves
without the aid of a novelist.

Quentin, of course, was loath to believe that Prince Ugo would
resort to underhand means to checkmate a rival whose real purpose
had not yet been announced. In six weeks the finest wedding in years
was to occur in Brussels. St. Gudule, that historic cathedral, was
to be the scene of a ceremony on which all European newspapers had
the eye of comment. American papers had printed columns concerning
the engagement of the beautiful Miss Garrison. Everywhere had been
published the romantic story of this real love match. What, then,
should the prince fear?

The train rumbled into the station at Brussels near midnight, and
Turk sallied forth for a cab. This he obtained without the usual
amount of haggling on his part, due to the disappointing fact that
the Belgian driver could understand nothing more than the word
Bellevue, while Turk could interpret nothing more than the word
franc. As Quentin was crossing to the cab he encountered Duke
Laselli. Both started, and, after a moment’s pause, greeted each
other.

“I thought I saw you at Mons,” said Phil, after the first
expressions of surprise.

“Yes; I boarded the train there. Some business called me to Mons
last week. And you, I presume, like most tourists, are visiting a
dozen cities in half as many days,” said the duke, in his execrable
English. They paused at the side of the Italian’s conveyance, and
Quentin mentally resolved that the dim light, as it played upon the
face of the speaker, was showing to him the most repellent
countenance he had ever looked upon.

“Oh. no,” he answered, quickly, “I shall probably remain until after
the marriage of my friend, Miss Garrison, and Prince Ugo. Are you to
be here long?”

“I cannot say,” answered the other, his black eyes fastened on
Quentin’s, “My business here is of an uncertain nature.”

“Diplomatic, I infer?”

“It would not be diplomatic for me to say so. I suspect I shall see
you again, Mr. Quentin.”

“Doubtless; I am to be at the Bellevue.”

“And I, also. We may see some of the town together.”

“You are very kind,” said Quentin, bowing deeply. “Do you travel
alone?”

“The duchess is ill and is in Florence. I am so lonely without her.”

“It’s beastly luck for business to carry one away from a sick wife.
By the way, how is my dear friend, Prince Ugo?”

“Exceptionally well, thank you. He will be pleased to know you are
here, for he is coming to Brussels next week. I think, if you will
pardon me, he has taken quite a fancy to you.”

“I trust, after longer acquaintance, he may not find me a
disappointment,” said Phil warmly, and a faint look of curiosity
flashed into the duke’s eyes. As they were saying good-night,
Quentin looked about for the man who might be Courant, the
detective. But the duke’s companion was not to be seen.

The next morning Quentin proceeded in a very systematic and
effective way to locate the home of the Garrisons. He was aware, in
the beginning, that they lived in a huge, beautiful mansion
somewhere in the Avenue Louise. He knew from his Baedeker that the
upper town was the fashionable quarter, and that the Avenue Louise
was one of the principal streets. An electric tramcar took him
speedily through the Boulevards Regent and Waterloo to the Avenue
Louise. A strange diffidence had prevented him from asking at the
hotel for directions that would easily have discovered her home.
Somehow he wanted to stroll along the avenue in the early morning
and locate the home of Dorothy Garrison without other aid than the
power which tells one when he is near the object of his adoration.
He left the car at the head of the avenue and walked slowly along
the street.

His mind was full of her. Every vehicle that passed attracted his
gaze, for he speculated that she might be in one of them. Not a
well-dressed woman came within the range of his vision but she was
subjected to a hurried inspection, even from a distance. He strode
slowly along, looking intently at each house. None of them seemed to
him to hold the object of his search. As his steps carried him
farther and farther into the beautiful avenue he began to smile to
himself and his plodding spirit wavered. After all, thought he, no
one but a silly ass would attempt to find a person in a great city
after the fashion he was pursuing. He was deciding to board a
tramcar and return to the hotel when, at some distance ahead, he saw
a young lady run hurriedly down the steps of an impressive looking
house.

He recognized Dorothy Garrison, and with a thump of exultation his
heart urged him across the street toward her. She evidently had not
seen him; her eyes were on the ground and she seemed preoccupied. In
her hand she held a letter. A gasp of astonishment, almost of alarm,
came from her lips, her eyes opened wide in that sort of surprise
which reveals something like terror, and then she crumpled the
letter in her hand spasmodically.

“I thought you lived down here somewhere,” he exclaimed, joyfully,
seizing her hand. “‘I knew I could find you.”

“I--I am so glad to see you,” she stammered, with a brave effort to
recover from the shock his appearance had created. “What are you
doing here, Phil?”

“Looking for you, Dorothy. Shall I post your letter?”

She was still standing as if rooted to the spot, the letter in a sad
plight.

“Oh, I’ll not--not post it now. I should have sent the footman. Come
with me and see mamma. I know she will be glad to have you here,”
 she hurried, in evident confusion. She bethought herself suddenly
and made an effort to withdraw the letter from its rather
conspicuous position. The hand containing it was drawn behind her
back.

“That will be very nice of her. Better post the letter, though.
Somebody’s expecting it, you know. Hullo! That’s not a nice way to
treat a letter. Let me straighten it out for you.’’

“Never mind, Phil--really, I don’t care about it. You surprised me so
tremendously that I fear I’ve ruined it. Now I shall have to write
another.”

“Fiddlesticks! Send it as it is. The prince will blame the
postoffice people,” cried he.

“It is not for the prince,” she cried, quickly, and then became more
confused than ever. “Come to the house, Phil. You must tell me how
you happen to be here.”

As they walked slowly to the Garrison home and mounted the steps,
she religiously held the epistle where he could not regard it too
closely should his curiosity overcome his prudence. They were
ushered into the reception room, and she directed the footman to ask
if Mrs. Garrison could see Mr. Quentin.

“Now, tell me all about it,” she said, taking a chair quite across
the big room.

“There’s nothing to tell,” he said. “I am in Brussels, and I thought
I’d hunt you up.”

“But why didn’t you write or wire me that you were coming? You
haven’t acted much like a friend,” she said, pointedly.

“Perhaps I wrote and never mailed the letter. Remember your
experience just now. You still hold the unlucky note in your hand.
Sometimes we think better of our intentions at the very instant when
they are going into effect. It is very mysterious to me that you
wouldn’t mail that letter. I can only believe that you changed your
mind when you saw me.”

“How absurd! As if seeing you could have anything to do with it!”

“You ought to tell me if my appearance here is liable to alter any
plan that letter is intended to perfect. Don’t let me be an
inconvenience. You know I’d rather be anything than an inconvenience.”

“It doesn’t matter in the least; really, it doesn’t. Your coming--”

The footman appeared on the landing above at that instant and said
something to her in a language Quentin could not understand. He
afterward heard it was French. And he always had thought himself a
pretty fair French scholar, too.

“Mamma has asked for me, Phil. Will you pardon me if I leave you
alone for a moment?” she said, arising and starting toward the grand
stairway. The letter, which she had forgotten for the moment, fell
from her lap to the rug. In an instant he had stepped forward to
pick it up. As he stooped she realized what had happened, and, with
a frantic little cry, stooped also. Their heads were close together,
but his hand was the first to touch the missive. It lay with the
address upward, plain to the eye; he could not help seeing the name.

It was addressed to “Philip Quentin, Esq., care of the Earl of
Saxondale, Park Lane, London, W. S.” Surprise stayed his fingers,
and hers clutched the envelope ruthlessly. As they straightened
themselves each was looking directly into the other’s eyes. In hers
there was shame, confusion, even guilt; in his, triumphant,
tantalizing mirth.

“My letter, please,” he said, his voice trembling, he knew not why.
His hand was extended. She drew suddenly away and a wave of scarlet
crossed her face.

“What a stupid I was to drop it,” she cried, almost tearfully. Then
she laughed as the true humor of the situation made itself felt in
spite of consequences. “Isn’t it too funny for anything?”

“I can’t see anything funny in tampering with the mails. You have my
letter, and I hope it won’t be necessary for me to call in the
officers of the law.”

“You don’t expect me to give it to you?” she cried, holding it
behind her.

“Most assuredly. If you don’t, I’ll ask Mrs. Garrison to command you
to do so,” he threatened, eagerly. He would have given his head to
read the contents of the letter that caused her so much concern. All
sorts of conjectures were racing through his brain.

“Oh, please don’t do that!” she begged, and he saw real supplication
in her eyes. “I wouldn’t give you the letter for the world, and
I--I--well, don’t you see that I am embarrassed?”

“Give me the letter,” he commanded, Sternly.

“Do you wish me to hate you?” she blazed.

“‘Heaven forbid!”

“Then forget that your name is on this--this detestable envelope,”
 she cried, tearing the missive into pieces. He looked on in wonder,
chagrin, disappointment.

“By George, Dorothy, that’s downright cruel. It was intended for
me--”

“You should thank me. I have only saved you the trouble of
destroying it,” she said, smiling.

“I would have kept it forever,” he said, fervently.

“Here’s a small bit of the envelope which you may keep as a
souvenir. See, it has your name--‘Philip’--on it. You shall have that
much of the letter.” He took it rather gracelessly and, deliberately
opening his watch, placed it inside the case. “I’d give $10,000 to
know what that letter had to say to me.”

“You can never know,” she said, defiantly, from the bottom of the
steps, “for I have forgotten the contents myself.”

She laughed as she ran upstairs, but he detected confusion in the
tone, and the faint flush was still on her cheek. He sat down and
wondered whether the contents would have pleased or displeased him.
Philosophically he resolved that as long as he was never to know he
might just as well look at it from a cheerful point of view; he
would be pleased.



IX. MOTHER AND DAUGHTER


It would be difficult to define the emotions that consumed Miss
Garrison as she entered her mother’s boudoir. She could not conceal
from herself the sensation of jubilant delight because he had come
to Brussels. At the same time, even though his visit was that of a
mere friend, it promised complications which she was loath to face.
She went into the presence of her mother with the presentiment that
the first of the series was at hand.

“What is Philip Quentin doing here, Dorothy?” demanded Mrs.
Garrison. She was standing in the center of the room, and her
attitude was that of one who has experienced a very unpleasant
surprise. The calm, cold tone was not far from accusing; her steely
eyes were hard and uncompromising. The tall daughter stood before
her, one hand still clutching the bits of white paper; on her face
there was the imprint of demure concern.

“I haven’t had time to ask him, mamma,” she said, lightly, “Would it
be quite the proper thing to demand the reason for his presence here
when it seems quite clear that he is paying us a brief morning
call?”

“Do not be absurd! I mean, what is he doing in Brussels? Didn’t he
say he was to return to New York last week?” There was refined
belligerence in her voice. Dorothy gave a brief thought to the cool,
unabashed young man below and smiled inwardly as she contemplated
the reception he was to receive from this austere interrogator.

“Don’t ask me, mamma, I am as much puzzled as you over his sudden
advent. It is barely possible he did not go to New York.”

“Well, why didn’t he?” This was almost a threat.

“It is a mystery we have yet to unravel. Shall we send for Sherlock
Holmes?”

“Dorothy, I am very serious. How can you make light of this
unwarranted intrusion? He is--”

“Why do you call it intrusion, mamma? Has he not the right to come?
Can we close the door in his face? Is he not a friend? Can we help
ourselves if he knocks at our door and asks to see us?” Dorothy felt
a smart tug of guilt as she looked back and saw herself trudging
sheepishly up the front steps beside the intruder, who had not been
permitted to knock at the door.

“A gentleman would not subject you to the comments of--of--well, I may
say the whole world. He certainly saw the paragraphs in those London
papers, and he knows that we cannot permit them to be repeated over
here. He has no right to thrust himself upon us under the
circumstances. You must give him to understand at once, Dorothy,
that his intentions--or visits, if you choose to call them such--are
obnoxious to both of us.”

“Oh, mamma! we’ve talked all this over before. What can I do? I
wouldn’t offend him for the world, and I am sure he is incapable of
any desire to have me talked about, He knows me and he likes me too
well for that. Perhaps he will go away soon,” said Dorothy,
despairing petulance in her voice, Secretly she was conscious of the
justice in her mother’s complaints.

“He shall go soon,” said Mrs. Garrison, with determination.

“You will not--will not drive him away?” said her daughter, quickly.

“I shall make him understand that you are not the foolish child he
knew in New York. You are about to become a princess. He shall be
forced to see the impregnable wall between himself and the Princess
Ravorelli--for you are virtually the owner of that glorious title. A
single step remains and then you are no longer Dorothy Garrison.
Philip Quentin I have always disliked, even mistrusted. His
reputation in New York was that of a man of the town, a rich
roisterer, a ‘breaker of hearts,’ as your uncle has often called
him. He is a daring notoriety seeker, and this is rare sport for
him.” Mrs. Garrison’s eyes were blazing, her hands were clenched,
her bearing that of one who is both judge and executioner.

“I think you do him an injustice,” said Dorothy, slowly, a feeling
of deep resentment asserting itself. “Philip is not what you call
him. He is a gentleman.” Mother and daughter looked into each
other’s eyes squarely for a moment, neither flinching, both
justifying themselves for the positions they were to take.

“You defend him?”

“As he would defend me.”

“You have another man to defend. Do you think of him?”

“You have yet to say that Ugo is no gentleman. It will then be time
for defense, such as I am offering now.”

“We are keeping your friend waiting, Dorothy,” said Mrs. Garrison,
with blasting irony. “Give him my compliments and say that we trust
he may come every day. He affords us a subject for pleasant
discussion, and I am sure Prince Ugo will be as charmed to meet him
here as he was in London.”

“Don’t be sarcastic, mamma. It doesn’t help matters and--” began
Dorothy, almost plaintively.

“Mr. Quentin certainly does not help matters, my dear. Still, if you
will enjoy the comment, the notoriety that he may be generous enough
to share with you, I can say no more. When you are ready to dismiss
him, you shall find me your ally.” She was triumphant because she
had scored with sarcasm a point where reason must have fallen far
short.

“I might tell Rudolf to throw him into the street,” said Dorothy,
dolefully, “only I am quite positive Phil would refuse to be thrown
by less than three Rudolfs. But he is expecting you downstairs,
mamma. He asked for you.”

“I cannot see him to-day. Tell him I shall be only too glad to see
him if he calls again,” and there was a deep, unmistaken meaning in
the way she said it.

“You will not go down?” Dorothy’s face flushed with something akin
to humiliation. After all, he did not deserve to be treated like a
dog.

“I am quite content upstairs,” replied Mrs. Garrison, sweetly.

Dorothy turned from her mother without another word, and as she went
down the stairs there was rebellion in her soul; the fires of
resistance showed their first tiny tongues in the hot wave that
swept through her being. Quentin was stretched out comfortably in a
big chair, his back toward the stairs, his eyes upon the busy avenue
below. She paused for a moment at the foot of the stairs and there
was a strange longing to pass her fingers over the thick dark hair.
The thought passed instantaneously, but there was a new shyness in
her manner as she approached.

“Hullo,” he said, arising as he heard her footfall. “Been watching
the people drive by. Pretty smart traps, some of them, too. The old
families that came over in the Ark with Moses--er, Noah, I should
say.” There was deep concern in the remark, but she was confident
that he vaguely understood why she was alone.

“Mamma trusts you will excuse her this morning. She says she will be
glad to see you when you come again.” She seated herself on a divan
near the window, a trifle out of the glaring light of the August
sun. She held in her hand a fan and the bits of paper had
disappeared. “Isn’t it dreadfully warm?”

“Looks like rain, too,” said he, briefly. Then, with new animation:
“Tell me, what was in that letter?”

“Nothing but nonsense,” she replied, smiling serenely, for she was
again a diplomat.

“How dare you! How dare you write nonsense to me? But, really, I’d
like to know what it was. You’ll admit I have a right to be
curious.”

“It pleases me to see you curious. I believe it is the first time I
ever saw you interested in anything. Quite novel, I assure you.”

“Don’t you mean to tell me?”

“Assuredly--not.”

“Well, I think it’s a roaring shame to write anything to a fellow
that he can’t be allowed to read. I wouldn’t treat you that way.”

“I know you wouldn’t. You are too good, and too sensible, and too
considerate, and all the other kind of too’s, while I am just an
unaccountable ninny. If you ever did anything crazy you wouldn’t
like to have it found out, would you?”

“By all means! Then I could take treatment for the malady. Lean
forward, Dorothy, so that I can see your eyes. That’s right! Now,
look at me squarely. Will you tell me what was in that letter?” She
returned his gaze steadily, almost mockingly.

“No.”

“That’s all I want to know. I can always tell by a girl’s eyes
whether she is stubborn.”

“I am not stubborn.”

“Well, I’ll drop the matter for all time. Doubtless you were right
when you said it was nonsense; you ought to know. Changing the
subject, I think I’ll like Brussels if I stay here long enough.” He
was again nonchalant, indifferent. Under her mask of unconcern she
felt a trifle piqued that he did not persist in his endeavor to
learn the contents of the unfortunate letter.

“How long do you expect--I mean purpose to stay?” she asked.

“It depends on conditions. I may be crazy enough to stay six weeks
and I may be crazy enough to go away next week. You see, I’m not
committing myself to any specified degree of insanity; it won’t make
so much difference when I am found out, as you say. At present,
however, I contemplate staying until that affair at St. Gudule.”

She could not hide the annoyance, the discomfiture, his assertion
inspired. In a second she saw endless unpleasantries--some
pleasantries, it is fair to say--and there seemed to be no gentle way
of escape. At the same time, there came once more the queer flutter
she had felt when she met him in the street, a half-hour before.

“You will find it rather dull here, I am afraid,” she found courage
to say. “Or do you know many people--the American minister,
perhaps?”

“Don’t know a soul here but you and Mrs. Garrison. It won’t be
dull--not in the least. We’ll ride and drive, go ballooning or
anything you like--”

“But I can’t, Phil. Do you forget that I am to be married in six
weeks?” she cried, now frightened into an earnest appeal.

“That’s it, precisely. After that you can’t go ballooning with
anybody but the prince, so for at least a month you can have a good
time telling me what a jolly good fellow he is. That’s what girls
like, you know, and I don’t mind in the least. If you want to talk
about him by the hour, I won’t utter an objection. Of course, I
suppose you’ll be pretty busy with your trousseau and so forth, and
you’ll have the house full of visitors, too, no doubt. But you can
give me a little time.”

“I am sure mamma would not--”

“She never did approve, if that’s what you were about to say. What
is she afraid of? Does she imagine that I want to marry you? Good
heavens!” So devout was his implied denial of such a project that
she felt herself grow hot. “Doesn’t she think the prince has you
safely won? You are old enough to take care of yourself, I’m sure.”

“She knows that I love Prince Ugo, and that he is the only man I
shall ever love. Her disapproval would arise from the needless
exposure to comment. You remember what the London paper said about
us.” If she thought that he was chilled by her bold opening
assertion she was to find herself mistaken. He smiled complacently.

“I thought it was very nice of them. I am preserving the clipping,”
 he said, airily. “We can talk over this little difficulty with
public opinion when we’ve had more time to think about it. You see,
I’ve been here but ten hours, and I may be willing to leave
tomorrow, that is, after I’ve seen more of the town. I may not like
the king, and I’m quite sure the palace doesn’t suit me. I’ll come
around to-morrow and we’ll drive through one of these famous parks--”

“Oh, no, Phil! Really, you don’t know how it embarrasses me--”

“I’ll go away to-night, if you say you don’t want to see me at all,
Dorothy,” he said, seriously, rising and standing before her.

“I don’t mean that. You know I want to see you--for old times’ sake.”

“I shall go, nevertheless, if you merely hint that I am unwelcome.”
 She arose and suddenly gave him her hand.

“You are not unwelcome, and you are foolish to speak in that
manner,” she said, seriously.

“And your mother?”

“She must endure what I endure.”

“Somewhere Baedeker says that the Bois de la Cambre is the finest
park in Brussels,” said he, his eyes gleaming.

“I am quite sure Baedeker is reliable,” she agreed, with a smile.

“At three o’clock to-morrow afternoon, then, I will come for you.
Will you remember me to your mother and tell her I am sorry not to
see her to-day? Good-bye!”

She followed him to the door, and when he sped lightly down the
steps there was a broad smile on the face of each. He turned and
both laughed outright. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way,” she
mused, as she went to her room upstairs. An hour later her daily
letter to the prince was ready for the post. The only allusion to
the visitor of the morning was: “Mr. Quentin--our New York friend,
you will remember--made us a brief call this morning. He is quite
undecided as to the length of his stay here, but I hope you will be
here to see him.”

Then, dismissing Quentin from her mind, she sat down to dream of the
one great event in her life--this wonderful, glorious wedding in old
St. Gudule’s. Already her trousseau was on a fair way to completion.
She gave no thought to the fortune that these gowns were to cost,
she considered not the glories she was to reap by becoming a real
princess, she dwelt not on the future before her, for she knew she
was to be happy with Ugo. Instead, she dreamed only of the “color
scheme” that was to make memorable her wedding procession.

In her mind’s eye she saw the great church thronged with the most
brilliant, illustrious assemblage it had ever held (she was quite
sure no previous gathering could have been more august), and a smile
of pride came to her lips. The great chorus, the procession, the
lights, the incomprehensible combination of colors, the chancel, the
flowers, her wedding gown, and Ugo’s dark, glowing face rushed in
and out of her vision as she leaned back in her chair and--almost
forgot to breathe. The thought of Ugo grew and grew; she closed her
eyes and saw him at her side as they walked proudly from the altar
with the good bishop’s blessing and the song of the choir in their
ears, the swelling of love in their souls. So vivid became the dream
of his presence that she could almost feel his hand touching hers:
she felt her eyes turn toward him, with all that great crowd
watching, and her heart quivered with passion as his dark, happy
eyes burnt through to her very soul. Somehow she heard distinctly
the whisper, “My wife!”

Suddenly a strange chill came over this idle, happy dream, and she
opened her eyes with a start, Ugo’s face fading away like a flash.
The thought had rushed in like a stab from a dagger. Would Philip
Quentin be there, and would he care? Would he care?



X. TWO IN A TRAP



“Th’ juke sent his card up, sir,” said Turk, his master was once
more in his rooms at the Bellevue. Turk was looking eminently
respectable in a new suit of blue serge.

“When?” asked Phil, glancing at Laselli’s card. He had forgotten the
Italian, and the sight of his name recalled the plot unpleasantly.

“‘Bout eleven o’clock. I watched him leave th’ hotel an’ go down
that street over there--th’ same one you took a little earlier.”

“Watching me, I suspect. Haven’t seen that detective fellow, have
you, Turk? You ought to be able to scent a detective three miles
away.”

“I can’t scent in this language, sir.”

Early in the evening, as Quentin was leaving the hotel for a short
stroll, he met the duke. The Italian accosted him familiarly and
asked if he were trying to find a cool spot.

“I thought a ride on the tramcars might cool me off a bit,’” said
Phil.

“I know the city quite well, and I, too, am searching for relief
from the heat. Do you object to company in your ride or stroll?”

“Happy to have you, I assure you. If you’ll be good enough to wait
here for a moment, till I find my stick, I’ll be with you.” The duke
bowed politely, and Phil hastened back to his rooms. He secured his
stick, and did more. Like a wise young man, he bethought himself of
a possible trap, and the quest of the stick gave him the opportunity
to instruct Turk to follow him and the duke and to be where he was
needed in case of an emergency.

The tall, fresh-faced American in his flannels, and the short,
bearded Italian in his trim frock coat and silk hat strolled
leisurely forth into the crowded Place du Palais.

“Shall we walk awhile and then find a cafe where we may have
something to drink?” asked the duke, his English so imperfect that
no writer could reproduce it.

“I am in your hands, and at your mercy,” said the other, clinging
close to him as they merged into the crowd.

“May I ask if you have many friends in Brussels?” Under the
politeness of the inquiry Quentin, with amusement, saw the real
interest. Looking calmly into the Italian’s beady eyes, he said:

“I know but four persons here, and you are included in the list. My
servant is another. Mrs. and Miss Garrison are old and particular
friends, you know. In fact, my dear duke, I don’t believe I should
have come to Brussels at all were they not here.”

“They are most charming and agreeable,” murmured the duke. “This is
such a frightful crowd Shall we not cross to the other side?”

“What’s the use? I used to play football--you don’t know what that
is, I suppose--and I’ll show you how to get through a mob. Get in
front--that’s right--and I’ll bring up in the rear.” Laughing to
himself, he brought his big frame up against the little man’s back
and surged forward. Sure enough, they went “through the mob,” but
the duke was the volley end of the battering ram. Never in all his
life had he made such hurried and seemingly unnecessary progress
through a blockading crowd of roisterers. When they finally went
lunging into the half-deserted Rue de la Madeleine, his silk hat was
awry, his composure was ruffled, and he was very much out of breath.
Phil, supremely at ease, heaved a sigh of satisfaction, drawing from
the Italian a half-angry, half-admiring glance.

“Much easier than I thought,” said Quentin, puffing quietly at his
cigar.

“We did it very nicely,” agreed the other, with a brave effort to
equal the American’s unconcern. Nevertheless, he said to himself
many times before they reached the broad Boulevard Anspach, that
never had he taken such “a stroll,” and never had he known how
little difference there was between a steam and a human propeller.
He almost forgot, as they sat at a small, table in front of a cafe,
to institute his diplomatic search for the real object of the
American’s presence in Brussels.

It was twelve o’clock when they returned to the hotel, after a
rather picturesque evening in the gay cafes.

Here is what the keen little Italian deduced: Quentin was to remain
in Brussels until he took a notion to go somewhere else; Quentin had
seen the prince driving on the Paris boulevards; the Bois de la
Cambre offers every attraction to a man who enjoys driving; the
American slept with a revolver near his pillow, and his manservant
had killed six or seven men in the United States because of his
marvellous skill with the pistol; Quentin was a most unsophisticated
young man, with honesty and innocence in his frank eyes, although
they sometimes grew rather searching; he could only be overcome by
cunning; he was in love with Miss Garrison.

Quentin’s conclusions: Laselli was a liar and an ass; Prince Ugo
would be in Brussels within ten days; he was careless with the
hearts of women and cruel with their love; French detectives are the
best in the world, the most infallible; Miss Garrison loved the very
ground the prince trod upon. He also discovered that the duke could
drink wine as a fish drinks water, and that he seldom made overtures
to pay for it until his companion had the money in hand, ready to do
so.

Turk was waiting for him when he reached his rooms, and Turk was not
amiable. A very attractive, innocent and demure young lady, who
could not speak English except with her hands and eyes, had relieved
him of a stickpin and his watch while he sat with her at a table not
far from the man he was protecting with his vaunted “eagle eye.”

“An’ she swiped ‘em right under me nose, an’ me eyes square on her,
too. These people are too keen for me. They ain’t a fairy in New
York that could ‘a’ touched me without d’ dope, lemme tell you. I
t’ought I knowed a t’ing er two, but I don’t know buttons from
fishhooks. I’m d’ easiest t’ing ‘at ever went to Sunday school.”

It was with a flushed, rebellious face that Miss Garrison stepped
into the victoria the next afternoon for the drive to the Bois de la
Cambre. She had come from a rather trying tilt with her mother, and,
as they drove off between the rows of trees, she felt that a pair of
flaming eyes were levelled from a certain upstairs window in the
Avenue Louise. The Biblical admonition to “honor thy father and thy
mother” had not been entirely disregarded by this willful young
lady, but it had been stretched to an unusual limit for the
occasion. She felt that she was very much imposed upon by
circumstances in the shape of an unreasonable mother and an
inconvenient friend.

Mr. Quentin, more in love than ever, and more deeply inspired by the
longing to win where reason told him he must fail, did not flatter
himself into believing that Mrs. Garrison wholly approved of the
drive. Instead, he surmised from the beginning that Dorothy’s
flushed cheeks were not from happiness, but from excitement, and
that he was not altogether a shadowy cause. With rare tact he
plunged at once to the bottom of the sea of uncertainty and began to
struggle upward to the light, preferring such a course to the one
where you start at the top, go down and then find yourself powerless
to get back to the surface.

“Was your mother very much annoyed when you said you were coming out
with me?” he asked. She started and a queer little tinge of
embarrassment sprang into her eyes.

“How absurd!” she said, readily, however. “Isn’t the avenue
beautiful?”

“I don’t know--yet,” he said, without looking at the avenue. “What
did she say?” Miss Garrison did not reply, but looked straight ahead
as if she had not heard him. “See here, Dorothy, I’m not a child and
I’m not a lovesick fool. Just curious, that’s all. Your mother has
no cause to be afraid of me--”

“You flatter yourself by imagining such a thing as--”

“--because there isn’t any more danger that I shall fall in love
with you than there is of--of--well, of your falling in love with me;
and you know how improbable--”

“I don’t see any occasion to refer to love in any way,” she said,
icily. “Mamma certainly does not expect me to do such an
extraordinary thing. If you will talk sensibly, Phil, we may enjoy
the drive, but if you persist in talking of affairs so ridiculous--”

“I can’t say that I expect you to fall in love with me, so for once
your mother and I agree. Nevertheless, she didn’t want you to come
with me,” he said, absolutely undisturbed.

“How do you know she didn’t?” she demanded, womanlike. Then, before
she was quite aware of it, they were in a deep and earnest
discussion of Mrs. Garrison, and her not very complimentary views.

“And how do you feel about this confounded prospect, Dorothy? You
are not afraid of what a few gossips--noble or otherwise--may say
about a friendship that is entirely the business of two people and
not the property of the general public? If you feel that I am in the
way I’ll gladly go, you know. Of course, I’d rather hate to miss
seeing you once in a while, but I think I’d have the courage to--”

“Oh, it’s not nice of you to be sarcastic,” she cried, wondering,
however, whether he really meant “gladly” when he said it. Somehow
she felt herself admitting that she was piqued by his apparent
readiness to abdicate. She did not know that he was cocksure of his
ground before making the foregoing and other observations equally as
indifferent.

“I’m not sarcastic; quite the reverse. I’m very serious. You know
how much I used to think of you--”

“But that was long ago, and you were such a foolish boy,” she cried,
interrupting nervously.

“Yes, I know; a boy must have his foolish streaks. How a fellow
changes as he gets older, and how he looks back and laughs at the
fancies he had when a boy. Same way with a girl, though, I suppose.”
 He said it so calmly, so naturally that she took a sly peep at his
face. It revealed nothing but blissful imperturbability.

“I’m glad you agree with me. You see, I’ve always thought you were
horribly broken up when I--when I found that I also was indulging in
a foolish streak. I believe I came to my senses before you did,
though, and saw how ridiculous it all was. Children do such queer
things, don’t they?” It was his turn to take a sly peep, and his
spirits went down a bit under the pressure of her undisguised
frankness.

“How lucky it was we found it out before we ran away with each
other, as we once had the nerve to contemplate. Gad, Dorothy, did
you ever stop to think what a mistake it would have been?” She was
bowing to some people in a brougham, and the question was never
answered. After a while he went on, going back to the original
subject. “I shall see Mrs. Garrison to-night and talk it over with
her. Explain to her, you know, and convince her that I don’t in the
least care what the gossips say about me. I believe I can live it
all down, if they do say I am madly, hopelessly in love with the
very charming fiancee of an Italian prince.”

“You have me to reckon with, Phil; I am the one to consider and the
one to pass judgment. You may be able to appease mamma, but it is I
who will determine whether it is to be or not to be. Let us drop the
subject. For the present, we are having a charming drive. Is it not
beautiful?”

To his amazement and to hers, when they returned late in the
afternoon Mrs. Garrison asked him to come back and dine.

“I must be dreaming,” he said to himself, as he drove away. “She’s
as shrewd as the deuce, and there’s a motive in her sudden
friendliness. I’m beginning to wonder how far I’ll drop and how hard
I’ll hit when this affair explodes. Well, it’s worth a mighty
strenuous effort. If I win, I’m the luckiest fool on earth; if I
lose, the surprise won’t kill me.” At eight he presented himself
again at the Garrison house and found that he was not the only
guest. He was introduced to a number of people, three of whom were
Americans, the others French. These were Hon. and Mrs. Horace
Knowlton and their daughter, Miss Knowlton, M. and Mme. de Cartier,
Mile. Louise Gaudelet and Count Raoul de Vincent.

“Dorothy tells me you are to be in Brussels for several weeks, and I
was sure you would be glad to know some of the people here. They can
keep you from being lonesome, and they will not permit you to feel
that you are a stranger in a strange land,” said Mrs. Garrison.
Quentin bowed deeply to her, flashed a glance of understanding at
Dorothy, and then surveyed the strangers he was to meet. Quick
intelligence revealed her motive in inviting him to meet these
people, and out of sheer respect for her shrewdness he felt like
applauding. She was cleverly providing him with acquaintances that
any man might wish to possess, and she was doing it so early that
the diplomacy of her action was as plain as day to at least two
people.

“Mamma is clever, isn’t she?” Dorothy said to him, merrily, as they
entered the dining-room. Neither was surprised to find that he had
been chosen to take her out. It was in the game.

“She is very kind. I can’t say how glad I am to meet these people.
My stay here can’t possibly be dull,” he said. “Mile. Gaudelet is
stunning, isn’t she?”

“Do you really think so?” she asked, and she did not see his smile.

The dinner was a rare one, the company brilliant, but there was to
occur, before the laughter in the wine had spent itself, an incident
in which Philip Quentin figured so conspicuously that his wit as a
dinner guest ceased to be the topic of subdued side talk, and he
took on a new personality.



XI. FROM THE POTS AND PLANTS


The broad veranda, which faced the avenue and terminated at the
corner of the house in a huge circle, not unlike an open
conservatory, afforded a secluded and comparatively cool retreat for
the diners later in the evening. Banked along the rails were the
rarest of tropical plants; shaded incandescent lamps sent their glow
from somewhere among the palms, and there was a suggestion of
fairy-land in the scene. If Quentin had a purpose in being
particularly assiduous in his attentions to Mlle. Gaudelet, he did
not suspect that he was making an implacable foe of Henri de
Cartier, the husband of another very charming young woman.
Unaccustomed to the intrigues of Paris, and certainly not aware that
Brussels copied the fashions of her bigger sister across the border
in more ways than one, he could not be expected to know that de
Cartier loved not his wife and did love the pretty Louise. Nor could
his pride have been convinced that the young woman at his side was
enjoying the tete-a-tete chiefly because de Cartier was fiercely
cursing the misfortune which had thrown this new element into
conflict. It may be unnecessary to say that Mrs. Garrison was
delighted with the unmistakable signs of admiration manifested by
the two young people.

It was late when Quentin reluctantly arose to make his adieux. He
had finished acknowledging the somewhat effusive invitations to the
houses of his new acquaintances, and was standing near Dorothy,
directly in front of a tall bank of palms. From one point of view
this collection of plants looked like a dense jungle, so thickly
were they placed on the porch at its darkest end. The light from a
drawing-room window shone across the front of the green mass, but
did not penetrate the recess near the porch rail. He was taking
advantage of a very brief opportunity, while others were moving
away, to tell her that Mile. Louise was fascinating, when her hand
suddenly clasped his arm and she whispered:

“Phil, there is a man behind those palms.” His figure straightened,
but he did not look around.

“Nonsense, Dorothy. How could a man get--” he began, in a very low
tone.

“I saw the leaves move, and just now I saw a foot near the rail. Be
careful, for heaven’s sake, but look for yourself; he is near the
window.”

Like statues they stood, she rigid under the strain, but brave
enough and cool enough to maintain a remarkable composure. She felt
the muscle of his forearm contract, and there swept over her a
strange dread. His eyes sought the spot indicated in a perfectly
natural manner, and there was no evidence of perturbation in his
gaze or posture. The foot of a man was dimly discernible in the
shadow, protruding from behind a great earthen jar. Without a word
he led her across the porch to where the others stood.

“Good-night, Mrs. Garrison,” he said, calmly, taking the hand she
proffered. Dorothy, now trembling like a leaf, looked on in mute
surprise. Did he mean to depart calmly, with the knowledge that they
needed his protection? “Good-night, Miss Garrison. I trust I shall
see you soon.” Then, in a lower tone: “Get the people around the
corner here, and not a word to them.”

The ladies were quite well past the corner before he ventured to
tell the men, whom he held back on some trifling pretext, that there
was a man among the plants. The information might have caused a
small panic had not his coolness dominated the nerves of the others.

“Call the gendarmes,” whispered de Cartier, panic stricken. “Call
the servants.”

“We don’t want the officers nor the servants,” said Philip, coolly.
“Let the ladies get inside the house and we’ll soon have a look at
our fellow guest.”

“But he may be armed,” said the count, nervously.

“Doubtless he is. Burglars usually are. I had an experience with an
armed burglar once on a time, and I still live. Perhaps a few palms
will be damaged, but we’ll be as considerate as possible. There is
no time to lose, gentlemen. He may be trying to escape even now.”

Without another word he turned and walked straight toward the palms.
Not another man followed, and he faced the unwelcome guest alone.
Faced is the right word, for the owner of the telltale foot had
taken advantage of their momentary absence from that end of the
porch to make a hurried and reckless attempt to leave his cramped
and dangerous hiding-place. He was crowding through the outer circle
of huge leaves when Quentin swung into view. The light from the
window was full in the face of the stranger, white, scared, dogged.

“Here he is!” cried Quentin, leaping forward. “Come on, gentlemen!”

With a frantic plunge the trapped stranger crashed through the
plants, crying hoarsely in French as he met Quentin in the open:

“I don’t want to kill you! Keep off!”

Quentin’s arm shot out and the fellow went tumbling back among the
pots and plants. He was up in an instant. As the American leaped
upon him for the second blow, he drove his hand sharply,
despairingly, toward that big breast. There came the ripping of
cloth, the tearing of flesh, and something hot gushed over Phil’s
shoulder and arm. His own blow landed, but not squarely, and, as he
stumbled forward, his lithe, vicious antagonist sprang aside, making
another wild but ineffectual sweep with the knife he held in his
right hand. Before Quentin could recover, the fellow was dashing
straight toward the petrified, speechless men at the end of the
porch, where they had been joined by some of the women.

“Out of the way! Out of the way!” he shrieked, brandishing his
knife. Through the huddled bunch he threw himself, unceremoniously
toppling over one of them. The way was clear, and he was down the
steps like a whirlwind. It was all over in an instant’s time, but
before the witnesses to the encounter could catch the second breath,
the tall form of Philip Quentin was flying down the steps in close
pursuit. Out into the Avenue Louise they raced, the fugitive with a
clear lead.

“Come back, Phil!” cried a woman’s voice, and he knew the tone
because of the thrill it sent to his heart.

He heard others running behind him, and concluded that his fellow
guests had regained their wits and were in the chase with him. If
the pursued heard the sudden, convulsive laugh of the man behind him
he must have wondered greatly. Phil could not restrain the wild
desire to laugh when he pictured the sudden and precipitous halt his
valiant followers would be compelled to make if the fugitive should
decide to stop and show fight. One or more of them would doubtless
be injured in the impossible effort to run backward while still
going forward.

Blood was streaming down his arm and he was beginning to feel an
excruciating pain. Pedestrians were few, and they made no effort to
obstruct the flight of the fugitive. Instead, they gave him a wide
berth. From far in the rear came hoarse cries, but Quentin was
uttering no shout. He was grinding his teeth because the fellow had
worsted him in the rather vainglorious encounter on the porch, and
was doing all in his power to catch him and make things even. To his
dismay the fellow was gaining on him and he was losing his own
strength. Cursing the frightened men who allowed the thief to pass
on unmolested and then joined in the chase, he raced panting onward.
The flying fugitive suddenly darted into a narrow, dark street,
fifty feet ahead of his pursuer, and the latter felt that he had
lost him completely. There was no sign of him when Quentin turned
into the cross street; he had disappeared as if absorbed by the
earth.

For a few minutes Philip and the mob--quite large, inquisitive and
eager by this time--searched for a trace of the man, but without
avail. The count, de Cartier and the Honorable Mr. Knowlton, with
several of Mrs. Garrison’s servants, came puffing up and, to his
amazement and rage, criticised him for allowing the man to escape.
They argued that a concerted attack on the recess amongst the palms
would have overwhelmed the fellow and he would now be in the hands
of the authorities instead of as free as air. Quentin endured the
expostulations of his companions and the fast-enlarging mirth of the
crowd for a few moments in dumb surprise. Then he turned suddenly to
retrace his steps up the avenue, savagely saying:

“If I had waited till you screwed up nerve enough to make a combined
attack, the man would not have been obliged to take this long and
tiresome run. He might have called a cab and ridden away in peace
and contentment.”

A laugh of derision came from the crowd and the two Frenchmen looked
insulted. Mr. Knowlton flushed with shame and hurried after his tall
countryman.

“You are right, Quentin, you’re right,” he wheezed. “We did not
support you, and we are to blame. You did the brave and proper
thing, and we stood by like a lot of noodles--”

“Well, it’s all over, Knowlton, and we all did the best we could,”
 responded Philip, with intense sarcasm which was lost on Mr.
Knowlton. Just then a sturdy little figure bumped against him and he
looked down as the newcomer grasped his arm tightly.

“Hello, Turk! It’s about time you were showing up. Where the devil
have you been?” exclaimed he, wrathfully.

“I’ll tell y’ all about it w’en I gits me tires pumped full agin.
Come on, come on; it’s private--strictly private, an’ nobody’s nex’
but me.” When there was a chance to talk without being overheard by
the three discomfited gentlemen in the rear, Turk managed to give
his master a bit of surprising news.

“That guy was Courant, that’s who he was. He’s been right on your
heels since yesterday, an’ I just gits nex’ to it. He follers you up
to th’ house back yonder an’ there’s w’ere I loses him. Seems like
he hung aroun’ the porch er porticker, er whatever it is over here,
watchin’ you w’en you wuz inside. I don’t know his game, but he’s
th’ guy. An’ I know w’ere he is now.”

“The dickens you do! You infernal little scoundrel, take me there at
once. Good Lord, Turk, I’ve got to catch him. These people will
laugh at me for a month if I don’t. Are you sure he is Courant? How
do you know? Where is he?” cried Phil, excited and impatient.

“You ain’t near bein’ keen. He doubled on you, that’s w’at he done.
W’en you chased him off on that side street he just leaps over th’
garden wall an’ back he comes into a yard. I comes up, late as
usual, just in time t’ see him calmly prance up some doorsteps an’
ring th’ bell. Wile th’ gang an’ you wuz lookin’ fer him in th’
gutters an’ waste paper boxes, he stan’s up there an’ grins
complackently. Then th’ door opens an’ he slides in like a fox.”

“Where is the house? We must search it from top to bottom.”

“Can’t do that, Mr. Quentin. How are you goin’ to search that house
without a warrant? An’ w’at are you goin’ to find w’en you do search
it? He’s no common thief. He’s in a game that we don’t know nothin’
about, an’ he’s got cards up his sleeve clear to th’ elbow. Th’
people in that house is his friends, an’ he’s safe, so w’at’s th’
use? I’ve got th’ joint spotted an’ he don’t know I am nex’. It’s a
point in our favor. There wuz a woman opened the door, so she’s in
th’ game, too. Let’s lay low, Mr. Quentin, an’ take it cool.”

“But what in thunder was he doing behind those palms? That wasn’t a
very sensible bit of detective work, was it?”

“Most detectives is asses. He was hidin’ there just to earn his
money. To-morrow he could go to th’ juke an’ tell him how slick he’d
been in hearin’ w’at you said to th’ young lady w’en you thought
nobody was listenin’. Was he hid near a window?’

“Just below one--almost against the casing.”

“Easy sailin’. He figgered out that some time durin’ th’ night you
an’ her would set in that window an’ there you are. See? But I
wonder w’at he’ll say to th’ juke to-morrow?”

“I hate to give this job up,” growled Phil. “But I must get back to
the hotel. The villain cut me with a knife.”

By this time they were in front of the Garrison home, and in an
undertone he bade Turk walk on and wait for him at the corner below.

“Did he escape?” cried Dorothy from the steps.

“He gave us the slip, confound him, Dorothy.”

“I’m glad, really I am. What could we have done with him if he had
been caught? But are you not coming in?”

“Oh, not to-night, thank you. Can’t you have some one bring out my
hat and coat?” He was beginning to feel faint and sick, and
purposely kept the bloody arm from the light.

“You shall not have them unless you come in for them. Besides, we
want you to tell us what happened. We are crazy with excitement.
Madame de Cartier fainted, and mamma is almost worried to death.”

“Are you not coming up, Mr. Quentin?” called Mrs. Garrison, from the
veranda.

“You must come in,” said de Cartier, coming up at that moment with
the count and Mr. Knowlton.

“Really, I must go to the hotel, I am a little faint after that
wretched run. Let me go, please; don’t insist on my coming in,” he
said.

“Mon dieu!” exclaimed the count. “It is blood, Monsieur! You are
hurt!”

“Oh, not in the least--merely a--”

“Phil!” cried Dorothy, standing in front of him, her wide eyes
looking intently into his. “Are you hurt? Tell me!”

“Just a little cut in the arm or shoulder, I think. Doesn’t amount
to anything, I assure--”

“Come in the house at once, Philip Quentin!” she exclaimed. “Mr.
Knowlton, will you ask Franz to telephone for Dr. Berier?” Then she
saw the blood-stained hand and shuddered, turning her face away.
“Oh, Phil!” she whispered.

“That pays for this cut and more, if necessary,” he said, in a low
voice, as he walked at her side up the steps.

“Lean on me, Phil,” she said. “You must be faint.” He laughed
merrily, and his eyes sparkled with something not akin to pain.

Dr. Berier came and closed the gash in his shoulder. An hour later
he came downstairs, to find Mrs. Garrison and Dorothy alone.

“You were very brave, Mr. Quentin, but very foolhardy,” said Mrs.
Garrison. “I hope from my heart the wound will give you little
trouble.”

His good right hand closed over hers for an instant and then clasped
Dorothy’s warmly, lingeringly.

“You must let us hear from you to-morrow,” said she, softly.

“Expect me to fetch the message in person,” said he, and he was off
down the steps. He did not look back, or he might have seen her
standing on the veranda, her eyes following him till he was joined
by another man at the corner below.



XII. HE CLAIMED A DAY


The strange experience of the evening brought Quentin sharply to a
sense of realization. It proved to him that he was feared, else why
the unusual method of campaign? To what extent the conspirators
would carry their seemingly unnecessary warfare he was now, for the
first time, able to form some sort of opinion. The remarkable
boldness of the spy at the Garrison home left room for considerable
speculation as to his motive. What was his design and what would
have been the ending to his sinister vigil? Before Quentin slept
that night he came to the drowsy conclusion that luck had really
been with him, despite his wound and Courant’s escape, and that the
sudden exposure of the spy destroyed the foundation for an important
move in the powderless conflict.

In the morning his shoulder was so sore that the surgeon informed
him he could not use the arm for several days. Turk philosophically
bore the brunt of his master’s ire. Like a little Napoleon he
endured the savage assaults from Quentin’s vocal batteries, taking
them as lamentations instead of imprecations. The morning newspapers
mentioned the attempt to rob Mrs. Garrison’s house and soundly
deplored the unstrategic and ill-advised attempt of “an American
named Canton” to capture the desperado. “The police department is
severe in its criticism of the childish act which allowed the wretch
to escape detection without leaving the faintest clew behind.
Officers were close at hand, and the slightest warning would have
had them at the Garrison home. The capture of this man would have
meant much to the department, as he is undoubtedly one of the
diamond robbers who are working havoc in Brussels at this time. He
was, it is stated positively by the police, not alone in his
operations last night. His duty, it is believed, was to obtain the
lay of the land and to give the signal at the proper moment for a
careful and systematic raid of the wealthy woman’s house. The police
now fear that the robbers, whose daring exploits have shocked and
alarmed all Brussels, are on their guard and a well-defined plan to
effect their capture is ruined. A prominent attache of the
department is of the opinion that an attempt was to have been made
by the band to relieve all of Mrs. Garrison’s guests of their jewels
in a sensational game of ‘stand and deliver.’”

“The miserable asses!” exploded Phil, when ‘he read the foregoing.
“That is the worst rot I ever read. This police department couldn’t
catch a thief if he were tied to a tree. Turk, if they were so near
at hand why the devil didn’t they get into the chase with me and run
that fellow down?”

“Th’ chances are they was in th’ chase, Mr. Quentin, but they didn’t
get th’ proper direction. They thought he was bein’ chased th’ other
way, an’ I wouldn’t be surprised if some of ‘em run five or six
miles before they stopped t’ reflect.”

“If there is a gang of diamond robbers or comic opera bandits in
this city I’ll bet my hand they could steal the sidewalks without
being detected, much less captured. A scheme to rob all of Mrs.
Garrison’s guests! The asses!”

“Don’t get excited, sir. You’ll burst a blood vessel, an’ that’s a
good sight worse than a cut,” cautioned Turk.

“Turk, in all your burglarious years, did you ever go about robbing
a house in that manner?”

“Not in a million years.”

“Well, what are we to do next?” demanded Quentin, reflectively,
ignoring his former question and Turk’s specific answer. “Shall we
give the police all the information we have and land Mr. Courant in
jail?”

“This is our game, sir, not th’ police’s. For th’ Lord’s sake, don’t
give anything up to th’ cops. They’ll raise particular thunder in
their sleep, an’ we gets th’ rough ha! ha! from our frien’s, th’
enemy. We pipes this little game ourself, an’ we wins, too, if we
succeed in keepin’ th’ police from gettin’ nex’ to anything they’d
mistake for a clue.”

Phil thought long and hard before sitting down at noon to write to
Dickey Savage. He disliked calling for help in the contest, but with
a bandaged arm and the odds against him, he finally resolved that he
needed the young New Yorker at his side. Dickey was deliberation
itself, and he was brave and loyal. So the afternoon’s post carried
a letter to Savage, who was still in London, asking him to come to
Brussels at once, if he could do so conveniently. The same post
carried a letter to Lord Bob, and in it the writer admitted that he
might need reinforcements before the campaign closed. He also
inclosed the clipping from the newspaper, but added a choice and
caustic opinion of the efficiency of the Brussels police. He did not
allude specifically to Courant, the duke, or to the queer beginning
of the prince’s campaign.

Early in the afternoon Mrs. Garrison sent to inquire as to his
wound. In reply he calmly prepared for an appearance in person. Turk
accompanied him, about four o’clock, in a cab to the house in Avenue
Louise. There were guests, and Phil was forced to endure a rather
effusive series of feminine exclamations and several polite
expressions from men who sincerely believed they could have done
better had they been in his place. Mrs. Garrison was a trifle
distant at first, but as she saw Quentin elevated to the pedestal of
a god for feminine worship she thawed diplomatically, and, with rare
tact, assumed a sort of proprietorship. Dorothy remained in the
background, but he caught anxious glances at his arm, and, once or
twice, a serious contemplation of his half-turned face.

“I’ll let her think the fellow was one of the diamond robbers for
the present,” thought he. “She wouldn’t believe me if I told her he
was in the employ of the prince, and the chances are she’d ruin
everything by writing to him about it.”

When at last he found the opportunity to speak with her alone he
asked how she had slept.

“Not at all, not a wink, not a blink. I imagined I heard robbers in
every part of the house. Are you speaking the truth when you tell
all these people it is a mere scratch? I am sure it is much worse,
and I want you to tell me the truth,” she said, earnestly.

“I’ve had deeper cuts that didn’t bleed a drop,” said he. “If you
must have the truth, Dorothy, I’ll confess the fellow gave me a
rather nasty slash, and I don’t blame him, He had to do it, and he’s
just as lucky as I am, perhaps, that it was no worse. I wish to
compliment your Brussels police, too, on being veritable
bloodhounds. I observed as I came in that they have at last scented
the blood on the pavement in front of the house and have washed away
the stain fairly well.”

“Wasn’t the story in the morning paper ridiculous? You were very
brave. I almost cried when I saw how the horrid detectives
criticised you.”

“I’m glad to hear you say that, because I was afraid you’d think
like the rest--that I was a blundering idiot.”

“You did not fear anything of the kind. Do you really think he was
one of those awful diamond robbers who are terrorizing the town? I
could not sleep another wink if I thought so. Why, last spring a
rich merchant and his wife were drugged in one of the cafes, taken
by carriage to Watermael, where they were stripped of their
valuables and left by the roadside.”

“Did you see an account of the affair in your morning paper?”

“Yes--there were columns about it.”

“Then I think eight-tenths of the crime was committed at a city
editor’s desk. It’s my opinion these diamond thieves are a set of
ordinary pickpockets and petty porch climbers. A couple of New York
policemen could catch the whole lot in a week.”

“But, really, Phil, they are very bold and they are not at all
ordinary. You don’t know how thankful we are that this one was
discovered before he got into the house. Didn’t he have a knife?
Well, wasn’t it to kill us with if we made an outcry?” She was
nervous and excited, and he had it on the tip of his tongue to allay
her fears by telling what he thought to be the true object of the
man’s visit.

“Well, no matter what he intended to do, he didn’t do it, and he’ll
never come back to try it again. He will steer clear of this house,”
 he said, reassuringly.

A week, two weeks went by without a change in the situation. Dickey
Savage replied that he would come to Brussels as soon as his heart
trouble would permit him to leave London, and that would probably be
about the twentieth of August. In parentheses he said he hoped to be
out of danger by that time. The duke was persistent in his
friendliness, and Courant had, to all intents and purposes,
disappeared completely. Prince Ugo was expected daily, and Mrs.
Garrison was beginning to breathe easily again. The police had given
up the effort to find the Garrison robber, and Turk had learned
everything that was to be known concerning the house in which
Courant found shelter after eluding his pursuers on the night of the
affray. Quentin’s shoulder was almost entirely healed, and he was
beginning to feel himself again. The two weeks had found him a
constant and persistent visitor at Miss Garrison’s home, but he was
compelled to admit that he had made no progress in his crusade
against her heart. She baffled him at every turn, and he was
beginning to lose his confident hopes. At no time during their
tete-a-tetes, their walks, their drives, their visits to the art
galleries, did she give him the slightest ground for encouragement.
And, to further disturb his sense of contentment, she was
delighted--positively delighted--over the coming of Prince Ugo. For
a week she had talked of little save the day when he was to arrive.
Quentin endured these rapturous assaults nobly, but he was slowly
beginning to realize that they were battering down the only defense
he had--the inward belief that she cared for him in spite of all.

Frequently he met the Duke Laselli at the Garrisons’. He also saw a
great deal of the de Cartiers and Mile. Gaudelet. When, one day, he
boldly intimated to Dorothy that de Cartier was in love with Louise
and she with him, that young lady essayed to look shocked and
displeased, but he was sure he saw a quick gleam of satisfaction in
her eyes. And he was positive the catch in her breath was not so
much of horror as it was of joy. Mrs. Garrison did all in her power
to bring him and the pretty French girl together, and her insistence
amused him.

One day her plans, if she had any, went racing skyward, and she, as
well as all Brussels society, was stunned by the news that de
Cartier had deserted his wife to elope with the fair Gaudelet! When
Quentin laconically, perhaps maliciously, observed that he had long
suspected the nature of their regard for one another, Mrs.
Garrison gave him a withering look and subsided into a chilling
unresponsiveness that boded ill for the perceiving young man. The
inconsiderate transgression of de Cartier and the unkindness of the
Gaudelet upset her plans cruelly, and she found that she had wasted
time irreparably in trying to bring the meddling American to the feet
of the French woman. Quentin revelled in her discomfiture, and Dorothy
in secret enjoyed the unexpected turn of affairs.

She had seen through her mother’s design, and she had known all
along how ineffectual it would prove in the end. Philip puzzled her
and piqued her more than she cared to admit. That she did not care
for him, except as a friend, she was positive, but that he should
persistently betray signs of nothing more than the most ordinary
friendship was far from pleasing to her vanity. The truth is, she
had expected him to go on his knees to her, an event which would
have simplified matters exceedingly. It would have given her the
opportunity to tell him plainly she could be no more than a friend,
and it would have served to alter his course in what she believed to
be a stubborn love chase. But he had disappointed her; he had been
the amusing companion, the ready friend, the same sunny spirit, and
she was perplexed to observe that he gave forth no indication of
hoping or even desiring to be more. She could not, of course, know
that this apparently indifferent young gentleman was wiser, far
wiser, than the rest of his kind. He saw the folly of a rash, hasty
leap in the dark, and bided his time like the cunning general who
from afar sees the hopelessness of an attack against a strong and
watchful adversary, and waits for the inevitable hour when the vigil
is relaxed.

There was no denying the fact that with all his confidence his
colors were sinking, while hers remained as gallantly fluttering as
when the struggle began. He was becoming confused and nervous; a
feeling of impotence began slyly, devilishly to assail him, and he
frequently found himself far out at sea. The strange inactivity of
the prince’s cohorts, the significant friendliness of the duke, the
everlasting fear that a sudden move might catch him unawares began
to tell on his peace of mind. Both he and Turk watched like cats for
the slightest move that might betray the intentions of the foe, but
there was nothing, absolutely nothing. The house in which Courant
found safety was watched, but it gave forth no secrets. The duke’s
every movement appeared to be as open, as fair, as unsuspicious as
man’s could be, and yet there was ever present the feeling that some
day something would snap and a crisis would rush upon them. Late one
afternoon he drove up to the house in Avenue Louise, and when
Dorothy came downstairs for the drive her face was beaming.

“Ugo comes to-morrow,” she said, as they crossed to the carriage.

“Which means that I am to be relegated to the dark,” he said,
dolefully.

“Oh, no! Ugo likes you and I like you, you know. Why, are we not to
be the same good friends as now?” she asked, suddenly, with a pretty
show of surprise.

“Oh, I suppose so,” he said, looking straight ahead. They were
driving rapidly toward the Bois de la Cambre. “But, of course, I’ll
not rob the prince of moments that belong to him by right of
conquest. You may expect to see me driving disconsolately along the
avenue--alone.”

“Mr. Savage will be here,” she said, sweetly, enjoying his first
show of misery.

“But he’s in love, and he’ll not be thinking of me. I’m the only one
in all Christendom, it seems to me, who is not in love with
somebody, and it’s an awful hardship.”

“You will fall really in love some day, never fear,” she
volunteered, after a somewhat convulsive twist of the head in his
direction.

“Unquestionably,” he said, “and I shall be just as happy and as
foolish as the rest of you, I presume.”

“I should enjoy seeing you really and truly in love with some girl.
It would be so entertaining.”

“A perfect comedy, I am sure. I must say, however, that I’d feel
sorry for the girl I loved if she didn’t happen to love me.”

“And why, pray?”

“Because,” he said, turning abruptly and looking straight into her
eyes, “she’d have the trouble and distinction of surrendering in the
end.”

“You vain, conceited thing!” she exclaimed, a trifle disconcerted.
“You overestimate your power.”

“Do you think I overestimate it?” he demanded, quickly.

“I don t--don’t know. How should I know?” she cried, in complete
rout. In deep chagrin she realized that he had driven her sharply
into unaccountable confusion, and that her wits were scattering
hopelessly at the very moment when she needed them most.

“Then why do you say I overestimate it?” he asked, relentlessly.

“Because you do,” she exclaimed, at bay.

“Are you a competent judge?”

“What do you mean?” she asked, grasping for time.

“I mean, have you the right to question my power, as you call it?
Have I attempted to exert it over you?”

“You are talking nonsense, Phil,” she said, spiritedly.

“I said I’d feel sorry for the girl if she didn’t happen to love me,
you know. Well, I couldn’t force her to love me if she didn’t love
me, could I?”

“Certainly not. That is what I meant,” she cried, immensely
relieved.

“But my point is that she might love me without knowing it and would
simply have to be brought to the realization.”

“Oh,” she said, “that is different.”

“You take back what you said, then?” he asked, maliciously.

“If she loved you and did not know it, she’d be a fool and you could
exert any kind of power over her. You see, we didn’t quite
understand each other, did we?”

“That is for you to say,” he said, smiling significantly. “I think I
understand perfectly.”

By this time they were opposite the Rue Lesbroussart, and he drove
toward the Place Ste. Croix. As they made the turn she gave a start
and peered excitedly up the Avenue Louise, first in front of her
companion, then behind.

“Oh, Phil, there is Ugo!” she cried, clasping his arm. “See! In the
trap, coming toward us.” He looked quickly, but the trees and houses
now hid the other trap from view.

“Are you sure it is he?”

“Oh, I am positive. He has come to surprise me. Is there no way we
can reach the house first? By the rear--anyway,” she cried,
excitedly. Her face was flushed, and her eyes were sparkling.

“Was he alone?” asked he, his jaw setting suddenly.

“That has nothing to do with it. We must hurry home. Turn back,
Phil; we may be able to overtake him on the avenue.”

“I wanted to take you to the Park, Dorothy.”

“Well?”

“That’s all,” he went on, calmly. “The prince can leave his card and
call later in the--well, this evening.”

“What--you don’t mean--Philip Quentin, take me home instantly,” she
blazed.

“Not for all the princes in the universe,” he said. “This is my
afternoon, and I will not give up a minute of it.”

“But I command, sir!”

“And I refuse to obey.”

“Oh--oh, this is outrageous----” she began, frantically.

Suddenly his gloved left hand dropped from the reins and closed over
one of hers. The feverish clasp and the command in his eyes
compelled her to look up into his face quickly. There she saw the
look she feared, admired, deserved.

“There was a time when you wanted to be with me and with no other. I
have not forgotten those days, nor have you. They were the sweetest
days of your life and of mine. It is no age since I held this hand
in mine, and you would have gone to the end of the world with me. It
is no age since you kissed me and called me a king. It is no age
since you looked into my eyes with an expression far different from
the one you now have. You remember, you remember, Dorothy.”

She was too surprised to answer, too overcome by the suddenness of
his assault to resist. The power she had undertaken to estimate was
in his eyes, strong, plain, relentless.

“And because you remember I can see the hardness going from your
eyes, the tenderness replacing it. The flush in your cheek is not so
much of anger as it was, your heart is not beating in rebellion as
it was, and all because you cannot forget--you will not forget.”

“This is madness,” she cried, shivering as with a mighty chill.

“Madness it may be, Dorothy, but--well, because we have not
forgotten the days when we were sweethearts, I am claiming this day
of you and you must give it to me for the same reason. You must say
to me that you give it willingly,” he half whispered, intensely. She
could only look helplessly into his eyes.

From the rumble Turk saw nothing, neither did he hear.



XIII. SOME UGLY LOOKING MEN


Prince Ugo Ravorelli was not, that day, the only one whose coming to
Brussels was of interest to Quentin. Dickey Savage came in from
Ostend and was waiting at the Bellevue when he walked in soon after
six o’clock. Mr. Savage found a warm welcome from the tall young man
who had boldly confiscated several hours that belonged properly to
the noble bridegroom, and it was not long until, dinner over, he was
lolling back in a chair in Quentin’s room, his feet cocked on the
window sill, listening with a fair and increasing show of interest
to the confidences his friend was pouring forth.

“So you deliberately drove off and left the prince, eh? And she
didn’t sulk or call you a nasty, horrid beast? I don’t know what the
devil you want me here for if you’ve got such a start as that. Seems
to me I’ll be in the way, more or less,” said Dickey, when the story
reached a point where, to him, finis was the only appropriate word.

“That’s the deuce of it, Dickey. I can’t say that I’ve got a safe
start at all, even with her, and I’ve certainly got some distance to
go before I can put the prince out of the running. You may think
this is a nice, easy, straightaway race, but it isn’t. It’s going to
be a steeplechase, and I don’t know the course. I’m looking for a
wide ditch at any turn, and I may get a nasty fall. You see, I’ve
some chance of getting my neck broken before I get to the stretch.”

“And some noted genius will be grinding out that Lohengrin two-step
just about the time you get within hearing distance, too. You won’t
be two-stepping down the aisle at St. Gudule, but you’ll agree that
it’s a very pretty party. That will be all, my boy--really all. I
don’t want to discourage you and I’m willing to stay by you till
that well-known place freezes over, but I think an ocean voyage
would be very good for you if you can arrange to start to-morrow.”

“If you’re going into this thing with that sort of spirit, you’ll be
a dead weight and I’ll be left at the post,” said Quentin, ruefully.

“Was the prince at the house when you returned from the drive?”

“No; and Mrs. Garrison almost glared a hole through me. There were
icicles on every word when she told poor Dorothy he had been there
and would return this evening.”

“Was she satisfied to finish the drive with you after she had seen
the prince?” Quentin had not told him of the conversation which
followed her demand to be taken home.

“She was very sensible about it,” he admitted, carefully. “You see,
she had an engagement with me, and as a lady she could not well
break it. We got along very nicely, all things considered, but I’m
afraid she won’t go out again with me.”

“She won’t slam the door in your face if you go to the house, will
she?”

“Hardly,” said the other, smiling. “She has asked me to come. The
prince likes me, it seems.”

“But he likes to be alone with her, I should say. Well, don’t
interfere when he is there. My boy, give him a chance,” said Dickey,
with a twinkle.

The duke headed off the two Americans as they left the hotel half an
hour later. He was evidently watching for them, and his purpose was
clear. It was his duty to prevent Quentin from going to the Garrison
home, if possible. After shaking hands with Savage, the little man
suggested a visit to a dance house in the lower end, promising an
evening of rare sport. He and Count Sallaconi, who came up from
Paris with the prince, had planned a little excursion into unusual
haunts, and he hoped the Americans had a few dull hours that needed
brightening. Phil savagely admitted to himself that he anticipated a
good many dull hours, but they could not be banished by the
vulgarity of a dance hall. The long, bony, fierce-mustached count
came up at this moment and joined in imploring the young men to go
with them to the “gayest place in all Brussels.”

“Let’s go, Phil, just to see how much worse our New York places are
than theirs,” said Dickey.

“But I have a--er--sort of an engagement,” remonstrated Quentin,
reluctantly. The duke gave him a sharp look.

“Do not be afraid,” he said, laughing easily. “We will not permit
the dancing girls to harm you.”

“He’s not afraid of girls,” interposed Dickey. “Girls are his long
suit. You didn’t tell me you had an engagement?” Quentin gave him a
withering look.

“I have one, just the same,” he said, harshly.

“You will not accompany us, then?” said the count, the line between
his eyebrows growing deeper.

“I have to thank you, gentlemen, and to plead a previous engagement.
May we not go some other night?”

“I am afraid we shall not again be in the same mood for pleasure,”
 said the duke, shifting his eyes nervously. “The count and I have
but little time to give to frivolity. We are disappointed that you
will not join us on this one night of frolic.”

“I regret it exceedingly, but if you knew what I have to do to-night
you would not insist,” said Phil, purposely throwing a cloak of
mystery about his intentions for the mere satisfaction of arousing
their curiosity.

“Very well, mes Americains; we will not implore you longer,”
 responded the count, carelessly. “May your evening be as pleasant as
ours.” The two Italians bowed deeply, linked arms and strolled away.

“Say, those fellows know you haven’t an engagement,” exclaimed
Savage, wrathfully. “What sort of an ass are you?”

“See here, Dickey, you’ve still got something to learn in this
world. Don’t imagine you know everything. You don’t, you know. Do
you think I am going to walk into one of their traps with my eyes
open?”

“Traps? You don’t mean to say this dance hall business is a trap?”
 exclaimed Dickey, his eyes opening wide with an interest entirely
foreign to his placid nature.

“I don’t know, and that’s why I am keeping out of it. Now, let’s
take our walk, a nice cool drink or two and go to bed where we can
dream about what might have happened to us at the dance hall.”

“Where does she live?” asked Savage, as they left the rotunda.

“Avenue Louise,” was the laconic answer.

“Why don’t you say Belgium or Europe, if you’re bound to be
explicit,” growled Dickey.

A dapper-looking young man came from the hotel a few paces behind
them and followed, swinging his light cane leisurely. Across the
place, in the shadow of a tall building, the two Italian noblemen
saw the Americans depart, noting the direction they took. It was
toward the Avenue Louise. A smile of satisfaction came to their
faces when the dapper stranger made his appearance. A few moments
later they were speeding in a cab toward the avenue.

“That is her house,” said Phil, later on, as the two strolled slowly
down the Avenue Louise. They were across the street from the
Garrison home, and the shadowy-trees hid them. The tall lover knew,
however, that the Italian was with her and that his willfulness of
the afternoon had availed him naught. Nor could he recall a single
atom of hope and encouragement his bold act had produced other than
the simple fact that she had submitted as gracefully as possible to
the inevitable and had made the best of it.

“Ugo has the center of the stage, and everybody else is in the
orchestra, playing fiddles of secondary importance, while Miss
Dorothy is the lone and only audience,” reflected Dickey.

“I wish you’d confine your miserable speculations to the weather,
Dickey,” said the other, testily.

“With pleasure. To-morrow will be a delightful day for a drive or a
stroll. You and I, having nothing else to do, can take an all-day
drive into the country and get acquainted with the Belgian birds and
bees--and the hares, too.”

“Don’t be an ass! What sort of a game do you think those Italians
were up to this evening? I’m as nervous as the devil. It’s time for
the game to come to a head, and we may as well expect something
sudden.”

“I think it depends on the prince. If he finds that you haven’t torn
down his fences while you had full sway, he’ll not be obliged to go
on with the game. He was merely protecting interests that absence
endangered. Now that he’s here, and if all is smooth and
undisturbed--or, in other words, if you have failed in your
merciless design to put a few permanent and unhealable dents in the
fair lady’s heart--he will certainly discharge his cohorts and enjoy
very smooth seas for the rest of the trip. If you have disfigured
her tender heart by trying to break into it, as a safe-blower gets
into those large, steel things we call safety deposit vaults--where
other men keep things they don’t care to lose--I must say that his
satanic majesty will be to pay. Do you think you have made any
perceptible dents, or do you think the safe is as strong and as
impregnable as it was when you began using chisels and dynamite on
it six weeks ago?”

“I can’t say that I enjoy the simile, but I’m conceited enough to
think it is not as free from dents as it was when I began. I’m not
quite sure about it, but I believe with a little more time and
security against interference I might have--er--have--‘’

“Got away with the swag, as Turk would say. Well, it’s this way. If
the prince investigates and finds that you were frightened away just
in time to prevent wholesale looting, you’ll have to do some expert
dodging to escape the consequences of the crime. He’ll have the duke
and the count and a few others do nothing but get up surprise
parties for you.”

“That’s it, Dickey. That’s what I’m afraid of--the surprise
parties. He’s afraid of me, or he wouldn’t have gone to the trouble
of having me watched. They’ve got something brewing or they wouldn’t
have been so quiet for the past two weeks. Courant is gone and--”

“How do you know Courant isn’t here?”

“Turk says he has disappeared.”

“Turk doesn’t know everything. That fellow may have a score of
disguises. These French detectives are great on false whiskers and
dramatic possibilities. The chances are that he has been watching
you night and day, and I’ll bet my head, if he has, he’s been able
to tell Ugo more about your affair with Miss Garrison than you know
yourself, my boy.”

They turned to retrace their steps, Phil gloomily surveying the big,
partially-lighted house across the way. A man met them and made room
for them to pass on the narrow walk. He was a jaunty, well-dressed
young fellow and the others would have observed nothing peculiar
about him had they not caught him looking intently toward the house
which was of such interest to them. As he passed them he peered
closely at their faces and so strange was his manner that both
involuntarily turned their heads to look after him. As is usually
the case, he also turned to look at them.

“I saw that fello\v in the hotel,” said Savage.

Five minutes later they met Turk and, before they could utter a word
of protest, he was leading them into the Rue du Prince Royal.

“There’s a guy follerin’ you,” he explained. “An’ th’ two swells is
drivin’ aroun’ in a cab like as if they wuz expectin’ fun. They just
passed you on th’ avenoo, an’ now they’s comin’ back. That’s their
rig--cuttin’ across there. See? I tell you, they’s somethin’ in the
air, an’ it looks as though it ain’t goin’ to pan out as they wanted
it to.”

“What’s the matter with you? The duke and the count went to a dance
hall,” expostulated Quentin.

“To make a night of it,” added Savage

“Didn’t you see a nice lookin’ feller up there in th’ avenoo, an’
didn’t he size you up purty close? That’s him--that’s Courant, th’
fly cop. Git inside this doorway an’ you’ll see him pass yere in a
couple of seconds. He’s not a block behind us.”

Sure enough the dapper stranger passed by the three men in shadow,
looking uneasily, nervously up and across the street.

“He’s lost th’ trail,” whispered Turk, after Courant was beyond
hearing.

“The same fellow, I’ll be blowed,” said Dickey, in amazement. “Now,
what do you suppose the game is?”

“My idea is that w’en you turned ‘em down on th’ dance hall job they
was afraid you’d go to th’ young lady’s house and cut in on th’
prince’s cinch, so they had to git a move on to head you off. You
was wise w’en you kicked out of th’ dance hall racket. Th’ chances
are you’d ‘a’ got into all kinds o’ hell if you’d fell into th’
trap. Say, I’m dead sure o’ one er two t’ings. In th’ first place,
they’ve got four or five more ringers than we know about. I seen
Courant talkin’ mighty secret-like to two waiters in th’ hall this
evenin, an’ th’ driver o’ that cab o’ theirn was a baggage hustler
at th’ Bellyvoo as late as yesterday.”

“By thunder, I believe their game was to mix us up in a big
free-for-all fight when they got us into that dance dive. That shows
Dickey, how wise I was to decline the invitation,” said Quentin,
seriously. By this time they were some distance behind Turk,
following in the path of the puzzled detective. They saw him look
curiously at the lighted windows of the houses, and overtook him at
the intersection of the Boulevard Waterloo. Just as they came up
from behind, Courant stopped for an instant’s conversation with two
men. Their talk was brief and the trio turned to go back over the
path just traversed by Courant The two sets of men met fairly and
were compelled to make room for each other to pass. Courant came to
a full stop involuntarily, but recovered himself and followed his
friends quickly.

“The plot thickens,” observed Phil. “It looks as though they are
rounding up their forces after the miscarriage of the original plan.
Gad, they are hunting us down like rats to-night.”

“The hotel is the safest place for us, and the quicker we get there
the better,” said Dickey. “I’m not armed, are you?”

“Of course not. I hadn’t thought of such a thing, but from now on
I’ll carry a revolver. Those fellows didn’t look especially dainty,
did they?”

“I can’t believe that they intend to murder you or anything like
that. They wouldn’t dare do such a thing.”

“That’s th’ game, Mr. Savage; I’m dead sure of it. This was th’
night an’ it was to ha’ been done in th’ dance hall, riot, stampede,
everybody fightin’ wild an’ then a jab in th’ back. Nobody any th’
wiser, see?” The two paled a trifle under Turk’s blunt way of
putting it.

When they entered the hotel a short time later the first man they
saw was Prince Ugo. With his dark eyes glowing, his lips parted in a
fine smile, he came to meet them, his hand extended heartily.

“I have asked for you, gentlemen, and you were out. You return just
as I am ready to give up in despair. And now, let me say how happy I
am to see you,” he said, warmly. The Americans shook hands with him,
confusion filling their brains. Why was he not with the Garrisons?

“I knew you were here, Prince Ugo, and would have inquired for you
but that I suspected you would be closely engaged,” said Quentin,
after a moment.

“Earlier in the evening I was engaged, but I am here now as the
bearer of a message to you, Mr. Quentin. Miss Garrison has asked me
to deliver into your hands this missive.” With that he drew from his
pocket a sealed envelope and passed it to Quentin. “I was commanded
to give it you to-night, so perhaps you will read it now.”

“Thank you,” muttered the other, nervously tearing open the envelope
as the prince turned to Dickey Savage. At that moment the duke and
the count strolled into the rotunda, jauntily, easily, as if they
had been no farther than the block just beyond, instead of racing
about in a bounding cab. They approached the group as Phil turned
away to read the note which had come so strangely into his hands.
Dorothy wrote:

“Dear Phil: I trust you to say nothing to Prince Ugo. I mean, do not
intimate that I saw him yesterday when I went to drive with you. He
would consider it an affront. I know it is not necessary to caution
you, but I feel safe in doing so. You will pardon me, I am sure. My
conduct, as well as yours, when we look at it calmly in an
afterlight, was quite extraordinary. So fully do I trust him and so
well does he love me that I know this note comes to you inviolate.

“D.”

Phil’s brain was in a whirl. He glanced at the handsome face of
Dorothy’s noble lover and then at his swarthy fellow countrymen.
Could they be plotters? Could he be hand-in-hand with those
evil-looking men? He had delivered the note, and yet he so feared
its recipient that he was employing questionable means to dispose of
him. There could be no doubt as to the genuineness of the note. It
was from Dorothy, and the prince had borne it to him direct from her
hand.

“An invitation to dinner?” asked the prince, laughing easily. “Miss
Garrison is alarmingly fond of Mr. Quentin, and I begin to feel the
first symptoms of jealousy. Pardon me, I should not speak of her
here, even in jest.” So sincere was his manner that the Americans
felt a strange respect for him. The same thought flashed through the
minds of both: “He is not a blackguard, whatever else he may be.”
 But up again came the swift thought of Courant and his ugly
companions, and the indisputable evidence that the first named, at
least, was a paid agent of the man who stood before them, now the
prince, once the singer in far away Brazil.

“The mention of dinner recalls me to affairs of my own,” continued
Ugo. “To-morrow night I expect a few friends here to dine, and I
have the honor to ask you all to be among my guests. We shall sit
down at nine o’clock, and I only exact a promise that the end may
come within a week thereafter.”

The Americans could do naught but accept, but there was an
oppressive sense of misgiving in their hearts. Mayhap the signal
failure to carry out the plans of one night was leading swiftly and
resolutely up to the success of another. For more than an hour
Quentin and his friend sat silently, soberly in the former’s room,
voicing only after long intervals the opinions and conjectures their
puzzled minds begot, only to sink back into fresh fields for
thought.

“I can’t understand it,” said Dickey, at last, starting to bed.

“I believe I understand it perfectly. They are on a new tack. It
occurs to me that they fear we suspect something and the dinner is a
sort of peace offering.”

“We may be getting into a nest of masculine Lucretia Borgias, my
boy.”

“Pleasant dreams, then. Good-night!”



XIV. A DINNER AND A DUEL


At nine o’clock the next evening Quentin and Savage found themselves
in the rooms occupied by the prince, the former experiencing a
distinct sense of wariness and caution.

If Quentin suspected some form of treachery at the outset, he was
soon obliged to ridicule his fears. There were nearly a score of men
there, and a single glance revealed to him the gratifying fact that
no treachery could be practiced in such an assemblage. Among their
fellow guests there was an English lord, an Austrian duke, a Russian
prince, a German baron, besides others from France, Belgium and
Germany.

Prince Ugo greeted them warmly, and they were at their ease in an
instant under the magnetism of his manner. Duke Laselli and Count
Diego were more profuse in their greetings to the young men, and it
devolved upon the latter to introduce them to the distinguished
strangers. There was but one other American there, a millionaire
whose name is a household word in the states and whose money was at
that time just beginning to assert itself as a menace to the great
commercial interests of the old world. He welcomed his fellow New
Yorkers with no small show of delight. The expression of relief on
his face plainly exposed a previous fear that he was unspeakably
alone in this assemblage of continental aristocrats.

At the table, Quentin sat between an Austrian duke and a German
named Von Kragg. He was but two seats removed from Prince Ugo, while
Savage was on the other side of the table, almost opposite Quentin.
On Dickey’s right sat the Duke Laselli, and next to that individual
was the American millionaire. Directly across the broad table from
Quentin was the tall rakish-looking Count Diego Sallaconi.

“Ob, nobde gap sansan wobble wibble raggle dully pang rubby dub,
bob,” said the baron, in his best French, addressing the statuesque
American with the broad shoulders and the intense countenance.

“With all my heart,” responded Mr. Quentin, with rare composure and
equal confidence. He had no more conception of what the baron
intended to say than he would have had if the planet Mars had
wigwagged a signal to him, but he was polite enough to do anything
for the sake of conversation. The baron smiled gladly, even
approvingly; it was plain that he understood Phil’s English fully as
well as that gentleman understood his French. Quentin heard his name
uttered by Prince Ugo and turned from the baron.

“Mr. Quentin, Prince Kapolski tells me he saw our friends, the
Saxondales, in London last week. They were preparing to go to their
place in the country. You have been there, have you not?” Prince Ugo
turned his gleaming eyes and engaging smile upon the man addressed.

“On several occasions,” responded the other. “Saxondale is a famous
hunter and he gave me some rare sport. When do they leave London?”
 he asked, indifferently.

“They were to have started this week,” said the Russian prince,
“and there is to be quite a large party, I hear. A young American
who was with them was called away suddenly last week, and, as the
trip was arranged for his special amusement--by the Lady Jane, I was
told--his departure upset the plans a trifle.” Quentin and Savage,
who had heard the remarks glanced at one another in surprise.

“I should enjoy being with them,” said the former, warmly. “My
friend, Mr. Savage, was invited, I think,” he added, and Dickey
studiously consulted the salad. He had not been invited and the
announcement that the Saxondales were off for the north of England
was news to him.

“Oh, certainly,” exclaimed Ugo; “he was their guest. And the Lady
Jane arranged it, you say, Kapolski? Draft horses could not have
been strong enough to pull me away from London had she planned for
my pleasure. You must discover the fault in him, my dear Quentin,
and hold him to account for a very reprehensible act.” Ugo knew that
Dickey was listening, and the first point in a beautiful game was
scored.

“Mr. Savage does not care for shooting,” said Phil, flushing
slightly. The Russian prince had been looking at him intently; a
peculiar flash came into his eye when Quentin made the defensive
remark.

“But there is game to be had without resorting to the gun,” he said,
smiling blandly.

“One doesn’t have to go to a shooting box to bag it, though,” said
Sallaconi, mischievously.

“I think the hunter uses bow and arrow exclusively,” added Ugo, and
there was a general laugh, which sent a streak of red up Dickey’s
cheeks. If the Russian’s news was true he had been purposely
slighted by the Saxondales. And yet it was not altogether
humiliation or wounded pride that brought the red to his cheek. He
and the Lady Jane had quarrelled just before he left her, and while
he hated her and she hated him and all that, still he did not care
to hear her name bandied about by the wine sippers at this
delectable table.

“What are they talking about?” asked the American millionaire of
Dickey, his curiosity aroused by the laughter of a moment before.

“About as nasty as they can,” growled Dickey. “That’s their style,
you know.”

“Whew! You don’t have much of an opinion of nobility. Beware of the
prince,” said the other, in a low tone.

“You couldn’t insult some of them with a deliberate and well-aimed
kick,” remarked the younger man, sourly. The Duke Laselli’s ears
turned a shade pinker under his oily, swarthy skin, for the words
penetrated them in spite of the speaker’s caution.

“A toast,” said the Russian prince, arising from his seat beside
Ravorelli. The guests arose and glasses almost met in a long line
above the center of the table. Ugo alone remained seated as if
divining that they were to drink to him. For the first time Quentin
closely observed the Russian. He was tall and of a powerful frame,
middle-aged and the possessor of a strong, handsome face on which
years of dissipation had left few weakening marks. His eyes were
narrow and as blue as the sky, his hair light and bushy, his beard
coarse and suggestive of the fierceness of the wild boar. His voice
was clear and cutting, and his French almost perfect. “We drink to
the undying happiness of our host, the luckiest prince in all the
world. May he always know the bliss of a lover and never the cares
of a husband; may his wedded state be an endless love story without
a prosaic passage; may life with the new Princess of Ravorelli be a
poem, a song, a jub late, with never a dirge between its morn and
its midnight.”

“And a long life to him,” added Quentin, clearly. As they drank the
eyes of Prince Ugo were upon the last speaker, and there was a
puzzled expression in them. Count Sallaconi’s black eyebrows shot up
at the outer ends and a curious grimness fastened itself about his
mouth and nose.

“I thank you, gentlemen,” responded Ugo, arising. “Will you divide
the toast with me in proposing the happiness of the one who is to
bring all these good things into my life?” The half-emptied glasses
were drained. Dickey Savage’s eyes met Quentin’s in a long look of
perplexity. At last an almost imperceptible twinkle, suggestive of
either mirth or skepticism, manifested itself in his friend’s eyes
and the puzzled observer was satisfied.

When, in the end, the diners pushed their chairs back from the table
and passed into another room, it was far past midnight, and the real
revelry of the night was at hand. Reckless, voluptuous women from
the vaudeville houses and dance halls appeared, and for hours the
wine-soaked scions of nobility reeked in those exhibitions which
shock the sensibilities of true men. Four men there were who tried
to conceal their disgust while the others roared out the applause of
degenerates.

“I am not a saint, but this is more than I can stand. It is
sickening,” said Quentin.

“And these miserable specimens of European manhood delight in it,”
 said Savage, his face aflame with shame and disgust. “It is too vile
for a man who has a breath of manhood in him to encourage, and yet
these bounders go crazy with rapture. Gad, don’t ask what kind of
women they are. Ask how it is the world has ever called these
fellows men.”

“Did I understand you correctly, sir?” asked a cold voice at his
side, and Dickey turned to look into the flaming eyes of Prince
Kapolski. Count Sallaconi was clutching the left arm of the big
Russian, and there was a look of dismay in his face. He flashed a
glance of fierce disappointment at Quentin, and then one of
helplessness across the room at Prince Ugo.

“If you understand English you probably did,” said Dickey, pale but
defiant.

“Come, prince,” began the agitated count, but Kapolski shook him
off.

“You must apologize for your comments, sir,” said the prince, in
excellent English.

“I can’t apologize, you know. I meant what I said,” said Dickey,
drawing himself up to the limit of his five feet ten. The Russian’s
open hand came violently in contact with the young fellow’s cheek,
driving the tears to the surface of his eyes They were tears of
anger, pain and mortification, not of submission or fear.

His clenched right hand shot outward and upward, and before the
Russian knew what had happened a crashing blow caught him full in
the jaw, and he would have gone sprawling to the floor had not Diego
Sallaconi caught him in his arms. Quentin grasped Dickey and pulled
him away, while others rushed in and held the roaring, sputtering
victim.

All was confusion and excitement in an instant. Quentin and the
millionaire drew their lithe countryman away from the gathering
crowd, one cheek white as a sheet, the other a bright pink, and Phil
hoarsely whispered to him:

“I don’t know what we’re in for, Dickey, so for heaven’s sake let’s
get out of here. We don’t want any more of it. You gave him a good
punch and that’s enough.”

“You broke up the show all right enough,” exclaimed the millionaire,
excitedly. “The fairies ran over each other trying to get out of the
room. You’re as game as a fighting cock, too.”

“Let me alone, Phil!” panted Dickey. “You don’t suppose I’m going to
run from that big duffer, do you? Let go!”

“Don’t be a fool, Dickey,” said his friend, earnestly. Just then a
pale-faced, sickly-looking waiter came up from behind and hoarsely
whispered in Quentin’s ear:

“Get out, quick! The big prince made a mistake. He was to have
quarrelled with you, Monsieur.” He was gone before he could be
questioned.

“See!” exclaimed Dickey. “It was a job, after all, and the dago is
at the bottom of it!”

“Sh! Here he comes with the Russian and the whole pack behind them.
It’s too late; we can’t run now,” said Phil, despairingly. As Ugo
and Kapolski crossed the room, the former, whose face was white with
suppressed passion, hissed under his breath into the ear of the
raging Russian:

“You fool, it was the other one--the tall one! You have quarrelled
with the wrong man. The big one is Quentin, Kapolski. How could you
have made such a mistake?”

“Mistake or no mistake, he has struck me, and he shall pay for it.
The other can come later,” growled the Russian, savagely.

“Gentlemen, this is no place to fight. Let us have explanations--”
 began Ugo, addressing Quentin more than Savage, but the latter
interrupted:

“Call off your dogs and we will talk it over,” he said.

“Dickey!” cautioned his friend.

“I do not understand you, Mr. Savage. My dogs? Oh, I see, Mr.
Quentin; he is mad with anger,” said the prince, deprecatingly.

“There can be no explanations,” snarled Kapolski. “My card,
Monsieur,” and he threw the pasteboard in the young American’s face.

“Damn your impudence,” exploded Quentin, now ready to take the fight
off the hands of the one on whom it had been forced through error.
“You ought to be kicked downstairs for that.”

“You will have that to recall, Monsieur, but not until after I have
disposed of your valiant friend,” exclaimed Kapolski.

“We are not in the habit of waiting for a chance to dispose of such
affairs,” said Quentin, coolly. “We fight when we have a cause and
on the spot.”

“Do you expect civilized men to carry arms into drawing-rooms?”
 sneered Kapolski. Ugo’s face was lighting up with pleasure and
satisfaction and Sallaconi was breathing easier.

“I’m speaking of hands, not arms,” said Phil, glaring at the other.

“I’ll fight him in a second,” cried Dickey.

“Gentlemen, gentlemen! Be calm! Let this affair be arranged by your
seconds and in the regular manner,” expostulated Ugo. “This is very
unusual, and I must beg of you to remember that you are in my
rooms.”

“That is the rub, Prince Ravorelli. It has happened in your rooms,
and I want to say to you that if evil befalls my friend, I shall
hold you to account for it,” said Quentin, turning on him suddenly.

“What do you mean, sir?”

“You know what I mean. I can and am ready to fight my own battles.”

“This outrageous brawl is none of my affair, Mr. Quentin, and I do
not like your threat. You and I should do all in our power to
prevent it from going farther. Your friend was too free with his
words, I am told. If he did not like my entertainment, he should
have left the room.”

“Well, I didn’t like it, if you want to know,” said Dickey. “And I
don’t care a continental who heard what I said.”

“Does he still want to fight with his hands?” demanded Kapolski, now
cool and ironical. There was an infuriating attempt on his part to
speak as if he were addressing a small, pouting child.

“Anything--anything! The only point is, you’ll have to fight
to-night--right now. I’ve two or three friends here who’ll see that
I get fair play.” said Dickey, discretion flying to the wind.

“You shall fight and here!” exclaimed the Russian. “But you shall
fight like a gentleman for once in your life. I will not claw and
scratch with you, like the women do, but with any weapon you name.”

Dickey’s valor did not fade, but his discretion came to the surface
with a suddenness that took his breath away. He turned to speak to
Quentin and the millionaire. Phil’s face was deathly white, and
there was a pleading look in his eyes. The millionaire was trembling
like a leaf.

“I guess I’ll take pistols,” said Dickey, slowly. “I can’t hit the
side of a barn, but he can’t bluff me, damn him.”

“Great Scott, Dickey! Don’t do it, don’t do it!” whispered Quentin.
“This is my fight, you know it is, and I won’t let you--”

“You can’t help it, old boy. He’ll probably get me, but I may be
lucky enough to have a bullet land in him. My only chance is to aim
anywhere but at him, shut my eyes, and trust to luck.” Then turning
to Kapolski he said, deliberately: “Pistols, and here, if the prince
does not object.”

“Cannot this affair be postponed--” began Ugo, desperately.

“Not unless your friend forgets that I punched his head. It is now
or never with me,” said Dickey.

“I insist that it is my right to fight this man!” exclaimed Quentin,
standing forth. “I first expressed the opinion which Mr. Savage
merely echoed and to which Prince Kapolski took exception.”

“But you did not strike me. In any event, you shall come next, Mr.
Quentin; I shall take you on immediately after I have disposed of
your cockadoodle friend,” said Kapolski, throwing aside his coat.
“You have pistols here, Prince Ravorelli?”

“This is murder,” cried the millionaire, “and I shall take it before
the United States government.”

“Dickey! Dickey!” cried Phil, helplessly, as Savage began to remove
his coat.

“I have weapons, if you insist, gentlemen,” said Ugo. At his words
intense excitement prevailed, for now there could be no doubt as to
the result of the quarrel. Count Sallaconi hurried away for the
pistols, smiling significantly as he passed his prince. His smile
said that Kapolski would kill two men that night.

“For God’s sake, Dickey, be careful, if you must fight. Take
deliberate aim and don’t lose your nerve,” cried Quentin, grasping
him by the arms. “You are as cold as ice.”

“I haven’t fired a pistol more than a dozen times in my life,” said
Dickey, smiling faintly.

“Then shoot low,” said the millionaire.

“Your second, Monsieur?” said the Austrian duke, coming to Savage’s
side.

“Mr. Quentin will act, Monsieur le Duc. We may need a surgeon.”

“Dr. Gassbeck is here.”

It was hurriedly agreed that the men should stand at opposite ends
of the room, nearly twenty feet apart, back to back. At the word
given by Prince Ugo, they were to turn and fire.

Sallaconi came in with the pistol case and the seconds examined the
weapons carefully. A moment later the room was cleared except for
the adversaries, the seconds, and Prince Ugo.

There was the stillness of death. On the face of the Russian there
was an easy smile, for was not he a noted shot? Had he ever missed
an adversary in a duel? Dickey was pale, but he did not tremble as
he took the pistol in his hand.

“Good-bye, Phil,” was all he said. Poor Quentin turned his face away
as he clasped his hand, and he could only murmur:

“If he hits you, I’ll kill him.”

A moment later the word “fire” came and the two men whirled into
position. Dickey’s arm went up like a flash, the other’s more
cruelly deliberate. Two loud reports followed in quick succession,
the slim American’s nervous finger pressed the trigger first. He had
not taken aim. He had located his man’s position before turning
away, and the whole force of his will was bent on driving the bullet
directly toward the spot he had in mind. Kapolski’s bullet struck
the wall above Dickey’s head, his deadly aim spoiled by the quick,
reckless shot from the other end of the room.

He lunged forward. Dickey’s bullet had blown away part of the big
Russian’s chin and jaw, burying itself in the wall beyond.



XV. APPROACH OF THE CRISIS


Prince Ugo’s face was livid, and his black eyes bulged with
horrified amazement. The unscrupulous, daring, infallible duelist
whom he had induced to try conclusions with Quentin in a regular and
effective way, had been overthrown at the outset by a most peculiar
transaction of fate. He had assured the Russian that Quentin was no
match for him with the weapons common to dueling, and he had led him
to believe that he was in little danger of injury, much less death.
Kapolski, reckless, a despiser of all things American, eagerly
consented to the plan, and Ugo saw a way to rid himself of a
dangerous rival without the taint of suspicion besmirching his
cloak. Sallaconi was an accomplished swordsman, but it would have
been unwise to send him against Quentin. Ugo himself was a splendid
shot and an expert with the blade, and it was not cowardice that
kept him from taking the affair in his own hands. It was wisdom,
cunning wisdom, that urged him to stand aloof and to go up to his
wedding day with no scandal at his back. But the unexpected, the
miraculous had happened. His friend, his brother prince, his
unwitting tool, had gone down like a log, his vaunted skill
surpassed by the marksmanship and courage of an accursed American.

To his credit be it said that he did all in his power to preserve
the life of Prince Kapolski. More than that, he did all that was
possible to keep the story of the encounter from reaching the world.
So powerful, so successful was his influence that the world at large
knew nothing of the fight, the police were bribed, and the
newspapers were thrown completely off the scent.

Ugo’s first thought after the fall of Kapolski was to prevent his
opponent from leaving the room alive, but common sense came to his
relief a second later, and he saw the folly of taking a stand
against the victor. He rushed to Kapolski’s side and helped to
support the moaning man’s body. The surgeon was there an instant
later, and Dickey, as white as a ghost, started mechanically toward
the fallen foe. Ouentin stood like a man of stone, stunned by relief
and surprise. One glance at the bloody, lacerated face and the
rolling eyes caused Savage to flee as if pursued by devils.

For hours Quentin and Turk sought to comfort and to quiet him; the
millionaire, who refused to desert them, sat up all night to manage
the information bureau, as he called it. He personally inquired at
Ugo’s rooms, and always brought back reassuring news, which Quentin
doubted and Dickey utterly disbelieved At four o’clock Prince Ugo
himself, with Duke Laselli, came to Quentin’s rooms with the word
that Kapolski was to be taken to a hospital, and that Dr. Gassbeck
pronounced his chance for recovery excellent. The prince assured Mr.
Savage that secrecy would be preserved, but advised him to leave
Brussels at the earliest possible moment. Kapolski’s death, if it
came, would command an investigation, and it would be better if he
were where the law could not find him.

Quentin with difficulty restrained from openly accusing the prince
of duplicity. Afterthought told him how impotent his accusation
would have been, for how could he prove that the Russian was acting
as an agent?

Just before daylight Turk saw them take Prince Kapolski from the
hotel in an ambulance, and, considering it his duty, promptly
followed in a cab. The destination of the ambulance was the side
street entrance to one of the big hospitals in the upper part of the
town, and the men who accompanied the prince were strangers to the
little observer. Prince Ugo was not of the party, nor were Laselli
and Sallaconi. On his return to the Bellevue he had a fresh task on
his hands. He was obliged to carry a man from Quentin’s apartments
and put him to bed in the millionaire’s room, farther down the hall.
The millionaire--for it was he--slept all day and had a headache
until the thirtieth of the month. Turk put him to bed on the
twenty-seventh.

During the forenoon Prince Ugo and Count Sallaconi called at
Quentin’s rooms. They found that gentleman and Mr. Savage dressed
and ready for the street.

“Good morning,” said Dickey, pleasantly, for the two Americans had
determined to suppress, for diplomatic reasons, any show of
hostility toward the Italians. The visitors may not have exposed
their true feelings, but they were very much astounded and not a
little shocked to find the duelist and his friend in the best of
spirits.

“And how did you sleep?” asked Ugo, after he had expressed his
sorrow over the little unpleasantry of the night before, deploring
the tragic ending to the night of pleasure.

“Like a top,” lied Dickey, cheerfully.

“I was afraid the excitement might have caused you great uneasiness
and--ah--dread,” said the prince. The count was industriously
engaged in piercing with his glittering eyes the tapestry in a far
corner of the room. Mr. Savage possessed the manner of a man who
shoots someone every morning before breakfast.

“Not in the least; did it, Quentin?”

“He slept like a baby.”

“By the way, before I forget it, Prince Ugo, how is the gentleman I
shot last night--ah, what was his name?” asked Dickey, slapping his
leg carelessly with his walking stick.

“Prince Kapolski is in the hospital, and I fear he cannot recover,”
 said the prince. “I came to tell you this that you may act
accordingly and with all the haste possible.”

“O, I don’t know why I should run away. Everybody there will testify
that the fight was forced upon me. You will swear to that, yourself,
Prince Ugo, and so will the count. I had to fight, you know.”

“It seems to me, Mr. Savage, that you were rather eager to fight. I
cannot vouch for your safety if the prince dies,” said Ugo, coolly.

“But he isn’t going to die. I did not shoot to kill and the ball hit
him just where I intended it should--on the chin. He’ll be well in a
couple of weeks. True, he may not feel like eating tough beefsteak
with that jaw for some time, but I knew a fellow once who was able
to eat very comfortably after six weeks. That was as good a shot as
I ever made, Phil,” said Dickey, reflectively.

“I think Buckner’s nose was a cleaner shot. It wasn’t nearly so
disgusting,” said Phil.

“Do you mean to say you are able to hit a man just where you
please?” demanded the count.

“Provided he does not hit me first,” said Mr. Savage. “Gentlemen,
let me order up a quiet little drink. I am afraid the unfortunate
affair of last night has twisted your nerves a bit. It was rather
ghastly, wasn’t it?”

When the four parted company in front of the hotel, a quarter of an
hour later, the two Italians sat down to reflect. They wondered
whether Mr. Savage usually carried a pistol in his pocket, and they
agreed that if he did have one of his own he would be much more
accurate with it than with a strange one, such as he had used the
night before. The two Americans were not jubilant as they strolled
up the street. They had put on a very bold front but they were
saying to themselves that Kapolski’s death would be a very
disastrous calamity. Cold perspiration stood on Dickey’s brow and he
devoutly prayed that his victim would recover.

“I’d feel like a butcher to the last day of my life,” he groaned.

“The big brute got what he deserved, Dickey, but that isn’t going to
relieve us if he should die. Prince Ugo would use it as an excuse to
drive you out of Europe and, of course, I would not desert you. It
was my affair and you were unlucky enough to get into it. There is
one thing that puzzles me. I directly insulted Ravorelli last night.
Why does he not challenge me? He must be positive that I recognize
him as Pavesi and can ruin him with a word. I am told he is a
remarkable shot and swordsman, and I don’t believe he is a coward.”

“Why should he risk his head or his heart if he can induce other men
to fight for him?”

“But it seems that he has traitors in his camp. I wonder who that
waiter was?”

After a long silence Dickey dolefully asked: “Say, do you believe
the Saxondales turned me down on that shooting box party?”

“I can’t believe it. All is well between you and Lady Jane, of
course?”

“As well as it can ever be,” said the other, looking straight ahead,
his jaws set.

“Oho! Is it all off?”

“Is what all off?” belligerently.

“O, if you don’t know, I won’t insist on an answer. I merely
suspected a thickness.”

“That we were getting thick, you mean? You were never more mistaken
in your life. The chances are I’ll never see her again. That’s not
very thick, is it?”

“I saw a letter just now for you, in my box at the hotel. Looked
like a young woman’s chirography, and it was from London--”

“Why the devil didn’t you tell me it was there?” exploded Dickey.

“Does Lady Jane make an R that looks like a streak of lightning with
all sorts of angles?”

“She makes a very fashionable--what do you mean by inspecting my
mail? Are you establishing a censorship?” Dickey was guilty of an
unheard of act--for him. He was blushing.

“My boy, I did not know it was your property until after I had
carefully deciphered every letter in the name. I agree with you; she
writes a very fashionable alphabet. The envelope looked thick, to
say the least. It must contain a huge postscript.”

“Or a collection of all the notes I have written to her. I’ll go
back, if you don’t mind, however. I’m curious to know who it’s
from.”

Dickey went back to read his voluminous letter, and Quentin seated
himself on a bench in the park. A voice from behind brought him
sharply from a long reverie.

“Mr. Quentin, last night, possibly in the heat of excitement, you
inferred that I was in some way accountable for the controversy
which led to the meeting between Prince Kapolski and your friend. I
trust that I misunderstood you.”

Quentin was on his feet and facing Prince Ravorelli before the
remark was fairly begun, and he was thinking with greater rapidity
than he had ever thought before. He was surprised to find Ugo, suave
and polite as ever, deliberately, coolly rushing affairs to a
climax. His sudden decision to abandon the friendly spirit exhibited
but half an hour before was as inexplicable as it was critical. What
fresh inspiration had caused him to alter his position?

“We say many things when we are under stress of excitement,” said
Phil, sparring for time and his wits. Count Sallaconi was standing
deferentially beside the prince. Both gentlemen had their hats in
their hands, and the air was pregnant with chill formality.

“Can you recall my words, Prince Ravorelli?”

“You said that you would hold him to account if your friend--” began
the count, but Quentin turned upon him coolly.

“My quarrel, if there is one, is with the prince, Count Sallaconi.
Will you kindly allow him to jog his own memory?”

“I do not like your tone, Mr. Quentin,” said the count, his eyes
flashingly angrily. Phil’s blood was up. He saw it was useless to
temporize, and there was no necessity for disguising his true
feelings. They had come to the point where all that had lain
smothered and dormant was to be pricked into activity; the mask was
to be thrown down with the gauntlet.

“So much the better; you are not in doubt as to what I meant. Now,
Prince Ravorelli, may I ask you to speak plainly?”

“Your remark of last night was one that I believe I would be
justified in resenting,” said the prince, flicking the ash from his
cigarette, but not taking his burning eyes from Quentin’s face.
There was not a tinge of cowardice in his eyes.

“It is your privilege, sir, and I meant precisely what I said.”

“Then I have to demand of you an apology and a satisfctory
explanation.”

“‘I presume it would be travesty on politeness if I were to ask you
to be seated, so we may stand up to each other and talk it over. In
the first place, I have no apology to make. In the second place, I
cannot give an explanation that would be satisfactory to you. Last
night I said I would hold you to account if Mr. Savage was hurt. He
was not hurt, so I will not carry out my threat, if you choose to
call it such.”

“You enlarge the insult, Mr. Quentin,” said Ugo, with a deadly tone
in his voice.

“You may as well know, Prince Ravorelli, that I have long been
acquainted with the fact that you bear me no good will. Frankly, you
regard me as a man dangerous to your most cherished aspirations, and
you know that I heard Giovanni Pavesi sing in days gone by. You have
not been manly enough to meet me fairly, up to this instant. I am
perfectly well aware that Prince Kapolski was your guest last night
for no other purpose than to bring about an affray in which I was to
have been the victim of his prowess and your cleverness.”

For a moment the two men glared at each other, immovably,
unwaveringly. Prince Ugo’s composure did not suffer the faintest
relaxation under the direct charge of the American.

“My only reply to that assertion is that you lie,” he said, slowly.

“This is a public place, Prince Ugo. I will not knock you down
here.”

“It is not necessary for me to give you my card. Count Sallaconi
will arrange the details with any friend you may name. You shall
give me satisfaction for the aspersion you have cast upon my honor.”
 He was turning away when Quentin stepped quickly in front of him.

“If you mean that you expect me to fight a duel with you, I must say
you are to suffer disappointment. I do not believe in duelling, and
I believe only in killing a man when there is no other alternative.
To deliberately set about to shoot another man down is not our
method of settling an issue. We either murder in cold blood or we
fight it out like men, not like stage heroes.”

“I will add then, sir, that you are a coward.”

“I have been brave enough to refrain from hiring men to do my
fighting. We will fight, Prince Ravorelli, but we will not fight
with weapons made by man. You call me a coward and I call you a
scoundrel. We have hands and arms and with them we shall fight.”

“Count Sallaconi is my second, I do not care to hear another word--”

“If Count Sallaconi comes to me with any ridiculous challenge from
you, I’ll knock him down and kick him across the street. My friend
shot the face off of your poor tool last night. I do not care to
repeat the tragedy. I shall not strike you here and now, because the
act might mean my arrest and detention on no one knows what sort of
a trumped-up charge. You need not bother me with any silly twaddle
about swords and pistols I shall pay no attention to it. Ordinarily
Americans do not delay actual combat. We usually fight it out on the
spot and the best man wins. I will, however, give you the chance to
deliberate over my proposition to settle our differences with our
hands.”

Ravorelli calmly heard him to the end. Then he turned and strode
away, smiling derisively.

“You are the only American coward I have ever seen. I trust you
appreciate, the distinction,” he said, his white teeth showing in
malicious ridicule. “Your friend, the hero of last night, should be
proud of you.”

Quentin watched them until they were lost in the crowd near the
Palace, his brain full of many emotions. As he walked into the hotel
his only thought was of Dorothy and the effect the quarrel would
have on their friendship.

“Which will she choose?” he mused, after narrating to Savage the
episode of the park. For the first time Dickey noticed the pallor in
his face, the despair in his eyes, the wistful lines about his lips.

“There’s only one way to find out, old man,” said he, and he did not
succeed in disguising the hopelessness in his voice.

“Yes, I guess I’m up to the last trench. I’m right where I have to
make the final stand, let the result be what it may,” said the
other, dejectedly.

“Don’t give up, Phil. If you are to win, it will take more courage
than you are showing now. A bold front will do more than anything
else just at this stage. The result depends not entirely on how
eager she is to become a princess, but how much she cares for the
man who cannot make her a princess.”

“There’s the rub. Does she care enough for me?”

“Have you asked her how much she cares?”

“No.”

“Then, don’t ask. Merely go and tell her that you know how much she
cares. Go this afternoon, old man. O, by the way, Lady Jane sends
her love to you, and wants to know if you will come with me to
Ostend to-morrow to meet her and Lady Saxondale.”



XVI. THE COURAGE OF A COWARD


“Tell Mr. Quentin I cannot see him,” was Miss Garrison’s response
when his card was sent to her late that afternoon. The man who
waited nervously in the hall was stunned by this brief, summary
dismissal. If he was hurt, bewildered by the stinging rebuff, his
wounds would have been healed instantly had he seen the sender of
that cruel message. She sat, weak, pale and distressed, before her
escritoire, striving to put her mind and her heart to the note she
was writing to him whose card, by strange coincidence, had just come
up. An hour ago he was in her thoughts so differently and he was in
her heart, how deeply she had not realized, until there came the
crash which shattered the ideal. He was a coward!

Prince Ugo had been out of her presence not more than ten minutes,
leaving her stunned, horrified, crushed by the story he laughingly
told, when Quentin was announced. What she heard from Ugo
overwhelmed her. She had worshiped, unknown to herself, the very
thing in Philip Quentin that had been destroyed almost before her
eyes--his manliness, his courage, his strength. Ugo deliberately
told of the duel in his rooms, of Savage’s heroism in taking up the
battles of his timorous friend, of his own challenge in the morning,
and of Quentin’s abject, cringing refusal to fight. How deliciously
he painted the portrait of the coward without exposing his true
motive in doing so, can only be appreciated when it is said that
Dorothy Garrison came to despise the object of his ridicule.

She forgot his encounter with the porch visitor a fortnight
previous; she forgot that the wound inflicted on that occasion was
scarcely healed; she forgot all but his disgraceful behavior in the
presence of that company of nobles and his cowardice when called to
account by one brave man. And he an American, a man from her own
land, from the side of the world on which, she had boasted, there
lived none but the valorous. This man was the one to whom, a week
ago, she had personally addressed an invitation to the wedding in
St. Gudule--the envelope was doubtless in his pocket now, perhaps
above his heart--and the writing of his name at that time had
brought to her the deadly, sinking realization that he was more to
her than she had thought.

“Tell Miss Garrison that, if it is at all possible, I must see her
at once,” said Quentin to the bearer of the message. He was cold
with apprehension, hot with humiliation.

“Miss Garrison cannot see you,” said the man, returning from his
second visit to the room above. Even the servant spoke with a
curtness that could not be mistaken. It meant dismissal, cold and
decisive, with no explanation, no excuse.

He left the house with his ears burning, his nerves tingling, his
brain whirling. What had caused this astonishing change? Why had she
turned against him so suddenly, so strangely? Prince Ugo! The truth
flashed into his mind with startling force, dispelling all
uncertainty, all doubt. Her lover had forstalled him, had requested
or demanded his banishment and she had acquiesced, with a
heartlessness that was beyond belief. He had been mistaken as to the
extent of her regard for him; he had misjudged the progress of his
wooing; he awoke to the truth that her heart was impregnable and
that he had not so much as approached the citadel of her love.

Dickey was pacing their rooms excitedly when Quentin entered. Turk
stared gloomily from the open window, and there was a sort of
savageness in his silent, sturdy back that bespoke volumes of
restraint.

“Good Lord, Phil, everybody knows you have refused to fight the
prince. The newspaper men have been here and they have tried to pump
me dry. Turk says one of the men downstairs is telling everybody
that you are afraid of Ravorelli. What are we going to do?” He
stopped before the newcomer and there was reproach in his manner.
Quentin dejectedly threw himself into a chair and stared at the
floor in silence.

“Turk!” he called at last. “I want you to carry a note to Miss
Garrison, and I want you to make sure that she reads it. I don’t
know how the devil you are to do it, but you must. Don’t bother me,
Dickey. I don’t care a continental what the fellow downstairs says;
I’ve got something else to think about.” He threw open the lid to
one of his trunks and ruthlessly grabbed up some stationery. In a
minute he was at the table, writing.

“Is Kapolski dead?” asked Dickey.

“I don’t know and don’t care. I’ll explain in a minute. Sit down
somewhere and don’t stare, Dickey--for the Lord’s sake, don’t stare
like a scared baby.” He completed the feverishly written note,
sealed the envelope, and thrust it into Turk’s hands. “Now, get that
note to her, or don’t come back to me. Be quick about it, too.”

Turk was off, full of fresh wonder and the importance of his
mission. Quentin took a few turns up and down the room before he
remembered that he owed some sort of an explanation to his
companion.

“She wouldn’t see me,” he said, briefly.

“What’s the matter? Sick?”

“No explanation. Just wouldn’t see me, that’s all.”

“Which means it’s all off, eh? The prince got there first and spiked
your guns. Well? What have you written to her?”

“That I am going to see her to-night if I have to break into the
house.”

“Bravely done! Good! And you’ll awake in a dungeon cell to-morrow
morning, clubbed to a pulp by the police. You may break into the
house, but it will be just your luck to be unable to break out of
jail in time for the wedding on the 16th. What you need is a
guardian.”

“I’m in no humor for joking, Dickey.”

“It won’t be a joke, my boy. Now, tell me just what you wrote to
her. Gad, I never knew what trouble meant until I struck Brussels.
The hot water here is scalding me to a creamy consistency.”

“I simply said that she had no right to treat me as she did to-day
and that she shall listen to me. I ended the note by saying I would
come to her to-night, and that I would not be driven away until I
had seen her.”

“You can’t see her if she refuses to receive you.”

“But she will see me. She’s fair enough to give me a chance.”

“Do you want me to accompany you?”

“I intend to go alone.”

“You will find Ugo there, you know. It is bound to be rather trying,
Phil. Besides, you are not sure that Turk can deliver the note.”

“I’d like to have Ravorelli hear everything I have to say to her,
and if he’s there he’ll hear a few things he will not relish.”

“And he’ll laugh at you, too.”

An hour later Turk returned. He was grinning broadly as he entered
the room.

“Did you succeed?” demanded Quentin, leaping to his feet. For answer
the little man daintily, gingerly dropped a small envelope into his
hand.

“She says to give th’ note to you an’ to nobody else,” he said,
triumphantly. Quentin hesitated an instant before tearing open the
envelope, the contents of which meant so much to him. As he read,
the gloom lifted from his face and his figure straightened to its
full height. The old light came back to his eyes.

“She says I may come, Dickey. I knew she would,” he exclaimed,
joyously.

“When?”

“At nine to-night.”

“Is that all she says?”

“Well--er--no. She says she will see me for the last time.”

“Not very comforting, I should say.”

“I’ll risk it’s being the last time. I tell you, Savage, I’m
desperate. This damnable game has gone far enough. She’ll know the
truth about the man she’s going to marry. If she wants to marry him
after what I tell her, I’ll--I’ll--well, I’ll give it up, that’s
all.”

“If she believes what you tell her, she won’t care to marry him.”

“She knows I’m not a liar, Dickey, confound you.”

“Possibly; but she is hardly fool enough to break with the prince
unless you produce something more substantial than your own
accusation. Where is your proof?”

This led to an argument that lasted until the time came for him to
go to her home When he left the hotel in a cab he was thoroughly
unstrung, but more determined than ever. As if by magic, there came
to life the forces of the prince. While Ugo sat calmly in his
apartment, his patient agents were dogging the man he feared,
dogging him with the persistence and glee of blood-hounds. Courant
and his hirelings, two of them, garbed as city watchmen, were on the
Avenue Louise almost as soon as the man they were watching. By
virtue of fate and the obstinacy of one Dickey Savage, two of
Quentin’s supporters, in direct disobedience of his commands, were
whirling toward the spot on which so many minds were centered. From
a distance Savage and Turk saw him rush from the carriage and up the
broad stone steps that led to the darkened veranda. From other
points of view, Jules Courant and his men saw the same and the
former knew that Turk’s visit in the afternoon had resulted in the
granting of an interview. No sooner had Quentin entered the house
than a man was despatched swiftly to inform Prince Ugo that he had
not been denied.

Mrs. Garrison met him in the hall alone. There was defiance in her
manner, but he had not come thus far to be repulsed by such a trifle
as her opposition. With rare cordiality he advanced and extended his
hand.

“Good evening, Mrs. Garrison. I hardly expected to find you and
Dorothy quite alone at this time of night.” She gave him her hand
involuntarily. He had a way about him and she forgot her resolve
under its influence. There was no smile on her cold face, however.

“We are usually engaged at this hour, Mr. Quentin, but to-night we
are at home to no one but you,” she said, meaningly.

“It’s very good of you. Perhaps I would better begin by ending your
suspense. Dorothy refused to see me to-day and I suspect the cause.
I am here for an explanation from her because I think it is due me.
I came also to tell you that I love her and to ask her if she loves
me. If she does not, I have but to retire, first apologizing for
what you may call reprehensibility on my part in presuming to
address her on such a matter when I know she is the promised wife of
another. If she loves me, I shall have the honor to ask you for her
hand, and to ask her to terminate an engagement with a man she does
not love. I trust my mission here to-night is fully understood.”

“It is very plain to me, Mr. Quentin, and I may be equally frank
with you. It is useless.”

“You will of course permit me to hear that from the one who has the
right to decide,” he said.

“My daughter consented to receive you only because I advised her to
do so. I will not speak now of your unusual and unwarranted behavior
during the past month, nor will I undertake to say how much
annoyance and displeasure you have caused. She is the affianced wife
of Prince Ravorelli and she marries him because she loves him. I
have given you her decision.” For a moment their eyes met like the
clashing of swords.

“Has she commissioned you to say this to me?” he asked, his eyes
penetrating like a knife.

“I am her mother, not her agent.”

“Then I shall respectfully insist that she speak for herself.” If a
look could kill a man, hers would have been guilty of murder.

“She is coming now, Mr. Quentin. You have but a moment of doubt
left. She despises you.” For the first time his composure wavered,
and his lips parted, as if to exclaim against such an assumption.
But Dorothy was already at the foot of the stairs, pale, cold and
unfriendly. She was the personification of a tragedy queen as she
paused at the foot of the stairs, her nand on the newell post, the
lights from above shining directly into a face so disdainful that he
could hardly believe it was hers. There was no warmth in her voice
when she spoke to him, who stood immovable, speechless, before her.

“What have you to say to me, Phil?”

“I have first to ask if you despise me,” he found voice to say.

“I decline to answer that question.’’

“Your mother has said so.”

“She should not have done so.”

“Then she has misrepresented you?” he cried, taking several steps
toward her.

“I did not say that she had.”

“Dorothy, what do you mean by this? What right have you to--” he
began, fiercely.

“Mr. Quentin!” exclaimed Mrs. Garrison, haughtily.

“Well,” cried he, at bay and doggedly, “I must know the truth. Will
you come to the veranda with me, Dorothy?”

“No,” she replied, without a quaver.

“I must talk with you alone. What I have to say is of the gravest
importance. It is for your welfare, and I shall leave my own
feelings out of it, if you like. But I must and will say what I came
here to say.”

“There is nothing that I care to hear from you.”

“By all that’s holy, you shall hear it, and alone, too,” he
exclaimed so commandingly that both women started. He caught a quick
flutter in Dorothy’s eyes and saw the impulse that moved her lips
almost to the point of parting. “I demand--yes, demand--to be heard!
Come! Dorothy, for God’s sake, come!”

He was at her side and, before she could prevent it, had grasped her
hand in his own. All resistance was swept away like chaff before the
whirlwind. The elder woman so far forgot her cold reserve as to
blink her austere eyes, while Dorothy caught her breath, looked
startled and suffered herself to be led to the door without a word
of protest. There he paused and turned to Mrs. Garrison, whose
thunderstruck countenance was afterward the subject of more or less
amusement to him, and, if the truth were known, to her daughter.

“When I have said all that I have to say to her, Mrs. Garrison, I’ll
bring her back to you.”

Neither he nor Dorothy uttered a word until they stood before each
other in the dark palm-surrounded nook where, on one memorable
night, he had felt the first savage blow of the enemy.

“Dorothy, there can no longer be any dissembling. I love you. You
have doubtless known it for weeks and weeks. It will avail you
nothing to deny that you love me. I have seen--” he was charging,
hastily, feverishly.

“I do deny it. How dare you make such an assertion?” she cried,
hotly.

“I said it would avail you nothing to deny it, but I expected the
denial. You have not forgotten those dear days when we were boy and
girl. We both thought they had gone from us forever, but we were
mistaken. To-day I love you as a man loves, only as a man can love
who has but one woman in his world. Sit here beside me, Dorothy.”

“I will not!” she exclaimed, trembling in every fiber, but he
gently, firmly took her arm and drew her to the wicker bench. “I
hate you, Philip Quentin!” she half sobbed, the powerlessness to
resist infuriating her beyond expression.

“Forget that I was rough or harsh, dear. Sit still,” he cried, as at
the word of endearment she attempted to rise.

“You forget yourself! You forget--” was all she could say.

“Why did you refuse to see me this afternoon?” he asked, heedlessly.

“Because I believed you to be what I now know you are,” she said,
turning on him quickly, a look of scorn in her eyes.

“Your adorer?” he half-whispered.

“A coward!” she said, slowly, distinctly.

“Coward?” he gasped, unwilling to believe his ears. “What--I know I
may deserve the word now, but--but this afternoon? What do you
mean?”

“Your memory is very short.”

“Don’t speak in riddles, Dorothy,” he cried.

“You know how I loathe a coward, and I thought you were a brave man.
When I heard--when I was told--O, it does not seem possible that you
could be so craven.”

“Tell me what you have heard,” he said, calmly, divining the truth.

“Why did you let Dickey Savage fight for you last night? Where was
your manhood? Why did you slink away from Prince Ravorelli this
morning?” she said, intensely.

“Who has told you all this?” he demanded.

“No matter who has told me. You did play the part of a coward. What
else can you call it?”

“I did not have the chance to fight last night; your informant’s
plans went wrong Dickey was my unintentional substitute. As for
Ravorelli’s challenge this morning, I did not refuse to meet him.”

“That is untrue!”

“I declined to fight the duel with him, but I said I would fight as
we do at home, with my hands. Would you have me meet him with deadly
weapons?”

“I only know that you refused to do so, and that Brussels calls you
a coward.”

“You would have had me accept his challenge? Answer!”

“You lost every vestige of my respect by refusing to do so.”

“Then you wanted me to meet and to kill him,” he said, accusingly.

“I--I--Oh, it would not have meant that,” she gasped.

“Did you want him to kill me?” he went on, relentlessly.

“They would have prevented the duel! It could not have gone so far
as that,” she said, trembling and terrified.

“You know better than that, Dorothy. I would have killed him had we
met. Do you understand? I would have killed the man you expect to
marry. Have you thought of that?” She sank back in the seat and
looked at him dumbly, horror in her face. “That is one reason why I
laughed at his ridiculous challenge. How could I hope to claim the
love of the woman whose affianced husband I had slain? I can win you
with him alive, but I would have built an insurmountable barrier
between us had he died by my hand. Could you have gone to the altar
with him if he had killed me?”

“O, Phil,” she whispered.

“Another reason why I refused to accept his challenge was that I
could not fight a cur.”

“Phil Quentin!” she cried, indignantly,

“I came here to tell you the truth about the man you have promised
to marry. You shall hear me to the end, too. He is as black a
coward, as mean a scoundrel as ever came into the world.”

Despite her protests, despite her angry denials, he told her the
story of Ugo’s plotting, from the hour when he received the
mysterious warning to the moment when he entered her home that
evening. As he proceeded hotly to paint the prince in colors ugly
and revolting she grew calmer, colder. At the end she met his
flaming gaze steadily.

“Do you expect me to believe this?” she asked.

“I mean that you shall,” he said, imperatively. “It is the truth.”

“If you have finished this vile story you may go. I cannot forgive
myself for listening to you. How contemptible you are,” she said,
arising and facing him with blazing eyes. He came to his feet and
met the look of scorn with one which sent conviction to her soul.

“I have told you the truth, Dorothy,” he said simply. The light in
her eyes changed perceptibly. “You know I am not a liar, and you
know I am not a coward. Every drop of blood in my veins sings out
its love for you. Rather than see you marry this man I would kill
him, as you advise, even though it cost me my happiness. You have
heard me out, and you know in your heart that I have told the
truth.”

“I cannot, I will not believe it! He is the noblest of men, and he
loves me. You do not know how he loves me. I will not believe you,”
 she murmured, and he knew his story had found a home. She sank to
the seat again and put her hand to her throat, as if choking. Her
eyes were upon the strong face above her, and her heart raced back
to the hour not far gone when it whispered to itself that she loved
the sweetheart of other days.

“Dorothy, do you love me?” he whispered, dropping to her side,
taking her hand in his. “Have you not loved me all these days and
nights?”

“You must not ask--you must not ask,” she whispered.

“But I do ask. You love me?”

“No!” she cried, recovering herself with a mighty effort. “Listen! I
did love you--yes, I loved you--until to-day. You filled me with
your old self, you conquered and I was grieving myself to madness
over it all. But, I do not love you now! You must go! I do not
believe what you have said of him and I despise you! Go!”

“Dorothy!” he cried, as she sped past him. “Think what you are
saying!”

“Good-by! Go! I hate you!” she cried, and was gone. For a moment he
stood as if turned to stone. Then there came a rush of glad life to
his heart and he could have shouted in his jubilance.

“God, she loves me! I was not too late! She shall be mine!” He
dashed into the house, but the closing of a door upstairs told him
she was beyond his reach. The hall was empty; Mrs. Garrison was
nowhere to be seen. Filled with the new fire, the new courage, he
clutched his hat from the chair on which he had thrown it and rushed
forth into the night.

At the top of the steps he met Prince Ugo. The two men stopped
stockstill, within a yard of each other, and neither spoke for the
longest of minutes.

“You call rather late, prince,” said Phil, a double meaning in his
words.

“Dog!” hissed the prince.

“Permit me to inform you that Miss Garrison has retired. It will
save you the trouble of ringing. Good-night.”

He bowed, laughed sarcastically, and was off down the steps.
Ravorelli’s hand stole to an inside pocket and a moment later the
light from the window flashed on a shining thing in his fingers. He
did not shoot, but Quentin never knew how near he was to death at
the hand of the silent statue that stood there and watched him until
he was lost in the shadows. Then the prince put his hand suddenly to
his eyes, moaned as if in pain, and slowly descended the steps.



XVII. A FEW MEN AND A WOMAN


A stealthy figure joined his highness at the foot of the steps,
coming from the darkness below the veranda. It was Courant. What he
said to the prince when they were safely away from the house caused
the Italian’s face to pale and his hands to twitch with rage. The
French detective had heard and understood the conversation of the
man and woman on the porch, and he had formed conclusions that drove
all doubt from the mind of the noble lover.

Quentin looked up and down the street for his cab. It was not in
sight, but he remembered telling the man to drive to the corner
below. The rainstorm that had been threatening dry and dusty
Brussels all day was beginning to show itself in marked form. There
were distant rumbles of thunder and faint flashes of lightning, and
now and then the wind, its velocity increasing every minute, dashed
a splattering raindrop in one’s face. The storm for which the city
had been crying was hurling itself along from the sea, and its full
fury was almost ready to break. The few pedestrians were scurrying
homeward, the tram cars were loaded and many cabs whirled by in the
effort to land their fares at home before the rain fell in torrents.
Phil drank in the cool, refreshing breeze and cared not if it rained
until the streets were flooded. At the corner stood a cab, the
driver softly swearing to himself. He swung down and savagely jerked
open the door.

“Back to the Bellevue,” said the fare airily, as he climbed into the
vehicle. The cab had started off into a cross-street, when Phil
imagined he heard a shout in the distance. He looked forth but could
see no one in the rushing darkness, The rattle of the cab, the
growing roar of the night and toe swish of the rain, which was now
falling quite heavily, drowned all other sounds and he leaned back
contentedly.

Suddenly the cab came to a stop, loud voices were heard outside and
he was about to throw open the door when a heavy body was flung
against the side of the vehicle. The next instant the half-lowered
glass in the door was shattered and a voice from the rainy night
cried:

“Don’t resist or you will be shot to pieces.”

“What the dev--” gasped Quentin, barely able to distinguish the form
of a man at the door. Some strange influence told him that the point
of a revolver was almost touching his breast and the word died in
his mouth.

“No outcry, Monsieur. Your valuables without a struggle. Be quick!
There are many of us. You have no chance,” came the hard voice, in
good English.

“But I have no valuables--”

“Your diamond ring and your watch, at least, monsieur. The ring is
in your vest pocket.”

“Search me, you scoundrel! I have no ring, and my watch is in my
room. I’m mighty slim picking for such noted gentlemen as you. I
presume I have the honor of meeting the diamond collectors the town
is talking so much about.” He was now aware of the presence of
another man in the opposite window, and there was the same uncanny
feeling that a second revolver was levelled at his person.

“Step outside, Monsieur. It is cruel to force you into the rain, but
we assure you it is very refreshing. It will make you grow. Whatever
you choose to call us we are wet to the skin. This must not,
therefore, be a fruitless job. Step forth, quickly, and do not
resist.”

Quentin hesitated for an instant, and then seeing resistance was
useless, boldly set foot upon the curbing. A flash of lightning
revealed four or five men in the group. One of them had the driver
covered with a pistol, and two of them were ready to seize the
passenger. He observed, with amazement, that one of the men was a
policeman in full uniform.

“Officer!” he exclaimed. “Don’t you see what they are doing?”

“O, Monsieur,” said the spokesman, pleasantly, “you may tell the
police of Brussels that they cannot hunt us down until they hunt
themselves down. What’s that? A carriage? Quick! Your watch, your
ring!”

Far down the street could be seen the lamps of an approaching cab,
and Quentin’s heart took a bound. He had not feared injury, for he
was willing to submit to the searching without resistance, but now
he thrilled with the excitement of possible conflict. A second flash
in the sky revealed altered conditions in the setting of the tragic
scene. The driver was on his box and the policeman was climbing up
beside him. A short man, masked to the chin, had pushed aside the
man with the revolver and a harsh voice cried as the darkness shut
out the vivid picture:

“Short work of him! The knife!” “The club, Carl! Hell! Into the cab
with him!” shouted another voice, and Phil began to strike out with
his fists. But the attack was too sharp, the odds too great.
Something crashed down upon his head, he felt himself lunge backward
into the open cab door, and then a heavy body hurled itself upon his
half-prostrate form. Another stinging blow caught him over the ear,
and, as he lost consciousness, a tremendous force seemed to be
crushing the breath from his body.

A revolver cracked, but he did not hear it, nor did he know that
friends were at hand. Before the miscreants could hurl his body into
the cab a vehicle whirled up, the feeble glare from its lanterns
throwing light upon the scene. The man who had fired from the door
of the second cab leaped to the ground, followed by a companion, and
in a moment they were among the scuffling robbers. Whatever might
have been the original intentions of Quentin’s assailants, they were
not prepared to offer battle. Their aim was to escape, not to fight.
A couple of shots were fired, a rush of feet ensued and the earth
seemed to swallow all but the two newcomers and the limp figure that
lay half inside the cab.

In an instant Quentin was drawn from the cab by the taller of the
two, the smaller having made a short dash in pursuit of the bandits.
Blood rushed from the head of the unconscious man and he was a dead
weight in the arms of his rescuer.

“Good God, Phil! Have they killed you? Here, Turk! Never mind those
fellows! Come here, quick; we must get him to a surgeon. I’m afraid
they’ve fixed him. Into our cab with him! Gad, he’s like a rag!” It
was Dickey Savage, and he was filled with dread. Turk, exploding
with impotent rage, and shivering with fear that his master was
dead, came to his assistance and they were soon racing for the
Bellevue. A pair of wondering, patient, driverless horses watched
the departure, but they did not move from the spot where they had
been checked by the first attack. Across the doubletree behind them
hung the limp form of their driver, a great, gaping wound in his
head. He had driven them for the last time, and they seemed to know
that his cold lips could never again command them to “go on.” Driven
almost to the hilt, in the floor of the cab, was an ugly knife. Its
point had been intended for Quentin’s throat, but the hand that
struck the blow was not as true as the will of its owner.

In a high state of alarm and excitement the two men in the cab took
their friend to his room, their advent creating great commotion in
the hotel The wildest curiosity prevailed, and they were besieged
with questions from hotel men, guests and the crowd that had found
shelter from the storm. Within ten minutes the news was spreading
forth over the city that a wealthy American had been held up and
murdered by the daring diamond thieves. Police and reporters hurried
to the hotel, and the uproar was intense. The house surgeon was soon
at work with the bloody, unconscious victim; Savage and Turk, with
their friend, the millionaire, keeping the crowd away from the
couch. It was impossible to drive the people from the room until the
police arrived.

There were two ugly gashes in Quentin’s head, one of which, it was
feared at first, would disclose a fracture of the skull. Dr.
Gassbeck, the surgeon who had attended a wounded prince in the same
hotel less that twenty-four hours before, gave out as his opinion
that Quentin’s injuries were not dangerous unless unexpected
complications appeared. Several stitches were taken in each cut, and
the patient, slowly recovering from the effects of the blows and the
anesthetics, was put to bed by his friends.

Savage observed one thing when he entered the hotel with the wounded
man. Prince Ugo and Count Sallaconi were among the first to come
forward when the news of the attack spread through the office and
corridors. The prince, in fact, was conversing with some gentlemen
near the doors when the party entered. It was he who sent messengers
to the central police office and who told the detectives where and
how he had last seen the victim of the diamond thieves.

Dickey sat all night beside his rolling, moaning friend, unnerved,
almost despairing, but the morning brought the change that gladdened
his heart and gave him a chance to forget his fears and
apprehensions long enough to indulge in an impressive, though
inadequate, degree of profanity, with continued reference to a
certain set of men whom the world called thieves, but whom he
designated as dogs.

About ten o’clock a telegram from Ostend came to the hotel for him.
It read: “Are you not coming to Ostend for us? Jane.” An hour later
a very pretty young lady in Ostend tore a telegram to pieces,
sniffed angrily and vowed she would never speak to a certain young
man again. His reply to her rather peremptory query by wire was
hardly calculated to restore the good humor she had lost in not
finding him at the dock. “Cannot come. Awfully sorry. Can’t leave
Brussels. Hurry on. Will explain here. Richard Savage.” Her
sister-in-law and fellow-traveler from London was mean enough to
tease her with sly references to the beauty of Brussels women and
the fickleness of all mankind. And so there was stored away for Mr.
Savage’s benefit a very cruel surprise.

The morning newspapers carried the story of Quentin’s adventure to
the Garrison home, and Dorothy’s face, almost haggard as the result
of a sleepless night, grew whiter still, and her tired eyes filled
with dread. She did not have to recall their conversation of the
night before, for it had not left her mind, but her thoughts went
back to a former conversation in which he had ridiculed the bandits.
The newspaper fell from her nerveless fingers, and she left the
table, her breakfast untouched, stealing miserably to her room, to
escape her mother’s inquisitive eyes.

Her wretched state was not improved by the visit of a veiled young
woman later in the day. The visitor was undoubtedly a lady, but the
story she poured into the unwilling ears was so astounding that
Dorothy dismissed her indignantly before it was finished. The
low-voiced, intense stranger, young and evidently beautiful, told
her that Quentin’s injuries were not inflicted by thieves, but by
the hired agents of one who had cause to fear him. Before Miss
Garrison could remonstrate, the stranger went into the details of a
plot so cowardly that she was horrified--horrified all the more
because, in a large measure, it sustained the charges made against
her lover by Philip Quentin. When at last she could no longer endure
the villifying recital she bade the woman to leave the house, hotly
refusing to give countenance to the lies she was telling. The
stranger desisted only after her abject pleading had drawn from the
other a bitter threat to have her ejected by the servants.

“You will not hear me to the end, but you must give me the privilege
of saying that I do not come here to do him or you an injury,” said
the visitor, tremulously. “It is to save you from him and to save
him for myself. Mademoiselle, I love him. He would marry me were it
not for you. You think jealousy, then, inspired this visit? I admit
that jealousy is the foundation, but it does not follow that I am
compelled to lie. Everything I have said and would say is true.
Perhaps he loves you, but he loved me first. A week ago he told me
that he loved me still. It was I who warned the American gentleman
against him, and my reason is plain. I want him to win. It would
mean death to me if it were known that I came to you with this
story. Do you bid me go, or will you hear me to the end?”

“You must go. I cannot listen to the infamous things you say
about--about--him,” said Dorothy, her voice choking toward the end.
A horrible fear seized upon her heart. Was this woman mad or had
Quentin told the truth? A new thought came to her and she grasped
the woman’s hand with convulsive fingers. “You have been sent here
by Mr. Quentin! O, how plain it is! Why did I not see through it at
once? Go back to your employer and tell him that--” She was crying
hysterically when the woman snatched away her hand, and drawing
herself to full height interrupted haughtily:

“I have humbled myself that I might do you the greatest service in
the world. You drive me from your presence and you call me a liar.
All of that I must endure, but I will not suffer you to accuse this
innocent man while I have voice to offer up in his defense. I may be
some one’s slave, but I am not the servant of any man. I do not know
this American; he does not know me. I am my own agent and not his
tool. What I have tried to tell you is true and I confess my actions
have been inspired by selfish motives. Mademoiselle, the man you are
to marry promised to make me his wife long before he knew you.”

“To make you his wife? Absurd! Men of his station do not marry, nor
promise to marry, the grisettes or the--”

“‘Madam! It is not a grisette to whom you are speaking. The blood in
my veins is as noble as that which flows in his, the name I
bear--and perhaps disgrace, God help me!--is as proud as any in all
France. But I have not millions, as you have. My face, my person may
win and hold the heart, but I have not the gold with which to buy
the soul. You will pardon my intrusion and you will forgive me for
any pang I have caused. He would not harken to the appeals from my
breaking heart, he would not give me all his love. There was left
but one course to preserve what rightfully belongs to me, and I have
followed it as a last resort Were you to tell him that a woman came
to you with this story, he would deny everything, and he would be
lost to me, even though you cast him off in the end. It is not in my
power to command you to protect the woman who is trying to help you.
You do not believe what I have told to you, therefore I cannot hope
for pity at your hands. You will tell him that I have been here, and
I shall pay the penalty for being the fool, the mad woman. I am not
asking for pity. If I have lied to you I deserve nothing but the
hardest punishment. You have one way to punish me for the wounds I
inflict, but it is the same to me, no matter how it ends. If you
marry him, I am lost; if you cast him off and yet tell him that it
was I who first sowed the seed of distrust in your heart, I am lost.
It will be the same--all the same! If he cannot wed you, he will
come to me and I will forgive. Madam, he is not good enough for you,
but he is all the world to me. He would wed you, but you are not the
one he loves. You are all the world to one whose love is pure and
honest. If you would save him, become his wife. O, Mademoiselle, it
grieves me so to see the tears in those good eyes of yours!
Farewell, and God bless and keep you.”



XVIII. ARRIVALS FROM LONDON


Lady Saxondale and the young person with the stored-up wrath were
met at the Gare du Nord by Mr. Savage, all smiles and good spirits.
Quentin was rounding-to nicely, and there was little danger from
complications. This fact coupled with the joy of seeing the girl who
had been able to make him feel that life was not a shallow dream,
sent him up to the two ladies with outstretched hands, a dancing
heart and a greeting that brought smiles to the faces of crusty
fellow-creatures who had not smiled in weeks.

With a deference due to premeditated gallantry, he shook hands first
with Lady Frances. His ebullition almost swept him to the point of
greeting the two maids who stood respectfully near their mistresses.
Then he turned his beaming face upon the Arctic individual with the
pink parasol and the palm-leaf fan.

“Awfully sorry, Lady Jane, but I really couldn’t get to Ostend. You
didn’t have any trouble getting the right train and all that, did
you?” he asked, vaguely feeling for the hand which had not been
extended.

“Not in the least, Mr. Savage. We delight in traveling alone. Do you
see the baroness anywhere, Frances?” Mr. Savage stared in amazement.
A distinct, blighting frost settled over the whole September world
and his smile lost all but its breadth. The joy left his eyes and
his heart like a flash, but his lips helplessly, witlessly
maintained a wide-open hospitality until long after the inspiration
was dead.

“She is not here, I am afraid,” responded Lady Saxondale, glancing
through the hurrying crowd. “Have you seen the Baroness St. Auge,
Mr. Savage? Or do you know her?”

“I can’t say that I have--er--I mean don’t--no, I should say both,”
 murmured he distractedly. “Does she live here?”

“She resides in a house, not in a railway station,” observed Lady
Jane, with a cutting sarcasm of which she was rather proud. Lady
Saxondale turned her face away and buried a convulsive smile in her
handkerchief.

“I mean in Brussels,” floundered Dickey, his wits in the wind. He
was gazing dumbly at the profile of the slim iceberg that had so
sharply sent the blast of winter across the summer of his content.

“She certainly understood that we were to come on this train,
Frances. You telegraphed her,” said Lady Jane, ignoring him
completely. She raised herself on her dainty tiptoes, elevated her
round little chin and tried to peer over the heads of a very tall
and disobliging multitude. Dickey, at a loss for words, stretched
his neck also in search of the woman he did not know.

“How very annoying,” said Lady Saxondale, a faint frown on her
brow. “She is usually so punctual.”

“Perhaps she--er--didn’t get your telegram,” ventured Dickey. “What
sort of a looking--I mean, is she old or young?”

“Neither; she is just my age,” smiled Lady Saxondale. Dickey dumbly
permitted the rare chance for a compliment to slip by. “Jane, won’t
you and Mr. Savage undertake a search for her? I will give William
directions regarding the luggage.” She turned to the man and the
maids, and Mr. Savage and Lady Disdain were left to work out their
salvation as best they could.

“I can’t think of troubling you, Mr. Savage. It won’t be necessary
for you to dodge around in this crowd to--”

“No trouble, I assure you, Lady Jane. Be glad to do it, in fact.
Where shall we go first?” demanded he, considerably flurried.

“You go that way and I’ll go this. We’ll find her more easily,” said
she, relentlessly, indicating the directions.

“But I don’t know her,” he cried.

“How unfortunate! Would you know her if I were to describe her to
you? Well, she’s tall and very fair. She’s also beautiful. She’s
quite stunning. I’m sure you’ll know her.” She was starting away
when he confronted her desperately.

“You’ll have to go with me. I’ll be arrested for addressing the
wrong lady if I go alone, and you’ll suffer the mortification of
seeing them drag me off to jail.”

“The what? Why do you say mortification, Mr. Savage? I am quite
sure--”

“O, come now, Jane--aw--Lady Jane--what do you mean by that? What’s
all the row about? What has happened?” he cried.

“I don’t understand you, Mr. Savage.”

“Something’s wrong, or you’d seem happier to see me, that’s all,” he
said, helplessly. “Lord, all my troubles come at once. Phil is half
dead, perhaps all dead, by this time--and here you come along,
adding misery instead of--”

“Phil--Mr. Quentin--what did you say, Dickey?” she cried, her
haughty reserve fading like a flash.

“Don’t you know?” he cried. “Almost killed last night by--by
robbers. Slugged him nearly to a finish. Horrible gashes--eight
stitches”--he was blurting out excitedly, but she clasped his arm
convulsively and fairly dragged him to where Lady Saxondale stood.

“Oh, Dickey! They didn’t kill--he won’t die, will he? Why didn’t you
tell us before? Why didn’t you telegraph?” she cried, and there was
no wrath in the thumping, terrified little heart. Lady Saxondale
turned quickly upon hearing the excited words of the girl who but a
moment before had been the personification of reserve.

“What are you saying, Jane? Is there anything wrong?” she asked.

“Everything is wrong--Philip is dead!” cried Lady Jane, ready to
faint. “Dickey says there are eight gashes, and that he is all dead!
Why don’t you tell us about it, Dickey?”

“He’s all right--not dead at all. Robber’s held him up last night
during the storm, and if help hadn’t come just when it did they’d
have made short work of him. But I can’t tell you about it here, you
know. If you’ll allow me I’ll take a look for the baroness.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Lady Jane, enthusiastically. “Dickey,” she
went on as they hurried away, “I forgive you.”

“Forgive me for what?” he asked.

“For not coming to Ostend,” demurely.

“You really wanted me to come, did you, Jane?”

“Yes, after I had been goose enough to telegraph to you, you know.
You don’t know how small I felt when you did not come,” she hurried
out, but his merry laugh cut short the humiliating confession.

“And that was why you--”

“Yes, that was why. Don’t say another word about it, though. I was
such a horrid little fool, and I am so ashamed of myself. And you
were so worried all the time about dear Mr. Quentin,” she pleaded,
penitently.

“You might have known that nothing short of death could have
prevented me from coming to Ostend,” said he softly. “But I’ve all
sorts of news to tell you. When I tell you about the duel you’ll go
into convulsions; when you hear--”

“A duel? Good heavens, how--I mean who--” she gasped, her eyes wider
than ever.

“I don’t know how, but I do know who, Jane, I have shot a man!” he
said, impressively.

“Oh, oh, oh! Dickey!” she almost shrieked, coming helplessly to a
standstill, a dozen emotions crowding themselves into her pretty,
bewildered face.

“Don’t faint! I’ll tell you all about it--to-night, eh?” he said,
hastily. He was vastly afraid she might topple over in a swoon.

“I can’t wait!” she gasped. “And I will not faint. You must tell me
all about it this instant. Is the other man--is he--where is he?”

“He’s in a hospital. Everybody’s staring at us. What a fool I was to
say anything about it, I won’t tell you another word of it.”

“Oh, Dickey, please!” she implored. He was obdurate and her manner
changed suddenly. With blighting scorn she exclaimed, “I don’t
believe a word you’ve said.”

“O, now, that’s hardly a nice way--” he began, indignantly, catching
himself luckily before floundering into her trap. “You will have to
wait, just the same, Miss Lady Jane Oldham. Just now we are supposed
to be searching for a baroness who is good enough to come to railway
stations, you’ll remember. Have you seen her?”

At this juncture Lady Saxondale’s voice was heard behind them, and
there were traces of laughter in the tones.

“Are you waiting for the mountain to come to you? Here is the
baroness, delayed by an accident to her victoria.” Mr. Savage was
presented to the handsome, rather dashing lady, whose smile was as
broad and significant as that which still left traces about Lady
Saxondale’s lips. He bowed deeply to hide the red in his cheeks and
the confusion in his eyes. His companion, on the other hand, greeted
the stranger so effusively that he found it possible during the
moments of merry chatter to regain a fair proportion of his lost
composure.

The Baroness St. Auge was an English woman, famed as a whip, a
golfer and an entertainer. Her salon was one of the most
interesting, the most delightful in Brussels; her husband and her
rollicking little boys were not a whit less attractive than herself,
and her household was the wonder of that gay, careless city. The
baron, a middle-aged Belgian of wealth, was as merry a nobleman as
ever set forth to seek the pleasures of life. His board was known as
the most bountiful, his home the cheeriest and most hospitable, his
horses the best bred in all Brussels. He loved his wife and indulged
her every whim, and she adored him. Theirs was a home in which the
laugh seldom gave way to the frown, where happiness dwelt
undisturbed and merriment kept the rafters twitching. With them the
two London women were to stop until after the wedding. Saxondale was
to visit his grim old castle in Luxemburg for several days before
coming up to Brussels, and he was not to leave England for another
week. Baron St. Auge was looking over his estates in the north of
Belgium, but was expected home before the week’s end.

Mr. Savage was in an unusual flutter of exhilaration when he rushed
into Quentin’s presence soon after the ladies drove away from the
Gare du Nord. The baroness had warmly insisted that he come that
evening to regale them with the story of the robbery and the account
of the duel, a faint and tantalizing rumor of which had come to her
ears.

“The baroness lives on the Avenue Louise, old man,” he said, after
he had described her glowingly. A long, cool drink ran down his dry
throat before his listener, propped up in his bed and looking upon
his friend with somber eyes, deigned to break the silence.

“So you are to tell them about the duel Dickey,” he said, slowly.

“They’re crazy about it.”

“I thought it was to be kept as dark as possible.” Dickey’s jaw
dropped and his eyes lost their gleam of satisfaction.

“By thunder, I--I forgot that!” he exclaimed. “What am I to do?” he
went on after a moment of perplexity and dismay. The long, cool
drink seemed to have left a disagreeable taste in his mouth and he
gulped feebly.

“Commit suicide, I should say. I see no other way out of it,”
 advised the man in the bed, soberly. The misery in Dickey’s face was
beyond description, and the perspiration that stood on his brow came
not from the heat of the day.

“Did you ever know a bigger ass than I, Phil? Now, did you,
honestly?” he groaned.

“I believe I can outrank you myself, Dickey. It seems to me we are
out of our class when it comes to diplomacy. Give Lady Saxondale and
Lady Jane my compliments to-night, and tell them I hope to see them
before I sail for home.”

“What’s that?” in astonishment.

“Before I sail for home.”

“Going to give it up, are you?”

“She thinks I’m a liar, so what is the use?”

“You didn’t talk that way this morning. You swore she believed
everything you said and that she cares for you. Anything happened
since then?”

“Nothing but the opportunity to think it all over while these
bandages hold my brain in one place. Her mind is made up and I can’t
change it, truth or no truth. She’ll never know what a villian
Ravorelli--or Pavesi--is until it is too late.”

“You’ll feel better to-morrow, old man. The stitches hurt like the
devil, don’t they? Cheer up, old chap; I’m the one who needs
encouragement. See what I have to face to-night. Good lord, there’ll
be three women, at least--maybe a dozen--begging, commanding me to
tell all about that confounded shooting match, and I was getting
along so nicely with her, too,” he concluded, dolefully.

“With the baroness? On such short acquaintance?”

“No, of course not. With Jane Oldham. I don’t know how I’m going to
square it with her, by jove, I don’t. Say, I’ll bet my head I bray
in my sleep, don’t I? That’s the kind of an ass I am.”

When he looked listlessly into Quentin’s room late that evening he
wore the air of a martyr, but he was confident he had scored a
triumph in diplomacy. Diplomacy in his estimation, was the dignified
synonym for lying. For an hour he had lied like a trooper to three
women; he left them struggling with the conviction that all the rest
of the world lied and he alone told the truth. With the perspiration
of despair on his brow, he had convinced them that there had been no
real duel--just a trifling conflict, in which he, being a good
Yankee, had come off with a moderate victory. Lady Jane believed;
Lady Saxondale was more or less skeptical; while the Baroness,
although graciously accepting his story as it came from his
blundering lips, did not believe a word of it. His story of the
“robbery” was told so readily and so graphically that it could not
be doubted.

Like true women, Lady Saxondale and her sister, accompanied by their
hostess and her brother, Colonel Denslow, seized the first favorable
opportunity to call at the rooms of Mr. Quentin. They found him the
next morning sitting up in a comfortable chair, the picture of
desolation, notwithstanding the mighty efforts of Dickey Savage and
the convivial millionaire. The arrival of the party put new life
into the situation, and it was not long before Phil found his
spirits soaring skyward.

“Tell me the truth about this awful duel,” commanded Lady Saxondale,
after Dickey had collected the other members of the party about a
table to which tall glasses with small stems were brought at his
call.

“I’m afraid Dickey has been a bit too loquacious,” said he,
smilingly.

“He fibs so wretchedly, you know. One could see he had been told
what not to say. You can trust me, Phil,” she said, earnestly. And
he told her all, from beginning to end. Not once did she interrupt,
and but seldom did she allow horror to show itself in her clear,
brave eyes.

“And she will go on and marry this man, Phil. I am afraid she cannot
be convinced--or will not, I should say,” she said, slowly, at the
end of the recital. “What a villain, what a coward he is!”

“But she must not be sacrificed, Frances! She must be saved. Good
God, can’t something be done to drag her from the clutches of that
scoundrel?” he almost groaned.

“The clutches of her mother are more vicious than those of the prince.
There is the power that dominates. Can it be broken?”

“As well try to break down the Rocky Mountains. That woman has no
heart--no soul, I’ll swear. Dorothy has a mind and a will of her
own, though, Frances. I feel that she loves me--something tells me
she does, but she will not break this hateful compact. I am sure
that I saw love in her eyes that last night, heard it in her voice,
felt it in the way she dismissed me.”

“You made a mistake when you denounced him to her. It was but
natural for her to defend him.”

“I know it, but I was driven to it. I saw no other way. She accused
me of cowardice. Good heavens, I’d give my soul to be up now and
able to call that villain’s bluff. But I am in here for a week, at
least, and the wedding is only two weeks away. When is Bob coming?”
 he cried, feverishly.

“Be calm, Phil. You will gain nothing by working yourself into a
frenzy. Bob will come when I send for him. It shall be at once, if
you have need for him here.”

“I want him immediately, but I cannot ask him or you to mix in this
miserable game. There may be a scandal and I won’t drag you all into
it,” he said, dejectedly.

“I’ll send for Bob, just the same, dear boy. What are friends for,
pray?”

She left him with the firm and secret determination to carry the war
for friendship’s sake to the very door of Dorothy Garrison’s
stubborn heart, and that without delay.



XIX. THE DAY OF THE WEDDING


When Lord Bob reached Brussels on Friday he found affairs in a sorry
shape. His wife’s never-failing serenity was in a sad state of
collapse. Quentin was showing wonderful signs of recuperation, and
it almost required lock and key to keep him from breaking forth into
the wildest indiscretions. Gradually and somewhat disconnectedly he
became acquainted with existing conditions. He first learned that
his wife had carried Quentin’s banner boldly up to the walls of the
fortress, and then--well, Lady Saxondale’s pride was very much hurt
by what happened there. Miss Garrison was exceedingly polite, but
quite ungrateful for the kindness that was being bestowed upon her.
She assured her ladyship that she was making no mistake in marrying
Prince Ravorelli, and, if she were, she alone would suffer.

“I am so furious with her, Bob, for marrying Prince Ugo that I am
not going to the wedding,” said Lady Saxondale.

“Whew! That’s a bracer! But, by the way, my dear, did you introduce
any real proof that he is the scoundrel you say he is? Seems to me
the poor girl is right in the stand she takes. She wants proof, and
positive proof, you know. I don’t blame her. How the deuce can she
break it off with the fellow on the flimsy excuse that Phil Quentin
and Lady Saxondale say he is a rascal? You’ve all been acting like a
tribe of ninnies, if you’ll pardon my saying so.”

“She is sensible enough to know that we would not misrepresent
matters to her in such a serious case as this,” she retorted.

“What proof have you that Ravorelli is a villain?”

“Good heavens, Bob, did he not try to have Phil murdered?” she
exclaimed, pityingly.

“Do you know that to be a positive fact?”

“Phil and Mr. Savage are quite thoroughly convinced.”

“But if anyone asked you to go on to the witness stand and swear
that Prince Ugo tried to take the life of Philip Quentin, could you
do so?” he persisted.

“You goose, I was not an eye-witness. How could I swear to such a
thing?”

“Well, if I understand the situation correctly, Miss Garrison is the
judge, Ravorelli the accused, and you are one of the witnesses. Now,
really, dear, how far do you imagine your hearsay evidence--which is
no evidence at all--goes with the fair magistrate? What would be
your verdict if some one were to come to you and say, ‘Saxondale is
a blackguard, a rascal, a cutthroat?’”

“I confess I’d say it was not true,” she said, turning quite red.

“The chances are you wouldn’t even ask for proof. So, you see, Miss
Garrison behaved very generously when she condescended to hear your
assertions instead of instructing the servant to direct you to the
door.”

“She was above reproach, Bob. I never saw anyone so calm, so
composed and so frigidly agreeable. If she had shown the faintest
sign of anger, displeasure or even disgust, I could forgive her, but
she acted just as if she were tolerating me rather than to lower
herself to the point of seriously considering a word I uttered. I
know the prince is a villian. I believe every word Phil says about
him.” She took Lord Bob’s hands in hers, and her deep, earnest eyes
burnt conviction into his brain.

“And so do I Frances I am as sure that
Ugo is a scoundrel as if I had personal knowledge of his
transactions. In fact, I have never believed in him. You and I will
stand together, dear, in this fight for poor old Phil, and, by the
Lord Harry, they’ll find us worth backing to the finish. If there’s
anything to be done that can be done, we’ll do it, my girl.” And he
was amply repaid for his loyal declaration by the love that shone
refulgent from her eyes.

Quentin naturally chafed under the restraint. There was nothing he
could do, nothing his friends could do, to avert the disaster that
was daily drawing nearer. Lord Bob infused a momentary spark of hope
into the dying fire of his courage, but even the resourceful Briton
admitted that the prospect was too gloomy to warrant the slightest
encouragement. They could gain absolutely no headway against the
prince, for there was no actual proof to be had. To find the strange
woman who gave the first warning to Quentin was out of the question.
Turk had watched every movement of the prince and his aides in the
hope of in some way securing a clue to her identity or whereabouts.
There was but one proposition left; the purchase of Courant.

This plan seemed feasible until Turk reported, after diligent
search, that the French detective could not be found. Dickey was for
buying the two Italian noblemen, but that seemed out of the
question, and it was unreasonable to suspect that the other
hirelings recognized the prince as their real employer. The
slightest move to approach the two noblemen might prove disastrous,
and wisdom cut off Dickey’s glorious scheme to give each of them “a
hundred dollars to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Quentin at last burst all bonds, and, finding himself out of the
doctor’s hands, determined to make a last desperate appeal to
Dorothy Garrison. If that appeal failed, he would then give up the
struggle; he would at least end the suspense. He knew how difficult
it would be to obtain an audience with her, but he went ahead with
the confidence of the drowning man, the boldness of the man who is
wounded to the death but does not know it.

It was the Wednesday just one week before the wedding that saw the
pale-faced, tall and somewhat unsteady American deliberately leave
his cab and stride manfully up the steps of a certain mansion in the
Avenue Louise. Miss Garrison was “not at home,” and her mother was
“not at home.” So said the obsequious footman.

“Take my card to Miss Garrison,” said Quentin, coolly. The man
looked bewildered and was protesting that his young mistress was not
in the house when the lady herself appeared at the top of the broad
stairway. Phil stood in the center of the hall watching her as she
slowly descended the steps. At the bottom of the steps she paused.
Neither spoke, neither smiled, for the crisis was upon them. If he
were pale from the loss of blood, she was white with the aches from
a fever-consumed heart.

“Why have you come?” she asked, at last, her voice so low that the
words scarcely reached his ears.

“Dorothy,” was all he said.

“You knew what I must say to you before you entered the door. Will
you let me tell you how deeply I have grieved over your misfortune?
Are you quite wise in coming out before you have the strength? You
are so pale, so weak. Won’t you go back to your--to your hotel and
save yourself all the pain that will come to you here?” There was
pity in her eyes, entreaty in her voice, and he was enveloped in the
tender warmth of her sincerity. Never had she seemed so near as now,
and yet never so far away.

“Dorothy, you must know what manner of love it is that brings me to
plead for the smallest crumb of what has been once refused. I come
simply, in all humility, with outstretched hands to ask your love.”
 He drew nearer, and she did not retreat.

“Oh, it is so useless--so hopeless, Phil,” she said, softly. “Why
will you persist? I cannot grant even the crumb.”

“I love you, Dorothy,” he cried passionately.

“Oh! Phil; you must understand that I can give you
nothing--absolutely nothing. For God’s sake--for my sake, for the
sake of that dear friendship we own together, go away and
forget--forget everything,” she said, piteously.

A half-hour later he slowly descended the steps, staggering like a
man sick unto death. She sat where he left her, her wide, dry eyes
seeing nothing, her ears hearing nothing but the words his love had
forced her to utter. These words:

“Yes, heaven help me, I do care for you. But, go! Go! I can never
see you again. I shall keep the bargain I have made, if I die at the
altar. I cannot break my promise to him.” And all his pleading could
not break down that decision--not even when she found herself for
one brief, terrible instant in his straining arms, his lips upon
hers.

It was all over. He calmly told his friends, as he had told her,
that he would sail for New York on the first steamer, and Turk
reluctantly began to pack the things. The night before he was to
leave for Hamburg, the Saxondales, Lady Jane and Savage sat with him
long into the night. Prince Ugo’s watchdogs were not long in
discovering the sudden turn affairs had taken, and he was gleefully
celebrating the capitulation.

The next day the Saxondales accompanied the two Americans to the
railway station, bade them a fond farewell and hastened back to the
home of the Baron St. Auge with new resolutions in their hearts. The
forepart of the ensuing week saw their departure from Brussels.
Deliberately they turned their backs on the great wedding that was
to come, and as if scorning it completely, journeyed to Lord Bob’s
ruins in Luxemburg, preferring the picturesque solitude of the
tumbledown castle to the empty spectacle at St. Gudule. Brussels may
have wondered at their strange leave-taking on the eve of the
wedding, but no explanation was offered by the departing ones.

When Dorothy Garrison heard that Philip Quentin had started for the
United States she felt a chill of regret sink suddenly into her
soul, and it would not be driven forth. She went on to the very
night that was to make her a princess, with the steel in her heart,
but the world did not know it was there. There was no faltering, no
wavering, no outward sign of the emotions which surged within. She
was to be a princess! But when the Saxondales turned their faces
from her, spurning the invitation to her wedding, the pride in her
heart suffered. That was a blow she had not expected. It was like an
accusation, a reproach.

Little Lady Jane blissfully carried with her to the valley of the
Alzette the consciousness that Richard Savage was very much in love
with her, even though he had not found courage to tell her so in
plain words. A telegram from him stating that he and Quentin had
taken passage for New York and would sail on the following day
dispelled the hope that he might return.

Brussels was full of notables. The newspapers of two continents were
fairly blazing with details of the wedding. There were portraits of
the bride and groom, and the bishop, and pictures of the gowns, the
hats, the jewels; there were biographies of the noted beauty and the
man she was to marry. The Brussels papers teemed with the arrivals
of distinguished guests.

Overcoming Mrs. Garrison’s objections, Dorothy had insisted on and
obtained special permission to have a night wedding. She had dreamed
of the lights, the splendor, the brilliancy of an after-sunset
wedding and would not be satisfied until all barriers were put
aside.

Dorothy’s uncle, Henry Van Dykman, her mother’s brother, and a
number of elated New York relatives came to the Belgian capital,
shedding their American opulence as the sun throws out its light.
The skill of a general was required to direct, manage and control
the pageant of the sixteenth. Thousands of dollars were tossed into
the cauldron of social ambition by the lavish mother, who, from
behind an army of lieutenants, directed the preliminary maneuvers.

The day came at last and St. Gudule’s presented a scene so
bewilderingly, so dazzlingly glorious that all Brussels blinked its
eyes and was awed into silence. The church gleamed with the wealth
of the universe, it seemed, and no words could describe the
brilliancy of the occasion. The hour of this woman’s triumph had
come, the hour of the Italian conqueror had come, the hour of the
victim had come.

In front of the house in the Avenue Louise, an hour before the
beginning of the ceremony, there stood the landau that was to take
the bride to the cathedral. Carriage after carriage passed, bearing
the visitors from the new world, to the church. All were gone save
the bride, her mother and her uncle. Down the carpeted steps and
across to the door of the carriage came Dorothy and her uncle,
followed by the genius of the hour. At the last moment Dorothy
shuddered, turned sick and faint for an instant, as she thought of a
ship far out at sea.

The footman swung up beside the driver, and they were off by quiet
streets toward the church where waited all impatient, the vast
assemblage and the triumphant prince. The silence inside the
carriage was like that of the tomb. What were the thoughts of the
occupants could not well be described.

“Are we not almost there, Dorothy?” nervously asked her mother,
after many minutes. “Good heavens! We are late! O, what shall we
do?” cried she in despair. In an instant the somber silence of the
cab’s interior was lost. The girl forgot her prayer in the horror of
the discovery that there was to be a hitch in the well-planned
arrangements. Her mother frantically pulled aside the curtains and
looked out, fondly expecting to see the lights of St. Gudule on the
hill. Uncle Henry dropped his watch in his nervousness and was all
confusion.

“We are not near the church, my--why, where are we? I have never
seen these houses before. Henry, Henry, call to the driver! He has
lost his way. My heavens, be quick!”

It was not necessary to hail the driver, for at that instant the
carriage came to a sudden standstill. The door opened quickly, and
before the eyes of the astonished occupants loomed the form of a
masked man. In his hand he held a revolver.



XX. WITH STRANGE COMPANIONS


“A word, a sound and I fire!” came the cold, hard voice of the man
in the mask. He spoke in French. The trio sat petrified, speechless,
breathless. So sudden, so stunning was the shock to their senses
that they were as graven images for the moment. There was no impulse
to scream, to resist; they had no power to da either.

“We will injure no one unless there is an outcry or a struggle.
Monsieur, Madame, there is no occasion for alarm; no more is there a
chance to escape,” said the mask quietly. Three pairs of eyes looked
dumbly into the gleaming holes in the black mask that covered his
face.

“The police?” finally whispered Mrs. Garrison, coming slowly out of
her stupor.

“Silence, madame! You are not to speak. Faint if you like; we will
not object to that and it may be a relief to you,” said the man,
sarcastically gallant. “I must ask you to make room for me inside
the carriage. We cannot remain here; the police may come this way--I
mean those who are not engaged in guarding the grand cathedral to
which you were going.” He was inside the carriage and sitting beside
Dorothy when he concluded the last observation. With a shudder she
drew away from him. “Pardon, Mademoiselle, I must implore you to
endure my presence here for a time. We have quite a distance to
travel together.”

A nameless dread sent chills to the hearts which had begun to thump
wildly in the reaction. What did he mean?

“What are you going to do with us?” groaned the horrified mother.
The carriage was now moving rapidly over the pavement.

“In due time you may know, Madame; you have only to be patient. For
the moment, it is necessary that you keep perfectly quiet. Although
you are a woman, I shall have to kill you if you disobey my
commands. We take desperate chances to-night in the coup which shall
make all Europe ring with the crowning act of the great diamond
robbers, as you are pleased to call us; and we can brook no
resistance. You see my revolver, Monsieur, it is on a direct line
with your breast. You are Americans, I am told, and your people are
noted for coolness, for discretion under trying circumstances. Your
women are as brave as your men. I merely ask you to call your
courage--”

“You shall not go on, monster,” exclaimed Mrs. Garrison, fiercely.
“Do you know who we are? Surely you are not inhuman enough to--”

“Madame! I warn you for the last time. You must be reasonable.
Resistance, argument, pleading will avail you nothing. If you desire
to discuss the situation calmly, sensibly, you may do so, but you
are to go only so far as I see fit. Will you remember?” There was no
mistaking the earnestness of the speaker. Mrs. Garrison realized
that she was absolutely powerless, completely at the mercy of the
bold intruder.

“What must we pay, then, for our freedom? Name the price, man. Order
your men to drive us to St. Gudule’s and anything you ask is yours.
I implore you to be generous. Think, Monsieur, think what this means
to us!” she said, desperately.

“I am not at liberty to dictate terms, Madame. It is only my duty to
carry out my part of the transaction; another will make terms with
you.”

“But when? When? We cannot be delayed a moment longer. The hour has
already passed when my daughter should be before the altar. For
God’s sake, name your price. I will pay, I will pay,” sobbed the
half-crazed woman.

“Sir, do you know what you are doing?” demanded the quaking old man,
finding his voice at last. “You must listen to reason. Think of
yourself, if not of us. What will become of you when you are caught?
Pause in this awful crime and think--”

“You are kind; Monsieur, to advise me, but it is too late.”

“Will you take us to St. Gudule’s?” cried the elder woman, on the
verge of collapse. “I will give you all you ask, Monsieur.”

“Ten thousand dollars is yours if you abandon this damnable--” began
Mr. Van Dykman.

“It will avail nothing to offer me money,” interrupted the master of
the situation, harshly. “That is the end of it. Believe me, money is
not what we are after to-night. To-morrow, perhaps, it may tempt
us.”

“What do you mean to do with us?” cried the girl, horror in her
voice.

“We do not mean to harm you, Mademoiselle, if you are sensible and
do as we command.”

“But the wedding, the wedding!” moaned Mrs. Garrison. “What will
they think of us? O, Monsieur, if you are one of the great diamond
robbers I willingly give all that I have about me. On my person
there are jewels valued at many thousand--”

“Another word, Madame, and I shall be obliged to use force,” said
the man, leaning forward, threateningly. In the darkness they could
feel the menace in his eyes.

“You are determined to go on with this outrage?” asked Van Dykman.

“A coup so well planned as this cannot be given up, Monsieur. We
flatter ourselves that no such job has ever graced the history of
Europe,” said the stranger, pleasantly. “Down in your hearts, I
believe you will some day express admiration for the way in which
the abduction has been managed.”

“Abduction?” gasped Mrs. Garrison. Dorothy sank back into the corner
at that word and it seemed to her that her heart would never beat
again.

“Where do you mean to take us, and what is your object?” slowly
asked Mrs. Garrison, a peculiar sense of resignation coming over
her. It was as if she recognized the utter hopelessness of escape
from the hands of these skillful wretches. She now saw that the mind
which had planned the capture was one that could carry the game to
the end without a flaw in the operations.

“I can answer neither question, Madame. Suffice to say that you are
rich and we are poor. I leave the rest for your imagination. It
grieves us, of course, to mar the grand wedding of to-night, but you
will readily understand that at no other time could we find you so
well prepared. Truly, I wonder what they are doing in St. Gudule.”

“My coachman, my footman, my servants, it seems, are your
accomplices,” said Mrs. Garrison, steadily.

“Not at all, Madame. To-morrow your coachman and your footman will
be found where we confined them. The men here have never been in
your employ. I could recommend them to you, however; they are most
trusty, faithful fellows, and they would be loyal to you to the
death.”

“For God’s sake, where are we?” burst forth Mr. Van Dykman, unable
to control his fear longer.

“We are near the edge of the city, and will soon be beyond the
limits. I must command absolute silence for the next half-hour. Not
a word must be spoken as we are passing a point of danger. Do not
permit hope of rescue to enter your minds, however, for there is no
chance. I may enlighten you by saying that the revolvers I carry
work safely, quietly and very effectually. Will you join me, in a
half-hour’s silent consideration of the scenes that are now taking
place in old St. Gudule? I am sure there is no limit to the
imagination when we give over our thoughts to that subject.”

Whatever may have been the desire to shriek, to call for help, to
tear away the window curtains, the three helpless captives were
unable to break through the influence this lone bandit spread about
them. The thought of St. Gudule, of the great gathering, of the
impatience, the consternation, the sensation occasioned by the
non-arrival of the bride, brought madness to the brains of the
hapless trio. Like a vivid panorama they saw everything that was
going on in the church. They saw alarm in faces of those closely
interested in the wedding, heard the vague rumors and questionings,
the order for the search, the report of accident, and then--the
police and newspapers!

At last the carriage came to a stop and the footman swung down from
the seat, opening the door quickly. That they were far beyond the
streets of the city was apparent in the oppressive stillness, broken
only by the heavy panting of the horses. “This is the place,” came
in the coarse voice of the footman. “We have no time to lose.”

“Then I must ask you to get down, Monsieur, and the ladies. We are
about to enter a house for a short while, the better to complete the
details of our little transactions. Remember, no noise means no
violence. Be quick, please.” Thus spoke the man in the seat, who an
instant later stepped forth into the darkness. The trembling,
sobbing women dragged themselves to the ground, their gorgeous gowns
trailing in the dust, unthought of and unprotected. Mr. Van Dykman,
old as he was, took courage in the momentary relaxation, and
attempted to halloo for help. A heavy hand was clasped over his
mouth and strong arms subdued his show of resistance. Swiftly across
a short stretch of ground they went, up rickety steps and into the
black hallway of a house. There were stifled moans of terror on the
lips of the two women, but there was no resistance save the weight
their strengthless forms imposed upon the men who had them in
charge. There was no light in the house and no sign that it was
occupied by others than themselves.

“We remain here for several hours. If all goes well, you will then
be at liberty to depart for your home in the city. Here is a chair,
Madam. Pray be seated. Pardon our inability to give you a light. You
will be patient, I am sure, when it is said on the sacred word of a
gentleman that no harm is to come to you. It is only necessary that
you remain quiet and await the hour when we are ready to release
you. I must ask permission to lock the door of this room. Before
dawn your friends will be here to take you away in safety.
Everything has been arranged for your personal welfare and comfort.
Permit me to say goodnight.”

“Where are we?” demanded the old man.

“Why have you brought us here?” asked Mrs. Garrison from the arm
chair into which she had limply fallen.

“You will learn everything in good time. We shall be just outside
the door, and will respond promptly if you need our help to the
extent of shouting for it. In the meantime your horses and carriage
are being well cared for. Be of good heart and your night will not
be a long one. Believe me, I hope we may meet again under more
pleasing conditions.”

The door closed a second later and the key clicked. Then came the
shooting of a bolt, a short scuffling of feet, and the silence of
the dead reigned over the strange house. Overcome with dread, the
occupants of the room uttered no word, no sound for what seemed to
them an hour. Then Mrs. Garrison, real tenderness in her voice,
called softly to her daughter.

“Darling, can you find me in this darkness? Come to me. Let me hold
you close in my arms, Dorothy, poor, poor child.”

But there was no response to the appeal, nor to a second and a third
call. The mother sprang to her feet in sudden terror, her heart
fluttering wildly.

“Henry! Are you here? Where is--what has happened to Dorothy?” she
cried. A trembling old man and a frantic woman bumped against each
other in the darkness and the search began. There were but two
people in the room! Following this alarming discovery one of these
persons swooned and the other battered, like a madman, against the
heavy, stubborn door.

Far away in the night bowled a carriage drawn by sturdy horses. The
clouds broke and the rain fell. Thunder and lightning ran rampant in
the skies, but nothing served to lessen the speed of that swift
flight over the highways leading into the sleep-ridden country.
Inside the cab, not the one in which Dorothy Garrison had begun her
journey to the altar, but another and less pretentious, sat the grim
desperado and a half-dead woman. Whither they flew no one knew save
the man who held the reins over the plunging horses. How long their
journey--well, it was to have an end.

True to the promise made by the bandit, a clattering band of
horsemen dashed up to the lonely house at the break of dawn. They
were led by Prince Ugo Ravorelli, dishevelled, half-crazed. A
shivering woman in silks and a cowering old man sobbed with joy when
the rescuers burst through the door. Tacked to a panel in the door
was an ominous, ghost-like paper on which was printed the following
message from the night just gone:

“In time the one who is missing shall be returned to the arms of her
mother, absolutely unharmed. She will be well cared for by those who
have her in charge. After a reasonable length of time her friends
will be informed as to the terms on which she may be restored to
them.”

Mrs. Garrison, more dead than alive, was conveyed to her home in the
Avenue Louise, there to recover her strength with astonishing
quickness. This vastly purposeful, indomitable woman, before many
hours had passed, was calmly listening to plans for the capture of
her daring abductors and the release of her daughter. Friends,
overcome with the horror of the hour, flocked to her aid and
comfort; the government offered its assistance and the police went
to work as one massive sleuth-hound. Newspapers all over the world
fairly staggered under the burden of news they carried to their
readers, and people everywhere stood aghast at the most audacious
outrage in the annals of latter-day crime.

As completely lost as if the earth had swallowed them were the
diamond robbers--for all the world accepted them as the
perpetrators--and their fair prize. No one saw the carriage after it
turned off the Avenue Louise on the night of the abduction; no one
saw the party leave the lonely house in the country. A placard found
on the steps of a prominent citizen’s home at an early hour in the
morning told the frenzied searchers where to look for the mother and
the uncle of the missing girl.

A reward of 100,000 francs for the arrest of the abductors or the
return of Miss Garrison was offered at once by the stony-faced woman
in the Avenue Louise, and detectives flew about like bees. Every
city in the land was warned to be on the lookout, every village was
watched, every train and station was guarded. Nine in every ten
detectives maintained that she was still in Brussels, and house
after house, mansion after mansion was searched.

Three days after the abduction word came from London that four men
and a young woman, apparently insane, all roughly attired, had come
to that city from Ostend, and had disappeared before the officials
were fully cognizant of their arrival. The woman, according to the
statements of men who saw her on the train, was beautiful and pale
as with the sickness that promised death.



XXI. THE HOME OF THE BRIGANDS


It was past midnight, after a wild ride through the storm, when an
old gentleman and his wife, with their sick daughter, boarded a fast
eastbound train at Namur. Had the officers of the law known of the
abduction at that hour it would have been an easy matter to discover
that the loose-flowing gown which enveloped the almost unconscious,
partially veiled daughter, hid a garment of silk so fine that the
whole world had read columns concerning its beauty. The gray beard
of the rather distinguished old man could have been removed: at a
single grasp, while the wife, also veiled, wore the clothing of a
man underneath the skirts. The father and mother were all attention
to their unfortunate child, who looked into their faces with wide,
hopeless eyes and uttered no word of complaint, no sound of pain.

At a small station some miles from the border line of the grand
duchy of Luxemburg, the party left the coach and were met by a
carriage in which they whirled away in the darkness that comes just
before dawn. The horses flew swiftly toward the line that separates
Belgium from the grand duchy, and the sun was barely above the bank
of trees on the highlands in the east when the carriage of the
impetuous travelers drew up in front of a picturesque roadside inn
just across the boundary. The sweat-flecked horses were quickly
stabled and the occupants of the vehicle were comfortably and safely
quartered in a darkened room overlooking the highway.

So ill was the daughter, explained the father, that she was not to
be disturbed on any account or pretext. Fatigued by the long ride
from their home in the north, she was unable to continue the journey
to Luxemburg until she had had a day of rest. At the big city she
was to be placed in the care of the most noted of surgeons. Full of
compassion, the keeper of the inn and his good wife did all in their
power to carry out the wishes of the distressed father, particularly
as he was free with his purse. It did not strike them as peculiar
that the coachman remained at the stable closely, and that early in
the day his horses were attached to the mud-covered carriage, as if
ready for a start on the notice of a moment. The good man and his
wife and the few peasants who were told of the suffering guest, in
order that they might talk in lowered voices and refrain from
disturbing noises, did not know that the “mother” of the girl sat
behind the curtains of an upstairs window watching the road in both
directions, a revolver on the sill.

The fact that the strange party decided to depart for Luxemburg just
before nightfall did not create surprise in their simple breasts,
for had not the anxious father said they would start as soon as his
daughter felt equal to the journey? So eager were they to deliver
her over to the great doctor who alone could save her life. With a
crack of the whip and a gruff shout of farewell to the gaping
stableboy who had been his companion for a day, the driver of the
early morning coach whirled into the road and off toward the city of
precipices. No one about the inn knew who the brief sojourners were,
nor did they know whence they came. The stableboy noted the letter S
blazoned on the blinds of the horses’ bridles, but there were no
letters on the carriage. There had been, but there was evidence that
they had been unskillfully removed.

Late in the night the coachman pulled rein and a man on horseback
rode up, opened the door and softly inquired after the welfare of
the occupants. With a command to follow, he rode away through a
narrow, uncertain wagon path. When the way became rough and
dangerous, he dismounted and climbed to the boot of the cab, the
coachman going to the empty saddle. Half an hour later the new
coachman stopped the puffing horses in front of a great, black
shadow from which, here and there, lights beamed cheerfully. From
the back of the vehicle the two men unstrapped the heavy steamer
trunk which had come all the way from Brussels with the party, and
then the doors of the big shadow opened and closed behind Dorothy
Garrison and her captors. So skillfully and so audaciously were the
plans of the abductors carried out that when Miss Garrison entered a
room set apart for her in the great house, after passing through
long, grotesque and ill-lighted corridors, she found an open trunk
full of garments she had expected to wear on her wedding journey!

A trim and pretty English maid entered the room the instant it was
vacated by the gray-bearded man and the tall person who had posed as
his wife. While Dorothy sat like a statue, gazing upon her, the
young woman lighted other candles in the apartment and then came to
the side of the mute, wretched newcomer.

“Will you let me prepare you for bed, miss? It is very late, and you
must be tired. Would you like anything to eat before retiring?” she
asked, as quietly as if she had been in her service forever.

“In heaven’s name, where am I? Tell me what does it all mean? What
are they going to do with me?” cried Dorothy, hoarsely, clutching
the girl’s hand.

“You could not be in safer hands, Miss Garrison,” said the maid,
kindly. “I am here to do all that is your pleasure.”

“All? Then I implore you to aid me in getting from--” began Dorothy,
excitedly, coming to her unsteady feet.

“I am loyal to others as well as to you,” interposed the maid,
firmly. “To-morrow you will find that--but, there, I must say no
more. Your bedchamber is off here, Miss. You will let me prepare you
for the sleep you need so much? No harm can come to you here.”

Dorothy suddenly felt her courage returning; her brain began to busy
itself with hopes, prospects, plans. After all they could not, would
not kill her; she was too valuable to them. There was the chance of
escape and new strength in the belief that she could in some way
outwit them; there was a vast difference between the woman who
suffered herself to be put to bed by the deft, kindly maid, and the
one who dragged herself hopelessly into the room such a short time
before. With the growth of hope and determination there came the
courage to inspect her surroundings.

The rooms were charming. There was a generous, kindly warmth about
them that suggested luxury, refinement and the hand of a connoiseur.
The rugs were of rare quality, the furnishings elegant, the
appointments modern and complete. She could not suppress a long
breath of surprise and relief: it was no easy matter to convince
herself that she was not in some fastidious English home. Despite
the fearful journey, ending in the perilous ascent over rocks and
gullies, she felt herself glowing with the belief that she was still
in Brussels, or, at the worst, in Liege. Her amazement on finding
her own trunk and the garments she had left in her chamber the night
before was so great that her troubled, bewildered mind raced back to
the days when she marvelled over Aladdin’s wonderful lamp and the
genii. How could they have secured her dresses? But how could
anything be impossible to these masters in crime? Once when her eyes
fell upon the dark windows a wistful, eager expression came into
them. The maid observed the look, and smiled.

“It is fully fifty feet to the ground,” she said, simply. Miss
Garrison sighed and then smiled resignedly.

Worn out in body and mind, she sank into sleep even while the
mighty, daring resolve to rush over and throw herself from the
window was framing itself in her brain. The resolve was made
suddenly, considered briefly and would have been acted on
precipitously had not the drowsy, lazy influence of slumber bade her
to wait a minute, then another minute, another and another, and
then--to forget.

Sunlight streamed into the room when she opened her eyes, and for a
few minutes she was in a state of uncanny perplexity. Where was she?
In whose bed--then she remembered. With the swiftness of a cat she
left the bed and flew to the window to look out upon--space at
first, then the trees and rocks below. The ground seemed a mile
below the spot on which she stood. Gasping with dread she shrank
back and covered her eyes with her tense fingers.

“Are you ready for me, Miss?” asked a soft voice from somewhere, and
Dorothy whirled to face the maid. Her throat choked, her eyes filled
with tears of the reawakening, her heart throbbed so faintly that
her hand went forth to find support. The little maid put her strong,
gentle arm about the trembling girl and drew her again to the bed
“They are expecting you down to breakfast, but I was instructed not
to hurry you, Miss.”

“To breakfast?” gasped Dorothy, staring at the girl as if her eyes
would pop out. “Wha--what! The impudence!”

“But you must eat, you know.”

“With--with these despicable wretches? Never! I will starve first!
Go away from me! I do not need you. I want to be alone, absolutely
alone. Do you hear?” She violently shoved the girl away from her,
but the friendly smile did not leave the latter’s face.

“When you need me, Miss, I am in the next room,” she said, calmly,
and was gone. Anger, pure and simple, brought sobs from the very
heart of the girl who lay face downward on the crumpled bed.

A new impulse inspired her to call sharply to the maid, and a moment
later she was hastily, nervously, defiantly preparing herself to
face the enemy and--breakfast. Tingling with some trepidation and
some impatience, she led the maid through a strenuous half-hour.
What with questions, commands, implorings, reprimands, complaints
and fault findings, the poor girl had a sad time of it. When at last
Miss Garrison stood ready to descend upon the foe she was the
picture of defiance. With a steady stride she followed the maid to
the door. Just as it was opened a strong, rollicking baritone voice
came ringing through the halls attuned in song:

“In the days of old when knights were bold, And barons held their
sway,” etc.

Dorothy stopped stockstill in the doorway, completely overwhelmed.
She turned helplessly to the maid, tried to gasp the question that
filled her mind, and then leaned weakly against the wall. The
singer’s voice grew suddenly fainter with the slam of a door, and
while its music could still be heard distinctly, she knew that he of
the merry tones had left the lower hallway. Feebly she began to
wonder what manner of men these thieves could be, these miscreants
who lived in a castle, who had lady’s maids about them, who sang in
cheery tones and who knew neither fear nor caution.

“One of the new guests who came last night,” explained the maid,
unconcernedly.

“One who came--who came with me? O, how can such a wretch sing so
gayly? Have they been drinking all night?” cried Dorothy, shrinking
back into the room.

“Lor’, no, Miss, there can’t be any such goings on as that here. I
think they are waiting for you in the breakfast room,” said the
girl, starting down the broad steps.

“I’d sooner die than venture among those ruffians!”

“But the ladies are expecting you.”

“Ladies! Here?” gasped Dorothy.

“Yes, Miss; why not?”

Dorothy’s head whirled again. In a dazed sort of way she glanced
down at her morning gown, her mind slowly going back to the
glittering costume she had worn the night before. Was it all a
dream? Scarcely knowing what she did, she followed the girl down the
steps, utterly without purpose, drawn as by some strange subtle
force to the terminal point in the mystery.

Through the dimly-lighted hall she passed with heart throbbing
wildly, expecting she knew not what. Her emotions as she approached
the door she could have never told, so tumultuously were they
surging one upon the other. The maid grasped the huge knob and swung
wide the door, from whose threshold she was to look upon a picture
that would linger in her mind to the end of time.

A great sunlit room; a long table and high-backed Flemish chairs; a
bewildering group of men and women; a chorus of friendly voices; and
then familiar faces began to stand out plainly before her eyes.

Lady Saxondale was advancing toward the door with outstretched hands
and smiling face. Over her shoulder the dumbfounded girl saw Lady
Jane Oldham, Saxondale, happy faced Dickey Savage and--Philip
Quentin!



XXII. CASTLE CRANEYCROW


Dorothy staggered into the arms of Lady Saxondale, choking with a
joy that knew no bounds, stupefied past all power of understanding.
She only saw and knew that she was safe, that some strange miracle
had been wrought and that there were no terrible, cruel-hearted
robbers in sight. It was some time before she could utter a word to
those who stood about eagerly--anxiously--watching the play of
emotions in her face.

“O, you will never know how glorious you all look to me. How is it
that I am here? Where are those awful men? What has happened to me,
Lady Saxondale, tell me? I cannot breathe till everything is
explained to me,” she cried, her voice trembling with gladness. In
her vast exuberance she found strength and with it the desire to
embrace all these good friends. Her ecstatic exhibition of joy lost
its violence after she had kissed and half crushed Lady Jane and had
grasped both of Lord Bob’s big hands convulsively. The young men
came in for a much more formal and decorous greeting. For an instant
she found herself looking into Quentin’s eyes, as he clasped her
hand, and there was a strange light in them--a bright, eager,
victorious gleam which puzzled her not a little. “O, tell me all
about it! Please do! I’ve been through such a terrible experience.
Can it be true that I am really here with you?”

“You certainly are, my dear,” said Lady Saxondale, smiling at her,
then glancing involuntarily into the faces of the others, a queer
expression in her eyes.

“Where is mamma? I must go to her at once, Lady Saxondale. The
wretches were so cruel to her and to poor Uncle Henry--good heavens!
Tell me! They did not--did not kill her!” She clutched at the back
of a chair and--grasped Quentin’s arm as it swept forward to keep
her from falling.

“Your mother is safe and well,” cried Lady Saxondale, quickly. “She
is in Brussels, however, and not here, Dorothy.”

“And where am I? Are you telling the truth? Is she truly safe and
well? Then, why isn’t she here?” she cried, uneasily, apprehensively.

“It takes a long story, Miss Garrison,” said Lord Bob, soberly. “I
think you would better wait till after breakfast for the full story,
so far as it is known to us. You’ll feel better and I know you must
be as hungry as a bear.”

There was a troubled, uncertain pucker to her brow, a pleading look
in her eyes as she suffered herself to be led to a chair near the
end of the table. It had not struck her as odd that the others were
deplorably devoid of the fervor that should have manifested itself,
in words, at least. There was an air of restraint almost oppressive,
but she failed to see it, and it was not long until it was so
cleverly succeeded by a genial warmth of manner that she never knew
the severity of the strain upon the spirits of that small company.

Suddenly she half started from the chair, her gaze fastened on
Quentin’s face. He read the question in her eyes and answered before
she could frame it into words.

“I did not sail for New York, at all,” he said, with an assumption
of ease he did not feel. “Dickey and I accepted Lord Saxondale’s
pressing invitation to stop off with them for awhile. I don’t wonder
that you are surprised to find us here.”

“I am not surprised at anything now,” she said in perplexed tones.
“But we are not in England; we were not on the water. And all those
trees and hills and rocks I saw from the window--where are we?”

“In the grimmest, feudliest, ghastliest old place between Brussels
and Anthony Hope’s domain. This is Castle Craneycrow; a real, live
castle with parapets, bastions, traditions and, I insist--though
they won’t believe me--snakes and mice and winged things that
screech and yowl.” So spoke Lady Jane, eagerly. Miss Garrison was
forgetting to eat in her wonder, and Mr. Savage was obliged to
remind her that “things get cold mighty quick in these baronial
ice-houses.”

“I know it’s a castle, but where is it located? And how came you
here?”

“That’s it,” quoth Mr. Savage, serenely. “How came we here? I repeat
the question and supply the answer. We came by the grace of God and
more or less luck.”

“O, I’ll never understand it at all,” complained Dorothy, in
despair. “Now, you must answer my questions, one by one, Lord
Saxondale. To whom does the castle belong?”

“To the Earl of Saxondale, ma’am.”

“Then, I know where it is. This is the old place in Luxemburg you
were telling me about.”

“That isn’t a question, but you are right.”

“But how is it that I am here?”

“You can answer that question better than I, Miss Garrison.”

“I only know those wretches--the one who disguised himself as my
father and the one who tried to be my mother--jostled me till I was
half dead and stopped eventually at the doors--O, O, O!” she broke
off, in startled tones, dropping her fork. “They--they did not
really bring me here--to your house, did they?”

“They were good enough to turn you over to our keeping last night,
and we are overjoyed to have you here.”

“Then,” she exclaimed, tragically, rising to her feet, “where are
the men who brought me here?” A peculiar and rather mirthless smile
passed from one to the other of her companions and it angered her.
“I demand an explanation, Lord Saxondale.”

“I can give none, Miss Garrison, upon my soul. It is very far from
clear to me. You were brought to my doors last night, and I pledge
myself to protect you with my life. No harm shall come to you here,
and at the proper time I am sure everything will be made clear to
you, and you will be satisfied. Believe me, you are among your
dearest friends--”

“Dearest friends!” she cried, bitterly. “You insult me by running away
from my wedding, you league yourselves with the fiends who committed
the worst outrage that men ever conceived, and now you hold me here
a--a prisoner! Yes, a prisoner! I do not forget the words of the maid
who attended me; I do not forget the inexplicable presence of my
traveling clothes in this house, and I shall never forget that my
abductors came direct to your castle, wherever it may be. Do you mean
to say that they brought me here without an understanding with you?
Oh! I see it all now! You--you perpetrated this outrage!”

“On the contrary, Miss Garrison, I am the meekest and lowliest of
English squires, and I am in no way leagued with a band of robbers.
Perhaps, if you will wait a little while, Lady Saxondale may throw
some light on the mystery that puzzles you. You surely will trust
Lady Saxondale.”

“Lady Saxondale did me the honor to command me to give up Prince
Ravorelli. I am not married to him and I am here, in her home, a
prisoner,” said Dorothy, scornfully. “I do not understand why I am
here and I do not know that you are my friends. Everything is so
queer, so extraordinary that I don’t know how to feel toward you.
When you satisfactorily explain it all to me, I may be able to
forget the feeling I have for you now and once more regard you as
friends. It is quite clear to me that I am not to have the privilege
of quitting the castle without your consent; I acknowledge myself a
prisoner and await your pleasure. You will find me in the room to
which you sent me last night. I cannot sit at your table, feeling
that you are not my friends; I should choke with every mouthful.”

No one sought to bar her way from the dining-room. Perhaps no one
there felt equal to the task of explaining, on the moment, the
intricacies of a very unusual transaction, for no one had quite
expected the bolt to fall so sharply. She paced the floor of her
room angrily, bewailing the fate that brought her to this fortress
among the rocks. Time after time she paused at the lofty windows to
look upon the trees, the little river and the white roadbed far
below. There was no escape from this isolated pile of stone; she was
confined as were Bluebeard’s victims in the days of giants and ogres
and there were no fairy queens to break down the walls and set her
free. Each thought left the deeper certainty that the people in the
room below were banded against her. An hour later, Lady Saxondale
found her, her flushed face pressed to the window pane that looked
down upon the world as if out of the sky.

“I suppose, Lady Saxondale, you are come to assure me again that I
am perfectly safe in your castle,” said the prisoner, turning at the
sound of her ladyship’s voice.

“I have come to tell you the whole story, from your wedding to the
present moment. Nothing is to be hidden from you, my dear Miss
Garrison. You may not now consider us your friends, but some day you
will look back and be thankful we took such desperate, dangerous
means to protect you,” said Lady Saxondale, coming to the window.
Dorothy’s eyes were upon the outside world and they were dark and
rebellious. The older woman complacently stationed herself beside
the girl and for a few moments neither spoke.

“I am ready to hear what you have to say,” came at last from Miss
Garrison.

“It is not necessary to inform you that you were abducted--”

“Not in the least! The memory of the past two days is vivid enough,”
 said Miss Garrison, with cutting irony in her voice.

“But it may interest you to know the names of your abductors,” said
the other, calmly.

“I could not miss them far in guessing, Lady Saxondale.”

“It was necessary for some one to deliver you from the villain you
were to marry, by the most effective process. There is but one
person in all this world who cares enough for you to undertake the
stupendous risk your abduction incurred. You need not be told his
name.”

“You mean,” said Dorothy, scarcely above a whisper, “that Philip
Quentin planned and executed this crime?”

Lady Saxondale nodded.

“And I am his prisoner?” breathlessly. “You are under his
protection; that is all.”

“Do you call it protection to--” began Dorothy, her eyes blazing,
but Lady Saxondale interrupted firmly.

“You are his prisoner, then, and we are your jailers. Have it as you
will.”

Lady Saxondale proceeded to relate the history of Philip Quentin’s
achievement. Instead of sailing for New York, he surrendered to his
overpowering love and fell to work perfecting the preposterous plan
that had come to him as a vision in the final hour of despair. There
was but little time in which to act, and there was stubborn
opposition to fight against. The Saxondales were the only persons to
whom he could turn, and not until after he had fairly fought them to
earth did they consent to aid him in the undertaking. There remained
to perform, then, the crowning act in this apparently insane
transaction. The stealing of a woman on whom the eyes of all the
world seemed riveted was a task that might well confound the
strategy of the most skillful general, but it did not worry the
determined American.

Wisely he chose the wedding day as the best on which to carry out
his project. The hulla-balloo that would follow the nonappearance of
the bride would throw the populace and the authorities into a state
of confusion that might last for hours. Before they could settle
down to a systematic search, the bold operator would be safely in
the last place they would suspect, an English lord’s playhouse in
the valley of the Alzette. Nothing but the most audacious daring
could hope to win in such an undertaking. When Mrs. Garrison’s
coachman and footman came forth in all their august splendor on the
night of the wedding, they were pounced upon by three men,
overpowered, bound and locked in a small room in the stables. One of
the desperadoes calmly approached the servants’ quarters, presented
a bold face (covered with whiskers), and said he had come for Miss
Garrison’s trunks. Almost insane with the excitement of the
occasion, the servants not only escorted him to the bride’s room,
but assisted him in carrying two trunks downstairs. He was shrewd
enough to ascertain which trunk was most needed, and it was thrown
into a buggy and driven away by one of the trio.

When the carriage stopped for the first time to permit the masked
man to thrust his revolver into the faces of the occupants, the
trunk was jerked from that same buggy and thrown to the boot of the
larger vehicle. Of course, having absolute control of the carriage,
it was no trick, if luck attended, for the new coachman and footman
to drive away with the unsuspecting bride and her companions. It is
only the ridiculously improbable projects that are successful, it
has been said. Certainly it was proven in this case. It is not
necessary to tell the full story, except to say that the masked man
who appeared at the carriage door in the little side street was
Quentin; that the foot-man was Dickey Savage, the driver Turk. In
the exchange of clothing with the deposed servants of Mrs. Garrison,
however, Turk fell into a suit of livery big enough for two men of
his stature.

The deserted house was beyond the city limits, and had been located
the day before by Turk, whose joy in being connected with such a
game was boundless. Other disguises, carefully chosen, helped them
on to the Grand Duchy, Quentin as the gray-bearded man, Savage as
the old woman. The suffering of Dorothy Garrison during that wild
night and day was the only thing that wrung blood from the
consciences of these ruthless dare-devils. Philip Quentin, it must
be said, lived years of agony and remorse while carrying out his
part of the plan. How the plot was carried to the stage where it
became Lady Saxondale’s duty to acquaint Dorothy Garrison with the
full particulars, the reader knows. It only remains to say that good
fortune favored the conspirators at every turn, and that they
covered their tracks with amazing effectiveness. Utterly cut off
from the eyes of the world, the captive found herself powerless to
communicate with the hysterical people who were seeking her in every
spot save the right one.

“Now that you have finished this remarkable story and have pleaded
so prettily for him, may I ask just what Mr. Quentin expects of me?”
 asked Dorothy, cold, calm, and entirely the mistress of herself and
the million emotions that Lady Saxondale’s disclosures aroused.

“He expects you to give him your heart,” said her ladyship, slowly.
Dorothy fell back against the wall, aghast, overcome by this
crowning piece of audacity.

“Dorothy, a week ago you loved Phil Quentin; even when you stepped
inside the carriage that was to take you to the altar you loved him
better--”

“I did not! I hate him!” cried Dorothy.

“Perhaps, now, but let me ask you this question: When you were being
dragged away by those three men, when they were putting miles and
miles between you and your friends, of whom were you thinking? Ah,
your face, your eyes betray you!--You were thinking of Philip
Quentin, not of Ugo Ravorelli. You were praying that one strong arm
might come to your relief, you knew but one man in all the world who
had the courage, the love, the power to rescue you. Last night, when
you entered this dismal place, you wondered if Philip Quentin--yes,
Philip Quentin--could break down the doors and save you. And then
you remembered that he could not help you, for you had thrown aside
his love, had driven him away. Listen! Don’t deny it, for I am a
woman and I know! This morning you looked from yon window and your
heart sank with despair. Then, forgetful again, your eye swept the
road in the hope of seeing--of seeing, whom? But one man was in your
mind, Dorothy Garrison, and he was on the ocean. When you came into
the breakfast room, whose face was it that sent the thrill to your
heart? Whose presence was it that told you your prayers had been
answered? Whom did you look upon as your savior, your rescuer? That
big American, who loves you better than life. Philip Quentin had
saved you from the brigands, and you loved him for it. Now, Dorothy
Garrison, you hate him because he saved you from a worse
fate--marriage with the most dissolute hypocrite in Europe, the most
cunning of all adventurers. You are not trying to check the tears
that blind your eyes; but you will not confess to me that your tears
come from a heart full of belief in the man who loves you deeply
enough to risk his honor and his life to save you from endless
misery. Lie where you are, on this couch, Dorothy, and just think of
it all--think of Phil.”

When Dorothy raised her wet eyes from the cushion in which they had
been buried, Lady Saxondale was gone.

Philip Quentin stood in the doorway.



XXIII. HIS ONLY


In an instant she was on her feet and struggling to suppress the
sobs that had been wrung from her by the words of Lady Saxondale.

“Dorothy,” said Quentin, his voice tender and pleading, “you have
heard what Lady Saxondale had to say?”

She was now standing at the window, her back to him, her figure
straight and defiant, her hands clenched in the desperate effort to
regain her composure.

“Yes,” she responded, hoarsely.

“I have not come to ask your pardon for my action, but to implore
you to withhold judgment against the others. I alone am to blame;
they are as loyal to you as they have been to me. Whatever hatred
you may have in your heart, I deserve it. Spare the others a single
reproach, for they were won to my cause only after I had convinced
them that they were serving you, not me. You are with true friends,
the best that man or woman could have. I have not come to make any
appeal for myself. There will be time enough for that later on, when
you have come to realize what your deliverance means.”

She faced him, slowly, a steady calm in her face, a soft intensity
in her voice.

“You need not hope that I shall forgive this outrage--ever--as long
as I live. You may have had motives which from your point of view
were good and justifiable--but you must not expect me to agree with
you. You have done something that no love on earth could obliterate;
you have robbed my memory of a sweet confidence, of the one glorious
thing that made me look upon you as the best of men--your nobility.
I recognize you as the leader in this cowardly conspiracy, but what
must I think of these willing tools you plead for? Are they entitled
to my respect any more than you? I am in your power. You can and
will do with me as you like, but you cannot compel me to alter that
over which I have no control--my reason. Oh, how could you do this
dreadful thing, Phil?” she cried, suddenly casting the forced
reserve to the winds and relapsing into a very undignified appeal.
He smiled wearily and met her gaze with one in which no irresolution
flickered.

“It was my only way,” he said, at last.

“The only way!” she exclaimed. “There was but one way, and I had
commanded you to take it. Do you expect to justify yourself by
saying it was the ‘only way’? To drag me from my mother, to destroy
every vestige of confidence I had in you, to make me the most
talked-of woman in Europe to-day--was that the ‘only way’? What are
they doing and saying to-day? Of what are the newspapers talking
under those horrid headlines? What are the police, the detectives,
the gossips doing? I am the object on which their every thought is
centered. Oh, it is maddening to think of what you, of all people,
have heaped upon me!”

She paced the floor like one bereft of reason. His heart smote him
as he saw the anguish he had brought into the soul of the girl he
loved better than everything.

“And my poor mother. What of her? Have you no pity, no heart? Don’t
you see that it will kill her? For God’s sake, let me go back to
her, Phil! Be merciful!” she cried.

“She is safe and well, Dorothy; I swear it on my soul. True, she
suffers, but it is better she should suffer now and find joy
afterward than to see you suffer for a lifetime. You would not
listen to me when I told you the man you were to marry was a
scoundrel. There was but one way to save you from him and from
yourself; there was but one way to save you for myself, and I took
it. I could not and would not give you up to that villain. I love
you, Dorothy; you cannot doubt that, even though you hate me for
proving it to you. Everything have I dared, to save you and to win
you--to make you gladly say some day that you love me.”

Her eyes blazed with scorn. “Love you? After what you have done? Oh,
that I could find words to tell you how I hate you!” She stopped in
front of him, her white face and gleaming eyes almost on a level
with his, and he could not but quail before the bitter loathing that
revealed itself so plainly. Involuntarily his hand went forth in
supplication, and the look in his eyes came straight from the depths
into which despair had cast him. If she saw the pain in his face her
outraged sensibilities refused to recognize it.

“Dorothy, you--you--” he began, but pulled himself together quickly
“I did not come in the hope of making you look at things through my
eyes. It is my mission to acknowledge as true, all that Lady
Saxondale has told you concerning my culpability. I alone am guilty
of wrong, and I am accountable. If we are found out, I have planned
carefully to protect my friends. Yet a great deal rests with you.
When the law comes to drag me from this place, its officers will
find me alone, with you here as my accuser. My friends will have
escaped. They are your friends as well as mine. You will do them
thejustice of accusing but me, for I alone am the criminal.”

“You assume a great deal when you dictate what I am to do and to
say, if I have the opportunity. They are as guilty as you, and
without an incentive. Do you imagine that I shall shield them? I
have no more love for them than I have for you; not half the
respect, for you, at least, have been consistent. Will you answer
one question?”

“Certainly.”

“How long do you purpose to keep me in this place?”

“Until you, of your own free will, can utter three simple words.”

“And those words?”

“I love you.”

“Then,” she said, slowly, decisively, “I am doomed to remain here
until death releases me.”

“Yes; the death of ambition.”

She turned from him with a bitter laugh, seating herself in a chair
near the window. Looking up into his face, she said, with maddening
submission:

“I presume your daily visits are to be a part of the torture I am to
endure?”

His smile, as he shook his head in response, incensed her to the
point of tears, and she was vastly relieved when he turned abruptly
and left the apartment. When the maid came in she found Miss
Garrison asleep on the couch, her cheeks stained with tears. Tired,
despairing, angry, she had found forgetfulness for the while. Sleep
sat lightly upon her troubled brain, however, for the almost
noiseless movements of the maid awakened her and she sat up with a
start.

“Oh, it is you!” she said, after a moment. “What is your name?’

“Baker, Miss.”

The captive sat on the edge of the couch and for many minutes
watched, through narrow eyes, the movements of the servant. A plan
was growing in her brain, and she was contemplating the situation in
a new and determined frame of mind.

“Baker,” she said, finally, “come here.” The maid stood before her,
attentively.

“Would you like to earn a thousand pounds?”

Without the faintest show of emotion, the least symptom of eagerness,
Baker answered in the affirmative.

“Then you have but to serve me as I command, and the money is yours.”

“I have already been instructed to serve you, Miss.”

“I don’t mean for you to dress my hair and to fasten my gown and all
that. Get me out of this place and to my friends. That is what I
mean,” whispered Dorothy, eagerly.

“You want to buy me, Miss?’ said Baker, calmly.

“Not that, quite, Baker, but just--”

“You will not think badly of me if I cannot listen to your offer,
Miss? I am to serve you here, and I want you to like me, but I
cannot do what you would ask. Pardon me if I speak plainly, but I
cannot be bought.” There was no mistaking the honest expression in
the maid’s eyes. “Lady Saxondale is my mistress, and I love her. If
she asks me to take you to your friends, I will obey.”

Dorothy’s lips parted and a look of incredulity grew in her eyes.
For a moment she stared with unconcealed wonder upon this unusual
girl, and then wonder slowly changed to admiration.

“Would that all maids were as loyal, Baker. Lady Saxondale trusts
you and so shall I. But,” wonder again manifesting itself, “I cannot
understand such fidelity. Not for £5,000?”

“No, Miss; thank you,” respectfully and firmly.

“Ask Lady Saxondale if I may come to her.”

The maid departed, and soon returned to say that Lady Saxondale
would gladly see her. Dorothy followed her down the long, dark hall
and into the boudoir of Castle Craneycrow’s mistress. Lady Jane sat
on the broad window seat, looking pensively out at the blue sky.
There was in the room such an air of absolute peace and security
that Dorothy’s heart gave a sharp, wistful throb.

“I’m glad you’ve come, Dorothy,” said Lady Saxondale, approaching
from the shadowy side of the room. Dorothy turned to see the hands
of her ladyship extended as if calling her to friendly embrace. For
a moment she looked into the clear, kindly eyes of the older woman,
and then, overcome by a strange, inexplicable longing for love and
sympathy, dropped her hands into those which were extended.

“I’ve come to beg, Lady Saxondale--to beg you to be kind to me, to
have pity for my mother. I can ask no more,” she said, simply.

“I love you, dear; we all love you. Be content for a little while, a
little while, and then you will thank Heaven and thank us.”

“I demand that you release me,” cried the other. “You are committing
a crime against all justice. Release me, and I promise to forget the
part you are taking in this outrage. Trust me to shield you and
yours absolutely.”

“You ask me to trust you. Now, I ask you to trust me. Trust me to
shield you and to--”

“You are cruel!”

“Forgive me,” said Lady Saxondale, simply. She pressed the hands
warmly, and passed from the room. Dorothy felt her head reel, and
there was in her heart the dread of losing something precious, she
knew not what.

“Come up into the tower with me, Dorothy,” said Lady Jane, coming to
her side, her voice soft and entreating. “The view is grand. Mr.
Savage and I were there early this morning to see the sun rise.”

“Are you all against me? Even you, Lady Jane? Oh, how have I wronged
you that I should be made to suffer so at your hands? Yes, yes! Take
me to the tower! I can’t stay here.”

“I shall ask Mr. Savage to go with us. He will hold you. It would be
too bad to have you try to fly from up there, because it’s a long
way to the crags, and you’d never fly again--in this world, at
least. I believe I’ll call Dickey, to be on the safe side.”

There was something so merry, so free and unrestrained about her
that Dorothy smiled in spite of herself. With a new sensation in her
heart, she followed her guide to the top of the broad stairway. Here
her ladyship paused, placed two pink fingers between her teeth, and
sent a shrill whistle sounding down between the high walls.

“All right!” came a happy voice from below. There was a scramble of
feet, two or three varied exclamations in masculine tones, and then
Mr. Savage came bounding up the stairs. “Playing chess with your
brother and had to break up the game. When duty calls, you know.
Morning, Miss Garrison. What’s up?”

“We’re just on the point of going up,” said Jane, sweetly. “Up in
the tower. Miss Garrison wants to see how far she can fly.”

“About 800 feet, I should say, Miss Garrison. It’s quite a drop to
the rocks down there. Well, we’re off to the top of Craneycrow.
Isn’t that a jolly old name?”

“Chick o’ me, Chick o’ me, Craneycrow, Went to the well to wash her
toe, When she got back her chicken was dead--chick o’ me, Chick o’
me, chop off his head--What time is it, old witch?”

“Who gave the castle such an odd, uncanny name?” asked Dorothy,
under the spell of their blithesome spirits.

“Lady Jane--the young lady on your left, an’ may it please you,
Miss,” said Dickey.

“Bob couldn’t think of a name for the old thing, so he commissioned
me. Isn’t Craneycrow delightful? Crane--that’s a bird, you know, and
crow is another bird, too, you know; isn’t it a joy? I’m so proud of
it,” cried Lady Jane, as she scurried up the narrow, winding stone
steps that led to the top of the tower. Dorothy followed more
sedately, the new-born smile on her lips, the excitement of a new
emotion surging over the wall of anger she had thrown up against
these people.

“I wish I could go out and explore the hills and rocks about this
place,” said Dickey, wistfully.

“Why can’t you? Is it dangerous?” queried Dorothy.

“Heavens, no! Perfectly safe in that respect. Oh, I forgot; you
don’t know, of course. Phil Quentin and your devoted servant are not
permitted to show their faces outside these walls.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you see, we’re in America. Don’t you understand? You’re not
the only prisoner, Miss Garrison. Behold two bold, bad bandits as
your fellow captives. Alas! that I should have come to the cruel
prison cell!”

“I had not thought of that,” said Miss Garrison, reflectively, and
then she looked upon Dickey with a new interest. They crawled
through the trap door and out upon the stone-paved, airy crown of
the tower. She uttered an exclamation of awe and shrank back from
the sky that seemed to press down upon her. Nothing but sky--blue
sky! Then she peered over the low wall, down upon the rocks below,
and shuddered.

“Hello, Phil! Great, isn’t it?” exclaimed Dickey, and Dorothy
realized that Quentin was somewhere behind her in the little
rock-bound circle among the clouds. A chill fell upon her heart, and
she would not turn toward the man whose very name brought rage to
her heart.

“Magnificent! I have been up here in the sun and the gale for half
an hour. Here are the newspapers, Lady Jane; Bob’s man brought them
an hour ago. There is something in them that will interest you,
Dorothy. Pardon me, but I must go down. And don’t fall off the
tower, Lady Jane.”

“Don’t worry, grandfather; I’ll be a good little girl and I shan’t
fall off the tower, because I’m so afraid you’d find it out and beat
me and send me to bed without my supper. Won’t you stay up just a
wee bit longer?”

“Now, don’t coax, little girl. I must go down.”

“See you later,” Dickey called after him as he disappeared through
the narrow opening. Dorothy turned her stony face slightly, and
quick, angry eyes looked for an instant into the upturned face of
the man who was swallowed in the darkness of the trap hole almost in
the same second.

“Don’t fall off the tower, Lady Jane,” came the hollow voice from
the ladders far below, and, to Dorothy’s sensitive ears, there was
the most devilish mockery in the tones.

“I can forgive all of you--all of you, but--but--never that inhuman
wretch! Oh, how I hate him!” cried she, her face ablaze, her voice
trembling with passion.

“Oh, Dorothy!” cried Lady Jane, softly, imploringly.

“I wish from my soul, that this tower might tumble down and kill him
this instant, and that his bones could never be found!” wailed the
other.

“There’s an awful weight above him, Miss Garrison--the weight of
your wrath,” said Dickey, without a smile.



XXIV. THE WHITE FLAG


After returning to her room later on, Dorothy eagerly devoured the
contents of the newspapers, which were a day or two old. They
devoted columns to the great abduction mystery; pictured the grief
of the mother and marvelled at her courage and fortitude; traced the
brigands over divers streets to the deserted house; gave interviews
with the bride’s fiance, her uncle and the servants who were found
in the stables; speculated on the designs of the robbers, their
whereabouts and the nature of their next move; drew vivid and
terrifying visions of the lovely bride lying in some wretched cave,
hovel or cellar, tortured and suffering the agony of the damned.
Opinions of police officers disclosed some astonishing solutions to
the mystery, but, withal, there was a tone of utter bewilderment in
the situation as they pictured it. She read the long and valiant
declaration of Prince Ugo Ravorelli, the frantic, broken-hearted
bridegroom, in which he swore to rescue the fair one from the
dastards, “whoever and wherever they might be.” Somehow, to her, his
words, in cold print, looked false, artificial, theatrical--anything
but brave and convincing.

She stared in amazement at the proclamation offering 100,000 francs
for her restoration. The general opinion, however, was that the
abductors might reasonably be expected to submit a proposition to
give up their prize for not less than twice the amount. To a man the
police maintained that Miss Garrison was confined somewhere in the
city of Brussels. There were, with the speculations and conjectures,
no end of biographical sketches and portraits. She found herself
reading with a sort of amused interest the story of how one of the
maids had buckled her satin slippers, another had dressed her hair,
another had done something and another something else. It was all
very entertaining, in spite of the conditions that made the stories
possible. But what amused her most of all were the wild guesses as
to her present whereabouts. There was a direful unanimity of opinion
that she was groveling in her priceless wedding-gown on the floor of
some dark, filthy cellar. The papers vividly painted her as haggard,
faint, despairing of succor, beating her breast and tearing her
beautiful hair in the confines of a foul-smelling hole in the
ground, crying for help in tones that would melt a heart of stone,
and guarded by devils in the guise of men.

Then she came to the paragraph which urged the utmost punishment
that law could inflict upon the desperadoes. The outraged populace
could be appeased with nothing save death in its most ignominious,
inglorious form. The trials would be short, the punishment swift and
sure. The people demanded the lives of the villains.

For a long time she sat with expressionless eyes, staring at the
wall opposite, thinking of the five persons who kept her a prisoner,
thinking of the lives the people longed to take, thinking of death.
Death to pretty Lady Jane, to Lady Saxondale, to Lord Bob, to Dickey
Savage--the hunted--and to Philip Quentin, the arch conspirator! To
kill them, to butcher them, to tear them to pieces--that was what it
meant, if they were taken before the maddened people. When Baker
brought in the tea, Dorothy was shivering as one with a chill, and
there was a new terror in her soul. What if they were taken? Could
she endure the thought that death was sure to come to them, or to
two of ‘them, at least? Two of the men? Two Americans?

During the next three days she refused to leave her room, coldly
declining the cordial invitations to make one of a very merry house
party, as Lady Jane called it. Her meals were sent to her room, and
Baker was her constant attendant. Into her cheek came the dull white
of loneliness and despair, into her eye the fever of unrest. The
visits met with disdain, and gradually they became less frequent. On
the third day of this self-inflicted separation she sat alone from
early morn until dusk without the first sign of a visit from either
Lady Saxondale or Lady Jane.

All day long she had been expecting them, and now she was beginning
to hunger for them. A ridiculous, inconsistent irritation had been
building itself in her heart since midday, and at dusk it reached
its limit in unmistakable rage. That they might be willing to ignore
her entirely had not entered her mind before. Her heart was very
bitter toward the disagreeable creatures who left her alone all day
in a stuffy room, and in a most horrid temper to boot.

From below, at different times during the afternoon, came the happy
laughter of men and women, rollicking songs, the banging of a piano
in tantalizing “rag-time” by strong New York fingers, the soft boom
of a Chinese dinner gong and--oh! it was maddening to sit away up
there and picture the heartless joy that reigned below. When Baker
left the room, Dorothy, like a guilty child, sneaked--actually
sneaked--to the hall door, opened it softly, and listened with
wrathful longing to the signs of life and good cheer that came to
her ears. Desolate, dispirited, hungry for the companionship of even
thieves and robbers, she dragged herself to the broad window and
looked darkly down upon the green and gray world.

Her pride was having a mighty battle. For three long days had she
maintained a stubborn resistance to all the allurements they could
offer; she had been strong and steadfast to her purpose until this
hour came to make her loneliness almost unendurable--the hour when
she saw they were mean enough to pay her in the coin of her own
making. Now she was crying for them to come and lift the pall of
solitude, to brighten the world for her, to drive the deadly
sickness out of her heart. They had ignored her for a whole day,
because, she was reasonable enough to see, they felt she did not
want them to be near her. Would they never come to her again? Pride
was commanding her to scorn them forever, but a lonely heart was
begging for fellowship.

“Baker!” she called, suddenly, turning from the window, her face
aglow, her breath coming fast, her heart bounding with a new
resolution--or the breaking of an old one. Baker did not respond at
once, and the now thoroughly aroused young lady hurried impatiently
to the bedchamber in quest of her. The maid was seated in a window,
with ears as deaf as a stone, reading the harrowing news from the
latest newspaper that had come to Castle Craneycrow. Dorothy had
read every line of the newest developments, and had laughed
scornfully over the absurd clews the police were following. She had
been seen simultaneously in Liverpool and in London and in Paris and
in Brussels. And by reputable witnesses, too.

“Baker!”

“Yes, Miss,” and the paper rattled to the floor, for there was a new
tone in the voice that called to her.

“You may go to Lady Saxondale and say that I accept yesterday’s
invitation to dine with her and Lord Saxondale.”

“Yesterday’s invitation--you mean to-day’s, Miss--” in bewildered
tones.

“I mean yesterday’s, Baker. You forget that I have no invitation for
to-day. Tell her that Miss Garrison will be delighted to dine with
her.”

Baker flew out of the room and downstairs with the message, the
purport of which did not sift through her puzzled head until Lady
Saxondale smiled and instructed her to inform Miss Garrison that she
would be charmed to have her dine with her both yesterday and
to-day.

In the meantime Dorothy was reproaching herself for her weakness in
surrendering. She would meet Quentin, perhaps be placed beside him.
While she could not or would not speak to him, the situation was
sure to be uncomfortable. And they would think she was giving in to
them, and he would think she was giving in to him--and--but anything
was better than exile.

While standing at the window awaiting Baker’s return, her gaze fell
upon a solitary figure, trudging along the white, snake-like road,
far down among the foothills--the figure of a priest in his long
black robe. He was the first man she had seen on the road, and she
watched him with curious, speculative eyes.

“A holy priest,” she was thinking; “the friend of all in distress.
Why not me? Would he, could he help me? Oh, good father, if you
could but hear me, if I could but reach your ears! How far away he
is, what a little speck he seems away down there! Why, I believe he
is--yes, he is looking up at the castle. Can he see me? But, pshaw!
How could he know that I am held here against my will? Even if he
sees my handkerchief, how can he know that I want him to help me?”
 She was waving her handkerchief to the lonely figure in the road. To
her amazement he paused, apparently attracted by the signal. For a
brief instant he gazed upward, then dropped his cowled head and
moved slowly away. She watched him until the trees of the valley hid
his form from view, and she was alone with the small hope that he
might again some day pass over the lonely road and understand.

When the dinner gong rang, she was ready to face the party, but
there was a lively thumping in her breast as she made her way down
the steps. At the bottom she was met by Lady Saxondale, and a
moment later Lord Bob came up, smiling and good-natured. There was
a sudden rush of warmth to her heart, the bubbling over of some
queer emotion, and she was wringing their hands with a gladness she
could not conceal.

“I am so lonely up there, Lady Saxondale,” she said, simply,
unreservedly.

“Try to look upon us as friends, Dorothy; trust us, and you will
find more happiness here than you suspect. Castle Craneycrow was
born and went to ruin in the midst of feud and strife; it has
outlived its feudal days, so let there be no war between us,” said
her ladyship, earnestly.

“If we must live together within its battered walls, let us hoist a
flag of truce, pick up the gauntlet and tie up the dogs of war,”
 added bluff Lord Bob.

Dorothy smiled, and said: “There is one here who is not and can
never be included in our truce. I ask you to protect me from him.
That is the one condition I impose.”

“You have no enemies here, my dear.”

“But I have a much too zealous friend.”

“Last call for dinner in the dining-car,” shouted Dickey Savage,
corning down the stairs hurriedly. “I was afraid I’d be late. Glad
to see you. I haven’t had a chance to ask how you enjoyed that view
from the tower the other day.” She had given him her hand and he was
shaking it rapturously.

“It was glorious, and I haven’t had the opportunity to ask if you
have explored the hills and forest.”

“I’m afraid of snakes and other creeping things,” he said, slyly.

They had gone to the dining-room when Quentin entered. He was paler
than usual, but he was as calm, as easy and as self-possessed as if
he had never known a conscience in all his life. She was not looking
at him when he bowed to her, but she heard his clear voice say:

“I am glad to see you, Dorothy.”

He sat across the table, beside Lady Jane, who was opposite Dorothy.
If he noticed that she failed to return his greeting, he was not
troubled. To his credit be it said, however, he did not again
address a remark to her during the meal. Within the sound of his
voice, under the spell of his presence, in such close proximity to
his strong, full-blooded body, she could not but give a part of her
thought to this man who, of all others, the mob would slay if they
had the chance.

She could not conceal from herself the relief she felt in mingling
with friends. A willful admiration grew full in the face of
resentful opposition, and there was a reckless downfall of dignity.
They treated her without restraint, talked as freely of their
affairs as if she were not there, boldly discussed the situation in
Brussels, and laughed over the frantic efforts of the authorities.
Helplessly she was drawn into the conversation, and, at last, to her
dismay, joined with them in condolences to the police.

“But some day they will find the right trail and pounce upon you
like so many wild beasts,” she said, soberly. “What then? You may be
laughing too soon.”

“It would be hard luck to have to break up such an awfully nice
house party,” said Dickey, solemnly.

“And the papers say they will kill us without compunction,” added
Lady Jane.

“It wouldn’t be the first slaughter this old house has known,” said
Lord Bob. “In the old days they used to kill people here as a form
of amusement.”

“It might amuse some people even in our case, but not for me,
thanks,” said Quentin. “They’d execute me first, however, and I
wouldn’t have to endure the grief of seeing the rest of you tossed
out of the windows.”

“Do you really believe they would kill poor little me?” demanded
Lady Jane, slowly, her eyes fastened on her brother’s face.

“Good Heaven, no!” cried Dorothy, at the possibility of such a
calamity. “Why should they kill a helpless girl like you?”

“But I am one of the wretches they are hunting for. I’m a
desperado,” argued Lady Jane.

“I’d insist on their killing Lady Jane just the same as the rest of
us. It would be all wrong to discriminate, even if she is young
and--and--well, far from ugly,” declared Dickey, decidedly.

“You might try to save my life, Mr. Savage; it would be the heroic
thing to do,” she said.

“Well I’ll agree to let ‘em kill me twice if it will do any good.
They’d surely be obliging if I said it was to please a lady.
Couldn’t you suggest something of the kind to them, Miss Garrison?
You know the whole massacre is in your honor, and I imagine you
might have a good bit to say about the minor details. Of course,
Lady Jane and I are minor details--purely incidentals.”

“We are in the chorus, only,” added Lady Jane, humbly.

“If you persist in this talk about being killed, I’ll go upstairs
and never come down again,” cried Dorothy, wretchedly, and the
company laughed without restraint.

“Dickey, if you say another word that sounds like ‘kill’ I’ll murder
you myself,” threatened Lord Bob.

Lady Jane began whetting a silver table knife on the edge of her
plate.

That evening Dorothy did not listen to Dickey Savage’s rag-time
music from an upstairs room. She stood, with Lady Jane, beside the
piano bench and fervently applauded, joined in the chorus and
consoled herself with the thought that it was better to be a merry
prisoner than a doleful one. She played while Dickey and Jane
danced, and she laughed at the former’s valiant efforts to teach the
English girl how to “cake walk.”

Philip Quentin, with his elbows on the piano, moodily watched her
hands, occasionally relaxing into a smile when the laughter became
general. Not once did he address her, and not once did she look up
at him. At last he wandered away, and when next she saw him he was
sitting in a far corner of the big room, his eyes half closed, his
head resting comfortably against the high back of the chair.

Lord and Lady Saxondale hovered about the friendly piano, and there
was but one who looked the outcast. Conditions had changed. She was
within a circle of pleasure, he outside. She gloated in the fact
that he had been driven into temporary exile, and that he could not
find a place in the circle as long as she was there. Occasionally
one or the other of his accomplices glanced anxiously toward the
quiet outsider, but no one asked him to come into the fold. In the
end, his indifference began to irritate her. When Lady Saxondale rang
for the candles near the midnight hour, she took her candlestick from
the maid, with no little relief, and unceremoniously made her way
toward the hall. She nervously uttered a general good-night to the
party and flushed angrily when Quentin’s voice responded with the
others:

“Good-night, Dorothy.”



XXV. DOWN AMONG THE GHOSTS


“I cannot endure it,” she cried to herself a dozen times before
morning. “I shall go mad if I have to see his face and hear his
voice and feel that he is looking at me. There must be a way to
escape from this place, there must be a way. I will risk anything to
get away from him!”

At breakfast she did not see him; he had eaten earlier with Lord
Bob. The others noted the hunted look in her eye and saw that she
had passed a sleepless night. The most stupendous of Dickey’s
efforts to enliven the dreary table failed, and there was utter
collapse to the rosy hopes they had begun to build. Her brain was
filled by one great thought--escape. While they were jesting she was
wondering how and where she could find the underground passages of
which they had spoken and to what point they would lead.

“I’d give a round sum if I could grow a set of whiskers as readily
and as liberally as Turk,” commented Dickey, sadly. “He came out of
Phil’s room this morning, and I dodged behind a door post, thinking
he was a burglar. Turk looks like a wild man from Borneo, and his
whiskers are not ten days out. He’s letting ‘em grow so that he can
venture outside the castle without fear of recognition. I’d like to
get outside these walls for half a day.”

“I detest whiskers,” decided Lady Jane.

“So do I, especially Turk’s. But they’re vastly convenient, just the
same. In a couple of days Turk won’t know himself when he looks in
the mirror. I believe I’ll try to cultivate a bunch.”

“I’m sure they would improve you very much,” said Lady Jane,
aggressively. “What is your idea as to color?”

“Well, I rather fancy a nice amber. I can get one color as easily as
another. Have you a preference?”

“I think pink or blue would become you, Dickey. But don’t let my
prejudices influence you. Of course, it can’t make any difference,
because I won’t recognize you, you know.”

“In other words, if I don’t cut my whiskers you’ll cut me?”

“Dead.”

“Lots of nice men have whiskers.”

“And so do the goats.”

“But a brigand always has a full set--in the opera, at least.”

“You are only a brigand’s apprentice, and, besides, this isn’t an
opera. It is a society tragedy.”

“Won’t you have another egg?” he asked, looking politely at her
plate. Then he inquired if Miss Garrison would like to join him in a
climb among the rocks. She smiled wistfully and said she would be
charmed to do so if she were not too feeble with age when the time
came to start.

Consumed with a desire to acquaint herself with her surroundings,
she begged her companions to take her over the castle from turret to
cellar. Later in the day, with Turk carrying the lantern, she was
eagerly taking notes in the vast, spooky caves of Craneycrow.

Vaulted chambers here, narrow passages there, spider-ridden ceilings
that awoke to life as the stooping visitors rustled beneath them,
slimy walls and ringing floors, all went to make up the vast grave
in which she was to bury all hope of escape. Immense were the
iron-bound doors that led from one room to another; huge the bolts
and rusty the hinges; gruesome and icy the atmosphere; narrow the
steps that led to regions deeper in the bowels of the earth.
Dorothy’s heart sank like lead as she surveyed the impregnable walls
and listened to the mighty groans of long-sleeping doors as the
shoulder of the sturdy Turk awoke them to torpid activity. There was
surprise and resentment in the creak of grim old hinges, in the
moans of rheumatic timbers, in the jangle of lazy chains and locks.
The stones on which they trod seemed to snap back in the echo of
their footfalls a harsh, strident laugh of derision. Every shadow
grinned mockingly at her; the very darkness ahead of the lantern’s
way seemed to snort angrily at the approach of the intruders. The
whole of that rockbound dungeon roared defiance in answer to her
timid prayer, and snarled an ugly challenge to her courage.

Lady Saxondale and Dickey confronted two rather pale-faced girls
when the party of explorers again stood in the sunlit halls above.
Across their shrinking faces cobwebs were lashed, plastered with the
dank moisture of ages; in their eyes gleamed relief and from their
lips came long breaths of thankfulness. Turk, out of sight and
hearing, was roundly cursing the luck that had given him such a
disagreeable task as the one just ended. From the broad, warm
windows in the south drawing-room, once the great banquet hall, the
quartet of uncomfortable sight-seekers looked out upon the open
courtyard that stretched down to the fort-like wall, and for the
moment Dorothy envied Philip Quentin. He was briskly pacing the
stone-paved inclosure, smoking his pipe and basking in the sunshine
that had never penetrated to the horrors of Castle Craneycrow. Lord
Bob was serenely lounging on a broad oaken bench, his back to the
sun, reading from some musty-backed book.

“Oh, won’t you let me go out in the sun for just a little while?”
 she cried, imploringly. A mist came over Lady Saxondale’s eyes and
Dickey turned away abruptly.

“As often as you like, Dorothy. The courtyard is yours as much as it
is ours. Jane, will you take her through our fort? Show her the
walls, the parapets, the bastions, and where the moat and drawbridge
were when the place was young. It is very interesting, Dorothy.”

With Dickey and Lady Jane, Dorothy passed into the courtyard and
into the open air for the first time in nearly a week. She felt like
a bird with clipped wings. The most casual inspection convinced her
that there was no possible chance of escape from the walled
quadrangle, in the center of which loomed the immense,
weather-painted castle. The wall was high and its strength was as
unbroken as in its earliest days. Lord Saxondale joined them and
explained to her all the points of interest about the castle as
viewed from the outside, but Quentin quietly abandoned his walk and
disappeared.

“It is as difficult to get out of Castle Craney-crow as it is to get
in, I dare say,” observed Dorothy, looking with awe upon the grim
old pile of rocks, they called a castle. Far above their heads stood
the tower, from which she had seen earth and sky as if in a
panorama, three days before.

“One might be able to get out if he could fly. It seems the only
way, provided, of course, there were opposition to his departure,”
 said Lord Bob, smiling.

“Alas, I cannot fly,” she said, directly.

At the rear of the castle, where the stonework had been battered
down by time, man and the elements, she saw several servants at
work. “You have trustworthy servants, Lord Saxondale. I have tried
to bribe one of them.”

“You see, Miss Garrison, they love Lady Frances. That is the secret
of their loyalty. The chances are they’d sell me out to-morrow, but
they’d die before they’d cut loose from my wife. By Jove, I don’t
understand how it is that everybody is won over by you American
women.”

During the trip through the cellars, Dorothy had learned that the
secret passages to the outside world began in the big chamber under
the tower. Lady Saxondale had unwittingly confessed, while they were
in the room, that two of the big rocks in the wall were false and
that they were in reality doors which opened into the passages. One
of the passages was over a mile long, and there were hundreds of
steps to descend before one reached a level where walking was not
laborious. The point of egress was through a hidden cave up the
valley, near the ruins of an old church. Where the other passage had
once led to she did not know, for it had been closed by the caving
in of a great pile of rocks.

With a determined spirit and a quaking courage, Dorothy vowed that
she would sooner or later find this passage-way and make a bold dash
for liberty. Her nerves were tingling with excitement, eagerness and
a horror of the undertaking, and she could scarcely control herself
until the opportunity might come for a surreptitious visit to the
underground regions. Her first thought was to locate, if possible,
the secret door leading into the passage. With that knowledge in her
possession she could begin the flight at once, or await a favorable
hour on some later day.

That very afternoon brought the opportunity for which she was
waiting. The other women retired for their naps, and the men went to
the billiard room. The lower halls were deserted, and she had little
difficulty in making her way unseen to the door that led to the
basement. Here she paused irresolutely, the recollection of the
dismal, grasping solitude that dwelt beyond the portal sending again
the chill to her bones.

She remembered that Turk had hung the lantern on a peg just inside
the door, and she had provided herself with matches. To turn the
key, open the door, pass through and close it, required no vast
amount of courage, for it would be but an instant until she could
have a light. Almost before she knew what she had done, she was in
the drafty, damp stairway, and the heavy door was between her and
her unsuspecting captors. With trembling, agitated fingers she
struck a match. It flickered and went out. Another and another met
the same fate, and she began to despair. The darkness seemed to
choke her, a sudden panic rushed up and overwhelmed her fainting
courage, and with a smothered cry of terror she turned to throw open
the door. But the door refused to open! A modern spring lock had set
itself against her return to the coveted security of the halls
above.

A deathly faintness came over her. She sobbed as she threw herself
against the stubborn door and pounded upon its panels with her
hands. Something dreadful seemed to be crawling up from behind, out
of the cavernous hole that was always night. The paroxysms of fear
and dread finally gave way to despair, and despair is ever the
parent of pluck. Impatiently she again undertook the task of
lighting the lantern, fearing to breathe lest she destroy the
wavering, treacherous flame that burnt inside her bleeding hands.
Her pretty knuckles were bruised and cut in the reckless pounding on
the door.

At last the candle inside the lantern’s glass began to flicker
feebly, and then came the certainty that perseverance had been
rewarded. Light filled the narrow way, and she looked timidly down
the rickety stone steps, dreading to venture into the blackness
beyond. Ahead lay the possibility of escape, behind lay failure and
the certainty that no other opportunity would be afforded her. So
she bravely went down the steps, her knees weakly striking against
each other, the lantern jangling noisily against the stone wall.

How she managed to reach the chamber under the tower she could not
have told afterward; she did not know at the time. At last, however,
she stood, with blood chilled to the curdling point, in the center
of the room that knew the way to the outside world. Pounding on the
rocky walls with a piece of stone against which her foot had struck,
she at length found a block that gave forth the hollow sound she
longed to hear. Here, then, was the key to the passage, and it only
remained for her to discover the means by which the osbtruction
could be moved from the opening.

For half an hour, cold with fear and nervousness, she sought for the
traditional spring, but her efforts were in vain. There was
absolutely no solution, and it dawned upon her that she was doomed
to return to the upper world defeated. Indeed, unless she could make
those in the castle hear her cries, it was possible that she might
actually die of starvation in the pitiless cavern. The lantern
dropped from her palsied fingers, and she half sank against the
stubborn door in the wall. To be back once more in the rooms above,
with cheery human beings instead of with the spirits of she knew not
how many murdered men and women, was now her only desire, her only
petition.

The contact of her body with the slab in some way brought about the
result for which she had striven. The door moved slowly downward and
a dash of freezing air came from the widening aperture at the top,
blowing damp across her face. Staggering away from the ghostlike
hole that seemed to grin fiendishly until it spread itself into a
long, black gulf with eyes, a voice, and clammy hands, she grabbed
up the still lighted lantern and cried aloud in a frenzy of fear.
The door slowly sank out of sight and the way was open but her
courage was gone. What was beyond that black hole? Could she live in
the foul air that poured forth from that dismal mouth? Trembling
like a leaf, she lifted the lantern and peered into the aperture,
standing quite close to the edge.

Her eyes fastened themselves in mute horror upon the object that
first met their gaze; she could not breathe, her heart ceased
beating, and every vestige of life seemed to pass beyond recall. She
was looking upon the skeleton of a human being, crouched, hunched
against the wall of the narrow passage, a headless skeleton, for the
skull rolled out against her feet as the sliding door sank below the
level. Slowly she backed away from the door, not knowing what she
did, conscious only that her eyes could not be drawn from the
horrifying spectacle.

“Oh, God!” she moaned, in direst terror. Her ghastly companion
seemed to edge himself toward her, an illusion born in the changing
position of the light as she retreated.

“Dorothy,” came a voice behind her, and she screamed aloud in
terror, dropping the lantern and covering her face with her hands.
As she swayed limply, a pair of arms closed about her and a voice
she knew so well called her name again and again. She did not swoon,
but it was an interminably long time to him before she exhibited the
faintest sign of life other than the convulsive shudders that swept
through her body. At last her hands clasped his arm fiercely and her
body stiffened.

“Is it you, Phil? Oh, is it really you? Take me away from this
place! Anywhere, anywhere! I’ll do anything you say, but don’t let
that awful thing come near me!” she wailed. By the flickering light
he caught the terrified expression in her eyes.

“You are safe, dear. I’ll carry you upstairs, if you like,” he said,
softly.

“I can walk, or run. Oh, why did I come here? But, Phil,” suddenly,
“we are locked in this place. We can’t get out!”

“Oh, yes, we can,” he cried, quickly. “Come with me.” He picked up
the lantern, threw an arm about her and hurried toward the stairs
that led aloft. Afterwards he was not ashamed to admit that he
imagined he felt bony hands clutching at him from behind, and fear
lent speed to his legs. Up the stairs they crowded, and he clutched
at the huge handle on the door. In surprise, he threw his weight
against the timbers, and a moment later dropped back with an
exclamation of dismay. The door was locked!

“What does it mean!” he gasped. “I left it standing open when I came
down. The draft must have shut it. Don’t be alarmed, Dorothy; I’ll
kick the damned thing down. What an idiot I was to tell no one that
I was coming down here.” But his kicking did not budge the door, and
the noise did not bring relief. She held the lantern while he fought
with the barricade, and she was strangely calm and brave. The queer
turn of affairs was gradually making itself felt, and her brain was
clearing quickly. She was not afraid, now that he was there, but a
new sensation was rushing into her heart. It was the sensation of
shame and humiliation. That he, of all men, should find her in that
unhappy, inglorious plight, ending her bold dash for freedom with
the most womanly of failures, was far from comforting, to say the
least.

“Dorothy, I can’t move it. I’ve kicked my toes off, and my knees are
bleeding, but there it stands like a rock. We’ve got to stay here
till some one chances to hear us,” he said, ruefully. “Are you
afraid now?”

“Why didn’t you spring the lock when you came down? This is a pretty
pass, I must say,” she said, her voice still shaky, her logic
abnormal.

“I like that! Were you any better off before I came than you are
now? How were you going to get out, may I ask?” he demanded, coolly
seating himself on the top step. She stood leaning against the
wooden door, the diplomatic lantern between them.

“I was going out by another way,” she said, shortly, but a shudder
gave the lie to the declaration.

“Do you know where that hidden passage leads to?” he asked, looking
up into her face. She was brushing cobwebs from her dress.

“To a cave near the old church,” she replied, triumphantly.

“Blissful ignorance!” he laughed. “It doesn’t lead anywhere as it
now exists. You see, there was a cave-in a few decades ago--”

“Is that the one that caved in?” she cried, in dismay.

“So Saxondale tells me.”

“And--and how did the--the--how did that awful thing get in there?”
 she asked, a new awe coming over her.

“Well, that’s hard to tell. Bob says the door has never been opened,
to his knowledge. Nobody knows the secret combination, or whatever
you call it. The chances are that the poor fellow whose bones we saw
got locked in there and couldn’t get out. So he died. That’s what
might have happened to you, you know.”

“Oh, you brute! How can you suggest such a thing?” she cried, and
she longed to sit close beside him, even though he was her most
detested enemy.

“Oh, I would have saved you from that fate, never fear.”

“But you could not have known that I was inside the passage.”

“Do you suppose I came down here on a pleasure trip?”

“You--you don’t mean that you knew I was here?”

“Certainly; it is why I came to this blessed spot. It is my duty to
see that no harm comes to you, Dorothy.”

“I prefer to be called Miss Garrison,” coldly.

“If you had been merely Miss Garrison to me, you’d be off on a
bridal tour with Ravorelli at this moment, instead of enjoying a
rather unusual tete-a-tete with me. Seriously, Dorothy, you will be
wise if you submit to the inevitable until fate brings a change of
its own accord. You are brave and determined, I know, and I love you
more than ever for this daring attempt to get out of Craneycrow, but
you don’t know what it might have brought you to. Good heavens, no
one knows what dangers lie in those awful passages. They have not
been used in a hundred years. Think of what you were risking. Don’t,
for your own sake, try anything so uncertain again. I knew you were
down here, but no one else knows. How you opened that secret door, I
do not know, but we both know what happened to one other poor wretch
who solved the mystery.”

“I didn’t solve it, really I didn’t. I don’t know how it happened.
It just opened, that’s all, and then I--oh, it was terrible!” She
covered her eyes with her hands and he leaped to his feet.

“Don’t think about it, Dorothy. It was enough to frighten you to
death. Gad, I should have gone mad had I been in your place.” He put
his arm about her shoulder, and for a moment she offered no
resistance. Then she remembered who and what he was and imperiously
lifted angry eyes to his.

“The skeleton may have been a gentleman in his day, Mr. Quentin.
Even now, as I think of him in horror, he could not be as detestable
as you. Open this door, sir!” she said, her voice quivering with
indignation.

“I wish I could--Dorothy, you don’t believe that I have the power to
open this door and am blackguard enough to keep you here? My God,
what do you think I am?” he cried, drawing away from her.

“Open this door!” she commanded, resolutely. He looked long and
earnestly into her unflinching eyes, and his heart chilled as if ice
had clogged the blood.

“I cannot open it,” he said at last. With not another word he sat
down again at her feet, and, for what seemed like an age, neither
spoke. The lantern sputtered warningly, but they did not know the
light of its life was ebbing away. They breathed and thought, and
that was all. At length the chill air began to tell, and he plainly
heard the chatter of her teeth, the rustling of her dress as her
body shivered. He arose, stiff and cold, drew off his coat and threw
it about her shoulders. She resisted at first, but he was master.
Later his waistcoat was wrapped about her throat and the warm
lantern was placed at her feet, but she never gave him one look of
gratitude.

At intervals he pounded on the door until finally there came the
joyous, rasping sound of a key in the lock, and then excited
exclamations filled the ears of the two prisoners.



XXVI. “THE KING OF EVIL-DOERS”


“Turk has been in Brussels,” said Quentin to her on the day
following her underground adventure. She was walking in the
courtyard, and her brain was busy with a new interest. Again had the
lonely priest passed along the road far below, and she had made him
understand that he was wanted at the castle gates. When he turned
off the road and began slowly to climb the steep, she was almost
suffocated with nervous excitement. Her experience of the day before
had left her unstrung and on the verge of collapse, and she was
beginning to enjoy a strange resignation.

She was beginning to feel that there were terrors worse than those
of the kindly prison, and that escape might be tenfold more
unpleasant than confinement. Then she saw the priest, and her
half-hearted attempt to attract his attention to her plight,
resulted so differently from what she had expected that her nerves
were again leaping with the old desire to outwit her captors. He was
coming to the castle, but how was she to acquaint him with the true
state of affairs? She would not be permitted to see him, much less
to talk with him; of that she was sure. Not knowing what else to do,
she went into the courtyard and loitered near the big gates, trying
to appear at ease. She prayed for but a few moments’ time in which
to cry out to him that she was a prisoner and the woman for whom
100,000 francs were offered in Brussels.

But now comes Quentin upon the scene. His voice was hoarse, and it
was plain that he had taken a heavy cold in the damp cellar. She
deliberately turned her back upon him, not so much in disdain as to
hide the telltale confusion in her face. All hope of conversing with
the priest was lost if Quentin remained near by.

“I sent him to Brussels, Dorothy, and he has learned something that
will be of vital interest to you,” Philip went on, idly leaning
against the gate as if fate itself had sent him there to frustrate
her designs.

“Don’t talk to me now, Philip. You must give me time. In an hour,
when I have gotten over this dreadful headache, I will listen to
you. But now, for heaven’s sake, leave me to myself,” she said,
rapidly, resorting to deception.

“I’m sorry I have disturbed you. In an hour, then, or at any time
you may feel like listening. It concerns Prince Ugo.”

“Is he--what has happened to him?” she demanded, turning to him with
alarm in her eyes.

“It is not what has happened to him, but to one who was his
intimate. The woman who warned me to beware of his treachery has
been murdered in Brussels. Shall I come to you here in an hour?”

“Yes,” she said, slowly, the consciousness of a new dread showing
itself in her voice. It was not until he reentered the house that
she became fully possessed of a desire to learn more of this
startling news. Her mind went back to the strange young woman who
came to her with the story of the prince’s duplicity, and her blood
grew cold with the thought that brutal death had come to her so soon
after that visit. She recalled the woman’s voice, her unquestioned
refinement, her dignity of bearing and the positiveness with which
she declared that Ugo would kill her if he knew the nature of her
visit to his promised wife. And now she was dead--murdered! By whom?
That question burst upon her with the force of a heavy blow. Who
killed her?

A pounding on the heavy gate brought her sharply to the project of
the moment. She walked as calmly as her nerves would admit to the
gate and called in French:

“Who is there?”

“Father Paul,” came a subdued voice from the outside. “Am I wrong in
believing that I was called here by some one in the castle? Kindly
admit me. I am fatigued and athirst.”

“I cannot open the gate, good Father, You must aid me to escape from
this place,” she cried, eagerly, her breast thumping like a hammer.
There was no interruption, and she could have shrieked with triumph
when, five minutes later, the priest bade her be of good cheer and
to have confidence in him. He would come for her on the next night
but one, and she should be freed. From her window in the castle she
saw the holy man descend the steep with celerity not born of
fatigue. When he reached the road below he turned and waved his hand
to her and then made his way swiftly into the forest.

After it was all over and relief was promised, her excitement
subsided and in its place began to grow a dull contemplation of what
her rescue would mean to the people who were holding her captive. It
meant exposure, arrest, imprisonment and perhaps death. The appeal
she had succeeded in getting to the ears of the passing priest would
soon be public property, and another day might see the jubilant
minions of the law in front of Castle Craneycrow demanding her
release and the surrender of the culprits. There was not the joy in
her heart that she had expected; instead there was a sickening fancy
that she had done something mean and treacherous. When she rejoined
the unsuspecting party downstairs soon afterward, a mighty weakness
assailed her, and it was she, instead of they who had boldly stolen
her from her home, that felt the pangs of guilt. She went into the
courtyard where Savage and Lady Jane were playing handball, while
the Saxondales looked on, happily unconscious of a traitor in their
midst. For an instant, pale and remorseful, she leaned against the
door-post, struggling to suppress the tears of pity and contrition.
Before she had fully recovered her strength Lady Jane was drawing
her into the contest with Dickey. And so she played cravenly with
those whose merry hearts she was to crush, listening to the plaudits
of the two smiling onlookers. It was too late to save them, for a
priest of God had gone out into the world to herald their guilt and
to deal a blow that would shatter everything.

Quentin came down a little later, and she was conscious that he
watched the game with eyes in which pleasure and trouble fought for
supremacy. Tired at last of the violent exercise, the trio threw
themselves upon the bench in the shade of the wall, and, with
glowing faces and thumping breasts, two of them laughed over the
antics they had cut. Dorothy’s lawless lover stood afar off, lonely
and with the resignation of the despised. Presently he drew near and
asked if he might join them in the shade.

“What a dreadful cold you have taken, Phil,” cried Lady Saxondale,
anxiously.

“Commonest sort of a cold, I assure you. Damp cellars don’t agree
with me,” he said.

“I did not want your coat, but you would give it to me,” said
Dorothy, as if called upon to defend herself for some crime.

“It was you or I for the cold, you know,” he said, simply, “and I
was your protector.”

“Right and good,” agreed Dickey. “Couldn’t do anything else. Lady
needed a coat, had to have it, and she got it. Duty called and found
him prepared. That’s why he always wears a coat in the presence of
ladies.”

“I’ve had your friend, the skeleton, buried,” said Lord Bob. “Poor
chap, he seemed all broken up over leaving the place.”

“Yes--went all to pieces,” added Dickey.

“Dickey Savage, do you think you are funny?” demanded Lady Jane,
loftily. “I would not jest about the dead.”

“The last I saw of him he was grinning like the--”

“Oh, you wretch!” cried the girl, and Dorothy put her fingers to her
ears.

“Shut up, Dickey,” exclaimed Quentin. “Do you care to hear about
that woman in Brussels, Dorothy?”

“It is of no great consequence to me, but I’ll listen if you like,”
 she said, slowly.

Thereupon he related to the party the story of the finding of the
dead woman in a house near the Garrison home in the Avenue Louise.
She had been dead for two days and her throat was cut. The house in
which she was found was the one into which Turk had seen Courant
disappear on the night of the veranda incident at the Garrison’s.
Turk had been sent to Brussels by Quentin on a mission of
considerable importance, arriving there soon after the body was
discovered. He saw the woman’s face at the morgue and recognized her
as the one who had approached Quentin in the train for Paris. Turk
learned that the police, to all appearances had found a clew, but
had suddenly dropped the whole matter and the woman was classified
with the “unknown dead.” An attendant at the morgue carelessly
remarked in his hearing that she was the mistress of a great man,
who had sent them word to “throw her in the river.” Secretly Turk
assured himself that there was no mistake as to the house in which
she had been found, and by putting two and two together, it was not
unnatural to agree with the morgue officer and to supply for his own
benefit the name of the royal lover. The newspapers which Turk
brought from Brussels to Castle Craneycrow contained accounts of the
murder of the beautiful woman, speculated wildly as to her idenity
and termed the transaction a mystery as unsolvable as the great
abduction. The same papers had the report, on good authority, that
Miss Garrison had been murdered by her captors in a small town in
Spain, the authorities being so hot on the trail that she was put
out of the way for safety’s sake.

But the papers did not know that a bearded man named Turk had
slipped a sealed envelope under a door at the Garrison home, and
that a distressed mother had assurance from the brigand chief that
her daughter was alive and well, but where she could not be found.
To prove that the letter was no imposition, it was accompanied by a
lock of hair from Dorothy’s head, two or three bits of jewelry and a
lace handkerchief that could not have belonged to another. Dorothy
did not know how or when Baker secured these bits of evidence, When
Quentin told her the chief object of Turk’s perilous visit to
Brussels, her eyes filled with tears, and for the first time she
felt grateful to him.

“I have a confession to make,” she said, after the story was
finished and the others had deliberately charged Ugo with the crime.
“That poor woman came to me in Brussels and implored me to give up
the prince. She told me, Phil, that she loved him and warned me to
beware of him. And she said that he would kill her if he knew that
she had come to me.”

“That settles it!” exclaimed he, excitedly, the fever of joy in his
eyes. “He killed her when he found that she had been to you.
Perhaps, goaded to desperation, she confessed to him. Imagine the
devilish delight he took in sniffing out her life after that! We
have him now! Dorothy, you know as well as I that he and he alone
had an object in killing her. You have only to tell the story of her
visit to you and we’ll hang the miserable coward.” He was standing
before her, eager-eyed and intense.

“You forget that I am not and do not for some time expect to be in a
position to expose him. I am inclined to believe that the law will
first require me to testify against you, Philip Quentin,” she said,
looking fairly into his eyes, the old resentment returning like a
flash. Afterward she knew that the look of pain in his face touched
her heart, but she did not know it then. She saw the beaten joy go
out of his eyes, and she rejoiced in the victory.

“True,” he said, softly. “I have saved the woman I love, while he
has merely killed one who loved him.” It angered her unreasonably
when, as he turned to enter the house, Lady Saxondale put her arm
through his and whispered something in his ear. A moment or two
later Lady Jane, as if unable to master the emotion which impelled,
hurried into the castle after them. Dickey strolled away, and she
was left with Lord Bob. It would have been a relief had he expressed
the slightest sign of surprise or regret, but he was as
imperturbable as the wall against which he leaned. His mild blue
eyes gazed carelessly at the coils of smoke that blew from his lips.

“Oh,” she wailed to herself, in the impotence of anger, “they all
love him, they all hate me! Why does he not mistreat me, insult me,
taunt me--anything that will cost him their respect, their devotion!
How bitterly they feel toward me for that remark! It will kill me to
stay here and see them turn to him as if he were some god and I the
defiler!”

That night there was a battle between the desire to escape and the
reluctance she felt in exposing her captors to danger. In the end
she admitted to herself that she would not have Philip Quentin
seized by the officers: she would give them all an equal chance to
escape, he with the others. Her heart softened when she saw him, in
her imagination, alone and beaten, in the hands of the police, led
away to ignominy and death, the others perhaps safe through his
loyalty. She would refuse absolutely, irrevocably, to divulge the
names of her captors and would go so far as to perjure herself to
save them if need be. With that charitable resolution in her heart
she went to sleep.

When she arose the next morning, Baker told her that Mr. Quentin was
ill. His cold had settled on his lungs and he had a fever. Lady
Saxondale seemed worried over the rather lugubrious report from
Dickey Savage, who came downstairs early with Phil’s apologies for
not presenting himself at the breakfast table.

While Quentin cheerfully declared that he would be himself before
night, Dickey was in a doleful state of mind and ventured the
opinion that he was “in for a rough spell of sickness.” What
distresed the Saxondales most was the dismal certainty that a doctor
could not be called to the castle. If Quentin were to become
seriously ill, the situation would develop into something extremely
embarrassing.

He insisted on coming downstairs about noon, and laughed at the
remonstrances of Lord Bob and Dickey, who urged him to remain in bed
for a day or two, at least. His cough was a cruel one, and his eyes
were bright with the fever that raced through his system. The
medicine chest offered its quinine and its plasters for his benefit,
and there was in the air the tense anxiety that is felt when a child
is ill and the outcome is in doubt. The friends of this strong,
stubborn and all-important sick man could not conceal the fact that
they were nervous and that they dreaded the probability of disaster
in the shape of serious illness. His croaking laugh, his tearing
cough and that flushed face caused Dorothy more pain than she was
willing to admit, even to herself.

As night drew near she quivered with excitement. Was she to leave
the castle? Would the priest come for her? Above all, would he be
accompanied by a force of officers large enough to storm the castle
and overpower its inmates? What would the night bring forth? And
what would be the stand, the course, taken by this defiant sick man,
this man with two fevers in his blood?

She had not seen or spoken to him during the day, but she had
frequently passed by the door of the library in which he sat and
talked with the other men. An irresistible longing to speak to him,
to tell him how much she regretted his illness, came over her. There
was in her heart a strange tenderness, a hungry desire to comfort
him just the least bit before she took the flight that was to
destroy the hope his daring and skillfully executed scheme had
inspired.

Three times she hesitated in front of the library door, but her
courage was not as strong as her desire. Were he alone she could
have gone in and told him frankly that she would not expose him to
the law in the event that she ever had the opportunity. But the
other men were with him. Besides, his cough was so distressing that
natural pity for one suffering physical pain would have made it
impossible to talk to him with the essential show of indifference.

At last, in despair, she left Lady Saxondale and her companion in
the courtyard and started up the stairs, resolved to be as far as
possible from the sound of that cough. Quentin met her at the foot
of the steps.

“I’m going to lie down awhile,” he said, wearily. “They seem to be
worried about this confounded cold, and I’ll satisfy them by packing
myself away in bed.”

“You should be very careful, Phil,” she said, a suffocating feeling
in her throat. “Your cough is frightful, and they say you have a
fever. Do be reasonable.”

“Dorothy,” he said, pausing before her at the steps, his voice full
of entreaty, “tell me you don’t despise me. Oh! I long to have you
say one tender word to me, to have one gentle look from your eyes.”

“I am very sorry you are suffering, Philip,” she said, steeling her
heart against the weakness that threatened.

“Won’t you believe I have done all this because I love you and----”
 he was saying, passionately, but she interposed.

“Don’t! Don’t, Phil! I was forgetting a little--yes, I was
forgetting a little, but you bring back all the ugly thoughts. I
cannot forget and I will not forgive. You love me, I know, and you
have been a kind jailer, but you must not expect to regain my
respect and love--yes, it was love up to the morning I saw you in
the dining-room of this castle.”

“I’ll create a new love in your heart, Dorothy,” he cried. “The old
love may be dead, but a new one shall grow up in its place. You do
not feel toward me to-day as you did a week ago. I have made some
headway against the force of your hatred. It will take time to win
completely; I would not have you succumb too soon. But, just as sure
as there is a God, you will love me some day for the love that made
me a criminal in the eyes of the world. I love you, Dorothy; I love
you!”

“It is too late. You have destroyed the power to love. Phil, I
cannot forgive you. Could I love you unless full forgiveness paved
the way?”

“There is nothing to forgive, as you will some day confess. You will
thank and forgive me for what I have done.” A fit of coughing caused
him to lean against the stair rail, a paroxysm of pain crossing his
face as he sought to temper the violence of the spell.

“You should have a doctor,” she cried, in alarm. He smiled
cheerlessly.

“Send for the court physician,” he said, derisively, “The king of
evil-doers has the chills and fever, they say. Is my face hot
Dorothy?”

She hesitated for a moment, then impulsively placed her cool hand
against his flushed forehead. Despite her will, there was a caress
in the simple act, and his bright eyes gleamed with gladness. His
hand met hers as it was lowered from the hot brow, and his lips
touched the fingers softly.

“Ah, the fever, the fever!” he exclaimed, passionately.

“You should have a doctor,” she muttered, as if powerless to frame
other words.



XXVII. THE FLIGHT WITH THE PRIEST


Eleven o’clock that night found Castle Craneycrow wrapped in the
stillness of death. Its inmates were awake, but they were petrified,
paralyzed by the discovery that Dorothy Garrison was gone. Scared
eyes looked upon white faces, and there was upon the heart of each
the clutch of an icy hand. So appalling was the sensation that the
five conspirators breathed not nor spoke, but listened for the
heartbeats that had stopped when fears finally gave way to complete
conviction. They were as if recovering from the fright of seeing a
ghost; spirits seemed to have swept past them with cold wings,
carrying off the prisoner they thought secure; only supernatural
forces could be charged with the penetration of their impregnable
wall.

The discovery of the prisoner’s flight was not made until Baker
knocked on Lady Saxondale’s door and inquired for Miss Garrison at
bedtime. Then it was recalled that she had left the others at nine
o’clock, pleading a headache, but she did not go to her room.
Investigation revealed the fact that her jewelry, a cape and a
traveling hat were missing. Remembering her first attempt to escape
and recalling the very apparent nervousness that marked her demeanor
during the day, Lady Saxondale alarmed the house.

Ten minutes later the conspirators and a knot of sleepy servants
stood in the courtyard, staring at the great gate. It was closed but
unlocked. There were but two known keys to the big lock, and since
the arrival of the party at the castle they had not been out of Lord
Saxondale’s possession. The girl could not have used either of them
and the lock had not been forced; what wonder, then, that in the
first moments of bewilderment they shrank back as if opposed by the
supernatural?

No one present had seen her leave the castle, and there was no way
of telling how long she had been gone, except that it was not longer
than two hours. After the first shock of realization, however, the
men came to the conclusion that assistance had come from the
outside, or that there was a traitor on the inside. They were
excitedly questioning the long-trusted servants when Lady Jane made
a second discovery.

“Where is Turk?” she cried, and every eye swept through the group.

“Gone, by God!” exclaimed Quentin, in helpless amazement. No one had
given thought to his illness in the excitement of the moment. He had
been called forth with the rest, and when he coughed not even he
took note of the fact. This was no time to think of colds and fevers
and such a trifling thing as death. He shivered, but it was not with
the chill of a sick man; it was the shiver of fear.

“Good Lord, he can’t be the one! Turk would die for me!” he cried,
almost piteously.

“He is gone, and so is she,” grated Lord Bob. “What are we to infer?
He has sold us out, Quentin; that’s the truth of it.”

“I’m damned!” almost wept Dickey Savage. “They’ll have a pack of
officers here before morning. I don’t give a hoot for myself, but
Lady Saxondale and--”

“Great heaven! what have I brought you to in my folly?” groaned
Quentin, covering his face with his hands.

“Open the gate!” called a hoarse voice outside the wall, and every
heart stopped beating, every face went white. A heavy boot crashed
against the gate.

“The officers!” whispered Lady Jane, in terror. Dickey Savage’s arm
went round her.

“Let me in! Git a move on!’

“It’s Turk!” roared Quentin, springing toward the gate. An instant
later Turk was sprawling inside the circle of light shed by the
lantern, and a half-dozen voices were hurling questions at him.

The little man was in a sorry plight. He was dirt-covered and
bloody, and he was so full of blasphemy that he choked in
suppressing it.

“Where is she? Where have you been?” cried Quentin, shaking him
violently in his agitation.

“Gimme time, gimme time!” panted Turk. “I’ve got to git my breath,
ain’t I? She’s flew th’ coop, an’ I couldn’t head her off. Say, has
a priest been loafin’ aroun’ here lately?”

“A priest!” cried Lord Bob. “There hasn’t been one here since Father
Bivot came three years ago to--”

“I mean this week, not t’ree years ago. She’s gone with a priest,
an’ I’m nex’ to who he is, too. He ain’t no more priest ‘n I am.
It’s that French detective, Courant, an’ he’s worked us to a
fare-you-well. He’s th’ boy!”

This startling news threw the party into deeper consternation than
before. The little ex-burglar was not a fluent talker at best, but
he now excelled himself in brevity. In three minutes he had
concluded his story, and preparations were well under way for the
pursuit.

He was, according to his narrative, sitting in the lower end of the
courtyard about nine o’clock, calmly smoking his pipe, when his
attention was caught by the long, shrill call of a night bird. No
such sound had come to his ears during his stay at the castle, and
his curiosity was aroused. Not dreaming of what was to follow, he
slowly walked toward the front of the castle. A woman stood in the
shadow of the wall near the gate. Hardly had his eyes made out the
dim figure when the whistle was repeated. Before he fully grasped
the situation, the big gate swung slowly inward and another figure,
at first glance that of a woman, stood inside the wall. He heard the
woman call softly: “Is that you, Father?” A man’s voice replied, but
the words were too low to be distinguished. The woman drew back as
if to return to the house, but the newcomer was at her side, and his
hand was on her arm.

There was a moment of indecision, then resistance, two or three
sharp words from the man, and then the two seemed to fade through
the wall. The ponderous gate was closing before the dumbfounded
watcher could collect his wits. Like a shot he was across the
stones, now alive to the meaning of the strange proceeding. With
desperate hands he grasped the bar of the gate and pulled, uttering
a loud shout of alarm at the same time. Surprised by the sudden
interference, the man on the other side gave way and Turk was
through the opening and upon him. A stunning blow on the head met
him as he hurled himself forward, and he plunged headlong to the
ground. As he struggled to his feet another blow fell, and then all
was darkness.

When he opened his eyes again two figures were careening down the
steep path, a hundred yards away. They were running, and were
plainly distinguishable in the moonlight. Turk knew that the woman
was Dorothy Garrison. He had heard her cry, after the first blow,
“Don’t! Don’t kill him, Father! It is Turk!” Crazed with anger and
determined to recapture her single-handed, Turk neglected to call
for help. With the blood streaming down his face, he dashed off in
pursuit. There was in his heart the desire to kill the man who had
struck him down. Near the foot of the hill he came up with them and
he was like a wildcat.

Miss Garrison had fallen to her knees and was moaning as if in pain.
The priest crouched behind her, protecting his person from a
possible shot from the pursuer. “For God’s sake, don’t shoot him!”
 screamed the girl, but a moment later there was a flash of light, a
report, and a pistol ball whizzed by Turk’s ear. He was unarmed, but
he did not stop. Throwing himself forward, he stretched out his arms
to grasp the crouching priest, hoping to prevent the firing of
another shot. But he had not reckoned on the cleverness of the man
at bay. The priest dropped flat to the ground and Turk plunged over
his body, wildly clutching for the prostrate man as he went. With
the cunning of a fox, the priest, on realizing that he could not
avoid a personal conflict, had looked about for means to end the
pursuit effectually.

Retarded in his progress by the tired, trembling girl, he saw that a
stand against the oncomer was unavoidable. He cleverly selected the
spot for this stand, and braced himself as for the onslaught.
Scarcely a yard beyond his position there was a sharp declivity
among the rocks, with a clear drop of a dozen feet or more to the
bottom of a wide crevasse. His shot went wild and he could not
repeat it, for Dorothy was frantically clutching his arm. The
strategem worked well, and he had the satisfaction of hearing a
mighty oath as Turk, unable to check himself, slipped from the edge
and went crashing to the rocks below.

With the speed of a hunted animal, the priest leaped to his feet,
dragging the girl after him, and a harsh laugh came from his throat
as they dashed onward. A quick glance behind showed there had been
but one pursuer, and the man in the robes of holiness chuckled
exultantly. But, if Dorothy Garrison believed him to be the priest
his robes declared, the moonlight told the fallen Turk the truth.
Indeed, it was the intentness with which the little ex-burglar gazed
upon the white face of Courant that prevented him from seeing the
ledge as he dashed up to the couple.

How long it was afterward that Turk came to his senses and crawled
back to the roadway, dizzy, weak and defeated, he knew not. He could
only groan and gnash his teeth when he stood erect again and saw
that he was utterly alone. Courant and the girl were gone. In shame
and humiliation he climbed the hill to call for help.

Just as the searching party was about to rush recklessly from the
courtyard, servants having been instructed to bring out the horses,
Lady Jane espied a white piece of paper on the ground near the gate.
And then it was that they read the parting message from the girl who
was gone. With a trembling voice Lady Saxondale read:

“I have found a way, and I am going, if nothing prevents. With the
help of my good angel I shall soon be far from this place. A holy
man in passing saw my signal of distress and promised rescue. You
have been good to me, and I can only repay you by refusing to expose
you. This priest does not know who you are. I shall not tell him or
any who may be with him. No one shall ever know from me that you
were my abductors. God grant that you may never have to pay the
penalty. Go, while you may, for the truth may become known without
my help, and I may not be able to save you. Save yourselves, all of
you. I mean Philip Quentin, too, because I know he loves me.

“Dorothy.”

Philip Quentin took the forlorn, even distressed, message from the
hands of Lady Saxondale, kissed it devoutly, and placed it in his
pocket.

“Philip is too ill to go out on this desperate chase,” cried Lady
Saxondale.

“Ill! I’ll die if I am not gone from here in five minutes! Great
Lord, Bob, those fools have been an hour getting the horses!”
 groaned Quentin, pacing back and forth like a caged animal.

“Don’t get excited, Phil; keep your head. You’re not fit to be
running about in a business like this, but all Christendom couldn’t
stop you. It may be a wild goose chase, after all,” said Lord Bob.

“She’s been carried back to the accursed villain who employs
Courant, and I’ll die before I’ll let him have her. Oh, what fools
we’ve been!”

“Here’s a puzzler, old man,” said Dickey. “Why was not Ugo here to
help Courant if he knew anything about the fellow’s actions? By
cracky, I don’t believe Ugo knows anything about the Frenchman’s
find.”

“He owns Courant, body and soul!”

“That jacky is out for the hundred thousand francs, and he’s working
on his own hook this time, my boy. He’s after the reward, and he’s
the only one that has been keen enough to find us out. Mark me, he
is working alone.

“Sure, he is,” added Turk. “He’s got no pardners in th’ job, er he’d
a’ had em along to-night. S’pose he’d run into a gang like this
alone if he had anybody t’ fall back on? Not on your life. We’re a
mighty tough gang, an’ he takes no chances with us if he’s workin’
fer anybody else.”

“We’re not a tough gang!” wailed Lady Jane, in tears. “Oh, what will
become of us!”

“The Lord only knows, if we fail to get both Dorothy and Courant,”
 said Quentin, in real anguish.

“They may be in Luxemburg by this time,” said Saxondale. “Gad, this
is working in the dark!”

“That road down there don’t go t’ Luxemburg direct, m’ lord,”
 quickly interposed Turk. “It goes off into th’ hills, don’t you
remember? An’ then out th’ valley some place ‘way to th’ north. If
he’d been goin’ to th’ city he’d ‘a’ taken th’ road back here an’
kep’ from goin’ down th’ hill.”

“You’re right, Turk,” exclaimed Lord Bob. “He has gone up the
valley, headed for one of the little towns, and will steer clear of
the Luxemburg officers for fear they may demand a part of the
reward.”

“God, Saxondale, are those horses never coming?” fumed Quentin. “I
won’t wait!” and he was off like a madman through the gate and down
the steep. Behind him tore Turk, the faithful.



XXVIII. THE GAME OF THE PRIEST


When Turk pitched over the crouching form of the priest and into the
dark chasm beyond Dorothy for the first time began to appreciate the
character of her cowled rescuer. Panting and terrified, she looked
into his hideously exultant face as he rose and peered over the
ledge after the luckless pursuer. It was not the face of a holy man
of God, but that of a creature who could laugh in the taking of a
human life.

“Come on!” he cried, grasping her by the wrist with no gentle
regard. “He’s out of the way, but we have no time to lose. The
others may miss you at any moment, and we must be in the wood if we
hope to fool them.”

“I have changed my mind--” she began, holding back as he dragged her
after him down the slope.

“It is too late,” he said, harshly. “You will soon be with your
friends, my child. Do not lose heart, but trust to me.”

“Who are you? You are not a priest. Why have you disguised
yourself--”

“Not so loud, my child, not so loud! They may have guards even here.
If I am not a priest, then may heaven shut its gates on me forever.
Because I am a man and have undone one of your enemies, you should
not question my calling. It is no time for prayer. When we are safe
from pursuit, you will regret the doubt you have just expressed.
Trust to me, my child. But run, for God’s sake, run! Don’t hang back
when all depends on our speed in the next half-hour.”

“Where are you taking me? Answer, or I shall refuse to go another
step with you!” she exclaimed, now thoroughly aroused and
determined.

“My wagon is hitched in the wood over there. In it we will go to a
town up the valley, where I have the promise of help. I could have
brought a big force of men with me, but don’t you see what a mistake
it would have been? Rather than surrender you to a force they would
have killed you and secreted your body in the passages under the
castle. It is commonly known that the cellars are paved with
skeletons.” Here Dorothy shuddered in recollection. “Strategy was
the only means of getting you out safely.”

“They would not have killed me,” she cried, breathlessly. They were
moving rapidly along the level roadway now, and his grip on her
wrist was like a clasp of iron.

“To save themselves? Of course, they would--as they would a dog!” he
said.

“They are my friends, and they are the best, the truest in the
world,” she gasped, eager to keep the promise of protection made in
the farewell note.

“You think they are, madam, but how could they treat you as they
have if they are friends?” He had turned into the wood, and it was
necessary to proceed more cautiously on account of the darkness. She
realized that she had erred in saying they were friends, and turned
cold with apprehension.

“I mean, they treated me well--for criminals,” she managed to say.

“Criminals!” he snarled. “Bah! Of course they are criminals of the
worst kind, but they will never be punished.”

“I’m afraid they are so clever that no one will ever find out who
they really are.”

He stopped with a lurch, and she could feel that he was looking at
her in amazement.

“I know who they are, and you know them, too,” he said, slowly.
“Perhaps nobody else knows, but we know that my Lord and Lady
Saxondale and the two Americans were your abductors. The man I
dumped into the ravine was that little villain Turk.”

Her heart almost stopped beating with the shock of knowing that
nothing could now shield her captors from exposure.

“But--but it will be very hard to prove,” she said, hoarsely, almost
defiantly.

“You have only to take oath,” he said, meaningly.

“I don’t know the name or face of a person in that castle,” she
said, deliberately. He was silent for a full minute.

“You intend to shield them?” he demanded. There was no answer to the
question. Now she was positive that the man was no priest, but some
one who knew the world and who had made it his business to trace her
and her captors to the very gates of the castle. If he knew, then
others must also be in possession of the secret.

“Who are you?” she demanded, as he drew her deeper into the wood.
There was now the wild desire to escape from her rescuer and to fly
back to the kindly jailers on the hill.

“A poor priest, by the grace of God,” he said, and she heard him
chuckle.

“Take me back to the road, sir!” she commanded.

“I will take you to your mother,” he said, “and to no one else.”

“But I am afraid of you,” she exclaimed, her courage going. “I don’t
know you--I don’t know where you are taking me.”

“We will not go far to-night. I know a place where you can hide
until I secure help from the city.”

“But you said you had a wagon.”

“The horse must have strayed away, worse luck!” said he, with a
raucous laugh.

She broke from his grasp suddenly, and like a frightened deer was
off through the darkness knowing not whither she went or what moment
she might crash against a tree. The flight was a short one. She
heard him curse savagely as he leaped upon her from behind after a
chase of a few rods, and then she swooned dead away.

When she regained consciousness a faint glow of light met her eyes
as the lids feebly lifted themselves from their torpor. Gradually
there came to her nostrils a dank, musty odor and then the smell of
tobacco smoke. She was lying on her back, and her eyes at last began
to take in broad rafters and cobwebby timbers not far above her
head. The light was so dim that shadows and not real objects seemed
to constitute the surroundings. Then there grew the certainty that
she was not alone in this dismal place. Turning her head slightly,
she was able, with some effort, to distinguish the figure of a man
seated on the opposite side of the low, square room, his back
against the wall, his legs outstretched. At his elbow, on a box,
burned a candle, flickering and feeble in its worthlessness. He was
smoking a pipe, and there was about him an air of contentment and
security.

Slowly past events crowded themselves into the path of memory, and
her brain took them up as if they were parts of a dream. For many
minutes she was perfectly quiet, dumbly contemplating the stranger
who sat guard over her in that wretched place. In her mind there was
quickly developed, as one brings the picture from the film of a
negative the truth of the situation. She had escaped from one set of
captors only to give herself into the clutches of others a thousand
times more detestable, infinitely more evil-hearted.

“You’ve come back to life, have you?”

She started violently and shivered as with a mighty chill at the
sound of these words. They came from the slouching smoker.

“Where am I?” she cried, sitting up, a dizzy whirling in her head.
Her bed was no more than a heavy piece of old carpet.

“In the house of your friends,” laconically responded the voice, now
quite familiar. Her eyes swept the room in search of the priest. His
robes lay in a heap across her feet. “Where is Father Paul?” she
demanded. “He is no more,” said the man, in sombre tones. “I was he
until an hour ago.”

“And you are no priest? Ah, God help me, what have I done? What have
I come to in my miserable folly?” she cried, covering her face with
her hands.

“Look here, Miss Garrison,” said the man, quietly. “I am no priest,
but you have nothing to fear because of that fact. The truth is, I
am a detective. For a month I was in the employ of Prince Ravorelli,
and it was no honest business, I can tell you. What I have done
to-night is straight and honest. I mean you no harm, and you have
but to follow my instructions in order to find yourself safe in
Brussels once more. I have been interested in a number of queer
transactions but let me say this in my own defence: I was never
employed in any game so detestable, so low, as the one your noble
prince was playing when you were snatched away from him. The only
regret I have in taking you back to your mother comes from the fear
that you may go ahead and marry that knave.”

Dorothy was listening, with wide eyes and bated breath, to the words
of the lounging smoker.

“I will never, never marry him,” she cried, vehemently.

“Stick to that resolve, my child,” said Courant, with mock
benevolence. “He is a scoundrel, and I cut loose from him to do this
little job down here on my own responsibility.”

“Tell me, if you know, did he plan to kill Mr. Quentin? I must have
the truth,” she cried, eagerly.

“He did worse than that. He made the attempt, or rather his agents
did. You see, Quentin was a dangerous rival because he knew too
much.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Well, he knew all about the prince when he was with the opera
company in Brazil. I can’t tell you much about it, but there was a
murder committed over there and your prince was believed to be
guilty. A woman was killed, I believe. Quentin knew all about it, it
seems.”

“And never told me?” she cried.

“He was not positive, I suppose. There was the danger of being
mistaken, and this American friend of yours seems honest. He only
told you what he knew to be a fact, I conclude.”

“Yesterday I heard that a woman had been murdered in Brussels, a
woman who came to warn me against the prince. Do you know who killed
her?”

“Good God! Has she been killed? Ah, I knew it would come; he was
obliged to get rid of her. I did not know of her death, but I leave
you to guess who was responsible for it. God, he is a devil! You owe
a great deal, Mademoiselle, to the clever men who stole you from
him.”

“Alas, I am beginning to know it, now that it is too late. And he
was ill when I stole away to-night. I implore you, take me back to
the castle!” she pleaded, her heart wrung by the anguish in her
soul.

“So he is in the castle, eh? Just as I thought. I’d like to take you
to him, especially as he is ill, but I must take care of number one.
When I dropped out of one villain’s employment I went into business
for myself. You see, there is about 100,000 francs reward for you,
and there is the same for the bodies of the abductors. If I turn you
over to your mother or her agents--not the prince, by the way--I
earn the reward. If I can procure the arrest of your abductors I get
double the amount. You see how unbusiness-like it would be if I were
to let my sympathies get the better of me.”

“But I will give you 100,000 francs if you will take me back to the
castle,” she cried, standing before him.

“Have you the money with you?”

“Of course I have not, but it shall be yours as soon as I can--”

“Pardon. You are worth nothing to me in that castle, and you will
bring a fortune in Brussels.”

In vain she pleaded with the stubborn detective, finally threatening
him with dire punishment if he refused to accede to her demands.
Then he arose in sudden wrath, cursing her roundly and vowing she
should not leave the room alive if she persisted in such threats. He
told her that she was in a cave beneath the ruins of an old church,
long the haunt of robbers, now the home of snakes and bats. Indeed,
as he spoke a flittermouse scurried through the air within a foot of
her ear.

“We rest here until to-morrow night, and then we start out to walk.
You cannot be seen in that dress, either. I have clothing here in
this box for you to wear. My dear young lady, you must make believe
that you are my younger brother for a day or two, at least.”

A look of horror came into her face, succeeded by the deep red of
insulted modesty, and then the white of indignation.

“I will die first, you wretch!” she exclaimed. In that moment she
believed she could have killed the smiling rogue with her own hands.

“We shall see,” he said, roughly. “Look at them; they are
respectable in cut and they are clean.” He drew the garments from
the box, piece by piece, and held them before her flaming face. “I’m
going out to take a look about the valley. You are quite safe here.
No one knows where you are, and the robbers have been dead for
twenty years. One of them still has his skeleton in the room just
off this one, but he is a harmless old fellow. In an hour I will
return, and we will eat. It is now three o’clock, and the sun will
soon be rising. To-night we venture forth as brothers, remember.”

He pulled his cap down over his eyes, buttoned his coat about his
throat, changed a revolver from one pocket to another, and
deliberately stalked across the room to the narrow door. An instant
later she heard the key rasp in the lock and she was alone.

“Oh, heaven, if Philip Quentin could see me now! If he could but
hear my sobs and see my tears! How he would rejoice, how he would
laugh, how he would pity me. This is your triumph, Philip Quentin,
but you are not here to claim the wretched victory. Fool! Fool!
Fool!”

She had thrown herself face downward on the patch of carpet and was
writhing in the agony of fear and regret. Suddenly there came to her
ears the distant report of a firearm, the rush of feet and then
something heavy crashed against the little door. She was on her feet
in an instant, cowering in the far corner of the room, her face
among the cobwebs. Panic seized her, and she screamed aloud in her
terror. Outside the door there were sounds of a savage struggle, but
they rapidly became indistinct, and finally passed beyond hearing
altogether. She ran to the door and pounded on it with hands that
knew not the bruises they were acquiring, and she moaned in the fear
that the rescuers, for such they surely must be, were leaving her
behind.

“Phil! Phil!” she cried again and again. But there suddenly came to
her a terrifying thought, and she fell back, cold and voiceless.
Ugo! What if he had at last run the treacherous Courant to earth?
What if the rescuer were he?

She slunk away from the door, the dampness of dread sending a chill
to her heart. And when again the rush of footsteps brought a heavy
body against the door, she had not the voice to cry out, so sure was
she that Ugo Ravorelli was coming to her in that dismal hole.

Then the door gave way, and Philip Quentin came plunging into the
room, hatless, coatless, his shirt in shreds. The mighty draft of
air from the open door killed the sickly candle-flame, but not
before they had seen each other. For the second time that night she
lost consciousness.

At the bottom of a deep ravine lay the body of Courant. He had fled
from before the two adversaries after a vain attempt to reenter the
room below the church and had blindly dashed over the cliff. Turk,
with more charity than Courant had shown not many hours before,
climbed down the dangerous steep, and, in horror, touched his
quivering hand. Then came the last gasp.



XXIX. DOROTHY’S SOLUTION


Quentin carried her forth into the night. When Turk came upon him in
the darkness a few minutes later, he was wandering about the
hilltop, the limp figure of the woman he loved in his arms, calling
upon her to speak to him, to forgive him. The little man checked him
just in time to prevent an ugly fall over a steep embankment.

“My God, she’s dead, Turk!” he groaned, placing her tenderly on the
grassy sward and supporting her head with his arm. “The wretch has
killed her.”

“He’s paid for it, if he did. I guess it’s nothin’ but a faint er a
fit. Does she have fits?” demanded Turk, earnestly. Quentin paid no
heed to him, but feverishly began working with her, hope springing
from Turk’s surmise.

“Turk, if she dies, I swear to God I’ll kill myself this night!”
 cried he.

“You’re talkin’ crazy, sir. She’s comin’ around all right, all
right. Hear that? Her eyes’ll be busy in a minute, and she’ll be
askin’ where she’s at. Just keeled over, that’s all. All women does
that w’en they git’s as glad as she wuz. They faint ‘cause it’s
easier’n it is to tell how much obliged they are. I know ‘em. They
pass up hard jobs like that ontil they gits time t’ look all pale
an’ interestin’ an’ tuckered-out, an’ then they ain’t no use sayin’
much obliged, ‘cause th’ man won’t stand fer it a minute.”

Turk was kneeling opposite Quentin and was scratching match after
match, holding them above the pale face until they burnt his finger
tips. When Dorothy at last opened her eyes she looked into the most
terrifying face she had ever seen, and, as the lids closed again
spasmodically, a moan came from her lips. Turk’s bristled face was
covered with blood that had dried hours ago, and he was a most
uncanny object to look upon. “Darn me, she’s askeert of my mug! I’ll
duck ontil you puts her nex’.”

“Look up Dorothy! It is Phil! Don’t be afraid, dearest; you are
safe!” He knew that her eyes were open again, although it was too
dark to see them.

“Is it you, Phil?” she whispered.

“Yes, yes!”

“Where is--where is he?” in terror.

“He cannot harm you now. He is gone.”

“But I saw his face just now. Oh, you are not telling me the truth!”

“You saw Turk’s face, dearest. What a time we had in finding you!
But you are safe now, thank God!”

She lay very still, striving to convince herself that she was awake
and that she was really listening to Philip Quentin’s voice, hoarse
and eager. Her hand went to his face, impulsively searching for the
features her eyes could not see. Strong ringers seized it, and dry,
burning lips kissed it again and again--lips parched with fever. The
heart of the woman asserted itself at once, and concern succeeded
perplexity.

“Oh, Phil, you are ill--you should not be here!” she cried, in
distress, and, before he could prevent she was on her feet, swaying
dizzily.

“Then you are not hurt!” he cried. “Thank God for that!” His arm was
about her waist, and a wave of security and contentment rolled
through her being.

“Take me back to the castle, Phil,” she said, simply. “You will
never know how unhappy I have been, how I have blamed myself for
running away as I did. But, oh, I thought he was a priest, and I
wanted to prove that you could not keep me there.”

“You do not have to stay there, Dorothy,” he said, slowly.

“What do you mean?”

“I have been a fool, an ingrate, a brute, but I will atone if it is
possible. In your note you said you would forgive the others. I
don’t ask pardon for myself, but I implore you to shield them.
Perhaps it is too late; this detective has exposed us--”

“He swore to me that he had not, but he knows everything, and may
carry the word to the authorities,” she interrupted, in distress.

“The secret is safe if he worked alone, for he is dead. Don’t be
frightened; he fell over a cliff in the darkness. Turk!”

“Here, sir.”

“We must get back to the castle as soon as possible. It is five
miles, at least. Try to find a trap of some sort at once. Miss
Garrison cannot walk that distance.”

“But I can and will,” she objected. “I am not hurt and I am stronger
than you.”

“Nonsense! I’m all right. I will return with you to Brussels
to-morrow. Your imprisonment is at an end. There is no need for you
to think again of escape, for you are free to go at this moment.
Come back to Lady Saxondale for a while, though, and when you are
able to go with me we will take the train for Brussels. Believe me,
I am sorry, but I am not fool enough to ask you to forgive. I don’t
deserve pardon, perhaps, but I know that my heart was in the right
and that I saved you from a much worse bondage than that which you
have spent in Castle Craneycrow.”

As if in a dream, she walked with him through the first faint light
of the dawning day, stunned by the unexpected words he had uttered.
In her mind there began to grow, rebelliously, the fear that he
would do as he said! Turk, following close behind, suddenly gave a
loud shout and sped away like a flash in front of them.

“It’s Mr. Savage,” he yelled back to the startled couple, “an’ he’s
on horseback! Hi, there!”

As Dickey Savage came plunging up the slope, roaring with excited
joy, she said to Ouentin, her voice low and intense:

“I know now that you saved me from a worse fate than death, Phil,
and, if you ask, I will forgive as I hope you will forgive me.
Courant was Ugo’s tool, and I had the truth from him. You are the
truest, the best of friends, and I should--”

“Stop, Dorothy! Not now, some day, when you are home, after you have
had time to think over all that I have done, right and wrong, I may
come to you with the question I will not ask now. What I have sinned
for, if you want to call it that, I will sue for some other day when
the world is looking on. I will not make my prisoner pay penalty
without a trial.”

“I want you to know that I do not hate you,” she argued,
persistently.

“But you hated me yesterday.”

“I did not.”

Just then Dickey pounced upon them, and, as they hurried to the spot
where Turk was holding the newcomer’s horse, Phil briefly told how
he and the little ex-burglar had accidentally stumbled upon the
hiding-place of the pseudo priest after hours of hopeless search.
The two pursuers, tired and despairing, were lying on the ground in
front of the church ruins, taking a few moments of rest before
climbing to the summit of the hill, when the luckless Courant
ventured forth. With quick intuition, Turk called out the
detective’s name, and the ruse worked. The man they could not see
gave a snort of dismay and turned to reenter the door. And then came
his undoing.

Turk was the general who planned the return to the castle. He
insisted that Quentin, who was very weak, take Miss Garrison upon
the horse’s back and ride, while he and Savage walked. In this way
they reached the gates of Craneycrow. It was like the home-coming of
loved ones who had been absent for years. Three women were in tears,
and all of the men were in smiles. Quentin’s was the smile of one
bordering on delirium, however. A chill broke over him, and the
fever in his body renewed its disputed sway. An hour later he was in
bed, and Turk, dispatched by Dorothy Garrison, was riding to the
nearest town for a physician, much against the wishes of the sick
man. He stubbornly insisted that he would start with her for
Brussels within twenty-four hours, and it was not until the doctor
told him that he was in extreme danger of pneumonia that he
consented to keep to his bed.

Resolutely he checked all desire to cry his love into the ear of the
gentle nurse who sat with him for hours. He would not grant himself
the slightest deviation from the course he had sworn to follow, and
he suffered more from restraint than from fever. She found herself
longing for the moment when he would call her to him and pour out
the love that would not be denied. He never spoke but she hoped for
signs of surrender; he never looked at her that she did not expect
his lips to utter the story his eyes were telling, What he endured
in that week of fever, under the strain of love’s nursing, only he
could have told--and he told nothing. How she hungered for the
luxury of one word, only she knew--and confessed unconsciously.

Had the doctor told her that he was critically ill, she would have
cast all restraint aside and wrung from him the words he was holding
back. But the unromantic little doctor calmly broke the fever,
subdued the congestion, relieved the cough and told them that the
“young man would be quite well in a few days if he took good care of
himself.”

The days of convalescence were few, for the vigorous strength of the
patient had not been sapped to any great extent. They were days of
happiness, however, for all who lived in Castle Craneycrow. Dickey
and Lady Jane solemnly and somewhat defiantly approached Lord Bob on
a very important matter. He solemnly and discreetly gave his
consent, and Dickey promised to be very, very good to her so long as
he lived. One day a real priest, Father Bivot, came to the castle
gates to solicit alms for the poor of the neighborhood. He was
admitted, refreshed and made glad by a single donation that
surpassed in size the combined contributions of a whole valley. It
was from him that they learned, with no little uneasiness of mind,
that the body of Courant had been found, and that it had been
identified by the Luxemburg authorities. The cause of his death was
a mystery that defied solution, however.

The news that Courant had been found and identified made Quentin all
the more eager to carry out his design to restore Dorothy to her
mother. He knew, and all knew, that it was but a question of a few
days until Ugo and the police would put two and two together and
come racing into the valley, certain that Courant had been killed by
the abductors of Dorothy Garrison.

One morning, therefore, shortly after the visit of Father Bivot, he
asked Lord Saxondale for the use of a conveyance, announcing his
intention to drive with Dorothy to the nearest railway station.
There was dismay in the heart of everyone who sat at what had been a
cheerful breakfast table. Quentin deliberately went on to say that
he would take no lackey, preferring to expose none but himself in
the undertaking.

“Can you be ready in an hour, Dorothy?” he asked, after Saxondale
had reluctantly consented.

“Do you insist on carrying out this Quixotic plan, Phil?” she asked,
after a long pause.

“Positively.”

“Then, I can be ready in half an hour,” she said, leaving the table
abruptly.

“Confound it, Phil; she’d rather stay here,” said Dickey, miserably.

“I intend to restore her to her mother, just the same. There’s no
use discussing it, Dickey. If they don’t throw me into jail at
Brussels, I may return in a day or two.”

There was a faint flush in Dorothy’s cheeks as she bade good-bye to
the party. Lady Saxondale sagely remarked, as the trap rolled out of
sight among the trees below the castle, that the flush was product
of resentment, and Dickey offered to wager £20 that she would be an
engaged girl before she reached Brussels.

“Do you know the road, Phil?” asked Dorothy, after they had gone
quite a distance in silence. She looked back as she spoke, and her
eyes uttered a mute farewell to the grim old pile of stone on the
crest of the hill.

“Father Bivot gave me minute directions yesterday, and I can’t miss
the way. It’s rather a long drive, Dorothy, and a tiresome one for
you, perhaps. But the scenery is pretty and the shade of the forest
will make us think we are again in the Bois de la Cambre.

“If I were you, I would not go to Brussels,” she said, after another
long period of silence, in which she painfully sought for means to
dissuade him from entering the city. She was thinking of the big
reward for his capture and of the greedy officials who could not be
denied.

“Do you think I am afraid of the consequences?” he asked, bitterly.
She looked at the white face and the set jaws and despaired.

“You are not afraid, of course, but why should you be foolhardy? Why
not put me in the coach for Brussels and avoid the risk of being
seized by the police? I can travel alone. If you are taken, how can
you or I explain?” she went on, eagerly.

“You have promised to shield the rest,” he said, briefly.

“I know, but I want to shield you. Haven’t I told you that I forgive
everything? Don’t make me unhappy, Phil. It would kill me now if you
were to fall into the hands of the police. They are crazy to catch
my abductors, and don’t you remember what the paper said? It said
the people would kill without mercy. Please, Phil, for my sake,
don’t go to Brussels. It is so unnecessary and so hazardous.”

“Pray, tell me what explanation you could give to your mother, to
the police, to the newspapers, if you suddenly appeared in Brussels,
safe and sound, and yet unable to tell who had been your captors or
where you have been held?” he grimly said.

“I would not offer an explanation,” she said, decisively, as if that
settled everything.

“But you would be compelled to make some statement, my dear girl.
You couldn’t drop in there as if from the sky and not tell where you
have been and with whom. The truth would be demanded, and you could
not refuse. What would the world, your mother, the prince, think--”

“Don’t mention that man’s name to me,” she cried.

“Well, what would be the natural conclusion if you refused to give
an explanation? Don’t you see that the papers would make a sensation
of the matter? There is no telling what they would say about you.
The world would jump at the scandal bait, and you would be the most
notorious of women, to be perfectly plain with you. If you refuse to
expose the people who abducted you, there could be but one
inference. It would simply mean that you were a party to the plot
and fled to evade the wedding at St. Gudule’s. Upon whom would
suspicion fall? Upon the man who was supposed to have sailed for New
York, and upon his friends. Where have you been during the last few
weeks? If you did not answer, the world would grin and say, ‘In New
York, and of her own volition!’ Don’t you see, Dorothy, there is but
one way to end this horrible mistake of mine? Only one way to
protect you from humiliation, even degradation?”

“You mean by--” she began, faintly, afraid to complete the dreaded
surmise.

“By the surrender of the real criminal,” he said, calmly.

“I will not agree to that!” she cried, imperatively. “If you give
yourself up to them, Philip Quentin, I will deny every word of your
confession,” she went on, triumphantly.

“I’m afraid they would doubt you,” he responded, but his heart
leaped gladly.

“And do you know what else I shall do if you persist? I’ll tell the
world that you were not alone in this affair, and I’ll send the
officers to Castle Craneycrow to arrest every--” she was crying
hysterically, when he interrupted.

“But you have promised to shield them!”

“Promised! I will forget that I ever made a promise. Philip Quentin,
either I go to Brussels alone or every person in Craneycrow goes to
prison with you. I’ll not spare one of them. Promise? What do I care
for that promise? Do as you like, Phil, but I mean every word of
it!”

“You wouldn’t dare, Dorothy, you wouldn’t dare!” he cried,
imploringly. “They are not to blame. I am the guilty one. They are
not--”

“One way or the other, Phil!” she cried, firmly. “It is safety for
all or disgrace for all. Now, will you go to Brussels?”

“But, my heavens, how can you explain to the world?” he cried, in
deepest distress.

“I have thought of all that. Providence gave me the solution,” she
said, her face beaming with the joy of victory.

“Not even Providence can supply an explanation,” he groaned.

“You forget Courant, the dead man. He cannot deny the charge if I
conclude to accuse him of the crime. He is the solution!”



XXX. LOVE IS BLIND


“But Ugo can disprove it,” he said, after a moment’s thought.

“Only by confessing his own duplicity,” she said, tranquilly.

“You will not marry him, Dorothy?”

She looked him full in the eyes, and no word could have answered
plainer than the disdain which swept across her lovely face.

“What do you think of me, Phil?” she asked, in hurt tones, and he
answered with his eyes because he could not trust his voice.

The longing to throw her arms about the man whose burning eyes had
set her heart afire was almost uncontrollable; the hope that he
would throw off restraint and cry out his love, drove her timidly
into silent expectancy. His whole soul surged to his lips and eyes,
but he fought back the words that would have made them both so
happy. He knew she loved him; the faintest whisper from him would
cause her lips to breathe the passion her eyes revealed. And yet he
was strong enough to bide his time.

How long this exquisite communion of thoughts lasted neither knew
nor cared. Through the leafy wood they drove, in utter silence, both
understanding, both revealing, both waiting. He dared not look at
the glorious, love-lit face, he dared not speak to her, he dared not
tempt the heart that might betray his head. It was he who at last
broke that joyous calm, and his voice was husky with suppressed
emotion.

“You will not forget that some day I am coming to you as Phil
Quentin and not in the mask of a bandit.”

“I shall expect you, robber, to appear before a certain tribunal
and there explain, if you can, what led you to commit the crime that
has shocked the world,” she said, brightly.

“I implore the leniency of the high court,” he said, tenderly.

“The court can only put you on probation and exact the promise that
you will never steal another girl.”

“And the length of probation?”

“For all your natural life,” demurely.

“Then I must appeal to a higher court,” he said, soberly.

“What?” she cried. “Do you object to the judgment?”

“Not at all,” he said, earnestly. “I will merely appeal to the
higher court for permission to live forever.” Both laughed with the
buoyancy that comes from suppressed delight. “It occurs to me,
Dorothy,” said he, a few minutes later, “that we are a long time in
reaching the town Father Bivot told me about. We seem to be in the
wilds, and he said there were a number of houses within five miles
of Craneycrow. Have we passed a single habitation?”

“I have not seen one, but I’m sorry the time seems long,” she said.

“I wonder if we have lost the way,” he went on, a troubled
expression in his eyes. “This certainly isn’t a highway, and he said
we would come to one within three miles of the castle. See; it is
eleven o’clock, and we have been driving for more than two hours at
a pretty fair gait. By the eternal, Dorothy, we may be lost!”

“How delightful!” she cried, her eyes sparkling.

“I don’t believe you care,” he exclaimed, in surprise.

“I should have said how frightful,” she corrected, contritely.

“This isn’t getting you on a train, by any manner of means,” he
said. “Could I have misunderstood the directions he gave?” He was
really disturbed.

“And the poor horse seems so tired, too,” she said, serenely.

“By Jove! Didn’t we cross a stream an hour or so ago?” he cried.

“A horrid, splashy little stream? We crossed it long ago.”

“Well, we shouldn’t have crossed it,” he said, ruefully. “I should
have turned up the hill over the creek road. We’re miles out of the
way, Dorothy.”

“What shall we do?” she asked, with a brave show of dismay.

“I don’t know. We’re in a deuce of a pickle, don’t you see?” he
said.

“I can’t say that I do see,” she said. “Can’t we drive back to the
creek?”

“We could if I could turn the confounded trap about. But how, in the
name of heaven, can I turn on a road that isn’t wide enough for two
bicycles to pass in safety? Steep, unclimable hill on our left, deep
ravine on our right.”

“And a narrow bit of a road ahead of us,” she said. “It looks very
much as if the crooked and narrow path is the best this time.”

That narrow road seemed to have no end and it never widened. The
driving at last became dangerous, and they realized that the tired
horse was drawing them up a long, gradual slope. The way became
steeper, and the road rough with rocks and ruts. Her composure was
rapidly deserting her, and he was the picture of impatience.

“If we should meet anyone else driving, what would happen?” she
asked, fearfully.

“We won’t meet anyone,” he answered. “Nobody but a mountain goat
would wittingly venture up this road. This poor old nag is almost
dead. This is a pretty mess! How do you like the way I’m taking you
to the train?”

“Is this another abduction?” she asked, sweetly, and both laughed
merrily, in spite of their predicament. His haggard face, still
showing the effects of illness, grew more and more troubled, and at
last he said they would have to get down from the trap, not only to
avoid the danger of tipping over the cliff, but to relieve the
horse. In this sorry fashion they plodded along, now far above the
forest, and in the cool air of the hilltops.

“There certainly must be a top to this accursed hill,” he panted. He
was leading the horse by the bit, and she was bravely trudging at
his side.

“There is a bend in the road up yonder, Phil,” she said.

When they turned the bend in the tortuous mountain road, both drew
up sharply, with a gasp of astonishment. For a long time neither
spoke, their bewildered minds struggling to comprehend the vast
puzzle that confronted them. Even the fagged horse pricked up his
ears and looked ahead with interest. Not three hundred yards beyond
the bend stood the ruins of an enormous castle.

“It is Craneycrow!” gasped the man, leaning dizzily against the
shaft of the trap. She could only look at him in mute consternation.
It was Craneycrow, beyond all doubt, but what supernatural power had
transferred it bodily from the squarrose hill on which it had stood
for centuries, to the spot it now occupied, grim and almost
grinning? “Is this a dream, Dorothy? Are we really back again?”

“I can’t believe it,” she murmured. “We must be deceived by a
strange resem--”

“There is Bob himself! Good heavens, this paralyzes me! Hey, Bob!
Bob!”

A few minutes later a limping horse dragged his bones into the
courtyard and two shame faced travelers stood before a taunting
quartet, enduring their laughter, wincing under their jests,
blushing like children when the shots went home. For hours they had
driven in a circle, rounding the great row of hills, at last coming
to the very gate from which they had started forth so confidently.
They were tired and hungry and nervous.

“Did you telegraph your mother you were coming?” asked Dickey
Savage.

“We did not even see a telegraph wire,” answered Dorothy, dismally.

“What did you see?” he asked, maliciously,

“You should not ask confusing questions, Richard,” reprimanded Lady
Jane, with mock severity.

“Well, we’ll try it over again to-morrow,” decided Quentin,
doggedly.

“Do you expect me to let you kill every horse I own?” demanded Lord
Bob. “They can’t stand these round-the-world pleasure trips every
day, don’t you know. Glad to oblige you, my boy, but I must be
humane.”

That evening Father Bivot came to the castle, just as they were
leaving the dinner table. He brought startling news. Not an hour
before, while on his way from the nearest village, he had come upon
a big party of men, quartered on the premises of a gardener down the
valley. It required but little effort on his part to discover that
they were officers from the capital, and that they were looking for
the place where Courant’s body was found. The good Father also
learned that detectives from Brussels were in the party, and that
one of the men was a prince. The eager listeners in Castle
Craneycrow soon drew from the priest enough to convince them that
Ugo was at the head of the expedition, and that it was a matter of
but a few hours until he and his men would be knocking at the gates.

“The prince did not address me,” said Father Bivot, “but listened
intently, as I now recall, to everything I said in response to the
Luxemburg officer’s questions. That person asked me if Lord Robert
Saxondale owned a place in the valley, and I said that his lordship
dwelt in Castle Craneycrow. The men were very curious, and a tall
Italian whispered questions to the officer, who put them to me
roughly. There was no harm in telling them that his lordship was
here with a party of friends--”

“Good Lord!” gasped Dickey, despairingly.

“It is all over,” said Quentin, his face rigid.

“What will they do?” demanded Dorothy, panic-stricken.

“I do not understand your agitation, good friends,” said the priest,
in mild surprise. “Have I done wrong in telling them you are here?
Who are they? Are they enemies?”

“They are searching for me, Father Bivot,” said Dorothy, resignedly.

“For you, my child?” in wonder.

“They want to take me back to Brussels, You would not understand,
Father, if I told you the story, but I do not want them to find me
here.”

A frightened servant threw open the door unceremoniously at this
juncture and controlling his excitement with moderate success,
announced that a crowd of men were at the gates, demanding
admission.

“My God, Bob, this will ruin you and Lady Saxondale!” groaned
Quentin. “What can we do? Escape by the underground passage?”

Lord Saxondale was the coolest one in the party. He squared his
shoulders, sniffed the air belligerently, and said he would take the
matter in his own hands.

“Frances, will you take Miss Garrison upstairs with you? And Jane, I
suspect you would better go, too The secret passage is not to be
considered. If we attempt to leave the place, after the information
Father Bivot has given them, it will be a clean admission of guilt.
We will face them down. They can’t search the castle without my
permission, and they can’t trespass here a minute longer than I
desire. Do you care to see the prince, Quentin?”

“See him? It is my duty and not yours to meet him. It means nothing
to me and it means disgrace to you, Bob, Let me talk to--”

“If you intend to act like an ass, Phil, you shan’t talk to him. I
am in control here, and I alone can treat with him and the
officers.”

“Please, sir, they are becoming very angry, and say they will break
down the gates in the name of the law,” said the servant, reentering
hurriedly.

“I will go out and talk to them about the law,” said Saxondale,
grimly. “Don’t be alarmed, Miss Garrison. We’ll take care of you.
Gad, you look as if you want to faint! Get her upstairs, Frances.”

“I must speak with you, Lord Saxondale,” cried Dorothy, clutching
his arm and drawing him apart from the pale-faced group. Eagerly she
whispered in his ear, stamping her foot in reply to his blank
objections. In the end she grasped both his shoulders and looked up
into his astonished eyes determinedly, holding him firmly until he
nodded his head gravely. Then she ran across the room to the two
ladies and the bewildered priest, crying to the latter:

“You must come upstairs and out of danger, Father. We have no time
to lose. Good luck to you, Lord Saxondale!” and she turned an
excited face to the three men who stood near the door.

“He shall not have you, Dorothy,” cried Quentin. “He must kill me
first.”

“Trust to Lord Saxondale’s diplomacy, Phil,” she said, softly, as
she passed him on her way to the stairs.



XXXI. HER WAY


The grim smile that settled on the faces of the three men after the
women and the trembling priest had passed from the hall, was not one
of amusement. It was the offspring of a desperate, uneasy courage.

“Quentin, the safety of those women upstairs depends on your
thoughtfulness. You must leave this affair to me. We can’t keep them
waiting any longer. Gad, they will tear down the historic gate I had
so much difficulty in building last year. Wait for me here. I go to
meet the foe.”

Turk was standing in the courtyard with a revolver in his hand. Lord
Bob commanded him to put away the weapon and to “stow his
bellicoseness.” Mere chance caused Turk to obey the command in full;
half of it he did not understand. The voices outside the gate were
much more subdued than his lordship expected, but he did not know
that Prince Ugo had warily enjoined silence, fearing the flight of
the prey.

“Who is there?” called Lord Bob, from the inside

“Are you Lord Saxondale?” demanded a guttural voice on the outside.

“I am. What is the meaning of this disturbance?”

“We are officers of the government, and we are looking for a person
who is within your walls. Open the gate, my lord.”

“How am I to know you are officers of the law? You may be a pack of
bandits. Come back to-morrow, my good friends.”

“I shall be compelled to break down your gate, sir,” came from
without, gruffly.

“Don’t do it. The first man who forces his way will get a bullet in
his head. If you can give me some assurance that you are officers
and not thieves, I may admit you.” Lord Bob was grinning broadly,
much to the amazement of the servant who held the lantern. There
were whispers on the outside.

“Prince Ravorelli is with us, my lord. Is he sufficient guarantee?”
 asked the hoarse voice.

“Is Giovanni Pavesi there, also?” asked Saxondale, loudly.

“I do not know him, my lord. The prince’s companions are strangers
to me. Is such a person here?” Lord Bob could almost see the look on
Ugo’s face when the question was put to him.

“I never heard the name,” came the clear voice of the Italian. “My
friends are well known to Lord Saxondale. He remembers Count
Sallaconi and the Duke of Laselli. Two men from Brussels are also
here--Captains Devereaux and Ruz.”

“I recognize the prince’s voice,” said Saxondale, unlocking the
gate. “Come inside, gentlemen,” he said, as he stood before the
group. “Sorry to have kept you waiting, you know, but it is wise to
be on the safe side. So you are looking for some one who is in my
castle? May I inquire the name of that person?”

“You know very well, Lord Saxondale,” said Ugo, now taking the lead.
He stood boldly, defiantly before the Englishman.

“Carmenita Malban is dead, your excellency,” said Bob, coolly.

“I do not know what you are talking about, sir,” grated the prince.
“Dorothy Garrison is here, held against her will, and I, her
affianced husband, command you to surrender her.”

“Have you the authority to take her, if I refuse to obey?” asked the
other, with exasperating coolness.

“These officers have the authority to arrest you and to take her
from your hands, violently, if necessary.”

“Oh, well, that makes a difference, of course. Miss Garrison is
here, Prince Ravorelli, but I doubt your authority to take her
away.”

“There is a reward for her, dead or alive,” said Count Sallaconi,
savagely.

“And for the abductors,” added the burly man from Luxemburg. “I
shall have to place you under arrest, my lord.”

“One moment, my good man. Miss Garrison is her own mistress, I
believe?” addressing the prince.

“What has that to do with it?”

“I’m sure I don’t know, but it may be important. If you will kindly
request your followers to remain in the courtyard, you may enter the
castle and converse with Miss Garrison herself, Prince Paves--I
should say Ravorelli.” There was a wild, hunted look in the
Italian’s eyes, and there was murder in his heart. “I will ask you
and the count and the duke and Officer Luxemburg to come with me.”

With rare dignity Lord Saxondale strode across the flags and
deliberately threw open the huge castle door. After a moment of
indecision and not a little trepidation, Prince Ugo followed, with
his two countrymen not far behind. The Luxemburg officer gave
hurried instructions to his men and took his place among the favored
few.

It was a sharply-drawn hiss, ending in a triumphant “ah,” that came
from the lips of Ugo when he was face to face with Philip Quentin.
His glittering eyes plainly said that his suspicions were confirmed.
The discovery of the fact, a week before, that the two Americans had
not sailed for New York provided the foundation for a shrewd guess
and he had not been wrong.

“It is as I suspected,” he said, tersely. “I trust I am not too late
to save Miss Garrison from outrage.”

“One moment, please,” commanded Lord Bob. “You are here through
sufferance, and you must, for the time being, imagine yourself a
gentleman. If you care to talk over the situation with us while we
wait for Lady Saxondale and Miss Garrison, I shall be only too glad
to have you do so. Will you be seated, gentlemen?”

“We are not here to be directed by you, Lord Saxondale. We have
tracked this scoundrel to earth, and we are--” Ugo was saying hotly
when his lordship turned on him sternly.

“Mr. Quentin is my guest. Another remark of that character and I
will throw you bodily from the room. This is my house, Prince
Ravorelli.” Paying no heed to the malevolent glare in the Italian’s
eyes, Saxondale turned and bade a servant ask Miss Garrison to come
down if it pleased her to do so.

“I presume Brussels is very much excited over Miss Garrison’s
disappearance,” said he to the livid-faced prince.

“Brussels is horrified, but she will rejoice tomorrow. Thank God, we
have not toiled in vain.”

“Sit down. May I inquire for the health of Mrs. Garrison?” The four
newcomers, more or less ill at ease, sat down with Lord Bob, the two
Americans standing. Quentin leaned against the big post at the foot
of the steps, his face the picture of gloomy defiance.

“I am not her physician, sir.”

“Hoity-toity! She is quite well, then, I may reasonably infer. Can
you tell me whether she is in Brussels?”

“She will be in Luxemburg in the morning, if my message reaches her
to-night. But we are not here for the purpose of bandying words with
you, sir. This house must be searched, whether you like it or not.
Captain, call in your men,” cried the prince, his rage getting the
better of him.

“You will find that the door is barred, captain,” said Saxondale,
easily. The expression that came into the faces of the four men was
one not soon to be forgotten. For a full minute there was absolute
silence.

“Do you mean that we are prisoners?” demanded Ugo, his teeth
showing, but not in a smile.

“Not at all. The door has a habit of locking itself.”

“I command you to open that door!” cried the prince, looking about
him like a trapped rat. He snarled with rage when he saw the smile
on Quentin’s face. Dickey’s sudden chuckle threw dismay into the
ranks of the confident besiegers.

“Do not be alarmed, gentlemen,” said Saxondale. “The door shall be
opened in good time. Ah, I think the ladies are coming.”

As he spoke Dorothy and Lady Saxondale appeared at the top of the
stairs. Ugo would have dashed up to meet them had not the two
Americans blocked the way. Slowly Dorothy came down the oaken steps,
followed by Lady Saxondale. Lady Jane and Father Bivot were not far
behind them.

“Dorothy!” cried Ugo. “Thank heaven, I have found you!”

She stopped on the bottom step, within arm’s length of Philip
Quentin. There was a moment of indecision, a vivid flush leaped into
her lovely cheek, and then her hand went quickly forth and rested on
Quentin’s shoulder. He started and looked at her for the first time.

“I am sorry, Ugo, for the wrong I have done you,” she said,
steadily, but her hand trembled convulsively on Phil’s shoulder.
Mechanically he reached up and took the slim fingers in his broad,
strong hand and rose to the step beside her.

“The wrong?” murmured the prince, mechanically.

“In running away from you as I did,” she said, hurriedly, as if
doubting her power to proceed. “It was heartless of me, and it
subjected you to the crudest pain and humiliation. I cannot ask you
to forgive me. You should despise me.”

“Despise you?” he gasped, slowly. The truth began to dawn on two men
at the same time. Ugo’s heart sank like a stone and Quentin’s leaped
as if stung by an electric shock. His figure straightened, his chin
was lifted, and the blood surged from all parts of his body to his
turbulent heart.

“I loved him, Prince Ravorelli, better than all the world. It was a
shameless way to leave you, but it was the only way,” she said, her
voice full. Then she lifted her eyes to Quentin’s and for the moment
all else was forgotten.

“My God, you--you did not leave Brussels of your own free will!”
 cried the prince, his eyes blazing, Sallaconi and Laselli moved
toward the door, and the police officer’s face was a study.

“I ran away with the man I love,” she answered, bravely.

“It is a lie!” shrieked the Italian. Saxondale seized his hand in
time to prevent the drawing of a revolver from his coat pocket.
“‘Damn you! This is a trick!”

“You have Miss Garrison’s word for it, your excellency. She was not
abducted, and your search has been for naught,” said the big
Englishman. “There are no abductors here. The famous abduction was a
part of the game and it was abetted by the supposed victim.”

“But there is a reward for her return to Brussels,” interrupted the
Luxemburg official, speaking for the first time. “I must insist that
she come with me.”

“The reward is for Dorothy Garrison, is it not?” demanded Saxondale.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Well, as you cannot get out of the castle and your friends cannot
get into it until we open the doors, there is absolutely no
possibility of your taking Dorothy Garrison to Brussels.”

“Do you mean to oppose the law?” cried Ugo, panting with rage.

“Gentlemen, as the host in Castle Craneycrow, I invite you to
witness the marriage ceremony which is to make it impossible for you
to take Dorothy Garrison to Brussels. You have come, gentlemen--a
trifle noisily and unkindly, I admit--just in time to witness the
wedding of my two very good friends who eloped with the sound of
wedding bells in their ears. Father Bivot, the bride and groom await
you.”

“Dorothy, my darling,” whispered Quentin. She turned her burning
face away.

“It is my way, Phil. I love you,” she murmured.

THE END





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