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- Castle Craneycrow - 10/48 -
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.
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