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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCastle Craneycrow - Chapter 29. Dorothy's Solution
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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 29. Dorothy's Solution Post by :Slic47 Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :3519

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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 29. Dorothy's Solution

CHAPTER XXIX. DOROTHY'S SOLUTION

Quentin carried her forth into the night. When Turk came upon him in the darkness a few minutes later, he was wandering about the hilltop, the limp figure of the woman he loved in his arms, calling upon her to speak to him, to forgive him. The little man checked him just in time to prevent an ugly fall over a steep embankment.

"My God, she's dead, Turk!" he groaned, placing her tenderly on the grassy sward and supporting her head with his arm. "The wretch has killed her."

"He's paid for it, if he did. I guess it's nothin' but a faint er a fit. Does she have fits?" demanded Turk, earnestly. Quentin paid no heed to him, but feverishly began working with her, hope springing from Turk's surmise.

"Turk, if she dies, I swear to God I'll kill myself this night!" cried he.

"You're talkin' crazy, sir. She's comin' around all right, all right. Hear that? Her eyes'll be busy in a minute, and she'll be askin' where she's at. Just keeled over, that's all. All women does that w'en they git's as glad as she wuz. They faint 'cause it's easier'n it is to tell how much obliged they are. I know 'em. They pass up hard jobs like that ontil they gits time t' look all pale an' interestin' an' tuckered-out, an' then they ain't no use sayin' much obliged, 'cause th' man won't stand fer it a minute."

Turk was kneeling opposite Quentin and was scratching match after match, holding them above the pale face until they burnt his finger tips. When Dorothy at last opened her eyes she looked into the most terrifying face she had ever seen, and, as the lids closed again spasmodically, a moan came from her lips. Turk's bristled face was covered with blood that had dried hours ago, and he was a most uncanny object to look upon. "Darn me, she's askeert of my mug! I'll duck ontil you puts her nex'."

"Look up Dorothy! It is Phil! Don't be afraid, dearest; you are safe!" He knew that her eyes were open again, although it was too dark to see them.

"Is it you, Phil?" she whispered.

"Yes, yes!"

"Where is--where is he?" in terror.

"He cannot harm you now. He is gone."

"But I saw his face just now. Oh, you are not telling me the truth!"

"You saw Turk's face, dearest. What a time we had in finding you! But you are safe now, thank God!"

She lay very still, striving to convince herself that she was awake and that she was really listening to Philip Quentin's voice, hoarse and eager. Her hand went to his face, impulsively searching for the features her eyes could not see. Strong ringers seized it, and dry, burning lips kissed it again and again--lips parched with fever. The heart of the woman asserted itself at once, and concern succeeded perplexity.

"Oh, Phil, you are ill--you should not be here!" she cried, in distress, and, before he could prevent she was on her feet, swaying dizzily.

"Then you are not hurt!" he cried. "Thank God for that!" His arm was about her waist, and a wave of security and contentment rolled through her being.

"Take me back to the castle, Phil," she said, simply. "You will never know how unhappy I have been, how I have blamed myself for running away as I did. But, oh, I thought he was a priest, and I wanted to prove that you could not keep me there."

"You do not have to stay there, Dorothy," he said, slowly.

"What do you mean?"

"I have been a fool, an ingrate, a brute, but I will atone if it is possible. In your note you said you would forgive the others. I don't ask pardon for myself, but I implore you to shield them. Perhaps it is too late; this detective has exposed us--"

"He swore to me that he had not, but he knows everything, and may carry the word to the authorities," she interrupted, in distress.

"The secret is safe if he worked alone, for he is dead. Don't be frightened; he fell over a cliff in the darkness. Turk!"

"Here, sir."

"We must get back to the castle as soon as possible. It is five miles, at least. Try to find a trap of some sort at once. Miss Garrison cannot walk that distance."

"But I can and will," she objected. "I am not hurt and I am stronger than you."

"Nonsense! I'm all right. I will return with you to Brussels to-morrow. Your imprisonment is at an end. There is no need for you to think again of escape, for you are free to go at this moment. Come back to Lady Saxondale for a while, though, and when you are able to go with me we will take the train for Brussels. Believe me, I am sorry, but I am not fool enough to ask you to forgive. I don't deserve pardon, perhaps, but I know that my heart was in the right and that I saved you from a much worse bondage than that which you have spent in Castle Craneycrow."

As if in a dream, she walked with him through the first faint light of the dawning day, stunned by the unexpected words he had uttered. In her mind there began to grow, rebelliously, the fear that he would do as he said! Turk, following close behind, suddenly gave a loud shout and sped away like a flash in front of them.

"It's Mr. Savage," he yelled back to the startled couple, "an' he's on horseback! Hi, there!"

As Dickey Savage came plunging up the slope, roaring with excited joy, she said to Ouentin, her voice low and intense:

"I know now that you saved me from a worse fate than death, Phil, and, if you ask, I will forgive as I hope you will forgive me. Courant was Ugo's tool, and I had the truth from him. You are the truest, the best of friends, and I should--"

"Stop, Dorothy! Not now, some day, when you are home, after you have had time to think over all that I have done, right and wrong, I may come to you with the question I will not ask now. What I have sinned for, if you want to call it that, I will sue for some other day when the world is looking on. I will not make my prisoner pay penalty without a trial."

"I want you to know that I do not hate you," she argued, persistently.

"But you hated me yesterday."

"I did not."

Just then Dickey pounced upon them, and, as they hurried to the spot where Turk was holding the newcomer's horse, Phil briefly told how he and the little ex-burglar had accidentally stumbled upon the hiding-place of the pseudo priest after hours of hopeless search. The two pursuers, tired and despairing, were lying on the ground in front of the church ruins, taking a few moments of rest before climbing to the summit of the hill, when the luckless Courant ventured forth. With quick intuition, Turk called out the detective's name, and the ruse worked. The man they could not see gave a snort of dismay and turned to reenter the door. And then came his undoing.

Turk was the general who planned the return to the castle. He insisted that Quentin, who was very weak, take Miss Garrison upon the horse's back and ride, while he and Savage walked. In this way they reached the gates of Craneycrow. It was like the home-coming of loved ones who had been absent for years. Three women were in tears, and all of the men were in smiles. Quentin's was the smile of one bordering on delirium, however. A chill broke over him, and the fever in his body renewed its disputed sway. An hour later he was in bed, and Turk, dispatched by Dorothy Garrison, was riding to the nearest town for a physician, much against the wishes of the sick man. He stubbornly insisted that he would start with her for Brussels within twenty-four hours, and it was not until the doctor told him that he was in extreme danger of pneumonia that he consented to keep to his bed.

Resolutely he checked all desire to cry his love into the ear of the gentle nurse who sat with him for hours. He would not grant himself the slightest deviation from the course he had sworn to follow, and he suffered more from restraint than from fever. She found herself longing for the moment when he would call her to him and pour out the love that would not be denied. He never spoke but she hoped for signs of surrender; he never looked at her that she did not expect his lips to utter the story his eyes were telling, What he endured in that week of fever, under the strain of love's nursing, only he could have told--and he told nothing. How she hungered for the luxury of one word, only she knew--and confessed unconsciously.

Had the doctor told her that he was critically ill, she would have cast all restraint aside and wrung from him the words he was holding back. But the unromantic little doctor calmly broke the fever, subdued the congestion, relieved the cough and told them that the "young man would be quite well in a few days if he took good care of himself."

The days of convalescence were few, for the vigorous strength of the patient had not been sapped to any great extent. They were days of happiness, however, for all who lived in Castle Craneycrow. Dickey and Lady Jane solemnly and somewhat defiantly approached Lord Bob on a very important matter. He solemnly and discreetly gave his consent, and Dickey promised to be very, very good to her so long as he lived. One day a real priest, Father Bivot, came to the castle gates to solicit alms for the poor of the neighborhood. He was admitted, refreshed and made glad by a single donation that surpassed in size the combined contributions of a whole valley. It was from him that they learned, with no little uneasiness of mind, that the body of Courant had been found, and that it had been identified by the Luxemburg authorities. The cause of his death was a mystery that defied solution, however.

The news that Courant had been found and identified made Quentin all the more eager to carry out his design to restore Dorothy to her mother. He knew, and all knew, that it was but a question of a few days until Ugo and the police would put two and two together and come racing into the valley, certain that Courant had been killed by the abductors of Dorothy Garrison.

One morning, therefore, shortly after the visit of Father Bivot, he asked Lord Saxondale for the use of a conveyance, announcing his intention to drive with Dorothy to the nearest railway station. There was dismay in the heart of everyone who sat at what had been a cheerful breakfast table. Quentin deliberately went on to say that he would take no lackey, preferring to expose none but himself in the undertaking.

"Can you be ready in an hour, Dorothy?" he asked, after Saxondale had reluctantly consented.

"Do you insist on carrying out this Quixotic plan, Phil?" she asked, after a long pause.

"Positively."

"Then, I can be ready in half an hour," she said, leaving the table abruptly.

"Confound it, Phil; she'd rather stay here," said Dickey, miserably.

"I intend to restore her to her mother, just the same. There's no use discussing it, Dickey. If they don't throw me into jail at Brussels, I may return in a day or two."

There was a faint flush in Dorothy's cheeks as she bade good-bye to the party. Lady Saxondale sagely remarked, as the trap rolled out of sight among the trees below the castle, that the flush was product of resentment, and Dickey offered to wager £20 that she would be an engaged girl before she reached Brussels.

"Do you know the road, Phil?" asked Dorothy, after they had gone quite a distance in silence. She looked back as she spoke, and her eyes uttered a mute farewell to the grim old pile of stone on the crest of the hill.

"Father Bivot gave me minute directions yesterday, and I can't miss the way. It's rather a long drive, Dorothy, and a tiresome one for you, perhaps. But the scenery is pretty and the shade of the forest will make us think we are again in the Bois de la Cambre.

"If I were you, I would not go to Brussels," she said, after another long period of silence, in which she painfully sought for means to dissuade him from entering the city. She was. thinking of the big reward for his capture and of the greedy officials who could not be denied.

"Do you think I am afraid of the consequences?" he asked, bitterly. She looked at the white face and the set jaws and despaired.

"You are not afraid, of course, but why should you be foolhardy? Why not put me in the coach for Brussels and avoid the risk of being seized by the police? I can travel alone. If you are taken, how can you or I explain?" she went on, eagerly.

"You have promised to shield the rest," he said, briefly.

"I know, but I want to shield you. Haven't I told you that I forgive everything? Don't make me unhappy, Phil. It would kill me now if you were to fall into the hands of the police. They are crazy to catch my abductors, and don't you remember what the paper said? It said the people would kill without mercy. Please, Phil, for my sake, don't go to Brussels. It is so unnecessary and so hazardous."

"Pray, tell me what explanation you could give to your mother, to the police, to the newspapers, if you suddenly appeared in Brussels, safe and sound, and yet unable to tell who had been your captors or where you have been held?" he grimly said.

"I would not offer an explanation," she said, decisively, as if that settled everything.

"But you would be compelled to make some statement, my dear girl. You couldn't drop in there as if from the sky and not tell where you have been and with whom. The truth would be demanded, and you could not refuse. What would the world, your mother, the prince, think--"

"Don't mention that man's name to me," she cried.

"Well, what would be the natural conclusion if you refused to give an explanation? Don't you see that the papers would make a sensation of the matter? There is no telling what they would say about you. The world would jump at the scandal bait, and you would be the most notorious of women, to be perfectly plain with you. If you refuse to expose the people who abducted you, there could be but one inference. It would simply mean that you were a party to the plot and fled to evade the wedding at St. Gudule's. Upon whom would suspicion fall? Upon the man who was supposed to have sailed for New York, and upon his friends. Where have you been during the last few weeks? If you did not answer, the world would grin and say, 'In New York, and of her own volition!' Don't you see, Dorothy, there is but one way to end this horrible mistake of mine? Only one way to protect you from humiliation, even degradation?"

"You mean by--" she began, faintly, afraid to complete the dreaded surmise.

"By the surrender of the real criminal," he said, calmly.

"I will not agree to that!" she cried, imperatively. "If you give yourself up to them, Philip Quentin, I will deny every word of your confession," she went on, triumphantly.

"I'm afraid they would doubt you," he responded, but his heart leaped gladly.

"And do you know what else I shall do if you persist? I'll tell the world that you were not alone in this affair, and I'll send the officers to Castle Craneycrow to arrest every--" she was crying hysterically, when he interrupted.

"But you have promised to shield them!"

"Promised! I will forget that I ever made a promise. Philip Quentin, either I go to Brussels alone or every person in Craneycrow goes to prison with you. I'll not spare one of them. Promise? What do I care for that promise? Do as you like, Phil, but I mean every word of it!"

"You wouldn't dare, Dorothy, you wouldn't dare!" he cried, imploringly. "They are not to blame. I am the guilty one. They are not--"

"One way or the other, Phil!" she cried, firmly. "It is safety for all or disgrace for all. Now, will you go to Brussels?"

"But, my heavens, how can you explain to the world?" he cried, in deepest distress.

"I have thought of all that. Providence gave me the solution," she said, her face beaming with the joy of victory.

"Not even Providence can supply an explanation," he groaned.

"You forget Courant, the dead man. He cannot deny the charge if I conclude to accuse him of the crime. He is the solution!"

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