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   Chapter 4 AND THE GIRL, TOO

Castle Craneycrow By George Barr McCutcheon Characters: 9671

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:02


"Now tell me all about our Italian friend," said Quentin next morning to Lady Frances, who had not lost her frank Americanism when she married Lord Bob, The handsome face of the young prince had been in his thoughts the night before until sleep came, and then there were dreams in which the same face appeared vaguely sinister and foreboding. He had acted on the advice of Lord Bob and had said nothing of the Brazilian experiences.

"Prince Ugo? I supposed that every newspaper in New York had been devoting columns to him. He is to marry an American heiress, and some of the London journals say she is so rich that everybody else looks poor beside her."

"Lucky dog, eh? Everybody admires him, too, it seems. Do you know him, Frances?"

"I've met him a number of times on the continent, but not often in London. He is seldom here, you know. Really, he is quite a charming fellow."

"Yes," laconically. "Are Italian princes as cheap as they used to be? Mary Carrolton got that nasty little one of hers for two hundred thousand, didn't she? This one looks as though he might come a little higher. He's good-looking enough."

"Oh, Ugo is not like the Carrolton investment. You see, this one is vastly rich, and he's no end of a swell in sunny Italy. Really, the match is the best an American girl has made over here in-oh, in centuries, I may say."

"Pocahontas made a fairly decent one, I believe, and so did Frances Thornow; but, to my limited knowledge, I think they are the only satisfactory matches that have been pulled off in the last few centuries. Strange, they both married Englishmen."

"Thank you. You don't like Italian princes, then?"

"Oh, if I could buy a steady, well-broken, tractable one, I'd take him as an investment, perhaps, but I believe, on the whole, I'd rather put the money into a general menagerie like Barnum's or Forepaugh's. You get such a variety of beasts that way, you know."

"Come, now, Phil, your sarcasm is unjust. Prince Ugo is very much of a gentleman, and Bob says he is very clever, too. Did you see much of him last night?"

"I saw him at the club and talked a bit with him. Then I saw him while I slept. He is much better in the club than he is in a dream."

"You dreamed of him last night? He certainly made an impression, then," she said.

"I dreamed I saw him abusing a harmless, overworked and underfed little monkey on the streets of New York."

"How absurd!"

"The monkey wouldn't climb up to the window of my apartment to collect nickels for the vilest hand-organ music a man ever heard, even in a nightmare."

"Phil Quentin, you are manufacturing that dream as you sit here. Wait till you know him better and you will like him."

"His friends, too? One of those chaps looks as if he might throw a bomb with beautiful accuracy-the Laselli duke, I think. Come, now, Frances, you'll admit he's an ugly brute, won't you?"

"Yes, you are quite right, and I can't say that the count impresses me more favorably."

"I'll stake my head the duke's ancestors were brigands or something equally appalling. A couple of poor, foolish American girls elevate them both to the position of money-spenders-in-chief though, I presume, and the newspapers will sizzle."

At dinner that evening the discussion was resumed, all those at the table taking part. The tall young American was plainly prejudiced against the Italian, but his stand was a mystery to all save Lord Bob. Dickey Savage was laboriously non-committal until Lady Jane took sides unequivocally with Quentin. Then he vigorously defended the unlucky prince. Lady Saxondale and Sir James Graham, one of the guests, took pains to place the Italian in the best light possible before the critical American.

"I almost forgot to tell you, Phil," suddenly cried Lady Saxondale, her pretty face beaming with excitement. "The girl he is to marry is an old flame of yours."

"Quite impossible, Lady Frances. I never had a flame."

"But she was, I'm sure."

"Are you a theosophist?" asked Phil, gaily, but he listened nevertheless. Who could she be? It seemed for the moment, as his mind swept backward, that he had possessed a hundred sweethearts. "I've had no sweetheart since I began existence in the present form."

"Good Lord!" ejaculated Dickey, solemnly and impressively.

"I'll bet my soul Frances is right," drawled Lord Bob. "She always is, you know. My boy, if she says you had a sweetheart, you either had one or somebody owes you one. You've never collected, perhaps."

"If he collected them he'd have a harem," observed Mr. Savage, sagely. "He's had so many he can't count 'em."

"I should think it disgusting to count them, Mr. Savage, even if he could," said Lady Jane, severely.

"I can count mine backwards," he said.

"Beginning at one?"

"Yes, Lady Jane; one in my teens

, none at present. No task, at all, to count mine."

"Won't you give me the name of that old sweetheart of mine, Lady Saxondale? Whom is the prince to marry?" asked Quentin.

"Dorothy Garrison. She lived in your block seven or eight years ago, up to the time she went to Brussels with her mother. Now, do you remember?"

"You don't mean it! Little Dorothy? By George, she was a pretty girl, too. Of course, I remember her. But that was ages ago. She was fourteen and I was nineteen. You are right, Lady Saxondale. I'll confess to having regarded her as the fairest creature the sun ever shone upon. For six solid, delicious months she was the foundation of every thought that touched my brain. And then-well, what happened then? Oh, yes; we quarrelled and forgot each other. So she's the girl who's to marry the prince, is she?" Quentin's face was serious for the moment; a far-off look of real concern came into his eyes. He was recalling a sweet, dainty face, a girlish figure, and the days gone by.

"How odd I did not think of it before. Really, you two were dreadful spoons in those days. Mamma used to worry for fear you'd carry out your threat to run away with her. And now she's to be a real live princess." Lady Frances created a profound sensation when she resurrected Quentin's boyhood love affair with the one American girl that all Europe talked about at that moment. Lord Bob was excited, perhaps for the first time since he proposed to Frances Thornow.

"By Jove, old man, this is rare, devilish rare. No wonder you have such a deuced antipathy to the prince. Intuition must have told you that he was to marry one of the ladies of your past."

"Why, Bob, we were children, and there was nothing to it. Truly, I had forgotten that pretty child-that's all she was-and I'll warrant she wouldn't remember my name if some one spoke it in her presence. Every boy and girl has had that sort of an affair."

"She's the most beautiful creature I ever saw," cried Lady Jane, ecstatically. Dickey Savage looked sharply at her vivacious face. "When did you last see her, Mr. Quentin?"

"I can't recall, but I know it was when her hair hung down her back. She left New York before she was fifteen, I'm quite sure. I think I was in love with a young widow fourteen years my senior, at the time, and did not pay much heed to Dorothy's departure. She and her mother have been traveling since then?"

"They traveled for three years before Mrs. Garrison could make up her mind to settle down in Brussels. I believe she said it reminded her of Paris, only it was a little more so," said Lord Bob. "We met them in Paris five years ago, on our wedding trip, and she was undecided until I told her she might take a house near the king's palace in Brussels, such as it is, and off she flew to be as close to the crown as possible. She struck me as a gory old party who couldn't live comfortably unless she were dabbling in blue blood. The girl was charming, though."

"She's in London now," ventured Sir James. "The papers say she came especially to see the boat races, but there is a pretty well established belief that she came because the prince is here. Despite their millions, I understand it is a love match."

"I hope I may have a look at her while I'm here, just to see what time has done for her," said Quentin.

"You may have the chance to ask if she remembers you," said Dickey.

"And if she thinks you've grown older," added Lord Bob.

"Will you tell her you are not married?" demanded Lady Jane.

"I'll do but one thing, judging from the way you describe the goddess. Just stand with open mouth and marvel at her magnificence. Somewhere among my traps I have a picture of her when she was fourteen, taken with me one afternoon at a tin-typer's. If I can find it, I'll show it to her, just to prove that we both lived ten years ago. She's doubtless lived so much since I saw her last that she'll deny an existence so far back as that."

"You won't be so deuced sarcastic when you see her, even if she is to marry a prince. I tell you, Phil, she is something worth looking at forever," said Lord Bob.

"I never saw such eyes, such a complexion, such hair, such a carriage," cried Lady Frances.

"Has she any teeth?" asked Dickey, and was properly frowned upon by Lady Jane.

"You describe her as completely in that sentence, Lady Frances, as a novelist could in eight pages," said Quentin.

"No novelist could describe her," was the answer.

"It's to be hoped no novelist may attempt it," said Quentin. "She is beautiful beyond description, she will be a princess, and she knew me when I didn't know enough to appreciate her. Her eyes were blue in the old days, and her hair was almost black. Colors still obtain? Then we have her description in advance. Now, let's go on with the romance."

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