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- Castle Craneycrow - 4/48 -
"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.
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