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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCastle Craneycrow - Chapter 19. The Day Of The Wedding
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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 19. The Day Of The Wedding Post by :Slic47 Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :1926

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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 19. The Day Of The Wedding

CHAPTER XIX. THE DAY OF THE WEDDING

When Lord Bob reached Brussels on Friday he found affairs in a sorry shape. His wife's never-failing serenity was in a sad state of collapse. Quentin was showing wonderful signs of recuperation, and it almost required lock and key to keep him from breaking forth into the wildest indiscretions. Gradually and somewhat disconnectedly he became acquainted with existing conditions. He first learned that his wife had carried Quentin's banner boldly up to the walls of the fortress, and then--well, Lady Saxondale's pride was very much hurt by what happened there. Miss Garrison was exceedingly polite, but quite ungrateful for the kindness that was being bestowed upon her. She assured her ladyship that she was making no mistake in marrying Prince Ravorelli, and, if she were, she alone would suffer.

"I am so furious with her, Bob, for marrying Prince Ugo that I am not going to the wedding," said Lady Saxondale.

"Whew! That's a bracer! But, by the way, my dear, did you introduce any real proof that he is the scoundrel you say he is? Seems to me the poor girl is right in the stand she takes. She wants proof, and positive proof, you know. I don't blame her. How the deuce can she break it off with the fellow on the flimsy excuse that Phil Quentin and Lady Saxondale say he is a rascal? You've all been acting like a tribe of ninnies, if you'll pardon my saying so."

"She is sensible enough to know that we would not misrepresent matters to her in such a serious case as this," she retorted.

"What proof have you that Ravorelli is a villain?"

"Good heavens, Bob, did he not try to have Phil murdered?" she exclaimed, pityingly.

"Do you know that to be a positive fact?"

"Phil and Mr. Savage are quite thoroughly convinced."

"But if anyone asked you to go on to the witness stand and swear that Prince Ugo tried to take the life of Philip Quentin, could you do so?" he persisted.

"You goose, I was not an eye-witness. How could I swear to such a thing?"

"Well, if I understand the situation correctly, Miss Garrison is the judge, Ravorelli the accused, and you are one of the witnesses. Now, really, dear, how far do you imagine your hearsay evidence--which is no evidence at all--goes with the fair magistrate? What would be your verdict if some one were to come to you and say, 'Saxondale is a blackguard, a rascal, a cutthroat?'"

"I confess I'd say it was not true," she said, turning quite red.

"The chances are you wouldn't even ask for proof. So, you see, Miss Garrison behaved very generously when she condescended to hear your assertions instead of instructing the servant to direct you to the door."

"She was above reproach, Bob. I never saw anyone so calm, so composed and so frigidly agreeable. If she had shown the faintest sign of anger, displeasure or even disgust, I could forgive her, but she acted just as if she were tolerating me rather than to lower herself to the point of seriously considering a word I uttered. I know the prince is a villian. I believe every word Phil says about him." She took Lord Bob's hands in hers, and her deep, earnest eyes burnt conviction into his brain.

"And so do I Frances I am as sure that Ugo is a scoundrel as if I had personal knowledge of his transactions. In fact, I have never believed in him. You and I will stand together, dear, in this fight for poor old Phil, and, by the Lord Harry, they'll find us worth backing to the finish. If there's anything to be done that can be done, we'll do it, my girl." And he was amply repaid for his loyal declaration by the love that shone refulgent from her eyes.

Quentin naturally chafed under the restraint. There was nothing he could do, nothing his friends could do, to avert the disaster that was daily drawing nearer. Lord Bob infused a momentary spark of hope into the dying fire of his courage, but even the resourceful Briton admitted that the prospect was too gloomy to warrant the slightest encouragement. They could gain absolutely no headway against the prince, for there was no actual proof to be had. To find the strange woman who gave the first warning to Quentin was out of the question. Turk had watched every movement of the prince and his aides in the hope of in some way securing a clue to her identity or whereabouts. There was but one proposition left; the purchase of Courant.

This plan seemed feasible until Turk reported, after diligent search, that the French detective could not be found. Dickey was for buying the two Italian noblemen, but that seemed out of the question, and it was unreasonable to suspect that the other hirelings recognized the prince as their real employer. The slightest move to approach the two noblemen might prove disastrous, and wisdom cut off Dickey's glorious scheme to give each of them "a hundred dollars to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth."

Quentin at last burst all bonds, and, finding himself out of the doctor's hands, determined to make a last desperate appeal to Dorothy Garrison. If that appeal failed, he would then give up the struggle; he would at least end the suspense. He knew how difficult it would be to obtain an audience with her, but he went ahead with the confidence of the drowning man, the boldness of the man who is wounded to the death but does not know it.

It was the Wednesday just one week before the wedding that saw the pale-faced, tall and somewhat unsteady American deliberately leave his cab and stride manfully up the steps of a certain mansion in the Avenue Louise. Miss Garrison was "not at home," and her mother was "not at home." So said the obsequious footman.

''Take my card to Miss Garrison," said Quentin, coolly. The man looked bewildered and was protesting that his young mistress was not in the house when the lady herself appeared at the top of the broad stairway. Phil stood in the center of the hall watching her as she slowly descended the steps. At the bottom of the steps she paused. Neither spoke, neither smiled, for the crisis was upon them. If he were pale from the loss of blood, she was white with the aches from a fever-consumed heart.

"Why have you come?" she asked, at last, her voice so low that the words scarcely reached his ears.

''Dorothy," was all he said.

"You knew what I must say to you before you entered the door. Will you let me tell you how deeply I have grieved over your misfortune? Are you quite wise in coming out before you have the strength? You are so pale, so weak. Won't you go back to your--to your hotel and save yourself all the pain that will come to you here?" There was pity in her eyes, entreaty in her voice, and he was enveloped in the tender warmth of her sincerity. Never had she seemed so near as now, and yet never so far away.

"Dorothy, you must know what manner of love it is that brings me to plead for the smallest crumb of what has been once refused. I come simply, in all humility, with outstretched hands to ask your love." He drew nearer, and she did not retreat.

"Oh, it is so useless--so hopeless, Phil," she said, softly. "Why will you persist? I cannot grant even the crumb."

"I love you, Dorothy," he cried passionately.

"Oh! Phil; you must understand that I can give you nothing--absolutely nothing. For God's sake--for my sake, for the sake of that dear friendship we own together, go away and forget--forget everything," she said, piteously.

A half-hour later he slowly descended the steps, staggering like a man sick unto death. She sat where he left her, her wide, dry eyes seeing nothing, her ears hearing nothing but the words his love had forced her to utter. These words:

"Yes, heaven help me, I do care for you. But, go! Go! I can never see you again. I shall keep the bargain I have made, if I die at the altar. I cannot break my promise to him." And all his pleading could not break down that decision--not even when she found herself for one brief, terrible instant in his straining arms, his lips upon hers.

It was all over. He calmly told his friends, as he had told her, that he would sail for New York on the first steamer, and Turk reluctantly began to pack the things. The night before he was to leave for Hamburg, the Saxondales, Lady Jane and Savage sat with him long into the night. Prince Ugo's watchdogs were not long in discovering the sudden turn affairs had taken, and he was gleefully celebrating the capitulation.

The next day the Saxondales accompanied the two Americans to the railway station, bade them a fond farewell and hastened back to the home of the Baron St. Auge with new resolutions in their hearts. The forepart of the ensuing week saw their departure from Brussels. Deliberately they turned their backs on the great wedding that was to come, and as if scorning it completely, journeyed to Lord Bob's ruins in Luxemburg, preferring the picturesque solitude of the tumbledown castle to the empty spectacle at St. Gudule. Brussels may have wondered at their strange leave-taking on the eve of the wedding, but no explanation was offered by the departing ones.

When Dorothy Garrison heard that Philip Quentin had started for the United States she felt a chill of regret sink suddenly into her soul, and it would not be driven forth. She went on to the very night that was to make her a princess, with the steel in her heart, but the world did not know it was there. There was no faltering, no wavering, no outward sign of the emotions which surged within. She was to be a princess! But when the Saxondales turned their faces from her, spurning the invitation to her wedding, the pride in her heart suffered. That was a blow she had not expected. It was like an accusation, a reproach.

Little Lady Jane blissfully carried with her to the valley of the Alzette the consciousness that Richard Savage was very much in love with her, even though he had not found courage to tell her so in plain words. A telegram from him stating that he and Quentin had taken passage for New York and would sail on the following day dispelled the hope that he might return.

Brussels was full of notables. The newspapers of two continents were fairly blazing with details of the wedding. There were portraits of the bride and groom, and the bishop, and pictures of the gowns, the hats, the jewels; there were biographies of the noted beauty and the man she was to marry. The Brussels papers teemed with the arrivals of distinguished guests.

Overcoming Mrs. Garrison's objections, Dorothy had insisted on and obtained special permission to have a night wedding. She had dreamed of the lights, the splendor, the brilliancy of an after-sunset wedding and would not be satisfied until all barriers were put aside.

Dorothy's uncle, Henry Van Dykman, her mother's brother, and a number of elated New York relatives came to the Belgian capital, shedding their American opulence as the sun throws out its light. The skill of a general was required to direct, manage and control the pageant of the sixteenth. Thousands of dollars were tossed into the cauldron of social ambition by the lavish mother, who, from behind an army of lieutenants, directed the preliminary maneuvers.

The day came at last and St. Gudule's presented a scene so bewilderingly, so dazzlingly glorious that all Brussels blinked its eyes and was awed into silence. The church gleamed with the wealth of the universe, it seemed, and no words could describe the brilliancy of the occasion. The hour of this woman's triumph had come, the hour of the Italian conqueror had come, the hour of the victim had come.

In front of the house in the Avenue Louise, an hour before the beginning of the ceremony, there stood the landau that was to take the bride to the cathedral. Carriage after carriage passed, bearing the visitors from the new world, to the church. All were gone save the bride, her mother and her uncle. Down the carpeted steps and across to the door of the carriage came Dorothy and her uncle, followed by the genius of the hour. At the last moment Dorothy shuddered, turned sick and faint for an instant, as she thought of a ship far out at sea.

The footman swung up beside the driver, and they were off by quiet streets toward the church where waited all impatient, the vast assemblage and the triumphant prince. The silence inside the carriage was like that of the tomb. What were the thoughts of the occupants could not well be described.

"Are we not almost there, Dorothy?" nervously asked her mother, after many minutes. "Good heavens! We are late! O, what shall we do?" cried she in despair. In an instant the somber silence of the cab's interior was lost. The girl forgot her prayer in the horror of the discovery that there was to be a hitch in the well-planned arrangements. Her mother frantically pulled aside the curtains and looked out, fondly expecting to see the lights of St. Gudule on the hill. Uncle Henry dropped his watch in his nervousness and was all confusion.

"We are not near the church, my--why, where are we? I have never seen these houses before. Henry, Henry, call to the driver! He has lost his way. My heavens, be quick!"

It was not necessary to hail the driver, for at that instant the carriage came to a sudden standstill. The door opened quickly, and before the eyes of the astonished occupants loomed the form of a masked man. In his hand he held a revolver.

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