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- Castle Craneycrow - 2/48 -
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.
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