George Barr McCutcheon
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.
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.
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:
"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."
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."
"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."
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 ringer 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.
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.
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 10 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:^
"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 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!"
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 appeal 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.
"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.
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?"
"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.
"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?
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.