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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCastle Craneycrow - Chapter 18. Arrivals From London
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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 18. Arrivals From London Post by :Slic47 Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :2151

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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 18. Arrivals From London

CHAPTER XVIII. ARRIVALS FROM LONDON

Lady Saxondale and the young person with the stored-up wrath were met at the Gare du Nord by Mr. Savage, all smiles and good spirits. Quentin was rounding-to nicely, and there was little danger from complications. This fact coupled with the joy of seeing the girl who had been able to make him feel that life was not a shallow dream, sent him up to the two ladies with outstretched hands, a dancing heart and a greeting that brought smiles to the faces of crusty fellow-creatures who had not smiled in weeks.

With a deference due to premeditated gallantry, he shook hands first with Lady Frances. His ebullition almost swept him to the point of greeting the two maids who stood respectfully near their mistresses. Then he turned his beaming face upon the Arctic individual with the pink parasol and the palm-leaf fan.

"Awfully sorry, Lady Jane, but I really couldn't get to Ostend. You didn't have any trouble getting the right train and all that, did you?" he asked, vaguely feeling for the hand which had not been extended.

"Not in the least, Mr. Savage. We delight in traveling alone. Do you see the baroness anywhere, Frances?" Mr. Savage stared in amazement. A distinct, blighting frost settled over the whole September world and his smile lost all but its breadth. The joy left his eyes and his heart like a flash, but his lips helplessly, witlessly maintained a wide-open hospitality until long after the inspiration was dead.

"She is not here, I am afraid," responded Lady Saxondale, glancing through the hurrying crowd. "Have you seen the Baroness St. Auge, Mr. Savage? Or do you know her?"

"I can't say that I have--er--I mean don't--no, I should say both," murmured he distractedly. "Does she live here?"

"She resides in a house, not in a railway station," observed Lady Jane, with a cutting sarcasm of which she was rather proud. Lady Saxondale turned her face away and buried a convulsive smile in her handkerchief.

"I mean in Brussels," floundered Dickey, his wits in the wind. He was gazing dumbly at the profile of the slim iceberg tnat had so sharply sent the blast of winter across the summer of his content.

"She certainly understood that we were to come on this train, Frances. You telegraphed her," said Lady Jane, ignoring him completely. She raised herself on her dainty tiptoes, elevated her round little chin and tried to peer over the heads of a very tall and disobliging multitude. Dickey, at a loss for words, stretched his neck also in search of the woman he did not know.

"How very annoying," said Lady Saxon-dale, a faint frown on her brow. "She is usually so punctual."

"Perhaps she--er--didn't get your telegram," ventured Dickey. "What sort of a looking--I mean, is she old or young?"

"Neither; she is just my age," smiled Lady Saxondale. Dickey dumbly permitted the rare chance for a compliment to slip by. "Jane, won't you and Mr. Savage undertake a search for her? I will give William directions regarding the luggage." She turned to the man and the maids, and Mr. Savage and Lady Disdain were left to work out their salvation as best they could.

"I can't think of troubling you, Mr. Savage. It won't be necessary for you to dodge around in this crowd to--"

"No trouble, I assure you, Lady Jane. Be glad to do it, in fact. Where shall we go first?" demanded he, considerably flurried.

"You go that way and I'll go this. We'll find her more easily," said she, relentlessly, indicating the directions.

"But I don't know her," he cried.

"How unfortunate! Would you know her if I were to describe her to you? Well, she's tall and very fair. She's also beautiful. She's quite stunning. I'm sure you'll know her." She was starting away when he confronted her desperately.

"You'll have to go with me. I'll be arrested for addressing the wrong lady if I go alone, and you'll suffer the mortification of seeing them drag me off to jail."

"The what? Why do you say mortification, Mr. Savage? I am quite sure--"

"O, come now, Jane--aw--Lady Jane--what do you mean by that? What's all the row about? What has happened?" he cried.

"I don't understand you, Mr. Savage."

"Something's wrong, or you'd seem happier to see me, that's all," he said, helplessly. "Lord, all my troubles come at once. Phil is half dead, perhaps all dead, by this time--and here you come along, adding misery instead of--"

"Phil--Mr. Quentin--what did you say, Dickey?" she cried, her haughty reserve fading like a flash.

"Don't you know?" he cried. "Almost killed last night by--by robbers. Slugged him nearly to a finish. Horrible gashes--eight stitches"--he was blurting out excitedly, but she clasped his arm convulsively and fairly dragged him to where Lady Saxondale stood.

"Oh, Dickey! They didn't kill--he won't die, will he? Why didn't you tell us before? Why didn't you telegraph?" she cried, and there was no wrath in the thumping, terrified little heart. Lady Saxondale turned quickly upon hearing the excited words of the girl who but a moment before had been the personification of reserve.

"What are you saying, Jane? Is there anything wrong?" she asked.

"Everything is wrong--Philip is dead!" cried Lady Jane, ready to faint. "Dickey says there are eight gashes, and that he is all dead! Why don't you tell us about it, Dickey?"

"He's all right--not dead at all. Robber's held him up last night during the storm, and if help hadn't come just when it did they'd have made short work of him. But I can't tell you about it here, you know. If you'll allow me I'll take a look for the baroness."

"I'll go with you," said Lady Jane, enthusiastically. "Dickey," she went on as they hurried away, "I forgive you."

"Forgive me for what?" he asked.

"For not coming to Ostend," demurely.

"You really wanted me to come, did you, Jane?"

"Yes, after I had been goose enough to telegraph to you, you know. You don't know how small I felt when you did not come," she hurried out, but his merry laugh cut short the humiliating confession.

"And that was why you--"

"Yes, that was why. Don't say another word about it, though. I was such a horrid little fool, and I am so ashamed of myself. And you were so worried all the time about dear Mr. Quentin," she pleaded, penitently.

"You might have known that nothing short of death could have prevented me from coming to Ostend," said he softly. "But I've all sorts of news to tell you. When I tell you about the duel you'll go into convulsions; when you hear--"

"A duel? Good heavens, how--I mean who--" she gasped, her eyes wider than ever.

"'I don't know how, but I do know who. Jane, I have shot a man!" he said, impressively.

"Oh, oh, oh! Dickey!" she almost shrieked, coming helplessly to a standstill, a dozen emotions crowding themselves into her pretty, bewildered face.

"Don't faint! I'll tell you all about it--to-night, eh?" he said, hastily. He was vastly afraid she might topple over in a swoon.

"I can't wait!" she gasped. "And I will not faint. You must tell me all about it this instant. Is the other man--is he--where is he?"

"He's in a hospital. Everybody's staring at us. What a fool I was to say anything about it, I won't tell you another word of it."

"Oh, Dickey, please!" she implored. He was obdurate and her manner changed suddenly. With blighting scorn she exclaimed, "I don't believe a word you've said."

"O, now, that's hardly a nice way--" he began, indignantly, catching himself luckily before floundering into her trap. "You will have to wait, just the same, Miss Lady Jane Oldham. Just now we are supposed to be searching for a baroness who is good enough to come to railway stations, you'll remember. Have you seen her?"

At this juncture Lady Saxondale's voice was heard behind them, and there were traces of laughter in the tones.

"Are you waiting for the mountain to come to you? Here is the baroness, delayed by an accident to her victoria." Mr. Savage was presented to the handsome, rather dashing lady, whose smile was as broad and significant as that which still left traces about Lady Saxondale's lips. He bowed deeply to hide the red in his cheeks and the confusion in his eyes. His companion, on the other hand, greeted the stranger so effusively that he found it possible during the moments of merry chatter to regain a fair proportion of his lost composure.

The Baroness St. Auge was an English woman, famed as a whip, a golfer and an entertainer. Her salon was one of the most interesting, the most delightful in Brussels; her husband and her rollicking little boys were not a whit less attractive than herself, and her household was the wonder of that gay, careless city. The baron, a middle-aged Belgian of wealth, was as merry a nobleman as ever set forth to seek the pleasures of life. His board was known as the most bountiful, his home the cheeriest and most hospitable, his horses the best bred in all Brussels. He loved his wife and indulged her every whim, and she adored him. Theirs was a home in which the laugh seldom gave way to the frown, where happiness dwelt undisturbed and merriment kept the rafters twitching. With them the two London women were to stop until after the wedding. Saxondale was to visit his grim old castle in Luxemburg for several days before coming up to Brussels, and he was not to leave England for another week. Baron St. Auge was looking over his estates in the north of Belgium, but was expected home before the week's end.

Mr. Savage was in an unusual flutter of exhilaration when he rushed into Quentin's presence soon after the ladies drove away from the Gare du Nord. The baroness had warmly insisted that he come that evening to regale them with the story of the robbery and the account of the duel, a faint and tantalizing rumor of which had come to her ears.

"The baroness lives on the Avenue Louise, old man," he said, after he had described her glowingly. A long, cool drink ran down his dry throat before his listener, propped up in his bed and looking upon his friend with somber eyes, deigned to break the silence.

"So you are to tell them about the duel Dickey," he said, slowly.

"They're crazy about it."

"I thought it was to be kept as dark as possible." Dickey's jaw dropped and his eyes lost their gleam of satisfaction.

"By thunder, I--I forgot that!" he exclaimed. "What am I to do?" he went on after a moment of perplexity and dismay. The long, cool drink seemed to have left a disagreeable taste in his mouth and he gulped feebly.

"Commit suicide, I should say. I see no other way out of it," advised the man in the bed, soberly. The misery in Dickey's face was beyond description, and the perspiration that stood on his brow came not from the heat of the day.

"Did you ever know a bigger ass than I, Phil? Now, did you, honestly?" he groaned.

"I believe I can outrank you myself, Dickey. It seems to me we are out of our class when it comes to diplomacy. Give Lady Saxondale and Lady Jane my compliments to-night, and tell them I hope to see them before I sail for home."

"What's that?" in astonishment.

"Before I sail for home."

"Going to give it up, are you?"

"She thinks I'm a liar, so what is the use?"

"You didn't talk that way this morning. You swore she believed everything you said and that she cares for you. Anything happened since then?"

"Nothing but the opportunity to think it all over while these bandages hold my brain in one place. Her mind is made up and I can't change it, truth or no truth. She'll never know what a villian Ravorelli--or Pavesi--is until it is too late."

"You'll feel better to-morrow, old man. The stitches hurt like the devil, don't they? Cheer up, old chap; I'm the one who needs encouragement. See what I have to face to-night. Good lord, there'll be three women, at least--maybe a dozen--begging, commanding me to tell all about that confounded shooting match, and I was getting along so nicely with her, too," he concluded, dolefully.

"With the baroness? On such short acquaintance?"

"No, of course not. With Jane Oldham. I don't know how I'm going to square it with her, by jove, I don't. Say, I'll bet my head I bray in my sleep, don't I? That's the kind of an ass I am."

When he looked listlessly into Quentin's room late that evening he wore the air of a martyr, but he was confident he had scored a triumph in diplomacy. Diplomacy in his estimation, was the dignified synonym for lying. For an hour he had lied like a trooper to three women; he left them struggling with the conviction that all the rest of the world lied and he alone told the truth. With the perspiration of despair on his brow, he had convinced them that there had been no real duel--just a trifling conflict, in which he, being a good Yankee, had come off with a moderate victory. Lady Jane believed; Lady Saxondale was more or less skeptical; while the Baroness, although graciously accepting his story as it came from his blundering lips, did not believe a word of it. His story of the "robbery" was told so readily and so graphically that it could not be doubted.

Like true women, Lady Saxondale and her sister, accompanied by their hostess and her brother, Colonel Denslow, seized the first favorable opportunity to call at the rooms of Mr. Quentin. They found him the next morning sitting up in a comfortable chair, the picture of desolation, notwithstanding the mighty efforts of Dickey Savage and the convivial millionaire. The arrival of the party put new life into the situation, and it was not long before Phil found his spirits soaring skyward.

"Tell me the truth about this awful duel," commanded Lady Saxondale, after Dickey had collected the other members of the party about a table to which tall glasses with small stems were brought at his call.

"I'm afraid Dickey has been a bit too loquacious," said he, smilingly.

"He fibs so wretchedly, you know. One could see he had been told what not to say. You can trust me, Phil," she said, earnestly. And he told her all, from beginning to end. Not once did she interrupt, and but seldom did she allow horror to show itself in her clear, brave eyes.

"And she will go on and marry this man, Phil. I am afraid she cannot be convinced--or will not, I should say," she said, slowly, at the end of the recital. "What a villain, what a coward he is!"

"But she must not be sacrificed, Frances! She must be saved. Good God, can't something be done to drag her from the clutches of that scoundrel?" he almost groaned.

"The clutches of her mother are more cious than those of the prince. There is the power that dominates. Can it be broken?"

"As well try to break down the Rocky Mountains. That woman has no heart--no soul, I'll swear. Dorothy has a mind and a will of her own, though, Frances. I feel that she loves me--something tells me she does, but she will not break this hateful compact. I am sure that I saw love in her eyes that last night, heard it in her voice, felt it in the way she dismissed me."

"You made a mistake when you denounced him to her. It was but natural for her to defend him."

"I know it, but I was driven to it. I saw no other way. She accused me of cowardice. Good heavens, I'd give my soul to be up now and able to call that villain's bluff. But I am in here for a week, at least, and the wedding is only two weeks away. When is Bob coming?" he cried, feverishly.

"Be calm, Phil. You will gain nothing by working yourself into a frenzy. Bob will come when I send for him. It shall be at once, if you have need for him here."

"I want him immediately, but I cannot ask him or you to mix in this miserable game. There may be a scandal and I won't drag you all into it," he said, dejectedly.

"I'll send for Bob, just the same, dear boy. What are friends for, pray?"

She left him with the firm and secret determination to carry the war for friendship's sake to the very door of Dorothy Garrison's stubborn heart, and that without delay.

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