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   Chapter 3 PRINCE UGO

Castle Craneycrow By George Barr McCutcheon Characters: 8916

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


Several days out from New York found the weather fine and Lord Saxondale's party enjoying life thoroughly. Dickey and the capricious Lady Jane were bright or squally with charming uncertainty. Lady Jane, Lord Bob's sister, certainly was not in love with Mr. Savage, and he was too indolent to give his side of the case continuous thought. Dimly he realized, and once lugubriously admitted, that he was not quite heartwhole, but he had not reached a positive understanding with himself.

"How do they steer the ship at night when it is so cloudy they can't see the north star?" she asked, as they leaned over the rail one afternoon. Her pretty face was very serious, and there was a philosophical pucker on her brow.

"With a rudder," he answered, laconically.

"How very odd!" she said, with a malicious gleam in her eyes. "You are as wonderfully well-informed concerning the sea as you are on all other subjects. How good it must seem to be so awfully intelligent."

"It isn't often that I find anyone who asks really intelligent questions, you know, Lady Jane. Your profound quest for knowledge forced my dormant intellect into action, and I remembered that a ship invariably has a rudder or something like that."

"I see it requires the weightiest of questions to arouse your intellect." The wind was blowing the stray hairs ruthlessly across her face and she looked very, very pretty.

"Intellects are so very common nowadays that 'most anything will arouse them. Quentin says his man Turk has a brain, and if Turk has a brain I don't see how the rest of us can escape. I'd like to be a porpoise."

"What an ambition! Why not a whale or a shark?"

"If I were a shark you'd be afraid of me, and if I were a whale I could not begin to get into your heart."

"That's the best thing you've said since you were seasick," she said, sweetly.

"I'm glad you didn't hear what I said when I was seasick."

"Oh! I've heard brother Bob say things," loftily.

"But nobody can say things quite so impressively as an American."

"Pooh! You boasting Americans think you can do everything better than others. Now you claim that you can swear better. I won't listen to you," and off she went toward the companionway. Dickey looked mildly surprised, but did not follow. Instead, he joined Lady Saxondale and Quentin in a stroll.

Four days later they were comfortably established with Saxondale in London. That night Quentin met, for the first time, the reigning society sensation, Prince Ugo Ravorelli, and his countrymen, Count Sallaconi and the Duke of Laselli. All London had gone mad over the prince.

There was something oddly familiar in the face and voice of the Italian. Quentin sat with him for an hour, listening with puzzled ears to the conversation that went on between him and Saxondale. On several occasions he detected a curious, searching look in the Italian's dark eyes, and was convinced that the prince also had the impression that they had met before. At last Quentin, unable to curb his curiosity, expressed his doubt. Ravorelli's gaze was penetrating as he replied, but it was perfectly frank.

"I have the feeling that your face is not strange to me, yet I cannot recall when or where I have seen you. Have you been in Paris of late?" he asked, his English almost perfect. It seemed to Quentin that there was a look of relief in his dark eyes, and there was a trace of satisfaction in the long breath that followed the question.

"No," he replied; "I seem in some way to associate you with Brazil and the South American cities. Were you ever in Rio Janeiro?"

"I have never visited either of the Americas. We are doubtless misled by a strange resemblance to persons we know quite well, but who do not come to mind."

"But isn't it rather odd that we should have the same feeling? And you have not been in New York?" persisted Phil.

"I have not been in America at all, you must remember," replied the prince, coldly.

"I'd stake my soul on it," thought Quentin to himself, more fully convinced than ever. "I've seen him before and more than once, too. He remembers me, even though I can't place him. It's devilish aggravating, but his face is as familiar as if I saw him yesterday."

When they parted for the night Ravorelli's glance again impressed the American with a certainty that he, at least, was not in doubt as to where and when they had met.

"You are trying to recall where we have seen one an

other," said the prince, smiling easily, his white teeth showing clearly between smooth lips. "My cousin visited America some years ago, and there is a strong family resemblance. Possibly you have our faces confused."

"That may be the solution," admitted Phil, but he was by no means satisfied by the hypothesis.

In the cab, later on, Lord Bob was startled from a bit of doze by hearing his thoughtful, abstracted companion exclaim:

"By thunder!"

"What's up? Forgot your hat, or left something at the club?" he demanded, sleepily.

"No; I remember something, that's all. Bob, I know where I've seen that Italian prince. He was in Rio Janeiro with a big Italian opera company just before I left there for New York."

"What! But he said he'd never been in America," exclaimed Saxondale, wide awake.

"Well, he lied, that's all. I am positive he's the man, and the best proof in the world is the certainty that he remembers me. Of course he denies it, but you know what he said when I first asked him if we had met. He was the tenor in Pagani's opera company, and he sang in several of the big South American cities. They were in Rio Janeiro for weeks, and we lived in the same hotel. There's no mistake about it, old man. This howling swell of to-day was Pagani's tenor, and he was a good one, too. Gad, what a Romeo he was! Imagine him in the part, Bob. Lord, how the women raved about him!"

"I say, Phil, don't be ass enough to tell anybody else about this, even if you're cocksure he's the man. He was doubtless driven to the stage for financial reasons, you know, and it wouldn't be quite right to bring it up now if he has a desire to suppress the truth. Since he has come into the title and estates it might be deuced awkward to have that sort of a past raked up."

"I should say it would be awkward if that part of his past were raked up. He wasn't a Puritan, Bob."

"They are a bit scarce at best."

"He was known in those days as Giovanni Pavesi, and he wasn't in such dire financial straits, either. It was his money that backed the enterprise, and it was common property, undenied by him or anyone else, that the chief object in the speculation was the love of the prima donna, Carmenita Malban. And, Bob, she was the most beautiful woman I ever saw. The story was that she was a countess or something of the sort. Poverty forced her to make use of a glorious voice, and the devil sent Pagani to young Pavesi, who was then a student with some ripping big master, in the hope that he would interest the young man in a scheme to tour South America. It seems that Signorita Malban's beauty set his heart on fire, and he promptly produced the coin to back the enterprise, the only condition being that he was to sing the tenor roles. All this came out in the trial, you know."

"The trial! What trial?"

"Giovanni's. Let me think a minute. She was killed on the 29th of March, and he was not arrested until they had virtually convicted one of the chorus men of the murder. Pagani and Pavesi quarrelled, and the former openly accused his 'angel' of the crime. This led to an arrest just as the tenor was getting away on a ship bound for Spain."

"Arrested him for the murder of the woman? On my life, Quentin, you make a serious blunder unless you can prove all this. When did it all happen?"

"Two years ago. Oh, I'm not mistaken about it; it is as clear as sunlight to me now. They took him back and tried him. Members of the troupe swore he had threatened on numerous occasions to kill her if she continued to repulse him. On the night of the murder-it was after the opera-he was heard to threaten her. She defied him, and one of the women in the company testified that he sought to intimidate Malban by placing the point of his stiletto against her white neck. But, in spite of all this, he was acquitted. I was in New York when the trial ended, but I read of the verdict in the press dispatches. Some one killed her, that is certain, and the nasty job was done in her room at the hotel. I heard some of the evidence, and I'll say that I believed he was the guilty man, but I considered him insane when he committed the crime. He loved her to the point of madness, and she would not yield to his passion. It was shown that she loved the chorus singer who was first charged with her murder."

"Ravorelli doesn't look like a murderer," said Lord Bob, stoutly.

"But he remembers seeing me in that courtroom, Bob."

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