“Then, don’t ask. Merely go and tell her that you know how much she cares. Go this afternoon, old man. O, by the way, Lady Jane sends her love to you, and wants to know if you will come with me to Ostend to-morrow to meet her and Lady Saxondale.”
THE COURAGE OF A COWARD
“Tell Mr. Quentin I cannot see him,” was Miss Garrison’s response when his card was sent to her late that afternoon. The man who waited nervously in the hall was stunned by this brief, summary dismissal. If he was hurt, bewildered by the stinging rebuff, his wounds would have been healed instantly had he seen the sender of that cruel message. She sat, weak, pale and distressed, before her escritoire, striving to put her mind and her heart to the note she was writing to him whose card, by strange coincidence, had just come up. An hour ago he was in her thoughts so differently and he was in her heart, how deeply she had not realized, until there came the crash which shattered the ideal. He was a coward!
Prince Ugo had been out of her presence not more than ten minutes, leaving her stunned, horrified, crushed by the story he laughingly told, when Quentin was announced. What she heard from Ugo overwhelmed her. She had worshiped, unknown to herself, the very thing in Philip Quentin that had been destroyed almost before her eyes—his manliness, his courage, his strength. Ugo deliberately told of the duel in his rooms, of Savage’s heroism in taking up the battles of his timorous friend, of his own challenge in the morning, and of Quentin’s abject, cringing refusal to fight. How deliciously he painted the portrait of the coward without exposing his true motive in doing so, can only be appreciated when it is said that Dorothy Garrison came to despise the object of his ridicule.
She forgot his encounter with the porch visitor a fortnight previous; she forgot that the wound inflicted on that occasion was scarcely healed; she forgot all but his disgraceful behavior in the presence of that company of nobles and his cowardice when called to account by one brave man. And he an American, a man from her own land, from the side of the world on which, she had boasted, there lived none but the valorous. This man was the one to whom, a week ago, she had personally addressed an invitation to the wedding in St. Gudule—the envelope was doubtless in his pocket now, perhaps above his heart—and the writing of his name at that time had brought to her the deadly, sinking realization that he was more to her than she had thought.
“Tell Miss Garrison that, if it is at all possible, I must see her at once,” said Quentin to the bearer of the message. He was cold with apprehension, hot with humiliation.
“Miss Garrison cannot see you,” said the man, returning from his second visit to the room above. Even the servant spoke with a curtness that could not be mistaken. It meant dismissal, cold and decisive, with no explanation, no excuse.