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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesCastle Craneycrow - Chapter 31. Her Way
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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 31. Her Way Post by :Slic47 Category :Long Stories Author :George Barr Mccutcheon Date :May 2012 Read :2490

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Castle Craneycrow - Chapter 31. Her Way


The grim smile that settled on the faces of the three men after the women and the trembling priest had passed from the hall, was not one of amusement. It was the offspring of a desperate, uneasy courage.

"Quentin, the safety of those women upstairs depends on your thoughtfulness. You must leave this affair to me. We can't keep them waiting any longer. Gad, they will tear down the historic gate I had so much difficulty in building last year. Wait for me here. I go to meet the foe."

Turk was standing in the courtyard with a revolver in his hand. Lord Bob commanded him to put away the weapon and to "stow his bellicoseness." Mere chance caused Turk to obey the command in full; half of it he did not understand. The voices outside the gate were much more subdued than his lordship expected, but he did not know that Prince Ugo had warily enjoined silence, fearing the flight of the prey.

"Who is there?" called Lord Bob, from the inside

"Are you Lord Saxondale?" demanded a guttural voice on the outside.

"I am. What is the meaning of this disturbance?"

"We are officers of the government, and we are looking for a person who is within your walls. Open the gate, my lord."

"How am I to know you are officers of the law? You may be a pack of bandits. Come back to-morrow, my good friends."

"I shall be compelled to break down your gate, sir," came from without, gruffly.

"Don't do it. The first man who forces his way will get a bullet in his head. If you can give me some assurance that you are officers and not thieves, I may admit you." Lord Bob was grinning broadly, much to the amazement of the servant who held the lantern. There were whispers on the outside.

"Prince Ravorelli is with us, my lord. Is he sufficient guarantee?" asked the hoarse voice.

"Is Giovanni Pavesi there, also?" asked Saxondale, loudly.

"I do not know him, my lord. The prince's companions are strangers to me. Is such a person here?" Lord Bob could almost see the look on Ugo's face when the question was put to him.

"I never heard the name," came the clear voice of the Italian. "My friends are well known to Lord Saxondale. He remembers Count Sallaconi and the Duke of Laselli. Two men from Brussels are also here--Captains Devereaux and Ruz."

"I recognize the prince's voice," said Saxondale, unlocking the gate. "Come inside, gentlemen," he said, as he stood before the group. "Sorry to have kept you waiting, you know, but it is wise to be on the safe side. So you are looking for some one who is in my castle? May I inquire the name of that person?"

"You know very well, Lord Saxondale," said Ugo, now taking the lead. He stood boldly, defiantly before the Englishman.

"Carmenita Malban is dead, your excellency," said Bob, coolly.

"I do not know what you are talking about, sir," grated the prince. "Dorothy Garrison is here, held against her will, and I, her affianced husband, command you to surrender her."

"Have you the authority to take her, if I refuse to obey?" asked the other, with exasperating coolness.

"These officers have the authority to arrest you and to take her from your hands, violently, if necessary."

"Oh, well, that makes a difference, of course. Miss Garrison is here, Prince Ravorelli, but I doubt your authority to take her away."

"There is a reward for her, dead or alive," said Court Sallaconi, savagely.

"And for the abductors," added the burly man from Luxemburg. "I shall have to place you under arrest, my lord."

"One moment, my good man. Miss Garrison is her own mistress, I believe?" addressing the prince.

"What has that to do with it?"

"I'm sure I don't know, but it maybe important. If you will kindly request your followers to remain in the courtyard, you may enter the castle and converse with Miss Garrison herself, Prince Paves--I should say Ravorelli." There was a wild, hunted look in the Italian's eyes, and there was murder in his heart. "I will ask you and the count and the duke and Officer Luxemburg to come with me."

With rare dignity Lord Saxondale strode across the flags and deliberately threw open the huge castle door. After a moment of indecision and not a little trepidation, Prince Ugo followed, with his two countrymen not far behind. The Luxemburg officer gave hurried instructions to his men and took his place among the favored few.

It was a sharply-drawn hiss, ending in a triumphant "ah," that came from the lips of Ugo when he was face to face with Philip Quentin. His glittering eyes plainly said that his suspicions were confirmed. The discovery of the fact, a week before, that the two Americans had not sailed for New York provided the foundation for a shrewd guess and he had not been wrong.

"It is as I suspected," he said, tersely. "I trust I am not too late to save Miss Garrison from outrage."

"One moment, please," commanded Lord Bob. "You are here through sufferance, and you must, for the time being, imagine yourself a gentleman. If you care to talk over the situation with us while we wait for Lady Saxondale and Miss Garrison, I shall be only too glad to have you do so. Will you be seated, gentlemen?"

"We are not here to be directed by you, Lord Saxondale. We have tracked this scoundrel to earth, and we are--" Ugo was saying hotly when his lordship turned on him sternly.

"Mr. Quentin is my guest. Another remark of that character and I will throw you bodily from the room. This is my house, Prince Ravorelli." Paying no heed to the malevolent glare in the Italian's eyes, Saxondale turned and bade a servant ask Miss Garrison to come down if it pleased her to do so.

"I presume Brussels is very much excited over Miss Garrison's disappearance," said he to the livid-faced prince.

"Brussels is horrified, but she will rejoice tomorrow. Thank God, we have not toiled in vain."

"Sit down. May I inquire for the health of Mrs. Garrison?" The four newcomers, more or less ill at ease, sat down with Lord Bob, the two Americans standing. Quentin leaned against the big post at the foot of the steps, his face the picture of gloomy defiance.

"I am not her physician, sir."

"Hoity-toity! She is quite well, then, I may reasonably infer. Can you tell me whether she is in Brussels?"

"She will be in Luxemburg in the morning, if my message reaches her to-night. But we are not here for the purpose of bandying words with you, sir. This house must be searched, whether you like it or not. Captain, call in your men," cried the prince, his rage getting the better of him.

"You will find that the door is barred, captain," said Saxondale, easily. The expression that came into the faces of the four men was one not soon to be forgotten. For a full minute there was absolute silence.

"Do you mean that we are prisoners?" demanded Ugo, his teeth showing, but not in a smile.

"Not at all. The door has a habit of locking itself."

"I command you to open that door!" cried the prince, looking about him like a trapped rat. He snarled with rage when he saw the smile on Quentin's face. Dickey's sudden chuckle threw dismay into the ranks of the confident besiegers.

"Do not be alarmed, gentlemen," said Saxondale. "The door shall be opened in good time. Ah, I think the ladies are coming."

As he spoke Dorothy and Lady Saxondale appeared at the top of the stairs. Ugo would have dashed up to meet them had not the two Americans blocked the way. Slowly Dorothy came down the oaken steps, followed by Lady Saxondale. Lady Jane and Father Bivot were not far behind them.

"Dorothy!" cried Ugo. "Thank heaven, I have found you!"

She stopped on the bottom step, within arm's length of Philip Quentin. There was a moment of indecision, a vivid flush leaped into her lovely cheek, and then her hand went quickly forth and rested on Quentin's shoulder. He started and looked at her for the first time.

"I am sorry, Ugo, for the wrong I have done you," she said, steadily, but her hand trembled convulsively on Phil's shoulder. Mechanically he reached up and took the slim fingers in his broad, strong hand and rose to the step beside her.

"The wrong?" murmured the prince, mechanically.

"In running away from you as I did," she said, hurriedly, as if doubting her power to proceed. "It was heartless of me, and it subjected you to the crudest pain and humiliation. I cannot ask you to forgive me. You should despise me."

"Despise you?" he gasped, slowly. The truth began to dawn on two men at the same time. Ugo's heart sank like a stone and Quentin's leaped as if stung by an electric shock. His figure straightened, his chin was lifted, and the blood surged from all parts of his body to his turbulent heart.

"I loved him, Prince Ravorelli, better than all the world. It was a shameless way to leave you, but it was the only way," she said, her voice full. Then she lifted her eyes to Quentin's and for the moment all else was forgotten.

"My God, you--you did not leave Brussels of your own free will!" cried the prince, his eyes blazing, Sallaconi and Laselli moved toward the door, and the police officer's face was a study.

"I ran away with the man I love," she answered, bravely.

"It is a lie!" shrieked the Italian. Saxondale seized his hand in time to prevent the drawing of a revolver from his coat pocket. "'Damn you! This is a trick!"

"You have Miss Garrison's word for it, your excellency. She was not abducted, and your search has been for naught," said the big Englishman. "There are no abductors here. The famous abduction was a part of the game and it was abetted by the supposed victim."

"But there is a reward for her return to Brussels," interrupted the Luxemburg official, speaking for the first time. "I must insist that she come with me."

"The reward is for Dorothy Garrison, is it not?" demanded Saxondale.

"Yes, my lord."

"Well, as you cannot get out of the castle and your friends cannot get into it until we open the doors, there is absolutely no possibility of your taking Dorothy Garrison to Brussels."

"Do you mean to oppose the law?" cried Ugo, panting with rage.

"Gentlemen, as the host in Castle Craneycrow, I invite you to witness the marriage ceremony which is to make it impossible for you to take Dorothy Garrison to Brussels. You have come, gentlemen--a trifle noisily and unkindly, I admit--just in time to witness the wedding of my two very good friends who eloped with the sound of wedding bells in their ears. Father Bivot, the bride and groom await you."

"Dorothy, my darling," whispered Quentin. She turned her burning face away.

"It is my way, Phil. I love you," she murmured.

George Barr McCutcheon's Novel: Castle Craneycrow

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