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- Castle Craneycrow - 5/48 -
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
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