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Title: One Day - A sequel to 'Three Weeks'
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "One Day - A sequel to 'Three Weeks'" ***

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ONE DAY

A SEQUEL TO "THREE WEEKS"

ANONYMOUS


Original Publication Date 1909, by The Macaulay Company


NEW YORK THE MACAULAY COMPANY 1912



THE SCHILLING PRESS NEW YORK



FOREWORD TO MY AMERICAN FRIENDS


Now after spending some very pleasant weeks in your interesting country,
I feel sure that this book will find many sympathetic readers in
America. Quite naturally it will be discussed; some, doubtless, will
censure it--and unjustly; others will believe with me that the tale
teaches a great moral lesson.

Born as the Boy was born, the end which Fate forced upon him, to me, was
inevitable. Each word and act of the three weeks of his parents'
love-idyl must reflect in the character and life of the child. Little by
little the baby King grew before my mental vision until I saw at last
there was no escape from his importunity and I allowed the insistent
Boy--masterful even from his inception--to shape himself at his own
sweet will. Thus he became the hero of my study.

This is not a book for children or fools--but for men and women who can
grasp the underlying principle of morality which has been uppermost in
my mind as I wrote. Those who can see beyond the outburst of
passion--the overmastering belief in the power of love to justify all
things, which the Boy inherited so naturally from his Queen mother--will
understand the forces against which the young Prince must needs fight a
losing battle. The transgression was unavoidable to one whose very
conception was beyond the law--the punishment was equally inevitable.

In fairness to this book of mine--and to me--the great moral lesson I
have endeavored to teach must be considered in its entirety, and no
single episode be construed as the book's sole aim. The verdict on my
two years' work rests with you, dear Reader, but at least you may be
sure that I have only tried to show that those who sow the wind shall
reap the whirlwind.

--THE AUTHOR.



ONE DAY



CHAPTER I


The Prince tore the missive fiercely from its envelope, and scowled at
the mocking glint of the royal crown so heavily embossed at the top of
the paper. What a toy it was, he thought, to cost so much, and
eventually to mean so little! Roughly translated, the letter ran as
follows:

"Your Royal Highness will be gratified to learn that at last a
satisfactory alliance has been arranged between the Princess Elodie of
Austria and your royal self. It is the desire of both courts and
councils that the marriage shall be solemnized on the fifteenth of the
May following your twenty-first birthday, at which time the coronation
ceremony takes place that is to place the crown of the kingdom upon the
head of the son of our beloved and ever-to-be-regretted Imperatorskoye.
The Court and Council extend greetings and congratulations upon the not
far distant approach of both auspicious events to your Royal Highness,
which cannot fail to afford the utmost satisfaction in every detail to
the ever-beautiful-and-never-to-be-sufficiently beloved Prince Paul.

"Imperator-to-be, we salute thee. We kiss thy feet."

The letter was sealed with the royal crest and signed by the Regent--the
Boy's uncle--the Grand Duke Peter, his mother's brother, who had been
his guardian and protector almost from his birth. The young prince knew
that his uncle loved him, knew that the Grand Duke desired nothing on
earth so much as the happiness of his beloved sister's only son--and yet
at this crisis of the Boy's life, even his uncle was as powerless to
help as was Paul Verdayne, the Englishman.

"The Princess Elodie!" he grumbled. "Who the devil is this Princess
Elodie, anyway? Austrian blood has no particular charm for me! They
might at least have told me something a little more definite about the
woman they have picked out to be the mother of my children. A man
usually likes to look an animal over before he purchases!"

Known to London society as Monsieur Zalenska, the Prince had come up to
town with the Verdaynes, and was apparently enjoying to the utmost the
frivolities of London life.

At a fashionable garden party he sat alone, in a seclusion he had long
sought and had finally managed to secure, behind a hedge of hawthorn
where none but lovers, and men and women troubled as he was troubled,
cared to conceal themselves.

The letter, long-expected and dreaded, had finally crossed the continent
to his hand. It was only the written confirmation of the sentence Fate
had pronounced upon him, even as it had pronounced similar sentences
upon princes and potentates since the beginning of thrones and kingdoms.

While the Prince--or Paul Zalenska, as I will now call him--sat in his
brooding brown study, clutching the imperial letter tightly in his young
hand, his attention was arrested by the sound of voices on the other
side of the hawthorn hedge.

He listened idly, at first, to what seemed to be a one-sided
conversation, in a dull, emotionless feminine voice--a discourse on
fashion, society chit-chat, and hopeless nonentities, interspersed with
bits of gossip. Could women never talk about anything else? he thought
impatiently.

But his displeasure did not seem to affect the course of things at all.
The voice, completely unconscious of the aversion it aroused in the
invisible listener, continued its dreary, expressionless monotone.

"What makes you so silent, Opal? You haven't said a word to-day that you
didn't absolutely have to say. If all American girls are as dreamy as
you, I wonder why our English lords are so irresistibly attracted across
the water when in search of brides!"

And then the Boy on the other side of the hedge felt his sluggish pulse
quicken, and almost started to his feet, impelled by a sudden thrill of
delight; for another voice had spoken--a voice of such infinite charm
and sweetness and vitality, yet with languorous suggestion of emotional
heights and depths, that he felt a vague sense of disappointment when
the magnetic notes finally died away.

"Brides?" the voice echoed, with a lilt of girlish laughter running
through the words. "You mean '_bribes_,' don't you? For I assure you,
dear cousin, it is the metallic clink of American gold, and nothing
else, that lures your great men over the sea. As for my silence, _ma
belle_, I have been uncommunicative because there really seemed nothing
at all worth saying. I can't accustom myself to small-talk--I can't even
listen to it patiently. I always feel a wild impulse to fly far, far
away, where I can close my ears to it all and listen to my own thoughts.
I'm sorry if I disappoint you, Alice--I seem to disappoint everybody
that I would like to please--but I assure you, laugh at my dreams as you
may, to me my dream-life is far more attractive and beautiful than what
you term Life. Forgive me if I hurt you, cousin. I'm peculiarly
constituted, perhaps, but I don't like this twaddle, and I can't help
it! Everything in England is so beautiful, and yet its society seems
so--so hopelessly unsatisfactory to one who longs to _live!_"

"To live, Opal? We are not dead, surely! What do you mean by life?"

And so her name was Opal! How curiously the name suited the voice! The
Boy, as he listened, felt that no other name could possibly have
matched that voice--the opal, that glorious gem in which all the fires
of the sun, the iridescent glories of the rainbow, and the cold
brilliance of ice and frost and snow seemed to blend and crystallize.
All this, and more, was in that mysteriously fascinating voice.

"To live, Alice?" echoed the voice again. "To live? Why, to live is to
_feel!_--to feel every emotion of which the human soul is capable, to
rise to the heights of love, and knowledge, and power; to sink--if need
be--to the deepest depths of despair, but, at all costs, at all hazards,
to _live!_--to experience in one's own nature all the reality and
fullness of the deathless emotions of life!"

The voice sank almost to the softness of a whisper, yet even then was
vibrant, alive, intense.

"Ah, Alice, from my childhood up, I have dreamed of life and longed for
it. What life really is, each must decide for himself, must he not?
Some, they say, sleep their way through a dreamless existence, and
never, never wake to realities. Alice, I have sometimes wondered if that
was to be my fate, have wondered and wondered until I have cried out in
real terror at the hideous prospect! Surely Fate could not be so cruel
as to implant such a desperate desire in a soul that never was to know
its fulfilment. Could it, Alice? Tell me, _could_ it?"

The Boy held his breath now.

Who was this girl, anyhow, who seemed to express his own thoughts as
accurately as he himself could have done? He was bored no longer. He was
roused, stirred, awakened--and intensely interested. It was as though
the voice of his own soul spoke to him in a dream.

The cold, lifeless voice now chimed in again. In his impatience the Boy
clenched his fists and shut his teeth together hard. Why didn't she keep
still? He didn't want to miss a single note he might have caught of the
voice--that other! Why did this nonentity--for one didn't have to see
her to be sure that she was that--have to interrupt and rob him of his
pleasure?

"I don't understand you, Opal," she was saying. (Of course she didn't,
thought the Boy--how could she?) "I am sure that I live. And yet I have
never felt that way--thank goodness! It's vulgar to feel too deeply,
Mamma used to say, and as I have grown older, I can see that she was
right. The best people never show any excess of emotion. That is for
tragedy queens, operatic stars, and--the women we do not talk about!
Ladies cultivate repose!"

("Repose!--_mon Dieu!_" thought Paul, behind the hedge. He wished that
she would!)

"And yet, Alice, you are--married!"

"Married?--of course!--why not?" and the eavesdropper fancied he could
see the wide-open gaze of well-bred English surprise that accompanied
the words. "One has to marry, of course. That is what we are created
for. But one doesn't make a fuss about it. It's only a custom--a
ceremony--and doesn't change existence much for most women, if they
choose sensibly. Of course there is always the chance of a
_mésalliance_! A woman has to risk that."

"And you don't--love?"

The Boy was struck by a note that was almost horror in the opaline voice
so near him.

"Love? Why, Opal, of course we do! It's easy to love, you know, when a
man is decent and half-way good to one. I am sure I think a great deal
of Algernon; but I dare say I should have thought as much of any other
man I had happened to marry. That is a wife's duty!"

"_Duty!_--and you call that love?" The horror in the tones had now
changed to scorn.

"You have strange ideas of life, Opal. I should be afraid to indulge
them if I were you--really I should! You have lived so much in books
that you seem to have a very garbled idea of the world. Fiction is apt
to be much of a fairy tale, a crazy exaggeration of what living really
consists of!"

"_Afraid?_ Why should I be afraid? I am an American girl, remember, and
Americans are afraid of nothing--nothing! Come, cousin, tell to me, if
you can, why I should be afraid."

"Oh, I don't know! really I don't!" There was a troubled, perplexed note
in the English voice now. "Such notions are apt to get girls into
trouble, and lead them to some unhappy fate. Too much 'life'--as you
call it--must mean suffering, and sorrow, and many tears--and maybe,
_sin_!"

There was a shocked note in the voice of the young English matron as
she added the last word, and her voice sank to a whisper. But Paul
Zalenska heard, and smiled.

"Suffering, and sorrow, and many tears," repeated the American girl,
musingly, "and maybe--sin!" Then she went on, firmly, "Very well,
Alice, give me the suffering and sorrow, and many tears--and the sin,
too, if it must be, for we are all sinners of greater or less
degree--but at any rate, give me life! My life may still be far off in
the future, but when the time comes, I shall certainly know, and--I
shall _live_!"

"You are a peculiar girl, Opal, and--we don't say those things in
England."

"No, you don't say those things, you cold English women! You do not even
_feel_ them! As for sin, Alice, to my mind there can be no worse sin
under heaven than you commit when you give yourself to a man whom you do
not love better than you could possibly love any other. Oh, it is a
sin--it _must_ be--to sell yourself like that! It's no wonder, I think,
that your husbands are so often driven to 'the women we do not talk
about' for--consolation!"

"Opal! Opal! hush! What _are_ you saying? You really--but see! isn't
that Algernon crossing the terrace? He is probably looking for us."

"And like a dutiful English wife, you mustn't fail to obey, I suppose!
Lead the way, cousin mine, and I'll promise to follow you with due
dignity and decorum."

And the rustle of silken skirts heralded the departure of the ladies
away from the hedge and beyond Paul's hearing.

Then he too started at an eager, restless pace for the centre of the
crowd. He had quite forgotten the future so carefully arranged for him,
and was off in hot pursuit of--what? He did not know! He only knew that
he had heard a voice, and--he followed!

As he rejoined the guests, he looked with awakened interest into every
face, listened with eager intensity to every voice. But all in vain. It
did not occur to him that he might easily learn from his hostess the
identity of her American guest; and even if the thought had presented
itself to him, he would never have acted upon it. The experience was
his alone, and he would have been unwilling to share it with any one.

He was no longer bored as earlier in the afternoon, and he carried the
assurance of enthusiasm and interest in his every glance and motion.
People smiled at the solitary figure, and whispered that he must have
lost Verdayne. But for once in his life, the Boy was not looking for his
friend.

But neither did he find the voice!

Usually among the first to depart on such occasions as these, this time
he remained until almost all the crowd had made their adieux. And it was
with a keen sense of disappointment that he at last entered his carriage
for the home of the Verdaynes. He was hearing again and again in the
words of the voice, as it echoed through his very soul, "When my time
comes, I shall certainly know, and I shall--_live!_"

The letter in his pocket no longer scorched the flesh beneath. He had
forgotten its very existence, nor did he once think of the Princess
Elodie of Austria. What had happened to him?

Had he fallen in love with a--voice?



CHAPTER II


It was May at Verdayne Place, and May at Verdayne Place was altogether
different from May in any other part of the world. The skies were of a
far deeper and richer blue; the flowers reached a higher state of
fragrant and rainbow-hued perfection; the sun shining through the green
of the trees was tempered to just the right degree of shine and shadow.
To an Englishman, home is the beginning and the end of the world, and
Paul Verdayne was a typical Englishman.

To be sure, it had not always been so, but Paul had outlived his
vagabond days and had become thoroughly domesticated; yet there had been
a time in his youth when the wandering spirit had filled his soul, when
the love of adventure had lent wings to his feet, and the glory of
romance had lured him to the lights and shadows of other skies than
these. But Verdayne was older now, very much older! He had lived his
life, he said, and settled down!

In the shade of the tall trees of the park, two men were drinking in the
beauties of the season, in all the glory and splendor of its
ever-changing, yet ever-enduring loveliness. One of them was past forty,
the ripeness of middle age and the general air of a well-spent,
well-directed, and fully-developed life lending to his face and form an
unusual distinction--even in that land of distinguished men. His
companion was a boy of twenty, straight and tall and proud, carrying
himself with the regal grace of a Greek god. He was a strong, handsome,
healthy, well-built, and well-instructed boy, a boy at whom any one who
looked once would be sure to look the second time, even though he could
not tell exactly wherein the peculiar charm lay. Both men were fair of
hair and blue-eyed, with clear, clean skins and well-bred English faces,
and the critical observer could scarcely fail to notice how curiously
they resembled each other. Indeed, the younger of the pair might easily
have been the replica of the elder's youth.

When they spoke, however, the illusion of resemblance disappeared. In
the voice of the Boy was a certain vibrant note that was entirely
lacking in the deeper tones of the man--not an accent, nor yet an
inflection, but still a quality that lent a subtle suggestion of foreign
shores. It was an expressive voice, neither languorous nor unduly
forceful, but strangely magnetic, and adorably rich and full, and
musical, thrilling its hearers with its suggestion of latent physical
and spiritual force.

On the afternoon of which I write, those two were facing a crisis that
made them blind to everything of lesser import. Paul Verdayne--the man
--realized this to the full. His companion--the Boy--was dimly but just
as acutely conscious of it. The question had come at last--the question
that Paul Verdayne had been dreading for years.

"Uncle Paul," the Boy was saying, "what relation are you to me? You are
not really my uncle, though I have been taught to call you so after this
quaint English fashion of yours. I know it is something of a secret, but
I know no more! We are closer comrades, it seems to me--you and I--than
any others in all the world. We always understand each other, somehow,
almost without words--is it not so? I even bear your name, and I am
proud of it, because it is yours. But why must there be so much mystery
about our real relationship? Won't you tell me just what I am to you?"

The question, long-looked-for as it was, found the elder man all
unprepared. Is any one ever ready for any dire calamity, however
certainly expected? He paced up and down under the tall trees of the
park and for a time did not answer. Then he paused and laid his hand
upon the shoulder of the Boy with a tenderness of touch that proved
better than any words how close was the bond between them.

"Tell you what you are to me! I could never, never do that! You are
everything to me, everything!"

The Boy made a motion as if to speak, but the man forestalled him.

"We're jolly good friends, aren't we--the very best of companions? In
all the world there is no man, woman or child that is half so near and
dear to me as you. Men don't usually talk about these things to one
another, you know, Boy; but, though I am a bachelor, you see, I feel
toward you as most men feel toward their sons. What does the mere
defining of the relationship matter? Could we possibly be any more to
each other than we are?"

Paul Verdayne seated himself on a little knoll beneath the shade of a
giant oak. The Boy looked at him with the wistfulness of an infinite
question in his gaze.

"No, no, Boy! Some time, perhaps--yes, certainly--you shall know all,
all! But that time has not yet come, and for the present it is best that
things should rest as they are. Trust us, Boy--trust me--and be
patient!"

"Patient!" The Boy laughed a full, ringing laugh, as he threw himself on
the grass at his companion's feet. "I have never learned the word! Could
you be patient, Uncle Paul, when youth was all on fire in your heart,
with your own life shrouded in mystery? Could you, I say, be patient
then?"

Verdayne laughed indulgently as his strong fingers stroked the Boy's
brown curls.

"Perhaps not, Boy, perhaps not! But it is for you," he continued, "for
you, Boy, to make the best of that life of yours, which you are pleased
to think clouded in such tantalizing mystery. It is for you to develop
every God-given faculty of your being that all of us that love you may
have the happiness of seeing you perform wisely and well the mission
upon which you have been sent to this kingdom of yours to accomplish.
Boy! every true man is a king in the might of his manhood, but upon you
is bestowed a double portion of that universal royalty. This is a
throne-worshipping world we are living in, Paul, and it means even more
than you can realize to be a prince of the blood!"

The Boy looked around the park apprehensively. What if someone heard?
For this straight young sapling, who was only the "Boy" to Paul
Verdayne, was to the world at large an heir to a throne, a king who had
been left in infancy the sole ruler of his kingdom.

His visits to Verdayne Place were _incognito_. He did like to throw
aside the purple now and then and be the real live boy he was at heart.
He did enjoy to the full his occasional opportunities, unhampered by
the trappings and obligations of royalty.

"A prince of the blood!" he echoed scornfully. "Bah!--what is that?
Merely an accident of birth!"

"No, not an accident, Paul! Nothing in the world ever is that. Every
fragment of life has its completing part somewhere, given its place in
the scheme of the universe by intricate design--always by _design!_ As
for the duties of your kingdom, my Prince, it is not like you to take
them so lightly."

"I know! I know! Yet everybody might have been born a prince. It is far
more to be a man!"

"True enough, Boy! yet everybody might not have been born to your
position. Only you could have been given the heritage that is yours! My
Boy, yours is a mission, a responsibility, from the Creator of Life
Himself. Everybody can follow--but only God's chosen few can lead! And
you--oh, Boy! yours is a birthright above that of all other princes--if
you only knew!"

The young prince looked wistfully upward into the eyes of the elder man.

"Tell me, Uncle Paul! Dmitry always speaks of my birth with a reverence
and awe quite out of proportion to its possible consequence--poor old
man. And once even the Grand Duke Peter spoke of my 'divine origin'
though he could not be coaxed or wheedled into committing his wise self
any further. Now you, yourself the most reserved and secretive of
individuals when it pleases you to be so, have just been surprised into
something of the same expression. Do you wonder that I long to unravel
the mystery that you are all so determined to keep from me? I can learn
nothing at home--absolutely nothing! They glorify my mother--God bless
her memory! Everyone worships her! But they never speak of you, and they
are silent, too, about my father. They simply won't tell me a thing
about him, so I don't imagine that he could have been a very good king!
_Was_ he, Uncle Paul? Did you know him?"

"I never knew the king, Boy!--never even saw him!"

"But you must have heard--"

"Nothing, Boy, that I can tell you--absolutely nothing!"

Verdayne had risen again and was once more pacing back and forth under
the trees, as was his wont when troubled with painful memories.

"But my mother--you knew _her_!"

"Yes, yes--I knew your mother!"

"Tell me about her!"

A dull, hopeless agony came into the eyes of the older man. And so his
Gethsemane had come to him again! Every life has this garden to pass
through--some, alas! again and yet again! And Paul Verdayne had thought
that he had long since drained his cup of misery to the dregs. He knew
better now.

"Yes, I will tell you of your mother, Boy," he said, and there was a
strained, guarded note in his voice which his companion's quick ear did
not fail to catch. "But you must be patient if you wish to hear what
little there is, after all, that I can tell you. You must remember, my
Boy, that it is a long time since your mother--died--and men of my age
sometimes--forget!"

"I will remember," the Boy said, gently.

But as he looked up into the face of his friend, something in his heart
told him that Paul Verdayne did _not_ forget! And somehow the older man
felt confident that the Boy knew, and was strangely comforted by the
silent sympathy between them which both felt, but neither could express.

"Your mother, Boy, was the noblest and most beautiful woman that ever
graced a throne. Everyone who knew her must have said that! You are very
like her, Paul--not in appearance, a mistake of Fate to be everlastingly
deplored, but in spirit you are her living counterpart. Ah! you have a
great example to live up to, Boy, in attempting to follow her footsteps!
There was never a queen like her--never!"

The young prince followed with the deepest absorption the words of the
man who had known his mother, hanging upon the story with the breathless
interest of a child in some fairy tale.

"She knew life as it is given few women to know it. She was not more
than thirty-five, I think, when you were born, but she had crowded into
those years more knowledge of the world, in all its myriad phases, than
others seem to absorb during their allotted three score and ten. And her
knowledge was not of the world alone, but of the heart. She was full of
ideals of advancement, of growth, of doing and being something worthy
the greatest endeavor, exerting every hope and ambition to the utmost
for the future splendor of her kingdom--your kingdom now. How she loved
you!--what splendid achievements she expected of you! how she prayed
that you might be grand, and great, and true!"

"Did you always know her?"

"Always?--no. Only for three weeks, Boy!"

"Three weeks!--three little weeks! How strange, then, that you should
have learned so much about her in that short space of time! She must
indeed have made a strong impression upon you!"

"Impression, you say? Boy, all that I am or ever expect to become--all
that I know or ever expect to learn--all that I have done or ever expect
to accomplish--I owe to your mother. She was the one inspiration of my
life. Until I knew her, I was a nonentity. It was she who awakened
me--who taught me how to live! Three weeks! Child! child!--"

He caught himself sharply and bit his lip, forcing back the impetuous
words he had not meant to say. The silence of years still shrouded those
mysterious three weeks, and the time had not yet come when that silence
could be broken. What had he said? What possessed the Boy to-day to
cling so persistently to this hitherto forbidden subject?

"Where did you meet her, Uncle?"

"At Lucerne!"

"Lucerne!" echoed the Boy, his blue eyes growing dreamy with musing.
"That says nothing to me--nothing! and yet--you will laugh at me, I
know, but I sometimes get the most tantalizing impression that I
remember my mother. It is absurd, of course--I suppose I could not
possibly remember her--and yet there is such a haunting, vague sense of
close-clinging arms, of an intensely white and tender face bending over
me--sometimes in the radiance of day and again in the soft shadows of
night, but always, always alight with love--of kisses, soft and warm,
and yet often tearful--and of black, lustrous hair, over which there
always seems to shine a halo--a very coronet of triumphant motherhood."

Verdayne's lips moved, but no sound came from them to voice the
passionate cry in his heart, "My Queen, my Queen!"

"I suppose it is only a curious dream! It must be, of course! But it is
a very real vision to me, and I would not part with it for the world.
Uncle, do you know, I can never look upon the pictured face of a Madonna
without being forcibly reminded of this vision of my mother--the mother
I can see only in dreams!"

Verdayne found it growing harder and harder for him to speak.

"I do not think that strange, Boy. Others would not understand it, but I
do. She was so intensely a mother that the spirit of the great Holy
Mother must have been at all times hovering closely about her! Her
deepest desires centred about her son. You were the embodiment of the
greatest, sweetest joys--if not the only real joys--of her strangely
unhappy life, and her whole thought, her one hope, was for you. In your
soul must live all the unrealized hopes and crucified ideals of the
woman who, always every inch a queen, was never more truly regal than in
the supreme hour that crowned her your mother."

"And am I like her, Uncle Paul? Am I really like her?"

"So much so, Boy, that she sometimes seems to live again in you. Like
her, you believe so thoroughly in the goodness and greatness of a
God--in the beauty and glory of the world fraught with lessons of life
and death--in the omnipotence of Fate--in the truth and power and
grandeur of overmastering love. You believe in the past, in all the
dreams and legends of the Long Ago still relived in the Now, in the
capabilities of the human mind, the kingship of the soul. Your voice is
hers, every tone and cadence is as her own voice repeating her own
words. Be glad, Paul, that you are like your mother, and hope that with
the power to think her thoughts and dream lier dreams, you may also have
the power to love as she loved, and, if need be, die her death!"

"But you think the same thoughts, Uncle Paul. You believe all I
believe!"

"Because she taught me, Paul--because she taught me! I slept the sleep
of the blind and deaf and soulless until her touch woke my soul into
being. You have always been alive to the joy of the world and the beauty
of living. Your soul was born with your body and lived purposefully from
the very beginning of things. You were born for a purpose and that
purpose showed itself even in infancy."

A silence fell between the two men. A long time they sat in that
sympathetic communion, each busy with his own thoughts. The older Paul
was lost in memories of the past, for his life lay all behind him--the
younger Paul was indulging in many dreams of a roseate future, for his
life was all ahead of him.

It was a friendship that the world often wondered about--this strange
intimacy between Paul Verdayne, the famous Member of Parliament, and the
young man from abroad who called himself Paul Zalenska. None knew
exactly where Monsieur Zalenska came from, and as they had long ago
learned the futility of questioning either of the men about personal
affairs, had at last reconciled themselves to never finding out.
Everyone suspected that the Boy was a scion of rank--and some went so
far as to say of royalty, but beyond the fact that every May he came
with his faithful, foreign-looking attendant to Verdayne Place and spent
the summer months with the Verdayne family, nothing definite was
actually known. His elderly attendant certainly spoke some beastly
foreign jargon and went by the equally beastly foreign name of Vasili.
He was known to worship his young master and to attend him with the most
marked servility, but he was never questioned, and had he been, would
certainly have told no tales.

The parents of Paul Verdayne--Sir Charles and Lady Henrietta--were very
fond of their young guest, and made much of his annual visits. As for
Paul himself, he never seemed to be perfectly happy anywhere if the
young fellow were out of his sight.

He had made himself very much distinguished, had this Paul Verdayne. He
had found out how to get the most out of his life and accomplish the
utmost good for himself and his England with the natural endowments of
his energetic and ambitious personality. He had become a famous orator,
a noted statesman, a man of brain as well as brawn. People were glad to
listen when he talked. He inspired them with the idea--so nearly extinct
in this day and age of the world--that life after all was very much
worth the living. He stirred languid pulses with a dormant enthusiasm.
He roused torpid brains to thought. He had ideas and had also a way of
making other people share those ideas. England was proud of Paul
Verdayne, as she had good reason to be. And he was only forty-three
years old even now. What might he not accomplish in the future for the
land to which he devoted all his talents, his tireless, well-directed
activities?

He had given himself up so thoroughly to political interests that he had
not taken time to marry. This was a great disappointment to his mother,
Lady Henrietta, who had set her heart upon welcoming a daughter-in-law
and a houseful of merry, romping grandchildren before the sun of her
life had gone down forever. It was also a secret source of
disappointment to certain younger feminine hearts as well, who in the
days of his youth, and even in the ripeness of later years, had regarded
Paul Verdayne with eyes that found him good to look upon. But the young
politician had never been a woman's man. He was chivalrous, of course,
as all well-bred Englishmen are, but he kept himself as aloof from all
society as politeness would permit, and the attack of the most
skillfully aimed glances fell harmless, even unheeded, upon his
impenetrable armor. He might have married wherever he had willed, but
Society and her fair votaries sighed and smiled in vain, and finally
decided to leave him alone, to Verdayne's infinite relief.

As for the Boy, he was always, as I have said, a mystery, always a topic
for the consideration of the gossips. Every year since he was a little
fellow six years old he had come to Verdayne Place for the summer; at
first, accompanied by his nurse, Anna, and a silver-haired servant,
curiously named Dmitry. Later the nurse had ceased to be a necessity,
and the old servant had been replaced by Vasili, a younger, but no less
devoted attendant. As the Boy grew older, he had learned to hunt and
took long rides with his then youthful host across the wide stretch of
English country that made up the Verdayne estates and those of the
neighboring gentry. Often they cruised about in distant waters, for the
young fellow from his earliest years shared with the elder an absorbing
love of nature in all her varied and glorious forms; and in February,
always in February, Verdayne found time to steal away from England for a
brief visit to that far-off country in the south of Europe from which
the Boy came. Many remembered that Verdayne, like an uncle of his, Lord
Hubert Aldringham, had been much given to foreign travel in his younger
days and had made many friends and acquaintances among the nobility and
royalty of other lands, and although it was strange, they thought it was
not at all improbable that the lad was connected with some one of those
great families across the Channel.

As for Paul and the Boy, they knew not what people thought or said, and
cared still less. There was too strong a bond of _camaraderie_ between
them to be disturbed by the murmurings of a wind that could blow neither
of them good or ill.

And the Boy was now twenty years of age.

Suddenly Paul Zalenska broke their long silence.

"Do you know, Uncle, I sometimes have a queer feeling of fear that my
father must have done something terrible in his life--something to make
strong men shrink and shudder at the thought--something--_criminal_! Oh,
I dare not think of that!" he went on hastily. "I dare not--I dare not!
I think the knowledge of it would drive me mad!"

His voice sank to a half-whisper and there was a note of horror in his
words.

"But, what a king he must have been!--what a miserable apology for all
that royalty should be by every law, human or divine! Why isn't his name
heralded over the length and breadth of the kingdom in paeans of praise?
Why isn't the whole world talking of his valor, his beneficence, his
statesmanship? What is a king created a king for, if not to make
history?"

He fought silently for a moment to regain his self-control, forcing the
hideous idea from him and at last speaking with an air of finality
beyond his years.

"No, I won't think of it! May the King of the world endow me with the
strength of the gods and the wisdom of the ancient seers, that I may
make up by my efficiency for all my father's deplorable lack, and become
all that my mother meant me to be when she gave me to the world!"

He stretched out his arms in a passionate appeal to Heaven, and Paul
Verdayne, looking up at him, realized as he had never before that the
Boy certainly had within him the stuff of which kings should be made.

The Boy was not going to disappoint him. He was going to justify the
high hopes cherished for him so long. He was going to be a man after his
mother's own heart.

"Uncle," went on the Boy, wrought up to a high pitch of emotion, and
throwing himself down again at Verdayne's feet, "I feel with Louis XVI,
'I am too young to reign!' Why haven't I ever had a father to teach and
train me in the way I should go? Every boy needs a good father, princes
most of all, so much more is expected of us poor royal devils than of
more ordinary and more fortunate mortals! I know I shouldn' be
complaining like this--certainly not to you, Uncle Paul, who have been
all most fathers are to most boys! But there are times, you know, when
you persist in keeping me at arm's length as you keep everyone else!
When you put up that sign, 'Thus far and no further!' I feel myself
almost a stranger! Won't you let me come nearer? Won't you take down
that barrier between us and let me have a father--at least, in name? I'm
tired of calling you 'Uncle' who uncle never was and never could be!
You're far more of a father--really you are! Let me call you in name
what you have always been in spirit. Let me say 'Father Paul!' I like
the sound of it, don't you? 'Father Paul!'--'Father Paul!'"

Paul Verdayne felt every drop of blood leave his face. He felt as if the
Boy had inadvertently laid a cold hand upon his naked heart, chilling,
paralyzing its every beat. What did he mean? The Boy was just then
looking thoughtfully at the setting sun and did not see the change that
his words called into his companion's face--thank heaven for that!--but
what _could_ he mean?

"You can call yourself my 'Father Confessor,' you know, if you entertain
any scruples as to the propriety of a staid old bachelor's fathering a
stray young cub like me--that will make it all right, surely! You will
let me, won't you? In all the world there is no one so close to me as
you, and such dreams as I may happily bring to fulfillment will be, more
than you know, because of your guidance, your inspiration. You are the
father of my spirit, whoever may have been the father of my flesh! Let
it be hereafter, then, not 'Uncle,' but 'Father Paul'!"

And the older man, rising and standing by the Boy, threw his arm around
the young shoulders, and gazing far off to the distant west, felt
himself shaken by a strange emotion as he answered, "Yes, Boy, hereafter
let it be 'Father Paul!'"

And as the sun travelled faster and faster toward the line of its
crossing between the worlds of night and day, its rays reflected a new
radiance upon the faces of the two men who sat in the silent shadows of
the park, feeling themselves drawn more closely together than ever
before, thinking, thinking, thinking-in the eyes of the man a great
memory, in the eyes of the Boy a great longing for life!

       *       *       *       *       *

The two friends ran up to London for the theatre that night, to see a
famous actor in a popular play, but neither was much interested in the
performance. Something had kindled in the heart of the man a reminiscent
fire and the Boy was thinking his own thoughts and listening, ever
listening.

"I'm several kinds of a fool," he thought, "but I'd like to hear that
voice again and get a glimpse of the face that goes with it. I dare say
she is anything but attractive in the flesh--if she is really in the
flesh at all, which I am beginning to doubt--so I should be disenchanted
if I were to see her, I suppose. But I'd like to _know_!" Yet, after
all, he could not comprehend how such a voice could accompany an
unattractive face. The spirit that animated those tones must needs light
up the most ordinary countenance with character, if not with beauty, he
thought; but he saw no face in the vast audience to which he cared to
assign it. No, _she_ wasn't there. He was sure of that.

But as they left the building and stood upon the pavement, awaiting
their carriage, his blood mounted to his face, dyeing it crimson. In the
sudden silence that mysteriously falls on even vast crowds, sometimes,
he heard that voice again!

It was only a snatch of mischievous laughter from a brougham just being
driven away from the curb, but it was unmistakably _the_ voice. Had the
Boy been alone he would have followed the brougham and solved the
mystery then and there.

The laugh rang out again on the summer evening air. It was like a lilt
of fairies' merriment in the moonlit revels of Far Away! It was the note
of a siren's song, calling, calling the hearts and souls of men! It
was--But the Boy stopped and shook himself free from the "sentimental
rot" he was indulging in.

He turned with a question on his lips, but Verdane had noticed nothing
and the Boy did not speak.

Still that laugh thrilled and mocked him all the way to Berkeley Square
and lured him on and on through the night's mysterious dreams.



CHAPTER III


In the drawing room of her mansion on Grosvenor Square, Lady Alice
Mordaunt was pouring tea, and talking as usual the same trifling
commonplaces that had on a previous occasion excited her cousin's
disdain. Opposite her sat her mother, Lady Fletcher, a perfect model of
the well-bred English matron, while Opal Ledoux, in the daintiest and
fluffiest of summer costumes, was curled up like a kitten in a corner of
the window-seat, apparently engrossed in a book, but in reality watching
the passers-by.

From her childhood up she had lived in a Castle of Dreams, which she had
peopled with the sort of men and women that suited her own fanciful
romantic ideas, and where she herself was supposed to lie asleep until
her ideal knight, the Prince Charming of the story, came across land
and sea to storm the Castle and wake her with a kiss.

It was made up of moonbeams and rays of sunshine and
rainbow-gleams--this dream--woven by fairy fingers into so fragile a
cobweb that it seemed absurd to think it could stand the winds and
torrents of Grown-Up Land; but Opal, in spite of her eighteen years, was
still awaiting the coming of her ideal knight, though the stage setting
of the drama, and her picture of just how the Prince Charming of her
dreams was to look, and what he would say, had changed materially with
the passing of the years.

If sometimes she wove strange lines of tragedy throughout the dreams,
out of the threads of shadow that flitted across the sunshine of her
life, she did not reject them. She felt they belonged there and did not
shrink, even when her young face paled at the curious self-pity the
passing of the thought invoked.

Hers was a strange mixture, made up of an unusual intermingling of many
bloods. Born in New Orleans, of a father who was a direct descendant of
the early French settlers of Louisiana, and of a Creole mother, who
might have traced her ancestry back to one of the old grandees of Spain,
she yet clung with a jealous affection to the land of her birth and
called herself defiantly "a thorough-bred American!" Her mother had died
in giving her birth, and her father, while she was still too young to
remember, had married a fair Englishwoman who had tried hard to be a
mother to the strange little creature whose blood leaped and danced
within her veins with all the fire and romance of foreign suns. Gay and
pleasure-mad as she usually appeared, there was always the shadow of a
heartache in her eye, and one felt the possibility of a tragedy in her
nature. In fact one felt intuitively sorry--almost afraid--for her lest
her daring, adventurous spirit should lead her too close to the
precipice along the rocky pathway of life.

She was thinking many strange thoughts as she sat looking out of the
window. Her English cousins, related to her only through her stepmother,
yet called kin for courtesy's sake, had given up trying to understand
her complexities, as she had likewise given up trying to explain
herself. If they were pleased forever to consider her in the light of a
conundrum, she thought, why--let them!

After a while the ladies at the tea-table began to chat in more
confidential tones. Opal was not too oblivious to her surroundings to
notice, nor to grasp the fact that they were discussing her, but that
knowledge did not interest her. She was so used to being considered a
curiosity that it had ceased to have any special concern for her. She
only hoped that they would sometime succeed in understanding her better
than she had yet learned to understand herself. It might have interested
her, however, had she overheard this particular conversation, for it
shed a great light upon certain shades of character she had discovered
in herself and often wondered about, but had never had explained to her.

But she did not hear.

"I am greatly concerned about Opal," Lady Alice was saying. "She is the
most difficult creature, Mamma--you've no idea how peculiar--with the
most dangerous, positively _immoral_ ideas. I do wish she were safely
married, for then--well, there is really no knowing what might happen to
a girl who thinks and talks as she does. I used to think it might be a
sort of American pose--put on for startling effect, you know--but I
begin to think she actually means it!"

"Yes, she means it," replied Lady Fletcher, lowering her voice
discreetly, till it was little more than a whisper. "She has always had
just such notions. It gives Amy a great deal of trouble and worry to
keep her straight. You know--or perhaps you didn't know, for we don't
talk of these things often, especially when they are in one's
family--but there is a bad strain in her blood and they are always
looking for it to crop out somewhere. Her mother married happily--and
escaped the curse--but for several generations back the women of her
family have been of peculiar temperament and--they've usually gone wrong
sometime in their lives. It seems to be in the blood. They can't help
it. Mr. Ledoux told Amy all about it at the time of their marriage, and
that is the reason they have tried to keep Opal as secluded as possible
from the usual free-and-easy associations of American girls, and are so
anxious to marry her off wisely."

"And speedily," put in Alice--"the sooner the better!"

"Yes, yes--speedily!"

Lady Fletcher gave an uneasy glance in Opal's direction before she
continued.

"You are too young to have heard the story, Alice, but her
grandmother--a black-eyed Spanish lady of high rank--was made quite
unpleasantly notorious by her associations with a brother of Lady
Henrietta Verdayne. He was an unprincipled roué--this Lord Hubert
Aldringham--a libertine who openly boasted of the conquests he had made
abroad. Being appointed to many foreign posts in the diplomatic service,
he was naturally on intimate terms with people of rank and royalty. They
say he was very fascinating, with the devil's own eye, and ten times as
devilish a heart--"

"Why, Mamma!"

Alice was shocked.

"I am only repeating what they said, child," apologized the elder woman
meekly. "Women will be fools, you know, over a handsome face and a
tender voice--some women, I mean--and that's what Opal has to fight
against."

"Poor Opal," murmured Alice, "I did not know!"

"Some even go so far as to say--"

Again Lady Fletcher looked up apprehensively, but Opal was still
absorbed in her dreams.

"To say--what, Mother?"

"Well, of course it's only talk--nobody can actually _know,_ I suppose,
and I wouldn't, of course, be quoted as saying anything for the world,
dear knows; but they say that it is more than probable that Opal's
mother was  ... _Lord Hubert's own daughter!"_

"Oh, Mother! If it is true--if it _could_ be true--what a fight for
her!"

"Yes, and the worst of it is with Opal, she won't fight. She has been
rigidly trained in the principles of virtue and propriety from her very
birth, and yet she horrifies every one at times by shocking ideas--that
no one knows where she gets, nor, worse yet, where they may lead!"

"But she is good, Mother. She has the noblest ideas of charity and
kindness and altruism, of the advancement of all that's good and true in
the world, of the attainment of knowledge, of the beauties and
consolation of religion. It's fine to hear her talk when she's
inspired--not a bit preachy, you know--she's certainly far enough from
that--but more like reading some beautiful poem you can but half
understand, or listening to music that makes you wish you were better,
whether you take in its full meaning or not."

This was a long speech for Lady Alice. Her mother looked at her in
amazement. There certainly must be something out of the ordinary in this
peculiar American cousin to wake Alice from her customary languor.

Alice smiled at her mother's surprise.

"Strange, isn't it, Mother?" she asked, half ashamed of her unusual
enthusiasm. "But it's true. She'd help some good man to be a power in
the world. I feel it so often when she talks. I didn't know women ever
thought such things as she does. I-I-I believe we can trust her, Mother,
to steer clear of everything!"

"I hope so, Alice; I am sure I hope so, but--I don't know. I am afraid
it was a mistake to keep her so much alone. It gives her more unreal
ideas of life than actual contact with the world would have done."

Opal Ledoux left the window and sauntered down the long drawing-room
toward the table where the speakers were sitting.

"What are you talking about?--me?"

The cousins were surprised and showed it by blushing guiltily.

Opal laughed merrily.

"Dreary subject for a dreary day! I hope you found it more interesting
than I have!" And she stretched her small figure to its utmost height,
which was not a bit above five foot, and shrugged her shoulders lazily.

"What are you reading, Opal?" asked Lady Fletcher, in an effort to
change the subject, looking with some interest at the volume that the
girl carried.

"Don't ask me--all twaddle and moonshine! I ought not to waste my
valuable time with such trash. There isn't a real character in the book,
not one. When I write a book, and I presume I shall some time, if I live
long enough, I shall put people into it who have real flesh and blood in
them and who do startling things. But I'll have to live it all first!"

"Live the startling things, Opal? God forbid!"

"Surely! Why not?"

And Opal dropped listlessly into a chair, tossed the offending book on a
table, and taking a cup of tea from the hand of her cousin, began to sip
it with an air of languid indifference, which sat strangely on her
youthful, almost childlike figure.

"By the way, Alice," she asked carelessly, "who was the young man who
stared at us so rudely last night as we drove away from the theatre?"

"I saw no young man staring, Opal. Where was he?"

"Why, he stood on the pavement, waiting, I suppose, for his carriage,
and as we drove away he looked at me as though he thought I had no right
to live, and still less to laugh--I believe I was laughing--and as we
turned the corner I peeped back through the curtain, and he still stood
there in the full glare of the light, staring. It's impolite,
cousins--_very! Gentlemen_ don't stare at girls in America!"

"What did he look like, Opal?" asked Lady Fletcher.

"Like a Greek god!" answered the girl, without a second's hesitation.

"What!"

Both women gasped, simultaneously. They were dismayed.

"Oh, don't be shocked! He had the full panoply of society war-paint on.
He was certainly properly clothed, but as to his being in his right
mind, I have my doubts--serious doubts! He stared!"

"I hope you didn't stare at him, Opal!"

"Well, I did! What could he expect? And I laughed at him, too! But I
don't believe he saw me at all, more's the pity. I am quite sure he
would have fallen in love with me if he had!"

"Opal!"

Opal was thoroughly enjoying herself now. She did enjoy shocking people
who were so delightfully shockable!

"Why, _'Opal'?"_ and her mimicry was irresistible. "Don't you think I'm
a bit lovable, cousin?--not a bit? You discourage me! I'm doomed to be a
spinster, I suppose! Ah, me! And I'd far rather be the spinster's cat!
Cats aren't worried about the conventions and all that sort of thing.
Happy animals! While we poor two-footed ones they call human--only we
aren't really more than half so--have to keep our claws well hidden and
purr hypocritically, no matter how roughly the world rubs our fur the
wrong way, nor how wild we are to scratch and spit and bristle! Wouldn't
you like to be a cat, Alice?"

"Goodness, child! What an idea! I am very well contented, Opal, with
the sphere of life into which I have been placed!"

"Happy, happy Alice! May that state of mind endure forever! But come!
Haven't you an idea, either of you, who my Knight of the Stare can be?"

"You didn't describe him, Opal."

Opal opened her eyes in wide surprise.

"Didn't I? Why, I thought I did, graphically! A Greek god, dressed _en
règle_. What more do you want? I am sure anyone ought to recognize him
by that."

Her listeners looked at her in real consternation, which she was quick
to see. Her eyes danced.

"Well, if you insist upon details, I can supply a few, I guess, if I
try. I am really dying of curiosity to know who he is and why he stared.
Of course I didn't look at him very closely. It wouldn't have
been--er--what do you call it?--proper. And of course I could not see
clearly at night, anyway. But I did notice he was about six feet tall.
Imagine me, poor little me, looking up to six feet! With broad
shoulders; an athletic, muscular figure, like a young Hercules; a
well-shaped head, like Apollo's, covered with curls of fair hair; a
smooth, clear skin, with the tint of the rose in his cheek that deepened
to blood-red when his blue eyes, in which the skies of all the world
seemed to be mirrored, stared with an expression like that of a man upon
whom the splendor of some glorious Paradise was just dawning. He looked
like an Englishman, yet something in his attitude and general appearance
made me think that he was not. His hands--"

"Opal! Opal! What do you mean? How could you see so much of a young man
in so short a time? And at night, too?"

Opal pouted.

"You wanted a detailed description. I was trying to give it to you. As I
told you at the start, I couldn't see much. But anyway, he stared!"

"And I dare say he wasn't the only one who stared!" put in Lady Alice in
dry tones of reprehension. "I can't imagine who it could be, can you,
mother?"

"Not unless it was that strange young Monsieur Zalenska--_Paul_
Zalenska, I believe he calls himself--Paul Verdayne's guest. I rather
think, from the description, that it must have been he!"

"Zalenska? What a name! I wonder if he won't let me call him 'Paul!'"
said the incorrigible Opal, musingly. "I shall ask him the first time I
see him. Paul's a pretty name! I like that--but I'll never, never be
able to twist my tongue around the other. He'd get out of hearing before
I could call him and that would never do at all! But 'Monsieur,' you
say? Why 'Monsieur'? He certainly doesn't look at all like a Frenchman!"

"No one knows what he is, Opal; nor who. That is, no one but the
Verdaynes. He has always made a mystery of himself."

Opal clapped her small hands childishly.

"Charming! My ideal knight in the flesh! But how shall I attract him?"

She knitted her brows and pondered as seriously as though the fate of
nations depended upon her decision.

"Shall I send him my card, Alice, and ask him to call? Or would it be
better to make an appointment with him for the Park? Perhaps a
'personal' in the _News_ would answer my purpose--do you think he reads
the _News_, or would the _Times_ be better? Come, cousins, what do you
think? I am so young, you know! Please advise me."

She clasped her hands in a charming gesture of helpless appeal and the
ladies looked at one another in horrified silence. What unheard of thing
would this impossible girl propose next! They would be thankful when
they saw her once more safely embarked for the "land of the free," and
out from under their chaperonage, they hoped, forever. They realized
that she was quite beyond their restraining powers. Had she no sense of
decency at all?

The door opened, callers were announced, and the day was saved.

Opal straightened up, put on what she called her "best dignity" and
comported herself in so very well-bred and amiable a manner that her
cousins quite forgave all her past delinquencies and smiled approval
upon the charming courtesy she extended to their guests. She could be
_such_ a lady when she would! No one could resist her! And yet they felt
themselves sitting upon the crater of a volcano liable to erupt at any
moment. One never felt quite safe with Opal.

But, much to their surprise and relief, everything went beautifully, and
the guests departed, delighted with Lady Alice's "charming American
cousin, so sweet, so dainty, so witty, so brilliant, and altogether
lovely--really quite a dear, you know!"

But for all that, Lady Alice Mordaunt and Lady Fletcher were far from
feeling easy over their guest, and ardently wished that the girl's
father would cut short his visit to France and return to take her back
with him to America. And while these two worthy ladies worried and
fretted, Opal Ledoux laughed and dreamed.

And in a big mansion over in Berkeley Square Monsieur Paul Zalenska
wondered--and listened.



CHAPTER IV


It was a whole two weeks after the Boy's experience at the theatre, and
though the echoes of that mysterious voice still rang through all his
dreams at night, and most of his waking hours, he had not heard its lilt
again.

Paul Verdayne smiled to himself to note the youngster's sudden interest
in society. He had not--strange as it may seem--been told a word of the
experience, but he was not curious. He certainly knew the world, if
anyone knew it, and though he was sure he recognized the symptoms, he
had too much tact to ask, "Who is the girl?"

"Let the Boy have his little secrets," he thought, remembering his own
callow days. "They will do him good."

And though the Boy felt an undue sense of guilt, he continued to keep
his lips closed and his eyes and ears open, though it often seemed so
utterly useless to do so. Sometimes he wondered if he had dropped to
sleep, there behind the hawthorn hedge that afternoon, and dreamed it
all.

Verdayne and the Boy were sitting at luncheon at the Savoy. Sir Charles
and Lady Henrietta had gone down to Verdayne Place for a week, and the
two men were spending most of their time away from the lonely house in
Berkeley Square.

That day they were discussing the Boy's matrimonial prospects as
proposed by the Grand Duke Peter--indeed, they were usually discussing
them. The Boy had written, signifying his acceptance and approval of the
arrangements as made. Nothing else was expected of him for the present,
but his nature had not ceased its revolt against the decree of Fate, and
Paul Verdayne shared his feeling of repugnance to the utmost. Perhaps
Verdayne felt it even more acutely than the young Prince himself, for he
knew so much better all that the Boy was sacrificing. But he also knew,
as did the poor royal victim himself, that it was inevitable.

"I don't wonder at the court escapades that occasionally scandalize all
Europe," said the Boy. "I don't wonder at all! The real wonder is that
more of the poor slaves to royalty do not snap the chains that bind
them, and bolt for freedom. It would be like me,--very like me!"

And Verdayne could say nothing. He knew of more reasons than one why it
would be very like the Boy to do such a thing, and he sighed as he
thought that some time, perhaps, he might do it. And yet he could not
blame him!

"Father Paul," went on the Boy, his thoughts taking a new turn, "you are
a bachelor--a hopeless old bachelor--and you have never told me why. Of
course there's a woman or two in it! We have talked about everything
else under the sun, I think--you and I--but, curiously enough, we have
never talked of love! Yet I feel sure that you believe in it. Don't you,
Father Paul? Come now, confess! I am in a mood for sentiment to-day, and
I want to hear what drove you to a life of single blessedness--what made
my romantic old pal such a confirmed old celibate! I don't believe that
you object to matrimony on general principles. Tell me your love-story,
please, Father Paul."

"What makes you so certain that I have had one, Boy?"

"Oh, I don't know just why, but I am certain! It's there in your lips
when you smile, in your eyes when you are moved, in your voice when you
allow yourself to become reminiscent. You are full of memories that you
have never spoken of to me. And now, Father Paul--now is the accepted
time!"

For a moment Verdayne was nonplussed. What could he reply? There was
only one love-story in his life, and that one would end only with his
own existence, but he could not tell that story to the Boy--yet!
Suddenly, however, an old, half-forgotten memory flashed across his
mind. Of course he had a love-story. He would tell the Boy the story of
Isabella Waring.

So, as they sat together over their coffee and cigarettes, Verdayne told
his young guest about the Curate's daughter, who had all unconsciously
wielded such an influence over the events of his past life. He told of
the girl's kindness to him when he had broken his collarbone; of her
assistance so freely offered to his mother; of her jolly, lively
spirits, her amiable disposition and general gay good-fellowship; and
then of the unlucky kiss that had aroused the suspicion and august
displeasure of Lady Henrietta, and had sent her erring son a wanderer
over the face of Europe--to forget!

He painted his sadness at leaving home--and Isabella--in pathetic
colors. Indeed, he became quite affecting when he pictured his parting
with Isabella, and when in repeating his parting words, he managed to
get just the right suspicion of a tremble into his voice, he really felt
quite proud of his ability as a story-teller.

The Boy was plainly touched.

"What foolishness to think that such a love as yours could be cured
merely by sending you abroad!" he said.

"Just what I thought, Boy--utter folly!"

"Of course it didn't cure you, Father Paul. You didn't learn to forget,
did you? Oh, it was cruel to send you away when you loved her like
that! I didn't think it of Aunt Henrietta--I didn't indeed!"

"Oh, you mustn't blame mother, Boy. She meant it for the best, just as
your Uncle Peter now means it for the best for you and yours. She
thought I would forget."

"Was she very, very beautiful, Father Paul? But of course she was, if
_you_ loved her!"

"She was pretty, Boy--at least I thought so."

"Big or little?"

"Tall--very tall."

"I like tall, magnificent women. There's something majestic about them.
I hope the Princess Elodie"--and the Boy made a wry face--"will be
quite six foot tall. I could never love a woman small either in body or
mind. I am sure I should have liked your Isabella, Father Paul. Majestic
women of majestic minds for me, for there you have the royal stamp of
nature that makes some women born to the purple. Yes, I am sure I should
have liked Isabella. Tell me more."

Paul Verdayne smiled. He should hardly have considered Isabella Waring
in any degree "majestic"--but he did not say so.

"She was charmingly healthy and robust--athletic, you know, and all
that--with light fluffy hair. I believe she used to wear it in a net.
Blue eyes, of course--thoroughly English, you know--and a fine comrade.
Liked everything that I liked, as most girls at that age didn't,
naturally. Of course, mother couldn't appreciate her. She wasn't her
style at all. And she naturally thought--mother did, I mean--that when
she sent me away 'for my health'"--the Boy smiled--"that I'd forget all
about her."

Verdayne began to think he wasn't telling it well after all. He looked
out of the window. It was getting hard to meet the frank look in the
Boy's blue eyes.

"Forget!" and there was a fine scorn in the tones of the young
enthusiast. "But you didn't! you didn't! I'm sure you didn't!"

The romantic story appealed strongly to the Boy's mood.

"But why didn't you marry her when you came back, Father Paul? Did she
die?"

"No, she didn't die. She is still living, I believe."

"Then why didn't you marry her, Father Paul? Did they still oppose it?
Surely when you came home and they saw you had not forgotten, it was
different. Tell me how it was when you came home."

And Paul Verdayne, in a voice he tried his best to make very sad and
heart-broken, replied with downcast eyes, "When I came home, Boy, I
found Isabella Waring ready to marry a curate, and happy over the
prospect of an early wedding. So, you see, my share in her life was
over."

The Boy's face fell. He had not anticipated this ending to the romance.
How could any woman ever have proved faithless to his Father Paul! And
how could he, poor man, still keep his firm, dauntless belief in the
goodness and truth of human nature after so bitter an experience as
this! It shocked his sense of right and justice--this story. He wished
he had not asked to hear it.

"Thank you for telling me, Father Paul. It was kind of you to open your
past life to me like this, and very unkind of me to ask what I should
have known would cost you such pain to tell. I am truly sorry for it
all, Father Paul. Thank you again--and forgive me!"

"It's a relief to open one's heart, sometimes, to one who can
sympathize," replied Verdayne, with a deep sigh. But he felt like a
miserable hypocrite.

Poor Isabella Waring! He had hardly given her a passing thought in
twenty years. And now he had vilified her to help himself out of a tight
corner. Well, she was always a good sort. She wouldn't mind being
used--or even misused--to help out her "old pal" this way. Still it made
him feel mean, and he was glad when the Boy dropped the subject and
turned again to his own difficulties.

But the mind of the young prince was restive, that day. Nothing held his
attention long. It seemed, like his eye, to be roving hither and
thither, seeking something it never could find.

"You have been to America, Father Paul, haven't you?" he asked.

America? Yes, Verdayne had been to America. It was in America that he
had passed one season of keenest anguish. He had good reason to remember
it--such good reason that in all their wanderings about the world he had
never seen fit to take the Boy there.

But something had aroused the young fellow's passing interest, and now
nothing would satisfy him save that he must hear all about America; and
so, for a full hour, as best he could, Verdayne described the country of
the far West as he remembered it.

"Nothing in America appealed to me so strongly as the gigantic
prairies," he said at last. "You were so deeply moved by our trip to
Africa, Boy, that you must remember the impression of vastness and
infinity the great desert made upon us. Well, in the glorious West of
America it is as if the desert had sprung to life, and from every grain
of sand had been born a blade of grass, waving and fluttering with the
joy of new birth. Oh, it is truly wonderful, Paul! Once I went there
with the soil of my heart scorched as dry and lifeless as the burning
sands of Sahara, but in that revelation of a new creation, some pulse
within me sprang mysteriously into being again. It could never be the
same heart that it once was, but it would now know the semblance of a
new existence. And I took up the burden of life again--albeit a strange,
new life--and came home to fight it out. The prairies did all that for
me, Boy!" He paused for a moment, and then spoke in a sadder tone. "It
was soon after that, Paul, that I first found you."

Paul Zalenska thought that he understood. That, of course, was after
Isabella Waring had wrecked his life. Cruel, heartless Isabella! He had
never even heard her name before to-day, but he hated her, wherever she
might be!

"There is a legend they tell out there that is very pretty and
appropriate," went on Verdayne, dreamily. "They say that when the
Creator made the world, He had indiscriminately strewn continents and
valleys, mountains and seas, islands and lakes, until He came to the
western part of America, and despite His omnipotence, was puzzled to
know what new glories He could possibly contrive for this corner of the
earth. Something majestic and mighty it must be, He thought, and yet of
an altogether different beauty from that in the rest of the
universe--something individual, distinctive. The seas still overflowed
the land, as they had through past eternities, awaiting His touch to
call into form and being the elements still sleeping beneath the
water--the living representation of His thought. Suddenly stretching out
His rod, He bade the waters recede--and they did so, leaving a vast
extent of grassy land where the majestic waves had so lately rolled and
tossed. And it is said that the land retains to this day the memory of
the sea it then was, while the grasses wave with a subtle suggestion of
the ocean's ebb and flow beneath the influence of a wind that is like no
other wind in the world so much as an ocean breeze; while the gulls,
having so well learned their course, fly back and forth as they did
before the mystic change from water into earth. Indeed, the first
impression one receives of the prairie is that of a vast sea of growing
vegetation!"

The Boy's eyes sparkled. This was the fanciful Father Paul that he
loved best of all.

"Some time we must go there, Father Paul. Is it not so?"

"Yes, Boy, some time!"



CHAPTER V


Rebellious thoughts were flitting through the brain of Paul Zalenska as
he rode forth the next morning, tender and fanciful ones, too, as he
watched the sun's kisses fall on leaf and flower and tree, drying with
their soft, insistent warmth the tears left by the dew of night, and
wooing all Nature to awake--to look up with glorious smiles, for the
world, after all, is beautiful and full of love and laughter.

Why should _not_ Paul be happy? Was he not twenty, and handsome, and
rich, and popular, and destined for great things? Was there a want in
the world that he could not easily have satisfied, had he so desired?
And was he not officially betrothed to the Princess Elodie of Austria--

"Damn the Princess Elodie!" he thought, with more emphasis than
reverence, and he rode along silently, slowly, a frown clouding his
fresh, boyish brow, face to face with the prose of the existence he
would fain have had all romance and poetry.

It had all been arranged for him by well-meaning minds--minds that could
never see how the blessing they had intended to bestow might by any
chance become a curse.

The Boy came of age in February next--February nineteenth--but it had
been the strongly expressed wish of his mother that his coronation
should not take place until May.

For was it not in May that she had met her Paul?

She had felt, from the birth of the young Prince, a presentiment of her
own early death, and had formed many plans and voiced many preferences
for his future. No one knew what personal reasons the Imperatorskoye had
for the wish, but she had so definitely and unmistakably made the desire
known to all her councillors that none dreamed of disobeying the mandate
of their deceased and ever-to-be-lamented Queen. Her slightest wish had
always been to them an Unassailable law.

So the coronation ceremonies were to take place in the May following the
Prince's birthday, and the Regent had arranged that the marriage should
also be celebrated at that time. Of course, the Boy had acquiesced. He
saw no reason to put it off any longer. It was always best to swallow
your bitterest pill first, he thought, and get the worst over and the
taste out of your mouth as soon as possible.

Until that eventful time, the Prince was free to go where he pleased,
and to do whatever he wished. He had insisted upon this liberty, and the
Regent, finding him in all other respects so amenable to his leading,
gladly made the concession. This left him a year--that is, nearly a
year, for it was June now--of care-free bachelorhood; a year for one,
who was yet only a dreamy boy, to acquire the proper spirit for a happy
bridegroom; a year of Father Paul!

He rode along aimlessly for a short distance, scarcely guiding his
horse, and only responding to the greetings of acquaintances he chanced
to meet with absent-minded, though still irreproachable, courtesy. He
was hardly thinking at all, now--at least consciously. He was simply
glad to be alive, as Youth is glad--in spite of any possible, or
impossible, environment.

Suddenly his eyes fell upon a feminine rider some paces in advance, who
seemed to attract much attention, of which she was--apparently
--delightfully unconscious. Paul marked the faultless proportions of her
horse.

"What a magnificent animal!" he thought. Then, under his breath, he
added, "and what a stunning rider!"

She was only a girl--about eighteen or nineteen, he should judge by her
figure and the girlish poise of her small head--but she certainly knew
how to ride. She sat her horse as though a part of him, and controlled
his every motion as she would her own.

"Just that way might she manage a man," Paul thought, and then laughed
aloud at the absurdity of the thought. For he had never seen the girl
before.

Paul admired a good horsewoman--they are so pitifully few. And he
followed her, at a safe distance, with an interest unaccountable, even
to him. Finally she drew rein before one of the houses facing the Row,
dismounted, and throwing the train of her habit gracefully over her arm,
walked to the door with a brisk step. Paul instantly likened her to a
bird, so lightly tripping over the walk that her feet scarcely seemed to
touch the ground. She was a wee thing--certainly not more than five foot
tall--and _petite_, almost to an extreme. The Boy had expressed a
preference, only a few days before, for tall, magnificent women. Now he
suddenly discovered that the woman for a man to love should by all means
be short and small. He wondered why it had never occurred to him in that
light before, and thought of Jacques' question about Rosalind, "What
stature is she of?" and Orlando's reply, "As high as my heart!"

The girl who had aroused this train of thought had reached the big stone
steps by this time, and suddenly turning to look over her shoulder, just
as he passed the gate, met his gaze squarely. Gad! what eyes those
were!--full of mystery and magnetism, and--possibilities!

For an instant their eyes clung together in that strange mingling of
glances that sometimes holds even utter strangers spell-bound by its
compelling force.

Then she turned and entered the house, and Paul rode on.

But that glance went with him. It tormented him, troubled him, perplexed
him. He felt a mad desire to turn back, to follow her into that house,
and compel her to meet his eyes again. Did she know the power of her own
eyes? Did she know a look like that had almost the force of a caress?

He told himself that they were the most beautiful eyes that he had ever
seen--and yet he could not have told the color of them to save his soul.
He began to wonder about that. It vexed him that he could not remember.

"Eyes!" he thought, "those are not eyes! They are living magnets,
drawing a fellow on and on, and he never stops to think what color they
are--nor _care!_"

And then he pulled himself up sharply, and declared himself a madman
for raving on the street in broad daylight over the mere accidental
meeting with a pair of pretty eyes. He--the uncrowned king of a
to-be-glorious throne! He--the affianced husband of the Princess Elodie
of--Hell! He refused to think of it! And again the horse he rode and the
Park trees heard a bit of Paul Zalenska's English profanity that should
have made them hide in shame over the depravity of youth.

But the strangest thing of all was that the Boy, for the nonce, was not
thinking of--nor listening for--the voice!

He turned as he reached the end of the Row and rode slowly back. But the
horses and groom had already gone from the gate. And inwardly cursing
his slowness, he started on a trot for Berkeley Square.

He was not very far from the Verdayne house, when, turning a sudden
corner, he came upon the girl again, riding at a leisurely pace in the
opposite direction. Startled by his unexpected appearance, she glanced
back over her shoulder as she passed, surprising him--and perhaps
herself, too, for girls do that sometimes--by a ringing and tantalizing
laugh!

That laugh! Wonder upon wonders, it was _the voice_!

It was she--Opal!

He wheeled his horse sharply, but swift as he was, she was yet swifter
and was far down the street before he was fairly started in pursuit. His
one desire of the moment was to catch and conquer the sprite that
tempted him.

Her veil fluttered out behind her on the breeze, like a signal of
no-surrender, and once--only once--she looked back over her shoulder.
She was too far ahead for him to catch the glint of her eye, but he
heard the echo of that laugh--that voice--and it spurred him on and on.

Suddenly, by some turn known only to herself, she eluded him and escaped
beyond his vision--and beyond his reach. He halted his panting horse at
the crossing of several streets, and swore again. But though he looked
searchingly in every possible direction, there was no trace of the
fugitive to be seen. It was as though the earth had opened and
swallowed horse and rider in one greedy gulp.

Baffled and more disappointed than he cared to own, Paul rode slowly
back to Berkeley Square, his heart bounding with the excitement of the
chase and yet thoroughly vexed over his failure, at himself, his horse,
the girl.

At the house he found letters from the Regent awaiting him, recalling to
him his position and its unwelcome responsibilities. One of them
enclosed a full-length photograph of his future bride.

Fate had certainly been kind to him by granting his one expressed wish.
The Princess Elodie was what he had desired, "quite six-foot tall." Yet
he pushed the portrait aside with an impatient gesture, and before his
mental vision rose a little figure tripping up the steps, with a
backward glance that still seemed to pierce his very soul.

He was not thinking, as he certainly should have been, of the Princess
Elodie! And he had not even noticed whether she had any eyes or not!

He looked again at the picture of the Austrian princess, lying face
upward upon the pile of letters. With disgust and loathing he swept the
offending portrait into a drawer, and summoning Vasili, began to make a
hasty toilet.

Vasili had never seen his young master in such bad humor. He was
unpardonably late for luncheon, but that would not disturb him, surely
not to such an extent as this!

He was greatly disturbed by something. There was no denying that.

He had found the voice, but--



CHAPTER VI


It was the next morning at the breakfast table that Paul Zalenska,
listlessly looking over the "Society Notes" in the _Times_, came upon
this significant notice:

     "Mr. Gilbert Ledoux and daughter, Miss Opal Ledoux, of New Orleans,
     accompanied by Henri, Count de Roannes, of Paris, have taken
     passage on the Lusitania, which sails for New York on July 3rd."

It was _she_, of course!--who else could it be? Surely there could not
be more than one Opal in America!

"Father Paul, I notice that the Lusitania is to sail for America on the
third of July. Can't we make it?"

Verdayne smiled quietly at the suddenness of the proposal, but was not
unduly surprised. He remembered many unaccountable impulses of his own
when his life was young and his blood was hot. He remembered too with a
tender gratitude how his father had humored him and--was he not "Father
Paul"?

"I see no reason why not, Boy."

"You see, I have already lost a whole month out of my one free year. I
am unwilling to waste a single hour of it, Father Paul--wouldn't you be?
And we _must_ see America together, you and I, before I go back
to--prison!"

"Certainly, Boy, certainly. My time is yours--when you want it, and
where you want it, the whole year through!"

"I know that, Father Paul, and--I thank you!"

It was more difficult to arrange matters with Lady Henrietta. She was
not so young as she once was and she still adored her son, as only the
mother of but one child can adore, and could not bear the idea of having
him away from her. Old and steady as he had now become, he was still her
boy, the idol of her heart. Yet she felt, as her son did, that the Boy
was entitled to the few months of liberty left him, and she did not
greatly object, though there was a wistful look in her eyes as they
rested on her son that told how keenly she felt every separation from
him.

As for Sir Charles, he had not lost the knowing twinkle of the eye.
Moreover, he knew far better than his wife how real was the claim their
young guest had upon their son. And he bade them go with a hearty grasp
of the hand and a bluff Godspeed.

So it was settled that Verdayne and the Boy, attended only by Vasili,
were to sail for America on the third of July, and passage was
immediately secured on the Lusitania.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the morning of the day appointed, Paul Zalenska from an upper deck
watched the party he had been awaiting, as they mounted the gang-plank.

Gilbert Ledoux he scarcely noticed. The Count de Roannes, too,
interested him no longer when, with a hasty glance, he had assured
himself that the Frenchman was as old as Ledoux and not the gay young
dandy in Opal's train that he had feared to find him.

He had eyes alone for the girl, and he watched her closely as she
tripped up the gang-plank, clinging to her father's arm and chattering
gayly in that voice he so well remembered.

She was not so small at close range as she had appeared at a distance,
but possessed an exquisite roundness of figure and softness of outline
well in proportion to the shortness of her stature.

He had been proud of his kingship--very proud of his royal blood and his
mission to his little kingdom. But of late he had known some rebellious
thoughts, quite foreign to his mental habit.

And to-day, as he looked at Opal Ledoux, he thought, "After all, how
much of a real man can I ever be? What am I but a petty pawn on the
chessboard of the world, moved hither and yon, to gain or to lose, by
the finger of Fate!"

As Opal Ledoux passed him, she met his glance, and slightly flushed by
the _rencontre_, looked back over her shoulder at him and--smiled! And
_such_ a smile! She passed on, leaving him tingling in every fibre with
the thrill of it.

It was Fate. He had felt it from the very first, and now he was sure of
it.

How would it end? How _could_ it end?

Paul Zalenska was very young--oh, very young, indeed!



CHAPTER VII


The next day Verdayne and his young companion were introduced to Mr.
Ledoux and his guest.

Gilbert Ledoux, a reserved man evidently descended from generations of
thinking people, was apparently worried, for his face bore unmistakable
signs of some mental disturbance. Paul Zalenska was struck by the
haunted expression of what must naturally have been a grave countenance.
It was not guilt, for he had not the face of a man pursued by
conscience, but it certainly was fear--a real fear. And Paul wondered.

As for the Count de Roannes, the Boy dismissed him at once as unworthy
of further consideration. He was brilliantly, even artificially
polished--glaringly ultra-fashionable, ostentatiously polite and suave.
In the lines of his bestial face he bore the records of a lifetime's
profligacy and the black tales of habitual self-indulgence. Paul hated
him instinctively and wondered how a man of Ledoux's unmistakable
refinement could tolerate him for a moment.

It was not until the middle of the following afternoon that Opal Ledoux
appeared on deck, when her father, with an air of pride, mingled with a
certain curious element of timidity, presented to her in due form both
the Englishman and his friend.

The eyes of the two young people flashed a recognition that the lips of
each tacitly denied as they responded conventionally to the
introduction.

Paul noticed that the shadow of her father's uneasiness was reflected
upon her in a somewhat lesser but all too evident degree. And again he
wondered.

A few moments of desultory conversation that was of no interest to
Paul--and then the Count proposed a game of _écarté_, to which Verdayne
and Ledoux assented readily enough.

But not so our Boy!

_Ecarté!_ Bah! When did a boy of twenty ever want to play cards within
sound of the rustle of a petticoat?--and _such_ a petticoat!

When the elderly gallant noted the attitude of the young fellow he cast
a quick glance of suspicion at Opal. He would have withdrawn his
proposal had he been able to find any plausible excuse. But it was too
late. And with an inward invective on his own blundering, he followed
the other gentlemen to the smoking-room.

And Paul and Opal were at last face to face--and alone!

He turned as the sound of the retreating steps died away and looked long
and searchingly into her face. If the girl intended to ignore their
former meeting, he thought, he would at once put that idea beyond all
question. She bore his scrutiny with no apparent embarrassment. She was
an American girl, and as she would have expressed it, she was "game!"

"Well?" she said at last, questioningly.

"Yes," he responded, "well--well, indeed, _at last_!"

She bowed mockingly.

"And," he went on, "I have been searching for you a long time, Opal!"

He had not intended to say that, but having said it, he would not take
it back.

Then she remembered that she had said that she would call him "Paul" the
first time she met him, and she smiled.

"Searching for me? I don't understand."

"Of course not! Neither do I! Why should we? The best things in life are
the things we don't--and can't--understand. Is it not so?"

"Perhaps!" doubtfully. She had never thought of it in just that light
before, but it might be true. It was human nature to be attracted by
mystery. "But you have been looking for me, you say! Since when?--our
race?" And her laugh rang out on the air with its old mocking rhythm.

And the Boy felt his blood tingle again at the memory of it.

"But what did you say, Monsieur Zalenska--pardon me--Paul, I mean," and
she laughed again, "what did you say as you rode home again?"

The Boy shook his head with affected contrition.

"Unfit to tell a lady!" he said.

And the girl laughed again, pleased by his frankness.

"Vowed eternal vengeance upon my luckless head, I suppose!"

"Oh, not so bad as that, I think," said Paul, pretending to reflect upon
the matter--"I am sure it was not quite so bad as that!"

"It would hardly have done, would it, to vow what you were not at all
sure you would ever be able to fulfil? Take my advice, and never bank a
_sou_ upon the move of any woman!"

"You're not a woman," he laughed in her eyes; "you're just an
abbreviation!"

But Opal was not one whit sensitive upon the subject of her height. Not
she!

"Well, some abbreviations are more effective than the words they stand
for," she retorted. "I shall cling to the flattering hope that such may
be my attraction to the reader whose 'only books are woman's looks!'"

"But why did you run away?"

"Just--because!" Then, after a pause, "Why did you follow?"

"I don't know, do you? Just--because, I suppose!"

And then they both laughed again.

"But I know why you ran. You were afraid!" said Paul.

Her eyes flashed and there was a fine scorn in her tones.

"Afraid--of what, pray?"

"Of being caught--too easily! Come, now--weren't you?"

"I wouldn't contradict you for the world, Paul."

She lingered over his name with a cadence in her tone that made it
almost a caress. It thrilled him again as it had from the beginning.

"But I'll forgive you for running away from me, since I am so fortunate
as to be with you now where you can't possibly run very far! Strange,
isn't it, how Fate has thrown us together?"

"Very!"

There was a dry sarcasm in the tones, and a mockery in the glance, that
told him she was not blind to his manoeuvres. Their eyes met and they
laughed again. Truly, life just then was exceedingly pleasant for the
two on the deck of the Lusitania.

"But I was looking for you before that, Opal--long before that--weeks!"

The girl was truly surprised now and turned to him wonderingly. Then,
without question, he told her of his overhearing her at the garden
party--what a long time ago it seemed!--and his desire, ever since, to
meet her.

He told her, too, of his hearing her laugh at the theatre that night;
but the girl was silent, and said not a word of having seen him there.
Confidences were all right for a man, she thought, but a girl did well
to keep some things to herself.

He did not say that he was deliberately following her to America, but
the girl had her own ideas upon the subject and smiled to herself at the
lively development of affairs since that tiresome garden party she had
found so unbearable. Here was an adventure after her own heart.

And yet Opal Ledoux had much on her mind just then. The Boy had read the
signs upon her face correctly. She was troubled.

For a long time they sat together, and looking far out over the vast
expanse of dancing blueness, they spoke of life--and the living of it.
And both knew so little of either!

It was a strange talk for the first one--so subtly intimate, with its
flashes of personality and freedom from conventions, that it seemed like
a meeting of old friends, rather than of strangers. Some intimacies are
like the oak, long and steady of growth; others spring to full maturity
in an hour's time. And these two had bridged the space of years in a few
moments of converse. They understood each other so well.

This same idea occurred to them simultaneously, as she looked up at him
with eyes glowing with a quick appreciation of some well-expressed and
worthy thought. Something within him stirred to sudden life--something
that no one else had ever reached.

He looked into her eyes and thought he had never looked into the eyes of
a woman before. She smiled--and he was sure it was the first time he had
ever seen a woman smile!

"I am wild to be at home again," she was saying, "fairly crazy for
America! How I love her big, broad, majestic acres--the splendid sweep
of her meadows--the massive grandeur of her mountain peaks--the glory of
her open skies! You too, I believe, are a wanderer on strange seas. You
can hardly fail to understand my longing for the homeland!"

"I do understand, Opal. I am on my first visit to your country. Tell me
of her--her institutions, her people! Believe me, I am greatly
interested!"

And he was--in _her_! Nothing else counted at that moment. But the girl
did not understand that--then!

For half an hour, perhaps, she lost herself in an eloquent eulogy of
America, while the Boy sat and watched her, catching the import of but
little that she said, it must be confessed, but drinking in every detail
of her expressive countenance, her flashing, lustrous eyes, her red,
impulsive lips and rounded form, and her white, slender hands, always
employed in the expression of a thought or as the outlet for some
passing emotion. He caught himself watching for the occasional glimpses
of her small white teeth between the rose of her lips. He saw in her
eyes the violet sparks of smouldering fires, kindled by the volcanic
heart sometimes throbbing and threatening so close to the surface. When
the eruption came!--Fascinated he watched the rise and sweep of her
white arm. Every line and curve of her body was full of suggestion of
the ardent and restless and impulsive temperament with which nature had
so lavishly endowed her. She was alive with feeling--alive to the
finger-tips with the joy of life, the fullness of a deep, emotional
nature.

It occurred to Paul that nature had purposely left her body so small,
albeit so beautifully rounded, that it might devote all its powers to
the building therein of a magnificent, flaming soul--that her inner
nature might always triumph. But Opal had never been especially
conscious of a soul--scarcely of a body. She had not yet found herself.

Paul's emotions were in such chaotic rebellion that the thunder of his
heart-beats mingled with the pulse hammering through his brain and made
him for the first time in his life curiously deaf to his own thoughts.

As she met his eye, expressing more than he realized of the storm
within, her own fell with a sudden sense of apprehension. She rose and
looked far out over the restless waves with a sudden flush on her
dimpled cheek, a subtle excitement in her rapid words.

"As for our men, Paul, they are only human beings, but mighty with that
strength of physique and perfect development of mind that makes for
power. They are men of dauntless purpose. They are men of pure thoughts
and lofty ideals. They know what they want and bend every ambition and
energy to its attainment. Of course I speak of the average American--the
_type_! The normal American is a born fighter. Yes, that is the key-note
of American supremacy! We never give up! never! In my country, what men
want, they get!"

She raised her hand in a quaint, expressive gesture, and the loose
sleeve fell back, leaving her white arm bare. He sprang to his feet, his
eyes glowing.

"And in my country, what men want, they _take_!" he responded
fiercely--almost brutally and without a second's warning Paul threw his
arms about her and crushed her against his breast. He pressed his lips
mercilessly upon her own, holding them in a kiss that seemed to Opal
would never end.

"How--how dare you!" she gasped, when at last she escaped his grasp and
faced him in the fury of outraged girlhood. "I--I--hate you!"

"Dare? When one loves one dares anything!" was his husky response. "I
shall have had my kiss and you can never forget that! Never! never!"

And Paul's voice grew exultant.

Opal had heard of the brutality, the barbarism of passion, but her life
had flowed along conventional channels as peacefully as a quiet river.
She had longed to believe in the fury of love--in that irresistible
attraction between men and women. It appealed to her as it naturally
appeals to all women who are alive with the intensity of life. But she
had _seen_ nothing of it.

Now she looked living Passion in the face for the first time, and was
appalled--half frightened, half fascinated--by the revelation. That kiss
seemed to scorch her lips with a fire she had never dreamed of. With
the universal instinct of shamed womanhood, she pressed her handkerchief
to her lips, rubbing fiercely at the soiled spot. He divined her thought
and laughed, with a note of exultation that stirred her Southern blood.

In defiance she raised her eyes and searched his face, seeking some
solution of the mystery of her own heart's strange, rebellious
throbbing. What could it mean?

Paul took another step toward her, his face softening to tenderness.

"What is it, Opal?" he breathed.

"I was--trying--to understand you."

"I don't understand myself sometimes--certainly not to-day!"

"I thought you were a gentleman!"

(I wonder if Eve didn't say that to Adam in the garden!)

"I have been accustomed to entertain that same idea myself," he said,
"but, after all, what is it to be a gentleman? All men can be gentle
when they get what they want. That's no test of gentility. It takes
circumstances outside the normal to prove man's civilization. When his
desires meet with opposition the brute comes to the surface--that's
all."

Another rush of passion lighted his eyes and sought its reflection in
hers. Opal turned and fled.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the seclusion of her stateroom Opal faced herself resolutely. A
sensation of outrage mingled with a strange sense of guilt. Her
resentment seemed to blend with something resembling a strange, fierce
joy. She tried to fight it down, but it would not be conquered.

Why was he so handsome, so brilliant, this strange foreign fellow whom
she felt intuitively to be more than he claimed to be? What was the
secret of his power that even in the face of this open insult she could
not be as angry as she knew she should have been?

She looked in the mirror apprehensively. No, there was no sign of that
terrible kiss. And yet she felt as though all the world must have seen
had they looked at her--felt that she was branded forever by the burning
touch of his lips!



CHAPTER VIII


It was not until the dinner hour on the following day that Paul and Opal
met again. One does not require an excuse for keeping to one's stateroom
during an ocean voyage--especially during the first few days--and the
girl, though in excellent health and a capital sailor, kept herself
secluded.

She wanted to understand herself and to understand this stranger who was
yet no stranger. For a girl who had looked upon life as she had she felt
woefully unsophisticated. But the Boy? He was certainly not a man of the
world, who through years of lurid experience had learned to look upon
all women as his legitimate quarry. If he had been that sort, she told
herself, she would have been on her guard instinctively from the very
first. But she knew he was too young for that--far too young--- and his
eyes were frank and clear and open, with no dark secrets behind their
curtained lids. But what was he--and who?

When the day was far spent, she knew that she was no nearer a solution
than she had been at dawn, so she resolved to join the group at table
and put behind her the futile labor of self-examination. She would not,
of course, deign to show any leniency toward the offender--indeed not!
She would not vouchsafe one unnecessary word for his edification.

But she took elaborate care with her toilet, selected her most becoming
gown and drove her maid into a frenzy by her variations of taste and
temper.

It was truly a very bewitching Opal who finally descended to the _salon_
and joined the party of four masculine incapables who had spent the day
in vain search for amusement. Paul Zalenska rose hastily at her entrance
and though she made many attempts to avoid his gaze she was forced at
last to meet it. The electric spark of understanding flashed from eye to
eye, and both thrilled in answer to its magnetic call. In the glance
that passed between them was lurking the memory of a kiss.

Opal blushed faintly. How dare he remember! Why, his very eyes echoed
that triumphant laugh she could not forget. She stole another glance at
him. Perhaps she had misjudged him--but--

She turned to respond to the greeting of her father and the other two
gentlemen, and soon found herself seated at the table opposite the Boy
she had so recently vowed to shun. Well, she needn't talk to him, that
was one consolation. Yet she caught herself almost involuntarily
listening for what he would say at this or that turn of the conversation
and paying strict--though veiled--attention to his words.

It was a strange dinner. No one felt at ease. The air was charged with
something that all felt too tangibly oppressive, yet none could define,
save the two--who would not.

       *       *       *       *       *

For Paul the evening was a dismal failure. Try as he would, he could not
catch Opal's eye again, nor secure more than the most meagre replies
even to his direct questions. She was too French to be actually
impolite, but she interposed between them those barriers only a woman
can raise. She knew that Paul was mad for a word with her; she knew that
she was tormenting and tantalizing him almost beyond endurance; she felt
his impatience in every nerve of her, with that mysterious sixth sense
some women are endowed with, and she rejoiced in her power to make him
suffer. He deserved to suffer, she said. Perhaps he'd have some idea of
the proper respect due the next girl he met! These foreigners! _Mon
Dieu_! She'd teach him that American girls were a little different from
the kind they had in his country, where "what men want, they take," as
he had said. What kind of heathen was he?

And she watched him surreptitiously from under her long lashes with a
curious gleam of satisfaction in her eyes. She had always known she had
this power over men, but she had never cared quite so much about using
it before and had been more annoyed than gratified by the effect her
personality had had upon her masculine world.

So she smiled at the Count, she laughed with the Count and made eyes
most shamelessly at the disgusting old gallant till something in his
face warned her that she had reached a point beyond which even her
audacity dared not go.

Heavens! how the old monster would _devour_ a woman, she thought, with a
thrill of disgust. There were awful things in his face!

And the Boy glared at de Roannes with unspeakable profanity in his eyes,
while the girl laughed to herself and enjoyed it all as girls do enjoy
that sort of thing.

It was delightful, this game of speaking eyes and lips.

    "Oh, the little more, and how much it is!
    And the little less, and what worlds away!"

But it was, as she could dimly see, a game that might prove exceedingly
dangerous to play, and the Count had spoiled it all, anyway. And a
curious flutter in her heart, as she watched the Boy take his punishment
with as good grace as possible, pled for his pardon until she finally
desisted and bade the little company good night.

At her departure the men took a turn at bridge, but none of them seemed
to care much for the cards that night and the Boy soon broke away. He
was about to withdraw to his stateroom in chagrin when quite
unexpectedly he found Opal standing by the rail, wrapped in a long
cloak. She was gazing far out toward the distant horizon, the light of
strange, puzzling thoughts in the depths of her eyes. She did not notice
him until he stood by her side, when she turned and faced him defiantly.

"Opal," he said, "there was one poet of life and love whom we did not
quote in our little discussion to-night. Do you remember Tennyson's
words,

    "'A man had given all earthly bliss
    And all his worldly worth for this,
    To waste his whole heart in one kiss
      Upon her perfect lips?'

Let them plead for me the pardon I know no better way to sue for--or
explain!"

The girl was silent. That little flutter in her heart was pleading for
him, but her head was still rebellious, and she knew not which would
triumph. She put one white finger on her lip, and wondered what to say
to him. She would not look into his eyes--they bothered her quite beyond
all reason--so she looked at the deck instead, as though hoping to find
some rule of conduct there.

"I am sorry, Opal," went on the pleading tones, "that is, sorry that it
offended you. I can't be sorry that I did it--yet!"

After a moment of serious reflection, she looked up at him sternly.

"It was a very rude thing to do, Paul! No one ever--"

"Don't you suppose I know that, Opal? Did you think that I thought--"

"How was I to know what you thought, Paul? You didn't know me!"

"Oh, but I do. Better than you know yourself!"

She looked up at him quickly, a startled expression in her soft,
lustrous eyes.

"I--almost--believe you do--Paul."

"Opal!" He paused. She was tempting him again. Didn't she know it?

"Opal, can't--won't you believe in me? Don't you feel that you know
me?"

"I'm not sure that I do--even yet--after--that! Oh, Paul, are you sure
that you know yourself?"

"No, not sure, but I'm beginning to!"

She made no reply. After a moment, he said softly, "You haven't said
that you forgive me, yet, Opal! I know there is no plausible excuse for
me, but--listen! I couldn't help it--I truly couldn't! You simply must
forgive me!"

"Couldn't help it?"--Oh, the scorn of her reply. "If there had been any
man in you at all, you could have helped it!"

"No, Opal, you don't understand! It is because I _am_ a man that I
couldn't help it. It doesn't strike you that way now, I know, but--some
day you will see it!"

And suddenly she did see it. And she reached out her hand to him, and
whispered, "Then let's forget all about it. I am willing to--if you
will!"

Forget? He would not promise that. He did not wish to forget! And she
looked so pretty and provoking as she said it, that he wanted to--! But
he only took her hand, and looked his gratitude into her eyes.

The Count de Roannes came unexpectedly and unobserved upon the climax of
the little scene, and read into it more significance than it really had.
It was not strange, perhaps, that to him this meeting should savour of
clandestine relations and that he should impute to it false motives and
impulses. The Count prided himself upon his tact, and was therefore very
careful to use the most idiomatic English in his conversation. But at
this sudden discovery--for he had not imagined that the acquaintance had
gone beyond his own discernment--he felt the English language quite
inadequate to the occasion, and muttered something under his breath that
sounded remarkably like "_Tison d'enfer!_" as he turned on his heel and
made for his stateroom.

And the Boy, unconscious and indifferent to all this by-play, had only
time to press to his lips the little hand she had surrendered to him
before the crowd was upon them.

But the waves were singing a Te Deum in his ears, and the skies were
bluer in the moonlight than ever sea-skies were before. Paul felt, with
a thrill of joy, that he was looking far off into the vaster spaces of
life, with their broader, grander possibilities. He felt that he was
wiser, nobler, stronger--nearer his ideal of what a brave man should be.



CHAPTER IX


When two are young, and at sea, and in love, and the world is beautiful
and bright, it is joyous and wonderful to drift thoughtlessly with the
tide, and rise and fall with the waves. Thus Paul Zalenska and Opal
Ledoux spent that most delightful of voyages on the Lusitania. They were
not often alone. They did not need to be. Their intimacy had at one
bound reached that point when every word and movement teemed with tender
significance and suggestion. Their first note had reached such a high
measure that all the succeeding days followed at concert pitch. It was a
voyage of discovery. Each day brought forth revelations of some new
trait of character--each unfolding that particular something which the
other had always admired.

And so their intimacy grew.

Paul Verdayne saw and smiled. He was glad to see the Boy enjoying
himself. He knew his chances for that sort of thing were all too
pathetically few.

Mr. Ledoux looked on, troubled and perplexed, but he saw no chance, and
indeed no real reason, for interfering.

The Count de Roannes was irritated, at times even provoked, but he kept
his thoughts to himself, hiding his annoyance, and his secret explosions
of "_Au diable!_" beneath his usual urbanity.

There was nothing on the surface to indicate more than the customary
familiarity of young people thrown together for a time, and yet no one
could fail to realize the undercurrent of emotion below the gaiety of
the daily ripple of amusement and pleasurable excitement and converse.

They read together, they exchanged experiences of travel, they discussed
literature, music, art and the stage, with the enthusiastic partisanship
of zealous youth. They talked of life, with its shade and shadow, its
heights and depths of meaning, and altogether became very well
acquainted. Each day anew, they discovered an unusual congeniality in
thoughts and opinions. They shared in a large measure the same exalted
outlook upon life--the same lofty ambitions and dreams.

And the more Paul learned of the character of this strange girl, the
more he felt that she was the one woman in the world for him. To be
sure, he had known that, subconsciously, the first time he had heard her
voice. Now he knew it by force of reason as well, and he cursed the fate
that denied him the right to declare himself her lover and claim her
before the world.

One thing that impressed Paul about the girl was the generous charity
with which she viewed the frailties of human nature, her sincere pity
for all forms of human weakness and defeat, her utter freedom from petty
malice or spite. Rail at life and its hypocrisies, as she often did, she
yet felt the tragedy in its pitiful short-comings, and looked with the
eye of real compassion upon its sins and its sinners, condoning as far
as possible the fault she must have in her very heart abhorred.

"We all make mistakes," she would say, when someone retailed a bit of
scandal. "No human being is perfect, nor within a thousand miles of
perfection. What right then have we to condemn any fellow-creature for
his sins, when we break just as important laws in some other direction?
It's common hypocrisy to say, 'We never could have done this terrible
thing!' and draw our mantle of self-righteousness closely about us lest
it become contaminated. Perhaps we couldn't! Why? Because our
temptations do not happen to lie in that particular direction, that's
all! But we are all law-breakers; not one keeps the Ten Commandments to
the letter--not one! Attack us on our own weak point and see how quickly
we run up the flag of surrender--and perhaps the poor sinner we denounce
for his guilt would scorn just as bitterly to give in to the weakness
that gets the best of us. _Sin is sin_, and one defect is as hideous as
another. He who breaks one part of the code of morality and
righteousness is as guilty--just exactly as guilty--as he who breaks
another. Isn't the first commandment as binding as the other nine? And
how many of us do not break that every day we live?"

And there was the whole creed of Opal Ledoux.

But as intimate as she and the Boy had become, they yet knew
comparatively little of each other's lives.

Opal guessed that the Boy was of rank, and bound to some definite course
of action for political reasons. This much she had gained from odds and
ends of conversation. But beyond that, she had no idea who he was, nor
whence he came. She would not have been a woman had she not been
curious--and as I have said before, Opal Ledoux was, every inch of her
five feet, a woman--but she never allowed herself to wax inquisitive.

As for the Boy, he knew there was some evil hovering with threatening
wings over the sunshine of the girl's young life--some shadow she tried
to forget, but could not put aside--and he grew to associate this shadow
with the continued presence of the French Count, and his intimate air of
authority. Paul knew not why he should thus connect these two, but
nevertheless the impression grew that in some way de Roannes exercised a
sinister influence over the life of the girl he loved.

He hated the Count. He resented every look that those dissolute eyes
flashed at the girl, and he noticed many. He saw Opal wince sometimes,
and then turn pale. Yet she did not resent the offense.

But Paul did.

"Such a look from a man like that is the grossest insult to any woman,"
he thought, writhing in secret rage. "How can she permit it? If she were
my--my _sister_, I'd shoot him if he once dared to turn his damned eyes
in her direction!"

And thus matters stood throughout the brief voyage. Paul and Opal,
though conscious of the double barrier between them, tried to forget its
existence for the moment, and, at intervals, succeeded admirably.

For were they not in the spring-time of youth, and in love?

And Paul Zalenska talked to this girl as he had never talked to anyone
before--not even Paul Verdayne!

She brought out the latent best in him. She developed in him a quickness
of perception, a depth of thought and emotion, a facility of speech
which he had never known. She stimulated every faculty, and gave him new
incentive--a new and firmer resolve to aspire and fight for all that he
held dear.

"I always feel," he said to Opal, once, "as though my soul stood always
at attention, awaiting the inevitable command of Fate! All Nature seems
to tell me at times that there is a purpose in my living, a work for me
to do, and I feel so thoroughly _alive_--so ready to listen to the call
of duty--and to obey!"

"A dreamer!" she laughed, "as wild a dreamer as I!"

"Why not?" he returned. "All great deeds are born of dreams! It was a
dreamer who found this America you are so loyal to! And who knows but
that I too may find my world?"

"And a fatalist, too!"

"Why, of course! Everyone is, to a greater or a less extent, though
most dare not admit it!"

"But yesterday you said--what _did_ you say, Paul, about the power of
the human will over environment and fate?"

"I don't remember. That was yesterday. I'm not the same to-day, at all.
And to-morrow I may be quite different."

"Behold the consistency of man. But Fate, Paul--what makes Fate? I have
always been taught to believe that the world is what we make it!"

"And it is true, too, that in a way we may make the world what we will,
each creating it anew for himself, after his own pattern--but after all,
Opal, that is Fate. For what we _are_, we put into these worlds of ours,
and what we are is what our ancestors have made us--and that is what I
understand by destiny."

"Ah, Paul, you have so many noble theories of life."

His boyish face grew troubled and perplexed.

"I _thought_ I had, Opal--till I knew you! Now I do not know! Fate seems
to have taken a hand in the game and my theories are cast aside like
worthless cards. I begin to see more clearly that we cannot always
choose our paths."

"Can one ever, Paul?"

"Perhaps not! Once I believed implicitly in the omnipotence of the human
will to make life just what one wished. Now"--and he searched her
eyes--"I know better."

"Unlucky Opal, to cross your path!" she sighed. "Are you superstitious,
Paul? Do you know that opals bring bad luck to those who come beneath
the spell of their influence?"

"I'll risk the bad luck, Opal!"

And she smiled.

And he thought as he looked at her, how well she understood him! What an
inspiration would her love have brought to such a life as he meant his
to be! What a Récamier or du Barry she would have made, with her
_piquante_, captivating face, her dark, lustrous, compelling eyes, her
significant gestures, which despite many wayward words and phrases,
expressed only lofty and majestic thoughts! Her whole regal little
body, with its irresistible power and charm, was so far beyond most
women! She was life and truth and ambition incarnate! She was the spirit
of dreams and the breath of idealism and the very soul of love and
longing.

Would she feel insulted, he wondered, had she known he had dared to
compare her, even in his own thoughts, with a king's mistress? He meant
no insult--far from it! But would she have understood it had she known?

Paul fancied that she would.

"They may not have been moral, those women," he thought, "that is, what
the world calls 'moral' in the present day, but they possessed power,
marvellous power, over men and kingdoms. Opal Ledoux was created to
exert power--her very breath is full of force and vitality!"

"Yes," he repeated aloud after due deliberation, "I'll risk the bad luck
if you'll be good tome!"

"Am I not?"

"Not always."

"Well, I will be to-day. See! I have a new book--a sad little
love-tale, they say--just the thing for two to read at sea," and with a
heightened color she began to read.

She had pulled her deck-chair forward, until she sat in a flood of
sunshine, and the bright rays, falling on her mass of rich brown hair,
heightened all the little glints of red-gold till they looked like
living bits of flame. Oh the vitality of that hair! the intense glow of
those eyes in whose depths the flame-like glitter was reflected as the
voice, too, caught fire from the fervid lines!

Soon the passion and charm of the poem cast its spell over them both as
they followed the fate of the unhappy lovers through the heart-ache of
their evanescent dream.

Their eyes met with a quick thrill of understanding.

"It is--Fate, again," Paul whispered. "Read on, Opal!"

She read and again they looked, and again they understood.

"I cannot read any more of it," she faltered, a real fear in her voice.
"Let us put it away."

"No, no!" he pleaded. "It's true--too true. Read on, please, dear!"

"I cannot, Paul. It is too sad!"

"Then let me read it, Opal, and you can listen!"

And he took the book gently from her hand, and read until the sun was
smiling its farewell to the laughing waters.

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening a strong wind was playing havoc with the waves, and the
fury of the maddened spray was beating a fierce accompaniment to their
hearts.

"How I love the wind," said Opal. "More than all else in Nature I love
it, I think, whatever its mood may be. I never knew why--probably
because I, too, am capricious and full of changing moods. If it is
tender and caressing, I respond to its appeal; if it is boisterous and
wild, I grow reckless and rash in sympathy; and when it is fierce and
passionate, I feel my blood rush within me. I am certainly a child of
the wind!"

"Let us hope you will never experience a cyclone," said the Count,
drily. "It might be disastrous!"

"True, it might," said Opal, and she did not smile. "I echo your kind
hope, Count de Roannes."

And the Boy looked, and listened, and loved!



CHAPTER X


As they left the dinner-table, Opal passed the Boy on her way to her
stateroom, and laying her hand upon his arm, looked up into his face
appealingly. He wondered how any man could resist her.

"Let's put the book away, Paul, and never look at it again!"

"Will you be good to me if I do?" he demanded.

She considered a moment. "How?" she asked, finally.

"Come out for just a few moments under the stars, and say good-night."

"The idea! I can say good-night here and now!" She hesitated.

"Please, Opal! I seldom see you alone--really alone--and this is our
last night, you know. To-morrow we shall part--perhaps forever--who
knows? Can you be so cruel as to refuse this one request. Please come!"

His eyes were wooing, her heart fluttering in response.

"Well--perhaps!" she said.

"Perhaps?" he echoed, with a smile, then added, teasingly, "Are you
afraid?"

"Afraid?--I dare anything--to-night!"

"Then come!"

"I will--if I feel like this when the time comes. But," and she gave him
a tantalizing glance from under her long lashes, "don't expect me!"

Paul tried to look disappointed, but he felt sure that she would come.

And she did! But not till he had given up all hope, and was pacing the
deck in an agony of impatience. He had felt so certain that he knew his
beloved! She came, swiftly, silently, almost before he was aware.

"Well,  ... I'm here," she said.

"I see you are, Opal and--thank you."

He extended his hand, but she clasped hers behind her back and looked
at him defiantly. Truly she was in a most perverse mood!

"Aren't we haughty!" he laughed.

"No, I'm not; I am--angry!"

"With me?"

"No!--not you."

"Whom, then?"

"With--myself!" And she stamped her tiny foot imperiously.

Paul was delighted. "Poor child," he said. "What have you done that you
are so sorry?"

"I'm not sorry! That's why I'm angry! If I were only a bit sorry, I'd
have some self-respect!"

Paul looked at her deliberately, taking in every little detail of her
appearance, his eyes full of admiration. Then he added, with an air of
finality, "But _I_ respect you!"

She softened, and laid her hand on his arm. Paul instantly took
possession of it.

"Do you really?" she asked, searching his face, almost wistfully. "A
girl who will do  ...what I am doing to-night!"

"But what _are_ you doing, Opal?" he asked in the most innocent
surprise. "Merely keeping a wakeful man company beneath the stars!"

"Is that  ...all?"

"All  ..._now!_"

They stood silently for a minute, hand still in hand, looking far out
over the moonlit waters, each conscious of the trend of the other's
thoughts--the beating of the other's heart. The deck was deserted by all
save their two selves--they two alone in the big starlit universe. At
last she spoke.

"This is interesting, isn't it?"

"Of course!--holding your hand!"

She snatched it from him. "I forgot you had it," she said.

"Forget again!"

"No, I won't!... Is it always interesting?... holding a girl's hand?"

"It depends upon the girl, I suppose! I was enjoying it immensely just
then."

He took her hand again.

And again that perilously sweet silence fell between them.

At last, "Promise me, Paul!" she said.

"I will--what is it?"

"Promise me to forget anything I may say or do to-night  ... not to think
hard of me, however rashly I may act! I'm not accountable, really! I'm
liable to say  ...anything! I feel it in my blood!"

"I understand, Opal! See! the winds are boisterous and unruly enough.
You may be as rash and reckless as you will!"

Suddenly the wind blew her against his breast. The perfume of her hair,
and all the delicious nearness of her, intoxicated him. He laughed a
soft, caressing little lover-laugh, and raising her face to his, kissed
her lips easily, naturally, as though he had the right. She struggled,
helplessly, as he held her closely to him, and would not let her go.

"You are a--" She bit her lip, and choked back the offensive word.

"A--what? Say it, Opal!"

"A--a--_brute_! There! let me go!"

But he only held her closer and laughed again softly, till she
whispered, "I didn't--quite--_mean_ that, you know!"

"Of course you didn't!"

She drew away from him and pointed her finger at him accusingly, her
eyes full of reproof.

"But--you _said_ you wouldn't! You promised!"

"Wouldn't what?"

"Wouldn't do--what you did--again!"

"Did I?" insinuatingly.

"How dare you ask that? You----"

"'Brute' again? Quite like old married folk!"

"Old married folk? They never kiss!"

"Don't they?"

"Not each other!... other people's husbands or wives!"

"Is that it?"

"Surely----

    'Think you, if Laura had been Petrarch's wife,
    He would have written sonnets all his life?'

O no! not he!"

"I'm learning many new things, Opal! Let's play we're married, then--to
someone else!"

"But--haven't you any conscience at all?"

"Conscience?--what a question! Of course I have!"

"You certainly aren't using it to-night!"

"I'm too busy! Kiss me!"

"The very idea!"

"Please!"

"Certainly not!"

"Then let me kiss you!"

_"No!!!"_

"Why not?--Don't you like to be loved?"

And his arms closed around her, and his lips found hers again, and held
them.

At last, "Silly Boy!"

"Why?"

"Oh! to make such a terrible fuss about something he doesn't really
want, and will be sorry he has after he gets it!"

And Paul asked her wickedly, what foolish boy she was talking about now?
_He_ knew what he really wanted--always--and was not sorry when he had
it. Not he! He was sorry only for the good things he had let slip, never
for those he had taken!

"But--do let me go, Paul! I don't belong to you!"

"Yes you do--for a little while!" He held her close.

Belong to him! How she thrilled at the thought! Was this what it meant
to be--loved? And _did_ she belong to him--if only, as he said, for a
little while? She certainly didn't belong to herself! Whatever this
madness that had suddenly taken possession of her, it was stronger than
herself. She couldn't control it--she didn't even want to! At all
events, she was _living_ to-night! Her blood was rushing madly through
her body. She was deliciously, thoroughly alive!

"Paul!--are you listening?"

"Yes, dear!" the answer strangely muffled.

And then she purred in his ear, all the time caressing his cheek with
her small white fingers: "You see, Paul, I knew I had made some sort of
impression upon you. I must have done so or you wouldn't have--done
that! But any girl can make an impression on shipboard, and an affair at
sea is always so--evanescent, that no one expects it to last more than
a week. I don't want to make such a transitory impression upon you,
Paul. I wanted you to remember me longer. I wanted--oh, I wanted to give
you something to remember that was just a little bit different than
other girls had given you--some distinct impression that must linger
with you--always--always! I'm not like other women! Do you see, Paul? It
was all sheer vanity. I wanted you to remember!"

"And did you think I could forget?"

"Of course! All men forget a kiss as soon as their lips cease tingling!"

Paul laughed. "Wise girl! Who taught you so much? Come, confess!"

"Oh, I've known _you_ a whole week, Paul, and you----"

But their lips met again and the sentence was never finished.

At last she put her hands on each side of his face and looked up into
his eyes.

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself, Paul?"

"Of course not!"

"Of course you are!"

"You misunderstood me!--I said _'Not'_! But why? Are you ashamed of
me?"

"I ought to be, oughtn't I? But--I don't believe you can help it!"

His lips crushed hers again, fiercely. "I can't, Opal--I can't!"

She turned away her head, but he buried his face in her neck, kissing
the soft flesh again and again.

"Such a slip of a girl!" Paul murmured in her ear, when he again found
his voice. "Such a tiny, little girl! I am almost afraid you will vanish
if I don't hold you tight!"

Opal was thoroughly aroused now--no longer merely passive--quite
satisfactorily responsive.

"I won't, Paul! I won't! But hold me closer, closer! Crush this terrible
ache out of my heart if you can, Paul!"

There were tears in her voice. He clasped her to him and felt her heart
throbbing out its pain against its own, as he whispered, "Opal, am I a
brute?"

"N-o-o-o-o!" A pause. At last, "Let me go now, Paul! This is sheer
insanity!"

But he made no move to release her until she looked up into his eyes in
an agony of appeal, and pleaded, "Please, Paul!"

"Are you sure you want to go?"

"No, I'm not sure of that, but I'm quite sure that I _ought_ to go! I
must! I must!"

And Paul released her. Where was this madness carrying them? Was he
acting the part of the man he meant to be, or of a cad--an unprincipled
bounder? He did not know. He only knew he wanted to kiss her--_kiss_
her....

She turned on him in a sudden flash of indignation. "Why have you such
power over me?" she demanded.

"What power over you, Opal!"

"What's the use of dodging the truth, you professor of honesty? You make
me do things we both know I'll be sorry for all the rest of my life.
_Why_ do you do it?"

Her eyes blazed with a real anger that made her _piquante_ face more
alluring than ever to the eyes of the infatuated Boy who watched her. He
was fighting desperately for self-control, but if she should look at
him as she had looked sometimes--!

"I can't understand it!" she exclaimed. "I always knew I was capable of
being foolish--wicked, perhaps--for a _grande passion_. I could forgive
myself that, I think! But for a mere caprice--a _penchant_ like this!
Oh, Paul! what can you think of me?"

His voice was hoarse--heavy with emotion.

"Think of you, Opal? I am sure you must know what I think. I've never
had an opportunity to tell you--in so many words--but you must have seen
what I have certainly taken no pains to conceal. Shall I try to tell
you, Opal?"

"No, no! I don't want to hear a word--not a word! Do you understand? I
forbid you!"

Paul bowed deferentially. She laughed nervously at the humility in his
obeisance.

"Don't be ridiculous!" she commanded. "This is growing too melodramatic,
and I hate a scene. But, really, Paul, you mustn't--simply mustn't!
There are reasons--conditions--and--you must not tell me, and I must
not, _will_ not listen!"

"I mustn't make love to you, you mean?"

"I mean  ... just that!"

"Why not?"

"Never mind the 'why.' There are plenty of good and sufficient reasons
that I might give if I chose, but--I don't choose! The only reason that
you need to know is--that I forbid you!"

She turned away with that regal air of hers that made one forget her
child-like stature.

"Are you going, Opal?"

"Yes!--what did I come out here for? I can't remember. Do you know?"

"To wish me good-night, of course! And you haven't done it!"

She looked back over her shoulder, a mocking laugh in those inscrutable
eyes. Then she turned and held out both hands to him.

"Good-night, Paul, good-night!... You seem able to do as you please with
me, in spite of--everything--and I just want to stay in your arms
forever--forever  ..."

Paul caught her to him, and their lips melted in a clinging kiss.

At last she drew away from his embrace.

"The glitter of the moonlight and the music of the wind-maddened waves
must have gone to my brain!" She laughed merrily, pulled his face down
to hers for a last swift kiss, and ran from him before he could detain
her.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next morning they met for a brief moment alone.

Opal shook hands with the Boy in her most perfunctory manner.

Paul, after a moment's silent contemplation of her troubled face, bent
over her, saying, "Have I offended you, Opal? Are you angry with me?"

She opened her eyes wide and asked with the utmost innocence "For what?"

Paul was disconcerted. "Last night!" he said faintly.

She colored, painfully.

"No, Paul, listen! I don't blame you a bit!--not a bit! A man would be a
downright fool not to take--what he wanted---- But if you want to
be--friends with me, you'll just forget all about--last night--or at any
rate, ignore it, and never refer to it again."

He extended his hand, and she placed hers in it for the briefest
possible instant.

And then their _tête-à-tête_ was interrupted, and they sat down for
their last breakfast at sea.

Opal Ledoux was not visible again until the Lusitania docked in New
York, when she waved her _companion de voyage_ a smiling but none the
less reluctant _au revoir_!

But Paul was too far away to see the tears in her eyes, and only
remembered the smile.



CHAPTER XI


New York's majestic greatness and ceaseless, tireless activity speedily
engrossed the Boy and opened his eager eyes to a wider horizon than he
had yet known. There was a new influence in the whir and hum of this
metropolis of the Western world that set the wheels of thought to a more
rapid motion, and keyed his soul to its highest tension.

It was not until his first letter from the homeland had come across the
waters that he paused to wonder what the new factor in his life meant
for his future. He had not allowed his reason to assert itself until the
force of circumstances demanded that he look his soul in the face, and
learn whither he was drifting. Paul was no coward, but he quailed before
the ominous clouds that threatened the happiness of himself and the girl
he loved.

For now he knew that he loved Opal Ledoux. It was Fate. He had guessed
it at the first sound of her voice; he had felt it at the first glance
of her eye; and he had known it beyond the peradventure of a doubt at
the first touch of her lips.

Yet this letter from his kingdom was full of suggestions of duties to be
done, of responsibilities to be assumed, of good still to be brought out
of much that was petty and low, and of helpless, miserable human beings
who were so soon to be dependent upon him.

"I will make my people happy," he thought. "Happiness is the birthright
of every man--be he peasant or monarch." And then the thought came to
him, how could he ever succeed in making them truly happy, when he
himself had so sorely missed the way! There was only one thing to do, he
knew that--both for Opal's sake and for his own--and that was to go far
away, and never see the face again that had bewitched him so.

Perhaps, if he did this, he might forget the experience that was, after
all, only an episode in a man's life and--other men forget! He might
learn to be calmly happy and contented with his Princess. It was only
natural for a young man to make love to a pretty girl, he thought, and
why should he be any exception? He had taken the good the gods provided,
as any live man would--now he could go his way, as other men did,
and--forget! Why not? And yet the mere thought of it cast such a gloom
over his spirits that he knew in his heart his philosophic attempt to
deceive himself was futile and vain. He might run away, of
course--though it was hardly like him to do that--but he would scarcely
be able to forget.

And then Verdayne joined him with an open note in his hand--a formal
invitation from Gilbert Ledoux for them to dine with him in his Fifth
Avenue house on the following evening. He wished his family to meet the
friends who had so pleasantly attracted himself and his daughter on
shipboard.

Was it strange how speedily the Boy's resolutions vanished? Run away!
Not he!

"Accept the invitation, Father Paul, by all means!"

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a cordial party in which Paul Verdayne and his young companion
found themselves on the following evening--a simple family gathering,
graciously presided over by Opal's stepmother.

Gilbert Ledoux's wife was one of those fashion-plate women who strike
one as too artificial to be considered as more than half human. You
wonder if they have also a false set of emotions to replace those they
wore out in their youth--_c'est à dire_ if they ever had any! Paul
smiled at the thought that Mr. Ledoux need have no anxiety over the
virtue of his second wife--whatever merry dance the first might have led
him!

Opal was not present when the gentlemen were announced, and the bevy of
aunts and uncles and cousins were expressing much impatience for her
presence--which Paul Zalenska echoed fervently in his heart. It was
truly pleasant--this warm blood-interest of kinship. He liked the
American clannishness, and he sighed to think of the utter lack of
family affection in his own life.

The drawing-room, where they were received, was furnished in good taste,
the Boy thought. The French touch was very prominent--the blend of color
seemed to speak to him of Opal. Yes, he liked the room. The effect grew
on one with the charm of the real home atmosphere that a dwelling place
should have. But he wasn't so much interested in that, after all! In
fact, it was rather unsatisfactory--without Opal! These people were
_her_ people and, of course, of more than ordinary interest to him on
her account, but still--

And at last, when the Boy was beginning to acknowledge himself slightly
bored, and to resent the familiar footing on which he could see the
Count de Roannes already stood in the family circle, Opal entered, and
the gloomy, wearisome atmosphere seemed suddenly flooded with sunlight.

She came in from the street, unconventionally removing her hat and
gloves as she entered.

"Where have you been so long, Opal?" asked Mrs. Ledoux, with
considerable anxiety.

"At the Colony Club, _ma mère_--I read a paper!"

"_Mon Dieu!_" put in the Count, in an amused tone. "On what subject?"

"On 'The Modern Ethical Viewpoint,' _Comte_," she answered, nodding her
little head sagely. "It was very convincing! In fact, I exploded a bomb
in the camp that will give them all something sensational to talk about
till--till--the next scandal!"

The Count gave a low chuckle of appreciation, while Mr. Ledoux asked,
seriously, "But to what purpose, daughter?"

"Why, papa, don't you know? I had to teach Mrs. Stuyvesant Moore, Mrs.
Sanford Wyckoff, and several other old ladies how to be good!"

And in the general laugh that followed, she added, under her breath,
"Oh, the irony of life!"

Paul watched her in a fever of boyish jealousy as she passed through the
family circle, bestowing her kisses left and right with impartial favor.
She made the rounds slowly, conscientiously, and then, with an air of
supreme indifference, moved to the Boy's side.

He leaned over her.

"Where are my kisses?" he asked softly.

She clasped her hands behind her back, child-fashion, and looked up at
him, a coquettish daring in her eyes.

"Where did you put them last?" she demanded.

"You ought to know!"

"True--I ought. But, as a matter of fact, I haven't the slightest idea.
It depends altogether upon what girl you saw last."

"If you think that of me----"

"What else can I think? Our first meeting did not leave much room for
conjecture. And, of course----"

"Opal! You have just time to dress for dinner! And the Count is very
anxious to see the new orchid, you know!"

There was a suggestion of reproof in Mrs. Ledoux's voice. The girl's
face clouded as she turned away in response to the summons. But she
threw the Boy a challenge over her shoulder--a hint of that mischief
that always seemed to lurk in the corner of her eye.

Paul bit his lip. He was not a boy to be played with, as Opal Ledoux
would find out. And he sulked in a corner, refusing to be conciliated,
until at last she re-entered the room, leaning on the Count's
"venerable" arm. She had doubtless been showing him the orchid. Humph!
What did that old reprobate know--or care--about orchids?

    "A primrose by the river's brim,
    A yellow primrose was to him,
    And nothing more."

As the evening passed, there came to the Boy no further opportunity to
speak to Opal alone. She not only avoided him herself, but the entire
party seemed to have entered into a conspiracy to keep him from her. It
roused all the fight in his Slavic blood, and he determined not to be
outwitted by any such high-handed proceeding. He crossed the room and
boldly broke into the conversation of the group in which she stood.

"Miss Ledoux," he said, "pardon me, but as we are about to leave, I
must remind you of your promise to show me the new orchid. I am very
fond of orchids. May I not see it now?"

Opal had made no such promise, but as she looked up at him with an
instinctive denial, she met his eyes with an expression in their depths
she dared not battle. There was no knowing what this impetuous Boy might
say or do, if goaded too far.

"Please pardon my forgetfulness," she said, with a propitiating smile,
as she took his arm. "We will go and see it."

And the Boy smiled. He had not found his opportunity--he had made one!

With a malicious smile on his thin, wicked lips the Count de Roannes
watched them as they moved across the room toward the conservatory--this
pair so finely matched that all must needs admire.

It was rather amusing in _les enfants_, he told Ledoux, this "_Paul et
Virginie_" episode. Somewhat _bourgeois_, of course--but harmless, he
hoped. This with an expressive sneer. But--_mon Dieu!_--and there was a
sinister gleam in his evil eyes--it mustn't go too far! The girl was a
captivating little witch--the old father winced at the significance in
the tone--and she must have her fling! He rather admired her the more
for her _diablerie_--but she must be careful!

But he need not have feared to-night. Paul Zalenska's triumph was
short-lived. When once inside the conservatory, the girl turned and
faced him, indignantly.

"What an utterly shameless thing to do!" she exclaimed.

"Why?" he demanded. "You were not treating me with due respect and
'self-preservation is the first law of nature,' you know. I am so little
accustomed to being--snubbed, that I don't take it a bit kindly!"

"I did not snub you," she said, "at least, not intentionally. But of
course my friends have prior claims on my time and attention. I can't
put them aside for a mere stranger."

"A stranger?" he echoed. "Then you mean----"

"I mean what?"

"To ignore our former--acquaintance--altogether?"

"I do mean just that! One has many desperate flirtations on board ship,
but one isn't in any way bound to remember them. It is not
always--convenient. You may have foolishly remembered. I
have--forgotten!"

"You have not forgotten. I say you have not, Opal."

"We use surnames in society, Monsieur Zalenska?"

"Opal!" appealingly.

"Why such emotion, Monsieur?" mockingly.

The Boy was taken aback for a moment, but he met her eyes bravely.

"Why? Because I love you, Opal, and in your heart you know it!"

"Why?"

"Why do I love you? Because I can't help it! Who knows, really, why
anything happens or does not happen in this topsy-turvy world?"

The girl looked at him steadily for a moment, and then spoke
indifferently, almost lightly.

"Have you looked at the orchid you wished so much to see, Monsieur
Zalenska? Mamma is very proud of it!"

"Opal!"

But she went on, heedless of his interruption, "Because, if you haven't,
you must look at it hastily--you have wasted some time quite foolishly
already--and I have promised to join the Count in a few moments, and--"

"Very well. I understand, Opal!" Paul stiffened. "I will relieve you of
my presence. But don't think you will always escape so easily because I
yield now. You have not meant all you have said to me to-night, and I
know it as well as you do. You have tried to play with me--"

"I beg your pardon!"

"You knew the tiger was in my blood--you couldn't help but know it!--and
yet you deliberately awakened him!" She gave him a startled glance, her
eyes appealing for mercy, but he went on relentlessly. "Yes, after the
manner of women since the world began, you lured him on and on! Is it my
fault--or yours--if he devour us both?"

Paul Verdayne, strangely restless and ill at ease, was passing beneath
the window and thus became an involuntary listener to these mad words
from the lips of his young friend.

Straightway there rose to his mental vision a picture--never very far
removed--a picture of a luxurious room in a distant Swiss hotel, the
foremost figure in which was the slender form of a royally fascinating
woman, reclining with reckless abandon upon a magnificent tiger skin,
stretched before the fire. He saw her lavishing her caresses upon the
inanimate head. He heard her purr once more in the vibrant, appealing
tones so like the Boy's.

The stately Englishman passed his hand over his eyes to shut out the
maddening vision, with its ever-fresh pangs of poignant anguish, its
persistent, unconquered and unconquerable despair!

"God help the Boy!" he prayed, as he strolled on into the solitude of
the moonlit night. "No one else can! It is the call of the blood--the
relentless lure of his heritage! From it there is no escape, as against
it there is no appeal. It is the mad blood of youth, quickened and
intensified in the flame of inherited desire. I cannot save him!"

And then, with a sudden flood of tender, passionate, sacred memories, he
added in his heart,

"And I would not, if I could!"



CHAPTER XII


Paul Verdayne had many acquaintances and friends in New York, and much
against their inclination he and the Boy soon found themselves absorbed
in the whirl of frivolities. They were not very favorably impressed. It
was all too extravagant for their Old World tastes--not too magnificent,
for they both loved splendor--but it shouted its cost too loudly in
their ears, and grated on their nerves and shocked their aesthetic
sense.

The Boy was a favorite everywhere, even more so, perhaps, than in
London. American society saw no mystery about him, and would not have
cared if it had. If his face seemed somewhat familiar, as it often had
to Opal Ledoux, no one puzzled his brains over it or searched the
magazines to place it. New York accepted him, as it accepts all
distinguished foreigners who have no craving for the limelight of
publicity, for his face value, and enjoyed him thoroughly. Women petted
him, because he was so witty and chivalrous and entertaining, and always
as exquisitely well-groomed as any belle among them; men were attracted
to him because he had ideas and knew how to express them. He was worth
talking to and worth listening to. He had formed opinions of his own
upon most subjects. He had thought for himself and had the courage of
his convictions, and Americans like that.

Naturally enough, before many days, at a fashionable ball at the Plaza
he came into contact with Opal Ledoux again.

It was a new experience, this, to see the girl he loved surrounded by
the admiration and attention of other men. In his own infatuation he had
not realized that most men would be affected by her as he was, would
experience the same maddening impulses--the same longing--the same
thirst for possession of her. Now the fact came home to him with the
force of an electric shock. He could not endure the burning glances of
admiration that he saw constantly directed toward her. What right had
other men to devour her with their eyes?

He hastened to meet her. She greeted him politely but coldly, expressing
some perfunctory regret when he asked for a dance, and showing him that
her card was already filled. And then her partner claimed her, and she
went away on his arm, smiling up into his face in a way she had that
drove men wild for her. "The wicked little witch!" Paul thought. "Would
she make eyes at every man like that? Dare she?"

A moment after, he heard her name, and instantly was all attention. The
two men just behind him were discussing her rather freely--far too
freely for the time and the place--and the girl, in Paul's estimation.
He listened eagerly.

"Bold little devil, that Ledoux girl!" said one. "God! how she is
playing her little game to-night! They say she is going to marry that
old French Count, de Roannes! That's the fellow over there, watching her
with the cat's eyes. I guess he thinks she means to have her fling
first--and I guess she thinks so too! As usual, it's the spectator who
sees the best of the game. What a curious girl she is--a living
paradox!"

"How's that?"

"Spanish, you know. Ought to have black hair instead of red--black eyes
instead of--well, chestnut about expresses the color of hers. I call
them witch's eyes, they're so full of fire and--the devil!"

"She's French, too, isn't she? That accounts for the eyes. The _beauté
du diable_, hers is! Couldn't she make a heaven for a man if she
would--or a hell?"

"Yes, it's in her! She's doomed, you know! Her grandmothers before her
were bad women--regular witches, they say, with a good, big streak of
yellow. Couldn't keep their heads on their shoulders--couldn't be
faithful to any one man. Don't know as they tried!"

"I'll bet they made it interesting for the fellow while it did last,
anyway! But this one will never be happy. She has a tragedy in her face,
if ever a woman had. But she's a man's woman, all right, and she'd make
life worth living if a fellow had any red blood in him. She's one of
those women who are born for nothing else in the world but to love, and
be loved. Can't you shoot the Count?"

"The Count!--Hell! He won't be considered at all after a little! She'll
find plenty of men glad to wake the devil in her--just to keep her from
yawning! But she's not very tractable even now, though her sins all lie
ahead of her! She's altogether too cool on the surface for her make-up,
but--well, full of suggestion, and one feels a volcano surging and
steaming just below the mask she wears, and has an insane desire to wake
it up! That kind of woman simply can't help it."

A third voice broke in on the conversation--an older voice--the voice of
a man who had lived and observed much.

"I saw her often as a child," he said, "a perilously wilful child,
determined upon her own way, and possessed of her own fancies about
this, that, and the other, which were seldom, if ever, the ideas of
anyone else. There was always plenty of excitement where she was--always
that same disturbing air! Even with her pigtails and pinafores, one
could see the woman in her eyes. But she was a provoking little
creature, always dreaming of impossible romances. Her father had his
hands full."

"As her husband will have, poor devil! If he's man enough to hold her,
all right. If he is not," with a significant shrug of the shoulders,
"it's his own lookout!"

"That old French _roué_ hold her? You're dreaming! She won't be faithful
to him a week--if he has a handsome valet, or a half-way manly groom!
How could she?" And they laughed coarsely.

The Boy gave them a look that should have annihilated all three, but
they weren't noticing the Boy. He could have throttled them! How dared
such lips as these pollute his darling's name! And yet these were
society men--they could dance with her, clasp her to them, and look into
those "witch eyes"--oh, the ignominy of it!

He looked across at Opal. How beautiful she was in her pale green gown,
her white shoulders and arms glistening beneath the electric light with
the sheen of polished marble, her red-brown hair glowing with its fiery
lure, while even across the room her eyes sparkled like diamonds,
lighting up her whole face. She was certainly enjoying herself--this
Circe who had tempted him across the seas. She seemed possessed of the
very spirit of mischief--and Paul forgot himself.

The orchestra was playing a Strauss waltz--it fired his blood. He walked
across the room with his masterful, authoritative air--the manner of a
man born to command. "Miss Ledoux," he said, and the crowd around her
instinctively made way for him, "this is our waltz, I believe!" and
whirled her away before she could answer.

Ah! it was delicious, that waltz! In perfect rhythm they clung together,
gliding about the polished floor, her bare shoulder pressing his arm,
her head with its bewildering perfume so near his lips, their hearts
throbbing fiercely in the ecstasy of their nearness--which was Love.

Oh to go on forever! forever!

The sweet cadence of the music died away, and they looked into each
other's eyes, startled.

"You seem to be acquiring the habit," she pouted, but her lips quivered,
and in response he whispered in her ear, "Whose waltz was it,
sweetheart?"

"I don't know, Paul--nor care!"

That was enough.

They left the room together.



CHAPTER XIII


In a secluded corner adjoining the ballroom, Paul and Opal stood hand in
hand, conscious only of being together, while their two hearts beat a
tumultuous acknowledgment of that =world-old= power whose name, in
whatever guise it comes to us, is Love!

"I said I wouldn't, Paul!" at last she said.

"Wouldn't what?"

"See you again--like this!"

Paul smiled tenderly.

"My darling," he whispered, "what enchantment have you cast over me that
all my resolutions to give you up fade away at the first glimpse of your
face? I resolve to be brave and remember my duty--until I see you--and
then I forget everything but you--I want nothing but you!"

"What do you want with me, Paul?"

"Opal!" he cried impetuously. "After seeing these gay Lotharios making
eyes at you all the evening, can you ask me that? I want to take you
away and hide you from every other man's sight--that's what I want! It
drives me crazy to see them look at you that way! But you have such a
way of keeping a fellow at arm's length when you want to," he went on,
ruefully, "in spite of the magic call of your whole tempting
personality. You know '_Die Walküre_,' don't you?--but of course you do.
If I believed in the theory of reincarnation, I should feel sure that
you were Brünhilde herself, surrounded by the wall of fire!"

"I wish I were! I wish every woman had some such infallible way of
_proving_ every man who seeks her!"

"You have, Opal! You have your own womanly instincts--every woman's
impassable wall of fire, if she will only hide behind them. _You_ could
never love unworthily!"

"But, Paul, don't you know? Haven't they told you? I shall probably
marry the Count de Roannes!"

Paul was astounded.

"Opal! No! No! Not that, surely not that! I heard it, yes--a moment ago.
But I could not believe it. The idea was too horrible. It could not be
true!"

"But it is true, Paul! It is all too true!"

"It is a crime," he fairly groaned.

She shrank from him. "Don't say that, Paul!"

"But you know it is true! Opal, just think! If you give your sweet self
to him--and that is all you can give him, as you and I know--if you give
yourself to him, I say, I--I shall go mad!"

"Yet women have loved him," she began, bravely, attempting to defend
herself. "Women--some kinds of women--really love him now. He has a
power of--compelling--love--even yet!"

"And such women," Paul cried hoarsely, "are more to be honored than you
if you consent to become his property with no love in your heart! Don't
plead extenuating circumstances. There can be no extenuating
circumstances in all the world for such a thing."

She winced as though he had struck her, for she knew in her heart that
what he said was true, brutally true. The Boy was only voicing her own
sentiments--the theory to which she had always so firmly clung.

As Paul paused, a sudden realization of his own future overwhelmed him
and locked his lips. He smiled sadly. Who was he that he should talk
like that? Was not he, too, pleading extenuating circumstances? True, he
was a man and she was a woman, and the world has two distinct
standards--but--no less than she--he was selling himself for gain.

"Paul, Paul! I'm afraid you don't understand! It isn't _money_. Surely
you don't think that! It isn't money--it is honor--_honor_, do you hear?
My dead mother's honor, and my father's breaking heart!"

The secret was out, at last. This, then, was the shadow that had cast
its gloom over the family ever since he had come in contact with them.
It was even worse than he had thought. That she--the lovely Opal--should
have to sacrifice her own honor to save her mother's!

Honor! honor! how many crimes are committed in thy name!

"Tell me about it," he said sympathetically.

And she told him, sparing herself details, as far as possible, of the
storm of scandal about to burst upon the family--a storm from which only
the sacrifice of herself could save the family name of Ledoux, and her
mother's memory. It might, or might not, be true, but the Count de
Roannes claimed to be able--and ready--to bring proof. And, if it were
true, she was not a Ledoux at all, and her father was not her father at
all, except in name. No breath of ill-fame had ever reached her mother's
name before. They had thought she had happily escaped the curse of her
mother before her. But the Count claimed to know, and--well, he wanted
her--Opal--and, of course, it _was_ possible, and of course he would do
anything to protect the good name of his wife, if Opal became his wife,
and----

"So, you see, Paul--in the end, I shall have to--submit!"

She had not told it at all well, she thought, but Paul little cared how
the story was told.

"I do not see it that way at all, Opal. It seems to me--well,
diabolical, and may God help you, dear girl, when you, with your
high-keyed sensitive nature, first wake to the infamy of it! I have no
right to interfere--no right at all. Not even my love for you, which is
stronger than myself, gives me that right. For I am betrothed! I tell
you this because I see where my folly has led us. There is only one
thing to do. We must part--and at once. I am sorry"--then he thought of
that first meeting on board the liner, "no, I am _not_ sorry we met! I
shall never be that! But I am going to be a man. I am going to do my
duty. Help me, Opal--help me!"

It was the old appeal of the man to the helpmeet God had created for
him, and the woman in her responded.

"Paul, I will!" and her little fingers closed over his.

"Of course he loves you--in his way, but----"

"Don't, Paul, don't! He has never once pretended that--he has been too
wise."

"He will break your spirit, dear--it's his nature. And then he will
break your heart!"

She raised her head, defiantly.

"Break my spirit, Paul? He could not. And as for my heart--that will
never be his to break!"

Their eyes met with the old understanding that needs no words. Then she
pointed to the heavens.

"See the stars, Paul, smiling down so calmly. How can they when hearts
are aching? When I was a child, I loved the stars. I fancied, too, that
they loved me, and I would run out under their watchful eyes, singing
for very joy, sure they were guiding my life and that some day I would
be happy, gloriously happy. Somehow, Paul, I always expected to be
happy--always!--till now! Now the stars seem to mock me. I must have
been born under a baleful conjunction, I guess. Oh, I told you, Paul,
that Opals were unlucky. I warned you--didn't I warn you? I may have
tempted you, too, but--I didn't mean to do it!"

"Bless your dear heart, girl, you weren't to blame!"

"But you said--that night--about the tiger----"

"Forgive me, Opal, I was not myself. I was--excited. I didn't mean
that."

After a moment, she said, musingly, "It is just as I said, Paul. I was
born to go to the devil, so it is well--well for you, I mean--and
perhaps for me--that you and I cannot marry." He shook his head, but she
went on, unheeding. "Paul, if I am destined to be a disgrace to
someone--and they say I am--I'd rather bring reproach upon his name than
on yours!"

"But why marry at all, if you feel like that? Why, it's--it's damnable!"

"Don't you see, Paul, I am foreordained to evil--marked a bad woman from
the cradle! Marriage is the only salvation, you know, for girls with my
inheritance. It's the sanctuary that keeps a woman good and 'happy ever
after.'"

"It would be more apt, in my opinion, to drive one to forbidden wine! A
marriage like that, I mean--for one like you."

"But at least a married woman has a _name_--whatever she may do.
She's--protected. She isn't----"

But Paul would hear no more.

"Opal, _we_ were made for each other from the beginning--surely we were.
Some imp has slipped into the scheme of things somewhere and turned it
upside down."

He paused. She looked up searchingly into his eyes.

"Paul, do you love me?"

"Yes, dearest!"

"Are you sure?"

"As sure as I am of my own existence! With all my heart, Opal--with all
my soul!"

"Then we mustn't see each other any more!"

"Not any more. You are right, Opal, not any more!"

"But what shall we do, Paul? We shall be sure to meet often. You expect
to stay the summer through, do you not? And we are not going to New
Orleans for several weeks yet--and then?"

"We are going West, Father Paul and I--out on the prairies to rough it
for a while. We were going before long, anyway, and a few weeks sooner
or later won't make any difference. And then--home, back over the sea
again, to face life, to work, to try to be--strong, I suppose."

Paul paused and looked at her passionately.

"Why are you so alluring to-night, Opal?"

Her whole body quivered, caught fire from the flame in his eyes. What
was there about this man that made her always so conscious she was a
woman? Why could she never be calm in his presence, but was always so
fated to _feel, feel, feel!_

Her voice trembled as she looked up at him and answered, "Am I wicked,
Paul? I wanted to be happy to-night--just for to-night! I wanted to
forget the fate that was staring me so relentlessly in the face. But--I
couldn't, Paul!"

Then she glanced through the curtains into the ballroom and shuddered.

"The Count is looking for me," she said. The Boy winced, and she went on
rapidly, excitedly. "We must part. As well now as any time, I suppose,
since it has to be. But first, Paul, let me say it once--just once--_I
love you!_"

He snatched her to him--God! that any one else should ever have the
right!

"And I--worship you, Opal! Even that seems a weak word, to-night.
But--you understand, don't you? I didn't know at sea whether it was love
or what it was that had seized me as nothing ever had before. But I know
now! And listen, Opal--this isn't a vow, nor anything of that kind--but
I feel that I want to say it. I shall always love you just this
way--always--I feel it, I know it!--as long as I live! Will you
remember, darling?--remember--everything?"

"Yes--yes! And you, Paul?"

"Till death!" And his lips held hers, regardless of ten thousand Counts
and their claims upon her caresses.

And they clung together again in the anguish of parting that comes at
some time, or another into the lives of all who know love.

Then like mourners walking away from the graves of their loved ones,
they returned to the ballroom, with the dull ache of buried happiness in
their hearts.



CHAPTER XIV


Out--far out--in the great American West, the Boy wandered. And Paul
Verdayne, understanding as only he could understand, felt how little use
his companionship and sympathy really were at this crisis of the Boy's
life.

All through the month of August they travelled, the Boy looking upon the
land he had been so eager to see with eyes that saw nothing but his own
disappointment, and the barrenness of his future. The hot sun beat down
upon the shadeless prairies with the intensity of a living flame. But it
seemed as nothing to the heat of his own passion--his own fiery
rebellion against the decree of destiny--altogether powerless against
the withering despair that had choked all the aspirations and ambitions
which, his whole life long, he had cultivated and nourished in the soil
of his developing soul.

He thought again and again of the glories so near at hand--the glories
that had for years been the goal of his ambition. He pictured the
pageant to come--the glitter of armor and liveries, the splendor and
sparkle of jewels and lights, and all the dazzling gorgeousness of royal
equipments--the throngs of courtiers and beautiful women bowing before
him, proud of the privilege of doing him homage--him, a mere boy--yet
the king--the absolute monarch of his little realm, and supreme in his
undisputed sway over the hearts of his people--his people who had
worshipped his beautiful mother and, if only for her sake, made an idol
of her son. He saw himself crowned by loving hands with the golden
circlet he loved and reverenced, and meant to redeem from the stigma of
a worthless father's abuse and desecration; he saw his own young hands,
strong, pure, and undefiled by any form of bribery or political
corruption, wielding the sceptre that should--please God!--bring
everlasting honor and fame to the little principality. He saw all this,
and yet it did not thrill him any more! It was all Dead Sea fruit, dust
and ashes in his hand. He wanted but one thing now--and his whole
kingdom did not weigh one pennyweight against it.

But in spite of his preoccupation the freedom and massiveness of the
West broadened the Boy's mental vision. He absorbed the spirit of the
big world it typified, and he saw things more clearly than in the
crowded city. And yet he suffered more, too. He could not often talk
about his sorrow and his loss, but he felt all the time the unspoken
sympathy in Verdayne's companionship, and was grateful for the
completeness of the understanding between them.

Once, far out in a wide expanse of sparsely settled land, the two came
upon a hut--a little rough shanty with a sod roof, and probably but two
tiny rooms at most. It was nearing evening, and the red rays of the
setting sun fell upon a young woman, humbly clad, sitting on a bench at
the doorway, and cuddling upon her knee a little baby dressed in coarse,
but spotlessly white garments. A whistle sounded on the still air, and
through the waving grain strode a stalwart man, an eager, expectant
light in his bronzed face. The girl sprang to meet him with an
inarticulate cry of joy, and wife and baby were soon clasped close to
his breast.

Paul could not bear it. He turned away with a sob in his throat and
looked into Verdayne's eyes with such an expression of utter
hopelessness that the older man felt his own eyes moisten with the
fervor of his sympathy. That poor, humble ranchman possessed something
that was denied the Boy, prince of the blood though he was.

And the two men talked of commonplace subjects that night in subdued
tones that were close to tears. Both hearts were aching with the
consciousness of unutterable and irreparable loss.

       *       *       *       *       *

Through the long nights that followed, out there in the primitive, Paul
thought of the hideousness of life as he saw it now, with a loathing
that time seemed only to increase. He pictured Opal--his love--as the
wife of that old French libertine, till his soul revolted at the very
thought. Such a thing was beyond belief.

Once he said to Verdayne, thinking of the conversation he had had with
Opal on the night of the ball at the Plaza,

"Father Paul, who was Lord Hubert Aldringham? The name sounds so
familiar to me--yet I can't recall where I heard it."

"Why, he was my uncle, Boy, my mother's brother. A handsome, wicked,
devil-may-care sort of fellow to whom nothing was sacred. You must have
heard us speak of him at home, for mother was very fond of him."

"And you, Father Paul?"

"I--detested him, Boy!"

And then the Boy told him something that Opal had said to him of the
possibility--nay, the probability--of Lord Hubert's being her own
grandfather. Verdayne was pained--grieved to the heart--at the terrible
significance of this--if it were true. And there was little reason,
alas, to doubt it! How closely their lives were woven together--Paul's
and Opal's! How merciless seemed the demands of destiny!

What a juggler of souls Fate was!

       *       *       *       *       *

And the month of August passed away. And September found the two men
still wandering in an aimless fashion about the prairie country, and yet
with no desire for change. The Boy was growing more and more
dissatisfied, less and less resigned to the decrees of destiny.

At last, one dull, gray, moonless night, when neither could woo coveted
sleep to his tired eyes, the Boy said to his companion, "Father Paul,
I'm going to be a man--a man, do you hear? I am going to New
Orleans--you know Mr. Ledoux asked us to come in September--and I'm
going to marry Opal, whatever the consequences! I will not be bound to a
piece of flesh I abhor, for the sake of a mere kingdom--not for the sake
of a world! I will not sell my manhood! I will not sacrifice myself, nor
allow the girl I love to become a burnt-offering for a mother's sin. I
will not! Do you remember away off there," and he pointed off to the
south of them, "the little shack, and the man and the woman and--the
baby? Father Paul, I want--that! And I'm going to have it, too! Do you
blame me?"

And Verdayne threw his arm around the Boy's neck, and said, "Blame you?
No, Boy, no! And may God bless and speed you!"

And the next day they started for the South.



CHAPTER XV


It was early in the morning, a few days later, when Paul Verdayne and
his young friend reached New Orleans. Immediately after breakfast--he
would have presented himself before had he dared--the Boy called at the
home of the Ledouxs. Verdayne had important letters to write, as he
informed the Boy with a significant smile, and begged to be allowed to
remain behind.

And the impatient youth, blessing him mentally for his tact, set forth
alone.

The residence that he sought was one of the most picturesque and
beautiful of the many stately old mansions of the city. It was enclosed
by a high wall that hid from the passers-by all but the most tantalizing
glimpses of a fragrant, green tropical garden, and gave an air of
exclusiveness to the habitation of this proud old family. As the Boy
passed through the heavy iron gate, and his eye gazed in appreciation
upon the tints of foliage no autumn chills had affected, and the glints
of sun and shadow that only heightened the splendor of blossom, and
shrub, and vine, which were pouring their incense upon the air, he felt
that he was indeed entering the Garden of Eden--the Garden of Eden with
no French serpents to tempt from him the woman that had been created his
helpmeet.

He found Opal, and a tall, handsome young man in clerical vestments,
sitting together upon the broad vine-shaded veranda. The girl greeted
him cordially and introduced him to the priest, Father Whitman.

At first Paul dared not trust himself to look at Opal too closely, and
he did not notice that her face grew ashen at his approach. She had
recovered her usual self-possession when he finally looked at her, and
now the only apparent sign of unusual agitation was a slight flush upon
her cheek--an excited sparkle in her eye--which might have been the
effect of many causes.

He watched the priest curiously. How noble-looking he was! He felt sure
that he would have liked him in any other garb. What did his presence
here portend?

Paul had supposed that Opal was a Catholic; indeed had been but little
concerned what she professed. She had never appeared to him to be
specially religious, but, if she was, that absurd idea of self-sacrifice
for a dead mother she had never known might appeal to the love of
penance which is inherent in all of Catholic faith, and she might not
surrender to her great love for him.

The priest rose.

"Must you go, Father?" asked Opal.

"Yes!... I will call to-morrow, then?"

"Yes--tomorrow! And"--she suddenly threw herself upon her knees at his
feet--"your blessing, Father" she begged.

The priest laid a hand upon her head, and raised his eyes to Heaven.
Then, making the sign of the cross upon her forehead, he took her hands
in his, and gently raised her to her feet. She clung to his hands
imploringly.

"Absolution, Father," she pleaded.

He hesitated, his face quivering with emotions his eyes lustrous with
tears, a world of feeling in every line of his countenance.

"Child," he said hoarsely, "child! Don't tempt me!"

"But you _must_ say it, you know, or what will happen to me?"

The priest still hesitated, but her eyes would not release him till he
whispered, "_Absolvo te_, my daughter, and--God bless you!"

And releasing her hands, he bowed formally to Paul and hurried down the
broad stone steps and through the gate.

Opal watched him, a smile, half-remorseful and half-triumphant, upon her
face.

"What does it all mean?" asked Paul as he laid his hand upon her arm.

She laughed nervously. "Oh--nothing! Only--when I see one of those
long, clerical cassocks, I am immediately seized with an insane desire
to find the _man_ inside the priest!"

"Laudable, certainly! And you always succeed, I suppose?"

"Yes, usually!--why not?" And she laughed again. "Don't, Paul! I don't
want to quarrel with you!"

"We won't quarrel, Opal," he said. But the thought of the priest annoyed
him.

He seated himself beside her. "Have you no welcome for me?" he said.

She looked up at him, her eyes sweetly tender.

"Of course, Paul! I'm very glad to see you again--if you are a bad boy!"

He looked at her in amazement. "I, bad?--No," he said. And they laughed
again. But it was not the care-free laughter they had known at sea.
There was a strained note in the tones of the girl that grated strangely
upon the Boy's sensitive ear. What had happened? he wondered. What was
the new barrier between them? Was it the priest? Again the thought of
the priest worried him.

"Where is my friend, the Count de Roannes?" he ventured at last.

"He sailed for Paris last week."

Paul's heart leaped. Surely then their legal betrothal had not taken
place.

"What happened, Opal?"

"The inevitable!"

And again his heart bounded for joy! The inevitable! Surely that meant
that the girl's better nature had triumphed, had shown her the ignominy
of such a union in time to save her. He looked at her for further
information, but seeing her evident embarrassment, forbore to pursue the
question further.

They wandered out through the luxurious garden, and the spell of its
enchantment settled upon them both.

He pulled a crimson rose from a bush and began listlessly to strip the
thorns from the stalk. "Roses in September," he said, "are like love in
the autumn of life."

And they both thought again of the Count and a chill passed over their
spirits. The girl watched him curiously.

"Do you always cut the thorns from your roses?" she asked.

"Certainly-sooner or later. Don't you?"

"O no! I am a woman, you see, and I only hold my rose tightly in my
fingers and smile in spite of the pricks as if to convince the world
that my rose has no thorns."

"Is that honest?"

"Perhaps not--but--yes, I think it is! If one really loves a rose, you
see, one forgets that it has thorns--really forgets!".

"Until too late!"

But there was some undercurrent of hidden meaning even in this subject,
and Paul tried another.

He asked her about the books she had read since they parted and told her
of his travels. He painted for her a picture of the little cabin on the
western prairie, with its man and its woman and its baby, and she
listened with a strange softness in her eyes. He felt that she
understood.

There was a tiny lake in the garden, and they sat upon the shore and
looked into the water, at an unaccountable loss for words. At last Paul,
with a boyish laugh, relieved the situation by rolling up his sleeve and
dabbling for pebbles in the sand at the bottom.

There was not much said--only a word now and then, but both, in spite of
their consciousness of the barrier between them, were rejoicing in the
fact that they were together, while Paul, happy in his new-born
resolution, was singing in his heart.

Should he tell her now?

He looked up quickly.

"Opal," he said, "you knew I would come."

"Why?" she asked.

"Because--I love you!"

The girl tried to laugh away the serious import of his tone.

"I am not looking for men to love me, Paul," she said.

"No, that's the trouble. You never have to."

He turned away again and for a few moments had no other apparent aim in
life than a careful scrutiny of the limpid water.

Somehow he felt a chill underlying her most casual words to-day. What
had become of the freemasonry between them they had both so readily
recognized on shipboard?

Just then Gilbert Ledoux and his wife strolled into the garden. They
were genuinely pleased to see Paul and insisted on keeping him for
luncheon. The conversation drifted to his western trip and other less
personal things and not again did he have an opportunity to talk alone
with Opal.

Paul took his departure soon after, promising to return for dinner, and
to bring Verdayne with him. Then, he resolved to himself, he would tell
Opal why he had come. Then he would claim her as his wife--his queen!

       *       *       *       *       *

And Paul kept his word.

That evening they found themselves alone in a deep-recessed window
facing the dimly-lighted street.

"Opal," said Paul, "do you know why I have come to New Orleans? Can't
you imagine, dear?"

She instantly divined the tenor of his thoughts, and shook her head in a
tremor of sudden fright.

"I have come to tell you that I have fought it all out and that I cannot
live without you. Though I am breaking my plighted troth, I ask you to
become my wife!"

Her eyes glistened with a strange lustre.

"Oh, Paul! Paul!" she murmured, faintly. "Why did you not say this
before--or--why do you tell me now?"

"Because now I know I love you more than all the world--more than my
duty--more than my life! Is that enough?"

And Paul was about to break into a torrent of passionate appeal, when
Gilbert Ledoux joined them and, shortly after, Mrs. Ledoux called Opal
to her side.

Opal looked miserably unhappy. Why was she not rejoicing? Paul knew that
she loved him. Nothing could ever make him doubt that. As he stood
wondering, idly exchanging platitudes with his genial host, Mrs. Ledoux
spoke in a tone of ringing emphasis that lingered in Paul's ears all the
rest of his life, "I think, Opal, it is time to share our secret!"

And then, as the girl's face paled, and her frail form trembled with the
force of her emotion, her mother hastened to add, "Gentlemen, you will
rejoice with us that our daughter was last week formally betrothed to
the Count de Roannes!"

The inevitable _had_ happened.



CHAPTER XVI


How the remainder of the evening passed, Paul Zalenska never knew. As he
looked back upon it, during the months that followed, it seemed like
some hideous dream from which he was struggling to awake. He talked, he
smiled, he even laughed, but scarcely of his own volition; it was as
though another personality acted through him.

He was a temperate boy, but that night he drank more champagne than was
good for him. Paul Verdayne was grieved. Not that he censured the lad.
He knew only too well the anguish the Boy was suffering, and he could
not find it in his heart to blame him for the dissipation. And yet
Verdayne also knew how unavailing were all such attempts to drown the
sorrow that had so shocked the Boy's sensitive spirit.

As he gazed regretfully at the Boy across the dinner table, the butler
placed a cablegram before him. Receiving a nod of permission from his
hostess, he hastily tore open the envelope and paled at its contents.

The message was signed by the Verdaynes' solicitor, and read:

     _Sir Charles very ill. Come immediately._

       *       *       *       *       *

Before they left the house, Paul sought Opal for a few last words. There
were no obstacles placed in his way now by anxious parental authority.
He smiled cynically as he noticed how clear the way was made for him,
now that Opal was "safeguarded" by her betrothal.

She drew him to one side, whispering, "Before you judge me too harshly,
Paul, please listen to what I have to say. I feel I have the right to
make this explanation, and you have the right to hear it. Under the
French law, I am legally bound to the Count de Roannes. Fearing that I
might not remain true to a mere verbal pledge--you knew we were engaged,
Paul, for I told you that, last summer--the Count asked that the
betrothal papers be executed before his unavoidable return to Paris.
Knowing no real reason for delay, since it had to come some time, I
consented; but I stipulated that I was to have six months of freedom
before becoming his wife. Arrangements have been made for us all to go
abroad next spring, and we shall be married in Paris. Paul, I did not
tell you this, this afternoon--I could not! I wanted to see you--the
real you--just once more, before you heard the bitter news, for I knew
that after you had heard, you would never look or speak the same to me
again. Oh, Paul, pity me! Pity me when I tell you that I asked for those
six months simply that I might dedicate them to you, and to the burial,
in my memory, of our little dream of love! It was only my little fancy,
Paul! I wanted to play at being constant that long to our dream. I
wanted to wear my six-months' mourning for our still-born love. I
thought it was only a little game of 'pretend' to you, Paul--why should
it be anything else? But it was very real to me."

Her voice broke, and the Boy took her hand in his, tenderly, for his
resentment had long since died away.

"Opal," he faltered, "I no longer know nor care who or what I am. This
experience has taken me out of myself, and set my feet in strange paths.
I had a life to live, Opal, but I have forgotten it in yours. I had
theories, ideals, hopes, aspirations--but I don't know where they are
now, Opal. They are gone--gone with your smile--"

Opal's eyes grew soft with caresses.

"They will come back, Paul--they must come back! They were born in
you--of Truth itself, not of a mere woman. You will forget me, Boy, and
your life will not be the pitiful waste you think. It must not be!"

"I used to think that, Opal. It never seemed to me that life could ever
be an utter waste so long as a man had work to do and the strength and
skill to do it. But now--I'm all at sea! I only know--how--I shall miss
_you!_"

Opal grew thoughtful.

"And how will it be with me?" she said sadly. "I have never learned to
wear a mask. I can't pose. I can't wear 'false smiles that cover an
aching heart.' Perhaps the world may teach me now--but I'm not a
hypocrite--yet!"

"I believe you, Opal! I love you because you are you!"

"And I love you, Paul, because you are you!"

And even then he did not clasp her in his arms, nor attempt it. She was
another's now, and his hands were tied. He must try to control his one
great weakness--the longing for her.

And in the few moments left to them, they talked and cheered each other,
as intimate friends on the eve of a long separation. They both knew now
that they loved--but they also knew that they must part--and forever!

"I love you, Paul," said Opal, "even as you love me. I do not hesitate
to confess it again, because--well, I am not yet his wife. And I want to
give you this one small comfort to help to make you strong to fight and
conquer, and--endure!"

"But, Opal, you are the one woman in the world God meant for me! How can
I face the world without you?"

"Better that you should, Paul, and keep on fancying yourself loving me
always, than that you should have me for a wife, and then weary of me,
as men do weary of their wives!"

"Opal! Never!"

"Oh, but you might, Boy. Most men do. It's their nature, I suppose."

"But it is not _my_ nature, Opal, to grow tired of what I love. I am not
capricious. Why should you think so?"

"But it's human nature, Paul; there is no denying that. To think, Paul,
that we could grow to clasp hands like this--that we could
kiss--actually kiss, Paul, _calmly_, as women kiss each other--that we
could ever rest in each other's arms and grow weary!"

But Paul would not listen. He always would have loved her, always! He
loved her, anyway, and always would, were she a thousand times the
Countess de Roannes, but it was too late! too late!

"Always remember, Paul, wherever you are and whatever you do," went on
Opal, "that I love you. I know it now, and I know how much! Let the
memory of it be an inspiration to you when your spirits flag, and a
consolation when skies are gray, and--Paul--oh, I love you--love
you--that's all! Kiss me--just once--our last goodbye! There can be no
harm in that, when it's for the last time!"

And Paul, with a heart-breaking sob, clasped her in his arms and pressed
his lips to hers as one kisses the face of his beloved dead. He wondered
vaguely why he felt no passion--wondered at the utter languor of the
senses that did not wake even as he pressed his lips to hers. It was not
a woman's body in his arms--but as the sexless form of one long dead and
lost to him forever. It was not passion now--it was love, stripped of
all sensuality, purged of all desire save the longing to endure.

It was the hour of love's supremest triumph--renunciation!



CHAPTER XVII


Back in England again--England in the fall of the year--England in the
autumn of life, for Sir Charles Verdayne was nearing his end. The Boy
spent a few weeks at Verdayne Place, and then left to pay his first
visit to his fiancée. Paul Verdayne was prevented by his father's ill
health from accompanying him to Austria, as had been the original plan.

Opal had asked of the Boy during that last strange hour they had spent
together that he should make this visit, and bow obediently to the call
of destiny--as she had done. She did not know who he really was, nor
what station in life his fiancée graced, but she did know that it was
his duty bravely and well to play his part in the drama of life,
whatever the role. She would not have him shirk. It was a horrible
thing, she had said with a shudder--none knew it better than she--but
she would be glad all her life to think that he had been no coward, and
had not cringed beneath the bitterest blow of fate, but had been strong
because she loved him and believed in him.

And so, since Paul Verdayne could not be absent from his father's side,
with many a reluctant thought the Boy set forth for Austria alone.

During his absence, Isabella--she who had been Isabella Waring--returned
from Blackheath a widow with two grown daughters--two more modern
editions of the original Isabella. The widow herself was graver and more
matronly, yet there was much of the old Isabella left, and Verdayne was
glad to see her. Lady Henrietta gave her a cordial invitation to visit
Verdayne Place, which she readily accepted, passing many pleasant hours
with the friend of her youth and helping to while away the long days
that Verdayne found so tiresome when the Boy was away from him.

Isabella was still "a good sort," and made life much less unbearable
than it might have been, but Verdayne often smiled to think of the
"puppy-love" he had once felt for her. It was amusing, now, and they
both laughed over it--though Isabella would not have been a woman had
she not wondered at times why her "old pal" had never married. There had
been chances, lots of them, for the girls had always liked the
blue-eyed, manly boy he had been, and petted and flattered and courted
him all through his youth. Why hadn't he chosen one of them? Had he
really cared so much for her--Isabella? And she often found herself
looking with much pitying tenderness upon the lonely man, whose heart
seemed so empty of the family ties it should have fostered--and
wondering.

Lady Henrietta, too, was set to thinking as the days went by, and
turning, one night, to her son, "Paul," she said, "I begin to think that
perhaps I was wrong in separating you from the girl you loved, and so
spoiling your life. Isabella would have made you a fairly good wife, I
believe, as wives go, and you must forgive your mother, who meant it for
the best. She did not see the way clearly, then, and so denied you the
one great desire of your heart"

She looked at him closely, but his heart was no longer worn upon his
sleeve, and finding his face non-committal, she went on slowly, feeling
her way carefully as she advanced.

"Perhaps it is not too late now, my son. Don't let my prejudices stand
in your way again, for you are still young enough to be happy, and I
shall be truly glad to welcome any wife--any!"

Verdayne did not reply. His eyes were studying the pattern of the rug
beneath his feet. His mother's face flushed with embarrassment at the
delicacy of the subject, but she stumbled on bravely.

"Paul," she said, "Isabella is young yet, and you are not so very old.
It may not, even now, be too late to hold a little grandchild on my knee
before I die. I have been so fond of Paul--he is so very like you when
you were a boy--and have wished--oh, you don't know how a mother feels,
Paul--I have often wished that he were your son, or that I might have
had a grandson just like him. Do you know, Paul, I have often fancied
that your son, had you had one, would have been very like this dear
Boy."

Verdayne choked back a sob. If his mother could only understand as some
women would have understood! If he could have told her the truth! But,
no, he never could. Even now it would have been a terrible shock to her,
and she could never have forgiven, never held up her head again, if she
had known.

As for marrying Isabella--could he? After all, was it right to let the
old name die out for want of an heir? Was it just to his father? And
Isabella would not expect to be made love to. There was never that sort
of nonsense about her, and she would make all due allowance for his age
and seriousness.

His mother felt she had been very kind and generous in renouncing the
old objection of twenty years' standing, and, too, she felt that it was
only right, after spoiling her son's life for so long, to do her best to
atone for the mistake. It must be confessed she could not see what there
was about Isabella to hold the love and loyalty of a man like Paul for
so long, but then--and she sighed at the thought of the wasted
years--"Love is blind," they say--and so's a lover! And her motherly
heart longed for grandchildren--Paul's children--as it had always longed
for them.

Paul Verdayne sat opposite his penitent mother and pondered. The scent
from a bowl of red roses on his mother's table almost overpowered him
with memories.

He thought of the couch of deep red roses on which he had lain, caressed
by the velvet petals. He could inhale their fragrance even yet--he could
look into her eyes and breathe the incense of her hair--her whole
glorious person--that was like none other in all the world. Yes, she had
been happy--and he would remember! She would be happier yet could she
know that he had been faithful to his duty--and surely this was his duty
to his race. His Queen would have it so, he felt sure.

Rising, he bent over his mother, his eyes bright with unshed tears, and
kissed her calmly upon the brow. Then he walked quietly from the room.
His resolution was firmly fixed.

He would marry Isabella!



CHAPTER XVIII


Sir Charles Verdayne lingered for several weeks, no stronger, nor yet
perceptibly weaker. He took a sudden fancy to see his old friend,
Captain Grigsby, and the old salt was accordingly sent for. His presence
acted as a tonic upon the dying man, and the two old friends spent many
pleasant hours together, talking--as old people delight in talking--of
the days of the distant past.

"Is this widow the Isabella who once raised the devil with your Paul?"
asked Grigsby.

"Same wench!" answered Sir Charles, a twinkle in his eye.

"Hum!" said the Captain--and then said again, "Hum!" Then he added
meditatively, "Blasted unlucky kiss that! Likely wench enough,
but--never set the Thames on fire!--nor me!"

"Oh the kiss didn't count," said Sir Charles. "As I said to the boy's
mother at the time, a man isn't obliged to marry every woman he kisses!
Mighty good thing, too--eh, Grig? Besides, a kiss like that is an insult
to any flesh and blood woman!"

"An insult?"

"The worst kind! You see, Grig, no woman likes to be kissed that way.
Whether she's capable of feeling a single thrill of passion herself or
not, she likes to be sure that she can inspire it in a man. And a kiss
like that--well, it rouses all her fighting blood! Makes her feel she's
no woman at all in the man's eye--merely a doll to be kissed. D'ye see?
It's damned inconsistent, of course, but it's the woman of it!"

"The devil of it, you mean!" the old Captain chuckled in response. Then,
"Paul had a lucky escape," he said, as he looked furtively around the
room for listening ears, "mighty lucky escape! And an experience right
on the heels of it to make up for the loss of a hundred such wenches
and--say, Charles, he's got a son to be proud of! The Boy is certainly
worth all the price!"

"Any price--any price, Grig!" Then the old man went on, "If Henrietta
only knew! She thinks the world of the youngster, you know--no one could
help that--but what if she knew? Paul's been mighty cautious. I often
laugh when I see them out together--him and the Boy--and think what a
sensation one could spring on the public by letting the cat out of the
bag. And the woman would suffer. Wouldn't she, just! Wouldn't they tear
her to pieces!"

"Yes, they would," said the Captain, "they certainly would. This is a
world of hypocrites, Charles, damned rotten hypocrites!"

"That's what it is, Grig! Not one of those same old hens who would have
said, 'Ought we to visit her?' and denounced the whole 'immoral' affair,
and all that sort of thing--not one of them, I say, but would--"

"Give her very soul to know what such a love means! O they would,
Charles--they would--every damned old cat of them, who would never get
an opportunity to play the questionable--no, not one in a thousand
years--if they searched for it forever!"

"Yet women are made so, Grigsby--they can't help it! Henrietta would
faint at the mere suggestion of accepting as a daughter-in-law a woman
with a past!"

And the old man sighed.

"I'd have given my eyes--yes, I would, Grig--to have seen that woman
just once! God! the man she made out of my boy! Of course it may have
been for the best that it turned out as it did, but--damn it all, Grig,
she was worth while! There's no dodging that!"

"Nobody wants to dodge it, Charles! She was over-sexed, perhaps--but
better that than undersexed--eh?"

       *       *       *       *       *

But the exhilaration caused by the coming of his old friend gradually
wore itself away, and Sir Charles began to grow weaker. And at last the
end came. He had grown anxious to see the Boy again, and the young
fellow had returned and spent much time with the old man, who loved the
sound of his voice as it expressed his fresh, frank ideas.

But Sir Charles spent his last hours with his son.

"Paul," he said, in a last confidential whisper, touching upon the theme
that had never been mentioned between them before, "I
understand--everything--you know, and I'm proud of you--and him! I have
wanted to say something, or do something for you--often--often--to help
you--but it's the sort of thing a chap has to fight out for himself,
and I thought I'd better keep out of it! But I wanted you to
know--_now_--that I've known it all--all along--and been proud of
you--both!"

And their hands clasped closely, and the eyes of both were wet, but even
on the brink of death the lips of the younger man were sealed. The
+silence of one-and-twenty years remained unbroken. +It was not a
foolish reticence that restrained him--but simply that he could not find
words to voice the memories that grew more and more sacred with the
passing of the years.

And at evening, when the family had gathered about him, the old man lay
with his son's hand in his, but his eyes looked beyond and rested on the
face of the Boy, who seemed the renewal of hit son's youth, when life
was one glad song! And thus he passed to the Great Beyond.

And his son was Sir Paul Verdayne, the last of his race.

That night, the young baronet and the Boy sat alone over their cigars.
The Boy spoke at some length of his extensive Austrian visit. The
Princess Elodie would make him a good wife, he said. She was of good
sturdy stock, healthy, strong--and, well, a little heavy and dull,
perhaps, but one couldn't expect everything! At least, her honor would
never be called into question. He would always feel sure that his name
was safe with her! He was glad he went to Austria. There were political
complications that he had not understood before which made the marriage
an absolute necessity for the salvation of his country's position among
the kingdoms of the world, and he was more resigned to it now. Yes,
indeed, he was far more resigned. The princess wasn't by any means
impossible--not a half bad sort--and--yes, he was resigned! He said it
over and over, but without convincing Sir Paul--or deceiving himself!

As for the elder man, he said but little. He had been wondering
throughout that dinner-hour whether he could ever really make Isabella
his wife. The Boy thought of Isabella, too, and was anxious to know
whether his Father Paul was going to be happy at last. He had been very
curious to see the woman who could play so cruel a part toward the man
he loved. If he had been Verdayne, he thought, he would never forgive
her--never! Still, if Father Paul loved the woman--as he certainly must
to have remained single for her sake so long--it put a different face on
the matter, and of course it was Verdayne's affair, not his! The Boy had
been disappointed in Isabella's appearance and attractions--she was not
at all the woman he had imagined his Father Paul would love--but of
course she was older now, and age changes some women, and, and--well, he
only hoped that his friend would be happy--happy in his own way,
whatever that might be.

At last, he summoned Vasili to him and called for his own particular
yellow wine--the Imperial Tokayi--and the old man filled the glasses. It
was too much for Verdayne--and all thoughts of Isabella were consigned
to eternal oblivion as he remembered the time when _he_ had sipped that
wine with his Queen in the little hotel on the Bürgenstock.

She would have no cause for jealousy--his darling!



CHAPTER XIX


It was November when Sir Charles died, and Lady Henrietta betook herself
to her sister's for consolation, while Sir Paul and the Boy, with a
common impulse, departed for India.

They spent Christmas in Egypt, the winter months in the desert, and at
last spring came, with its remembrance of duties to be done. And to the
elder man England made its insistent call, as it always did in March.
For was it not in England, and in March, the tidings reached him that
unto him a son was born?

He must go back.

So at last, acting upon a pre-arrangement to which the young Prince had
not been a party, they made their way back to their own world of men and
women.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Boy," said Sir Paul, one day, "the time has come when many questions
you have asked and wondered about are to be answered, as is your due. It
was your mother's wish that you should go, at the beginning of May,
alone, to Lucerne. There you will find letters awaiting you--from
her--from your Uncle Peter--yes, even from myself--telling you the whole
secret of your birth, the story of your inheritance."

"Why Lucerne, Father Paul?"

"It was your mother's wish--and mine!"

Then, with a rush of tenderness, the older man threw his arm around the
Boy's shoulders. "Boy," he said, "be charitable and lenient and
kind--whatever you read!"

"And what are you going to do, Father Paul? I have not quite two weeks
of freedom left, and I begrudge every day I am forced to spend away from
you. You will go with me to see me crowned--and married?"

"Certainly, Boy! You are to stay in Lucerne only until you are sure you
understand all the revelations of these letters, and their full import.
It may be a week--it may be a day--it may be but a few hours, but--I
can't go with you, and you must not ask me to! It is an experience you
must face alone. I will await you in Venice, Paul, and be sure that when
you want me, Boy, I will come!"

The Boy's sensitive nature was stirred to the depths by the emotion in
Sir Paul's face--emotion that all his life long he had never seen there
before. He grasped his hand--

"Father Paul," he began, but Sir Paul shook his head at the unspoken
appeal in his face and bade him be patient just a little longer and
await his letters, for he could tell him nothing.

And thus they parted; the Boy to seek in Lucerne the unveiling of his
destiny, the man to wait in Venice, a place he had shunned for
one-and-twenty years, but which was dearer to him than any other city in
the world. It was there that he had lived the climax of his love-life,
with its unutterable ecstasy--and unutterable pain.

Vasili had preceded his young master to Lucerne with the letters that
had been too precious, and of too secret a nature, to be entrusted to
the post. Who can define the sensations of the young prince as he held
in his hand the whole solution of the mystery that had haunted all his
years? He trembled--paled. What was this secret--perhaps this terrible
secret--which was to be a secret no longer?

Alone in his apartment, he opened the little packet and read the note
from the Regent, which enclosed the others, and then--he could read no
further. The few words of information that there stared him in the face
drove every other thought from his mind, every other emotion from his
heart. His father! Why hadn't he seen? Why hadn't he known? A thousand
significant memories rushed over him in the light of the startling
revelation. How blind he had been! And he sat for hours, unheeding the
flight of time, thinking only the one thought, saying over and over
again the one name, the name of his father, his own father, whom he had
loved so deeply all his life--

_Paul Verdayne!_



CHAPTER XX


At last, when he felt that he could control his scattered senses, he
turned over the letters in the packet and found his mother's. How his
boyish heart thrilled at this message from the dead!--a message that he
had waited for, and that had been waiting for him, one-and-twenty years!
The letter began:

"Once, my baby, thy father--long before he was thy father--had a
presentiment that if he became my lover my life would find a tragic end.

"Once, likewise, I told thy father, before he became my lover, that the
price we might have to pay, if we permitted ourselves to love, would be
sorrow and death! For, my baby, these are so often the terrible cost of
such a love as ours. That he has been my lover--my beloved--heart of my
heart--thine own existence is the living proof; and something--an
intangible something--tells me that the rest of his prophecy will
likewise be fulfilled. We have known the sorrow--aye, as few others
have--and even now I feel that we shall also know death!

"It is because of this curious presentiment of mine that I write down
for thee, my baby--my baby Paul--this story of thy father and thy
mother, and the great love that gave thee to the world. It is but right,
before thou comest into thy kingdom, that thou shouldst know--thou and
thou alone--the secret of thy birth, that thou mayst carry with thee
into the big world thy birthright--the sweetness of a supreme love."

Then briefly, but as completely and vividly as the story could be
written, she pictured for him the beautiful idyl she and her lover had
lived, here in this very spot, two-and-twenty years ago; told him, in
her own quaint words, of the beautiful boy she had found in Lucerne,
that glorious May so long ago, and how it had been her caprice to waken
him, until the caprice had become her love, and afterwards her life;
told him how she had seen the danger, and had warned the boy to leave
Lucerne, while there was yet time, but that he had answered that he
would chance the hurt, because he wished to live, and he knew that only
she could teach him how--only she could prove to him the truth of her
own words, that _life was love!_

She told how weary and unhappy she had been, picturing with no light
fingers the misery of her life--married when a mere child to a vicious
husband--and all the insults and brutality she was forced to endure; and
then, for contrast, told him tenderly how she had been young again for
this boy she had found in Lucerne.

There was not one little detail of that idyllic dream of love omitted
from the picture she drew for him of these two--and their sublime three
weeks of life on the Bürgenstock with their final triumphant, but bitter
culmination in Venice. She told him of what they had been pleased to
call their wedding--the wedding of their souls--nor did she seek to
lessen the enormity of their sin.

She touched with the tenderest of fingers upon the first dawn in their
hearts of the hope of the coming of a child--a child who would hold
their souls together forever--a child who would immortalize their love
till it should live on, and on, and on, through countless generations
perhaps--till who could say how much the world might be benefited and
helped just because they two had loved!

And then she told him--sweetly, as a mother should--of all her dreams
for her son--all her hopes and ambitions that were centered around his
little life--the life of her son who was to redeem the land--told him
how ennobled and exalted she had felt that this strong, manly Englishman
was her lover, and how sure she had been that their child would have a
noble mind.

     "Thou wilt think my thoughts, my baby Paul--thou wilt dream my
     dreams, and know all my ambitions and longings. Thou canst not be
     ignoble or base, for thou wert born of a love that makes all other
     unions mean and low and sordid by comparison."

Then, after telling, as only she could tell it, of the bitterness of
that parting in Venice, when, because of the threatening danger, from
which there was no escape, she left her lover to save his life, she went
on:

     "Dost thou know yet, when thou readest this, little Paul, with thy
     father's eyes--dost thou know, I wonder, the meaning of that great
     love which to the twain who realize it becomes a sacrament--dost
     understand?--a sacrament holier even than a prayer. It was even so
     with thy father and me--dost thou--canst thou understand? If not
     yet, sometime thou wilt, and thou wilt then forgive thy mother for
     her sin."

She told of the taunts and persecutions to which she was forced to
submit upon her return to her kingdom. The king and his friends had
vilely commended her for her "patriotism" in finding an heir to the
throne. "Napoleon would have felt honored," her husband had sneered, "if
Josephine had adopted thy method of finding him the heir he desired!"
But through it all, she said, she had not faltered. She had held the one
thought supreme in her heart and remembered that however guilty she
might be in the eyes of the world, there was a higher truth in the words
of Mrs. Browning, "God trusts me with a child," and had dared to pray.

     "To pray for strength and grace and wisdom to give thee birth, my
     baby, and to make thee all that thou shouldst be--to develop thee
     into the man I and thy father would have thee become. I was not
     only giving an heir to the throne of my realm. I was giving a son
     to the husband of my soul. But the world did not know that.
     Whatever it might suspect, it could actually know--nothing! The
     secret was thy father's and mine--his and mine alone--and now it
     is thine, as it needs must be! Guard it well, my baby, and let it
     make thy life and thy manhood full of strength and power and
     sweetness and glory and joy, and remember, as thou readest for the
     first time this story of thy coming into the world, that thy mother
     counted it her greatest, proudest glory to be the chosen love of
     thy father, and the mother of his son."

She had touched as lightly as she could upon the dark hours of her
baby's coming, when she was doomed to pass through that Valley of the
Shadow far away from the protecting and comforting love of him whose
right it was by every law of Nature to have been, then of all times, by
her side; but the Boy felt the pathos of it, and his eyes filled with
tears. His mother--the mother of his dreams--his glorious
queen-mother--to suffer all this for him--for him!

And Father Paul!--his own father! What must this cross have been to him!
Surely he would love him all the rest of his life to make up for all
that suffering!

Then he thought of the other letters and he read them all, his heart
torn between grief and anger--for they told him all the appalling
details of the tragedy that had taken his mother from him, and left his
father and himself bereaved of all that made life dear and worth the
living to man and boy.

One of the letters was from Sir Paul, telling the story over again from
the man's point of view, and laying bare at last the great secret the
Boy had so often longed to hear. Nothing was kept back. Even every
note--every little scrap of his mother's writing--had been sacredly kept
and was now enclosed for the eyes of their son to read. The closed door
in Father Paul's life was unlocked now, and his son entered and
understood, wondering why he had been so blind that he had not seen it
all before. The writing on the wall had certainly been plain enough. And
he smiled to remember the readiness with which he had believed the
plausible story of Isabella Waring!

And that man--the husband of his mother--the king who had taken her dear
life from her with a curse upon his lips! Thank God he was not his
father! No, in all the world of men, there was no one but Paul
Verdayne--no one--to whom he would so willingly have given the
title--and to him he had given it in his heart long before.

He sat and read the letters through again, word by word, living in
imagination the life his mother had lived, feeling all she had felt.
God! the bliss, the agony of it all!

And Paul Zalenska, surrounded by the messages from the past that had
given him being, and looking at the ruin of his own life with eyes newly
awakened to the immensity of his loss, bowed his face in his hands and
wept like a heart-broken child over the falling of his house of cards.

Ah! his mother had understood--she had loved and suffered. She was older
than he, too, and had known her world as he could not possibly know it,
and yet she had bade him take the gifts of life when they came his way.

And--God help him!--he had not done so!



CHAPTER XXI


The next morning, Paul Zalenska rose early. He had not slept well. He
was troubled with conflicting emotions, conflicting memories. The wonder
and sorrow of it all had been too much even for his youth and health to
endure. His mother had won so much from life, he thought--and he so
little! He thought of Opal--indeed, when was she ever absent from his
thoughts, waking or sleeping?--and the memory of his loss made him
frantic. Opal--his darling! And _they_ might have been just as happy as
his mother and father had been, but they had let their happiness slip
from them! What fools! Oh, what fools they had been! Not to have risked
anything--everything--for their happiness! And where was she now? In
Paris, in her husband's arms, no doubt, where he could hold her to him,
and caress her and kiss her at his own sweet will! God! It was
intolerable, unthinkable! And he--Paul, her lover--lying there alone,
who would have died a thousand deaths, if that were possible, to save
her from such a fate!

At last he forced the thought of his own loss from him, and thought
again of his mother. Ah, but her death had been opportune! How glorious
to die when life and love had reached their zenith! in the fullness of
joy to take one's farewell of the world!

And in the long watches of that wakeful night, he formed the resolution
that he put into effect at the first hint of dawn. He would spend one
entire day in solitude. He would traverse step by step the primrose
paths of his mother's idyllic dream; he would visit every scene, every
nook, she and her lover had immortalized in their memories; he would see
it all, feel it all--yes, _live_ it all, and become so impregnated with
its witchery that it would shed lustre and glory upon all the bleak
years to come. So well had she told her story, so perfect had been its
word-painting, he was sure that he would recognize every scene.

He explored the ivy-terrace leading to his mother's room, he walked up
and down under the lime trees, and he sat on the bench still in position
under the ivy hanging from the balustrade, and looked up wistfully at
the windows of the rooms that had been hers. Then he engaged a launch
and crossed the lake, and was not satisfied until he had found among the
young beeches on the other side what he felt must have been the exact
spot where his mother had peeped through the leaves upon her ardent
lover, before she knew him. And he roamed about among the trees, feeling
a subtle sense of satisfaction in being in the same places that they had
been who gave him being, as though the spirits of their two natures must
still haunt the spot and leave some trace of their presence even yet. He
followed each of the three paths until he had decided to his own
satisfaction by which one his mother had escaped from her pursuer, that
day, and he laughed a buoyant, boyish laugh at the image it suggested of
Verdayne, the misogynist--his stately, staid old Father Paul--actually
"running after a woman!" Truly the Boy was putting aside his own sorrow
and discontent to-day. He was living in the past, identifying himself
with every phase of it, living in imagination the life of these two so
dear to him, and rejoicing in their joy. Life had certainly been one
sweet song to them, for a brief space, a duet in Paradise, broken
up--alas for the Boy!--before it had become the trio it should have
developed into, by every law of Nature.

He sought the little village that they had visited before him, and
lunched at the same little hotel. He drove out to the little farmhouse
where the lovers had had their first revelation of him--their baby--and
he wept over the loss of the glorious mother she would have been to him.
He even climbed the mountain and looked with her eyes out over the
landscape. He was young and strong, and he determined to let nothing
escape him--to let no sense of fatigue deter him--but to crowd the day
full of memories of her.

The Boy, as his mother had been before him, was enraptured by all that
he saw. The beauty of the snow-capped mountains against the blue of the
sky and the golden glamour of the sunshine appealed to him keenly, and
he watched the reflection of it all in the crystal lake in a trance of
delight.

"Ah," he thought, "had they deliberately searched the world over for a
fitting setting for their idyl, they could not have selected a retreat
more perfect than this. It was made for lovers who love as they did."

And at last, under the witchery of the star-studded skies, wearied and
hungry, but filled and thrilled with the fragrance and glory of the
memories of the mother whom his young heart idealized, he left the
launch at the landing by the terrace steps and started blithely for the
little restaurant, dreaming, always dreaming, not of the future--but of
the past.

For him, alas, the future held no promise!



CHAPTER XXII


During the Boy's absence that day a new guest had arrived at the little
hotel. A capricious American lady, who had come to Lucerne, "for a day
or two's rest," she said, before proceeding to Paris where an impatient
Count awaited her and his wedding-day.

Yes, Opal was actually in Lucerne, and the suite of rooms once occupied
by the mysterious Madame Zalenska were now given over to the little lady
from over the seas, who, in spite of her diminutive stature, contrived
to impress everybody with a sense of her own importance. She had just
received a letter from her fiancé, an unusually impatient communication,
even from him. He was anxious, he said, for her and his long-delayed
honeymoon. Honeymoon! God help her! Her soul recoiled in horror from the
hideous prospect. Only two days more, she thought, pressing her lips
tightly together. Oh, the horror of it! She dared not think of it, or
she would go mad! But she would not falter. She had told herself that
she was now resigned. She was going to defeat Fate after all!

She had partaken of her dinner, and was standing behind the ivy that
draped the little balcony, watching the moon in its setting of Swiss
skies and mystic landscape. How white and calm and spotless it appeared!
It was not a man's face she saw there--but that of a woman--the face of
a nun in its saintly, virgin purity, suggesting only sweet inspiring
thoughts of the glory of fidelity to duty, of the comfort and peace and
rest that come of renunciation.

Opal clasped her hands together with a thrill of exultation at her own
victory over the love and longings that were never to be fulfilled. A
song of prayer and thanksgiving echoed in her heart over the thought
that she had been strong enough to do her duty and bear the cross that
life had so early laid upon her shoulders. She felt so good--so true--so
pure--so strong to-night. She would make her life, she thought--her life
that could know no personal love--abound in love for all the world, and
be to all it touched a living, breathing benediction.

As she gazed she suddenly noticed a lighted launch on the little lake,
and an inexplicable prescience disturbed the calm of her musings. She
watched, with an intensity she could not have explained, the gradual
approach of the little craft. What did that boat, or its passenger,
matter to her that she should feel such an acute interest in its
movements? Yet something told her it did matter much, and though she
laughed at her superstition, nevertheless her heart listened to it, and
dared not gainsay its insistent whisper.

A young man, straight and tall and lithe, bounded from the launch and
mounted the terrace steps. She saw his clean-cut profile, his
well-groomed appearance, which even in the moonlight was plainly
evident. She noted the regal bearing of his well-knit figure, and she
caught the delicious aroma of the particular brand of cigar Paul always
smoked, as he passed beneath the balcony where she stood.

She turned in very terror and fled to her rooms, pulling the curtains
closer. She shrank like a frightened child upon the couch, her face
white and drawn with fear--of what, she did not know.

After a time--long, terrible hours, it seemed to her--she parted the
curtains with tremulous fingers and looked out again at the sky, and
shuddered. The virgin nun-face had mysteriously changed--the moon that
had looked so pure and spotless was now blood-red with passion.

Opal crept back, pulling the curtains together again, and threw herself
face downward upon the couch. God help her!

       *       *       *       *       *

Paul Zalenska lingered long over his dinner that night. He was tired and
thoughtful. And he enjoyed sitting at that little table where his father
perhaps sat the night he had first seen her who became his love.

And Paul pictured to himself that first meeting. He tried to imagine
that he was Paul Verdayne, and that shortly his lady would come in with
her stately tread, and take her seat, and be waited upon by her elderly
attendant. Perhaps she would look at him through those long dark lashes
with eyes that seemed not to see. But there was no special table,
to-night, and the Boy felt that the picture was woefully
incomplete--that he had been left out of the scheme of things entirely.

After finishing his meal, he went out, as his father had done, out under
the stars and sat on the little bench under the ivy, and smoked a cigar.
He felt a curious thrill of excitement, quite out of keeping with his
loneliness. Was it just the memory of that old love-story that had
stirred his blood? Why did his pulse leap, his blood race through his
veins like this, his heart rise to his throat and hammer there so
fiercely, so strangely. Only one influence in all the world had ever
done this to him--only one influence--_one woman_--and she was miles and
miles away!

Suddenly, impelled by some force beyond his power of resistance--a sense
of someone's gaze fixed upon him, he raised his eyes to the ivy above
him. There, faint and indistinct in the shadow of the leaves, but quite
unmistakable, he saw the white, frightened face of the girl he loved,
her luminous eyes looking straight down into his.

He sprang to his feet, and pulled himself up by the ivy to the level of
the terrace, but she had vanished and the watching stars danced
mockingly overhead. Was he dreaming? Had that strange old love-story
taken away from him the last remaining shred of sanity? Surely he hadn't
seen Opal! She was in Paris--damn it!--and he clenched his teeth at the
thought--certainly not at Lucerne!

He looked at the windows of that enchanted room. All was darkness and
silence. Cursing himself for a madman, he strode into the hall and
examined the Visitors' List. Suddenly the blood leaped to his face--his
head reeled--his heart beat to suffocation. He was not dreaming, for
there, as plainly as words could be written, was the entry:

_Miss Ledoux and maid, New Orleans, U. S. A._

She was there--in Lucerne!--his Opal!



CHAPTER XXIII


How Paul reached his room, he never knew. He was in an ecstasy--his
young blood surging through his veins in response to the leap of the
seething passions within.

Have you never felt it, Reader? If you have not, you had better lay
aside this book, for you will never, never understand what
followed--what _must_ follow, in the very nature of human hearts.

Fate once more had placed happiness in his grasp--should he fling it
from him? Never! never again! He remembered his mother and her great
love, as she had bade him.

This day, following as it did his mother's letter, had been a revelation
to him of the possibilities of life, and of his own capacity for
enjoying it. In one week, only one week more, he must take upon his
shoulders the burdens of a kingdom. Should he let a mistaken sense of
right and duty defraud him a second time? Was this barrier--which a
stronger or a weaker man would have brushed aside without a second
thought--to wreck his life, and Opal's? He laughed exultingly. His whole
soul was on fire, his whole body aflame.

Beyond the formality of the betrothal, Opal had not yet been bound to
the Count. She was not his--yet! She could not be Paul's wife--Fate had
made that forever impossible--but she should be _his_, as he knew she
already was at heart.

They loved, and was not love--everything!

He paced the floor in an excitement beyond his control. Opal should give
him, out of her life, one day--one day in the little hotel on the
Bürgenstock, where his mother and her lover had been so happy. They,
too, should be happy--as happy as two mating birds in a new-built
nest--for one day they would forget all yesterdays and all to-morrows.
He would make that one day as glorious and shadowless for her as a day
could possibly be made--one day in which to forget that the world was
gray--- one day which should live in their memories throughout all the
years to come as the one ray of sunshine in two bleak and dreary lives!

And tempted, as he admitted to himself, quite beyond all reason, he
swore by all that he held sacred to risk everything--brave
everything--for the sake of living one day in Paradise.

"We have a right to be happy," he said. "Everyone has a right to be
happy, and we have done no wrong to the world. Why should we two, who
have the capability of making so much of our lives and doing so much for
the world, as we might have, together--why should we be sentenced to the
misery of mere existence, while men and women far less worthy of
happiness enjoy life in its utmost ecstasy?"

One thing he was firmly resolved upon. Opal should not know his real
rank. She should give herself to Paul Zalenska, the man--not to Paul the
Prince! His rank should gloss over nothing--nothing--and for all she
knew now to the contrary, her future rank as Countess de Roannes was
superior to his own.

And then as silence fell about the little hotel, unbroken save by some
strolling musicians in the square near at hand who sent the most tender
of Swiss love-melodies out upon the evening air, Paul walked out to the
terrace, passed through the little gate, and reaching the balcony,
knocked gently but imperatively upon the door of the room that was once
his mother's.

The door was opened cautiously.

Paul stepped inside, and closed it softly behind him.



CHAPTER XXIV


In the moonlit room, Paul and Opal faced each other in a silence heavy
with emotion.

It had been months since they parted, yet for some moments neither
spoke. Opal first found her voice.

"Paul! You-saw me!"

"I felt your eyes!"

"Oh, why did I come!"

Opal had begun to prepare for the night and had thrown about her
shoulders a loose robe of crimson silk. Her lustrous hair, like waves of
burnished copper, hung below her waist in beautiful confusion. With
trembling fingers she attempted to secure it.

"Your hair is wonderful, Opal! Please leave it as it is," Paul said
softly. And, curiously enough, she obeyed in silence.

"Paul," she said at last, with a little nervous laugh, as she recovered
her self-possession and seated herself on the couch, "don't stand
staring at me! I'm not a tragedy queen! You're too melodramatic. Sit
down and tell me why you've come here at this hour."

Paul obeyed mechanically, his gaze still upon her. She shrank from the
expression of his eyes--it was the old tiger-look again!

"I came because I had to, Opal. I could not have done otherwise. I have
something to tell you."

"Something to tell me?" she repeated.

"Yes. The most interesting story in the world to me, Opal--a letter from
my mother--a letter to me alone, which I can share with only one woman
in the world--the woman I love!"

Her eyes fell. As she raised her hand abstractedly to adjust the
curtain, Paul saw the flash of her betrothal ring. He caught her hand in
his and quietly slipped the ring from her finger. She seized the jewel
with her free hand and tried to thrust it into her bosom.

"No! no!--not there!" he remonstrated, and was not satisfied until she
had crossed the room and hidden it from his sight.

"Does that please your majesty?" she asked, with a curious little
tremble in her voice.

Paul started, and stared at her with a world of wonder in his eyes.
Could she know?

"Your majesty--" he stammered.

"Why not?" she laughed. "You speak as though you had but to command to
be obeyed."

"Forgive me, dear," he answered softly.

And Opal became her sympathetic self again.

"Tell me about your mother, Paul," she said.

And Paul, beginning at the very beginning, told her the whole story as
it had been told to him, reading much of his mother's letter to her,
reserving only such portions of it as would reveal the identity he was
determined to keep secret until she was his. The girl was moved to the
depths of her nature by the beauty and pathos of it all, and then the
thought came to her, "This, then, is Paul's heritage--his birthright!
He, like me, is doomed!"

And her heart ached for him--and for herself!

But Paul did not give her long to muse. Sitting down beside her for the
first time, he told her the plan he had been turning over in his mind
for their one day together.

"Surely," he said, "it is not too much to ask out of a lifetime of
misery--one little day of bliss! Just one day in which there shall be no
yesterday, and no to-morrow--one day of Elysium against years of
Purgatory! Let us have our idyl, dear, as my mother and father had
theirs--even though it must be as brief as a butterfly's existence, let
us not deny ourselves that much. I ask only one day!

"You love me, Opal. I love you. You are, of all the world of women, my
chosen one, as I--no, don't shake your head, for you can't honestly deny
it--am yours! We know we must soon part forever. Won't it be easier for
both of us--both, I say--if for but one day, we can give to each other
all! Won't all our lives be better for the memory of one perfect day?
Think, Opal--to take out of all eternity just a few hours--and yet out
of those few hours may be born sufficient courage for all the life to
come! Don't you see? Can't you? Oh, I can't argue--I can't reason! I
only want you to be mine--all mine--yes, if only for a few hours--all
mine!"

"Paul, you are mad," she began, but he would not listen.

"Just one day," he pleaded--"no yesterday, and no to-morrow!"

He looked at her tenderly.

"Opal, it simply has to be--it's Fate! If it wasn't meant to be, why
have we met here like this? Do you think we two are mere toys in the
grip of circumstances? Or do you believe the gods have crossed our paths
again just to tantalize us? Is that why we are here, Opal, you and
I--_together_?"

"Why, I came to rest--to see Lucerne! Most tourists come to Lucerne!
It's a--pretty--place--very!" she responded, lamely.

"Well, then, account for the rest of it. Why did _I_ come?--and at the
same time?--and find you here in my mother's room? Simply a coincidence?
Answer me that! Chance plays strange freaks sometimes, I'll admit, but
Fate is a little more than mere chance. Why did I hear your voice, that
time? Why did I see you, and follow? Why did we find ourselves so near
akin--so strangely, so irresistibly drawn to each other? Answer me,
Opal! Why was it, if we weren't created to be--_one_?"

After a moment of waiting he said, "Listen to the music, Opal! Only
listen! Doesn't it remind you of dreams and visions--of fairyland, of
happiness, and--love?"

But she could not answer.

At last she said slowly, "Oh, it's too late, Paul--too late!"

"Too late?" he echoed. "It's never too late to take the good the gods
send! Never, while love lasts!"

"But the Count, Paul--and your fiancée! Think, Paul, think!"

"I can't think! What does the Count matter, Opal! Nothing--nothing makes
any difference when you are face to face with destiny and your soul-mate
calls! It has to be--_it has to be!_--can't you--won't you--see it?"

"_God help all poor souls lost in the dark!_" She did see it. It stared
her relentlessly in the face and tugged mercilessly at her heart with
fingers of red-hot steel! She covered her face with her hands, but she
could not shut out the terrible image of advancing Death that held for
her all the charm of a serpent's eye. She struggled, as virgin woman has
always struggled. But in her heart she knew that she would yield. What
was her weak woman's nature after all, when pitted against the strength
of the man she loved!

"Oh, I was feeling so pure--so good--so true--to-night! Are there not
thousands of beautiful women in the world who might be yours for the
asking? Could you not let the poor Count have his wife and his honeymoon
in peace?"

Honeymoon! She shuddered at the thought.

"Sweetheart," he whispered, "by every God-made law of Nature you are
mine--mine--mine! What care we for the foolish, man-made conventions of
this or any other land? There is only one law in the universe--the
divine right of the individual to choose for himself his mate!"

Then his whisper became softer--more enticing--more resistless in its
passionate appeal.

He was pleading with his whole soul--this prince who with one word could
command the unquestioning obedience of a kingdom! But the woman in his
arms did not know that, and it would have made no difference if she had!
In that supreme moment it was only man and woman.

Opal gazed in amazement at this revelation of a new Paul. How splendid
he was! What a king among all the men she knew! What a god in his
manhood's glory!--a god to make the hearts of better and wiser women
than she ache--and break--with longing! Her hand stole to her heart to
still the fury of its beating.

"Opal," he breathed, "I have wanted you ever since that mad moment in
gray old London when I first caught the lure in your glorious eyes--do
you remember, sweetheart? I know you are mine--and you know it--girl!

His voice sank lower and lower, growing more and more intense with
suppressed passion. Opal was held spell-bound by the subtle charm of his
languorous eyes. She wanted to cry out, but she could not speak--she
could not think--the spell of his fascination overpowered her.

She felt her eyes grow humid. Her heart seemed to struggle upward, till
it caught in her throat like a huge lump of molten lead and threatened
to choke her with its wild, hot pulsations.

"I love you, Opal! I love you! and I want you! God! how I want you!"
Paul stammered on, with a catch in his boyish voice it made her heart
leap to hear. "I want your eyes, Opal--your hair--your lips--your
glorious self! I want you as man never wanted woman before!"

He paused, dazed by his own passion, maddened by her lack of
response--blinded by a mist of fire that made his senses swim and his
brain reel, and crazed by the throbbing of the pulse that cried out from
every vein in his body with the world-old elemental call. Was she going
to close the gates of Paradise in his very face and in the very hour of
his triumph rob him of the one day--his little day?

It was too much.

More overwhelmed by her lack of response than by any words she could
have uttered, Paul hesitated. Then, speech failing him, half-dazed, he
stumbled toward the door.

"Paul!... Paul!"

He heard her call as one in dreamland catches the far-off summons of
earth's realities. He turned. She stretched out her arms to him--those
round, white arms.

"I understand you, Paul! I do understand." She threw her arms around his
neck and drew his face down to hers. "Yes, I love you, Paul, I love you!
Do you hear, I love you! I am yours--utterly--heart, mind, soul, and
body! Don't you know that I am yours?"

She was in his arms now, weeping strange, hot tears of joy, her heart
throbbing fiercely against his own.

"Paul--Paul--I am mad, I think!--we are both mad, you and I!"

And as their lips at last met in one long, soul-maddening kiss, and the
intoxication of the senses stole over them, she murmured in the fullness
of her surrender, "Take me! Crush me! Kiss me! My love--my love!"



CHAPTER XXV


The morning dawned. The morning of their one day.

Nature had done her best for them and made it all that a May day should
be. There was not one tint, nor tone, nor bit of fragrance lacking.
Silver-throated birds flooded the world with songs of love. The very air
seemed full of beauty and passion and the glory and joy of life in the
dawn of its fullness.

Their arrangements had been hasty, but complete. Paul had stolen away
from Lucerne in the middle of the night, to be ready to welcome his
darling at the-first break of the morning; and it was at a delightfully
early hour that they met at the little hotel on the Bürgenstock where
his mother's love-dream had waxed to its idyllic perfection,
one-and-twenty years ago. They sat on the balcony and ate their simple
breakfast, looking down to where the reflection of the snow-crowned
mountains trembled in the limpid lake.

Opal had never before looked so lovely, he thought. She was gowned in
the simplest fashion in purest white, as a bride should be, her glorious
hair arranged in a loose, girlish knot, while her lustrous eyes were
cast down, shyly, and her cheeks were flushed--flushed with the
revelations and memories of the night just passed--flushed with the
promise of the day just dawning--flushed with love, with slumbering,
smouldering passion--with wifehood!

How completely she was his when she had once surrendered!

In their first kiss of greeting, they bridged over, in one ecstatic
moment, the hours of their brief separation. When he finally withdrew
his lips from hers, with a deep sigh of momentary satisfaction, she
looked up into his eyes with something of the old, capricious mischief
dancing in her own.

"Let us make the most of our day, darling, our one day!" she said. "We
must not waste a single minute of it."

Opal had stolen away from Lucerne and had come up the mountain
absolutely unattended. She would share her secret with no one, she said,
and Paul had acquiesced. And now he took her up in his arms as one would
carry a little child, and bore her off to the suite he had engaged for
them. What a bit of a thing she was to wield such an influence over a
man's whole life!

A pert little French maid waited upon them. She eyed with great favor
the _distingué_ young monsieur, and his _charmante épouse!_ There was a
knowing twinkle in her eye--she had not been a _femme de chambre_ even a
little while without learning to scent a _lune de miel!_ And this
promised to be especially _piquante_. But Paul would have none of her,
and she tripped away disappointed of her coveted _divertissement_.

Paul was very jealous and exacting and even domineering this morning,
and would permit no intrusion. He would take care of madame, he had
informed the girl, and when she had taken herself away, he repeated it
emphatically. Opal was his little girl, he said, and he was going to pet
and coddle her himself. _Femme de chambre_ indeed! Wasn't he worth a
dozen of the impertinent French minxes! Wanted to coquette with him,
most likely--thought he might be ready to yawn over madame's charms! She
could keep her pretty ankles out of his sight--he wasn't interested in
them!

How Paul thrilled at the touch of everything Opal wore! Soft delicious
things they were, and he handled them with an awkward reverence that
brought tears to her eyes. They spoke a strange, shy language of their
own--these little, filmy bits of fine linen.

Oh, but it was good, thought Opal, to be taken care of like this!--to be
on these familiar terms with the Boy she loved--to give him the right to
love her and do these little things, so sacred in a woman's life. And to
Paul it meant more than even she guessed. It was such a new world to
him. He felt that he was treading on holy ground, and, for the moment,
was half-afraid.

And thus began their one day--the one day that was to know no yesterday,
and no tomorrow!

They found it hard to remember that part of it at all times. He would
grow reminiscent for an instant, and begin, "Do you remember--" and she
would catch him up quickly with a whispered, "No yesterday, Paul!" And
again, it would be his turn, for a troubled look would cloud the joy of
her eyes, and she would start to say, "What shall I do--" or "When I go
to Paris--" and Paul would snatch her to his heart and remind her that
there was "No tomorrow!"

All the forenoon she lay in his arms, crying out with little
inarticulate gurgles of joy under his caresses, lavishing a whole
lifetime's concentrated emotion upon him in a ferocity of passion that
seemed quenchless.

And Paul was in the seventh heaven--mad with love! He was learning that
there were tones in that glorious voice that he had never heard before,
depths in those eyes that he had never fathomed--and those tones, those
depths, were all for him, for him alone--aye, had been waiting there
through all eternity for his awakening touch.

"Opal," he said, earnestly, "perhaps it was here--on this very spot, it
may be, who knows--that my mother gave herself to my father!

But she could only smile at him through fast-gathering tears--strange
tears of mingled joy and wonder and pain.

And he covered her face, her neck, her shoulders with burning kisses,
and cried out in an ecstasy of bliss, "Oh, my love! My life!"

And thus the morning hours died away.



CHAPTER XXVI


And behold, it was noon!

The day and their love stood still together. The glamour of the day, the
resistless force of their masterful love that seemed to them so unlike
all other loves of which they had ever heard or dreamed, held them in a
transport of delight that could only manifest itself in strange,
bitter-sweet caresses, in incoherent murmurings.

This, then, was love! Aye, this was Love!

The thoughts of the two returned with a tender, persistent recollection
to the love-tale of the past--the delicious idyl of love that had given
birth to this boy. Here, even here, had been spent those three maddest
and gladdest of weeks--that dream of an ideal love realized in its
fullness, as it is given to few to realize.

Yes, that was Love!

It was youth eternal--youth and fire, power and passion.

It was May! May!

       *       *       *       *       *

It was mid-afternoon before they awakened, to look into each other's
eyes with a new understanding. Surely never since the world began had
two souls loved each other as did these!

And what should they do with the afternoon? Such a little while remained
for them--such a little while!

Paul drew out his mother's letter, and together they read it,
understanding now, as they had not been able to understand before, its
whole wonderful significance.

When they read of the first dawn of the hope of parentage in the hearts
of these long-ago lovers, their eyes met, heavy with the wistfulness of
renunciation. That consolation, alas! was not for them. Only the joy of
loving could ever be theirs.

And then, drawing out the other letters that had accompanied his
mother's, Paul revealed to his darling the whole mystery of his
identity.

At first she was startled--almost appalled--at the thought that she had
given herself to a Prince of the Purple--a real king of a real
kingdom--and for a moment felt a strange awe of him.

But Paul, reading her unspoken thought in her eyes, with that sweet
clairvoyance that had always existed between them, soothed and petted
and caressed her till the smiles returned to her face and she nestled in
his arms, once more happy and content.

She was the queen of his soul, he told her, whoever might wear the crown
and bear the title before the world. Then, very carefully, lest he
should wound her, he told her the whole story of the Princess Elodie.

Opal moved across the room and stood drumming idly by the long, open
window. He watched her anxiously.

"Paul, did you go to see her as you promised--and is she  ...pretty?"

"She is a cow!"

"Paul!" Opal laughed at his tone.

"Oh, but she is! Fancy loving a cow!"

Opal's heart grew heavy with a great pity for this poor, unfortunate
royal lady who was to be Paul's wife--the mother of his children--but
never, never his Love!

"But, Paul, you'll be good to her, won't you? I know you will! You
couldn't be unkind to any living thing."

And she ran into his arms, and clasped his neck tight! And the poor
Princess Elodie was again forgotten!

"You--Opal--are my real wife," Paul assured her, "the one love of my
soul, the mate the gods have formed for me--my own forever!"

Opal wept for pity of him, and for herself, but she faced the future
bravely. She would always be his guiding star, to beckon him upward!

"And, Opal, my darling," Paul went on, "I promise you to live henceforth
a life of which you shall be proud. I will be brave and true and noble
and great and pure--to prove my gratitude to the gods for giving me this
one day--for giving me you, dearest--and your love--your wonderful love!
I _will_ be worthy, dear--I will! I'll be your knight--your
Launcelot--and you shall be my Guenevere! I will always wear your colors
in my heart, dear--the red-brown of your hair, the glorious hazel of
your eyes, the flush of your soft cheek, the rose of your sweet lips,
the virgin whiteness of your soul!"

Opal looked at him with eyes brimming with pride. Young as he was, he
was indeed every inch a king.

And she had crowned him king of her heart and soul and life before she
had known! Oh, the wonder of it!--the strange, sweet wonder of it! _He_,
who might have loved and mated where he would, had chosen her to be his
love! She could not realize it. It was almost beyond belief, she
thought, that she--plain little Opal Ledoux--could stir such a nature as
his to such a depth as she knew she had stirred it.

Ah, the gods had been good to her! They had sent her the Prince
Charming, and he had wakened her with his kiss--that first kiss--how
well she remembered it--and how utterly she belonged to him!

Then she remembered that, however much they tried to deceive themselves,
there was a to-morrow--a to-morrow that would surely come--a to-morrow
in which they would not belong to each other at all. He would belong to
the world. She would belong to a--

She sprang up at the recollection, and drew the curtains of the window
closer together.

"We will shut out the cold, inquisitive, prying old world," she said.
"It shall not look, shall not listen! It is a hard, cruel world, my
Paul. It would say that I must not put my arms around your neck--like
this--must not lay my cheek against yours--so--must not let my heart
feel the wild throbbing of yours--and why? Because I do not wear your
ring, Paul--that's all!"

She held up her white hand for his inspection, and surveyed it
critically.

"See, Paul--there is no glittering, golden fetter to hold me to you with
the power of an iron band, and so I must not--let you hold me to you at
all"

They both laughed merrily, and then Paul, pulling her down on his knee
and holding her face against his own, whispered, "What care we for the
old world? It is as sad and mad and bad as we are--if we only knew! And
who knows how much worse? It has petty bickerings, damning lies of spite
and malice, trickery and thievery and corruption on its conscience. Let
the little people of the world prate of their little things! We are
free, dearest--and we defy it, don't we? Our ideals are never lost. And
ideals are the life of love. Is love--a love like ours--a murderer of
life?"

"Sometimes, Paul--sometimes! I fear it--I do fear it!"

"Never fear, Opal, my beloved! You need not fear anything--anywhere! I
will stand between you and the world, dear--between you and hell itself!
My God, girl, how I love you! Opal! My Opal! My heart aches with the
immensity of it! Come, my love, my queen, my treasure, come! We have not
many more hours to--live! And I want you close, close--all mine! Ah,
Opal, we are masters of life and death! All earth, all heaven, and--hell
itself, cannot take you from me now!"

Oh, if scone moments in life could only be eternal!



CHAPTER XXVII


And the day--died!

The sun sank beneath the western horizon; the moon cast her silvery
sheen over the weary world; the twinkling stars appeared in the jewelled
diadem of night; and the silence of evening settled over mountain and
lake and swaying tree, while the two who had dared all things for the
sake of this one day, looked into each other's eyes now with a sudden
realization of the end.

They had not allowed themselves once to think of the hour of separation.

And now it was upon them! And they were not ready to part.

"How do people say good-by forever, Paul?--people who love as we love?
How do they say it, dear? Tell me!"

"But it is not forever, Opal. Don't you know that you will always be
part of my life--my soul-life, which is the only true one--its
sanctifying inspiration? You must not forget that--never, never!"

"No, I won't forget it, my King!" She delighted in giving him his title
now. "That satisfaction I will hold to as long as I live!"

"But, Opal, am I never to see you?--never? Surely we may meet
sometimes--rarely, of course, at long intervals, when life grows gray
and gloomy, and I am starving for one ray of the sunshine of your
smile?"

"It would be dangerous, Paul, for both of us!"

"But the world is only a little place after all, beloved. We shall be
thrown together again by Fate--as we have been this time."

Then she smiled at him archly. "Ah, Paul, I know you so well! Your eyes
are saying that you will often manage to see me 'by chance'--but you
must not, dear, you must not"

"Girl, I can never forget one word you have uttered, one caress you have
given--one tone of your voice--one smile of your lips--one glance of
your eye--never, never in God's world!"

"Hold me closer, Paul, and teach me to be brave!"

They clung together in an agony too poignant for words, too mighty for
tears! And of the unutterable madness and anguish of those last bitter
kisses of farewell, no mortal pen can write!

But theirs had been from the beginning a mad love--a mad, hopeless,
fatal love--and it could bring neither of them happiness nor
peace--nothing but the bitterness of eternal regret!

And thus the day--their one day of life--came to an end!

       *       *       *       *       *

That evening, from the hotel at Lucerne, two telegrams flashed over the
wires. One was addressed to the Count de Roannes, Paris, and read as
follows:

"_Shall reach Paris Monday afternoon.--Opal._"

The other was addressed to Sir Paul Verdayne, at Venice, and was not
signed at all, saying simply,

"_A son awaits his father in Lucerne_."



CHAPTER XXVIII


That night a sudden storm swept across Lucerne.

The thunder crashed like the boom of a thousand cannon; like menacing
blades the lightning flashed its tongues of savage flame; the winds
raved in relentless fury, rocking the giant trees like straws in the
majesty of their wrath. Madness reigned in undisputed sovereignty, and
the earth cowered and trembled beneath the anger of the threatening
heavens.

Opal crouched in her bed, and buried her head in the pillows. She had
never before known the meaning of fear, but now she was alone, and the
consciousness of guilt was upon her--the acute agony of their separation
mingled with the despairing prospect of a long, miserable loveless--yes,
_shameful,_--life as the legal slave of a man she abhorred.

She did not regret the one day she had given to her lover. Whatever the
cost, she would never, never regret, she said to herself, for it had
been well worth any price that might be required of her. She gloried in
it, even now, while the storm raged outside.

And the thunders crashed like the falling of mighty rocks upon the roof
over her head. Should she summon Céleste, her maid?

Suddenly, as the tempest paused as if to catch its breath, she heard
footsteps in the corridor outside. It was very late--who could be
prowling about at this hour? She listened intently, every nerve and
sense keenly alert. Nearer and nearer the steps came, and then she
remembered with a start that in the excitement of her stealthy return to
the hotel and the anguish and madness of their parting, she had
forgotten to fasten her door.

There came a light tap on the panel. She did not speak or move--hardly
breathed. Then the door opened, noiselessly, cautiously, and he--her
lover, her king--entered, the dim light of her room making his form, as
it approached, appear of even more than its usual majestic height and
power.

"Paul!" she whispered.

He seemed in a strange daze. Had the storm gone to his head and driven
him mad?

"Yes, it is I," he said hoarsely. "It is Paul. Don't cry out. See, I am
calm!" and he laid his hand on hers. It was burning with fever. "I will
not hurt you, Opal!"

Cry out? Hurt her? What did he mean? She had no thought of crying out.
Of course he would not hurt her--her lover, her lord, her king! Did she
not belong to him--now?

He sat down and took her hands in his.

"Opal," he muttered, "I've been thinking, thinking, thinking, till I
feel half-mad--yes, mad! Dearest, I cannot give you up like this--I
cannot! Let you go to _his_ arms--you who have been mine! Oh, Opal, I've
pictured it all to myself--seen you in his arms--seen his lips on
yours--seen--seen--Can't you imagine what it means to me? It's more than
I can stand, dearest! I may be crazy--I believe I am--but wouldn't it be
better for you and me to--to--cease forever this mockery of life,
and--forget?"

She did not understand him.

"Forget?" she murmured, holding his hand against her cheek, while her
free arm pulled his head down to hers. "Forget?"

He pressed his burning lips to her cool neck, and then, after a moment,
went on, "Yes, beloved, to forget. Think, Opal, think! To forget all
ambition, all restlessness, all disappointment, all longing for what can
never be, all pain, all suffering, all thought of responsibility or
growth or desire, all success or failure--all life, all death--to
forget! to forget! Ah, dearest, one must have loved as we have loved,
and lost as we have lost, to wish to--forget!"

"But there is no such respite for us, Paul. We are not the sort who can
put memory aside. To live will be to remember!"

"Yes, that is it. To live _is_ to remember. But why should we live
longer? We've lived a lifetime in one day, have we not, sweetheart? What
more has life to give us?"

He was calmer now, but it was the calmness of determination.

"Let us die, dear--let us die! Virginius slew his daughter to save her
honor. You are more to me than a thousand daughters. You are my wife,
Opal!--Opal, my very own!"

His eyes softened again, as the storm outside lulled for a moment.

"My darling, don't be afraid! I will save you from him. I will keep you
mine--mine!"

The thunder crashed again, and again the fury leaped to his eyes. He
drew from his pocket a curious foreign dagger, engraved with quaint
designs, and glittering with encrusted gold. Opal recognized it at once.
She had toyed with it the day before, admiring the richness of its
material and workmanship.

"She--has been--mine--my wife," he muttered to himself, wildly,
disconnectedly, yet with startling distinctness. "She shall never, never
lie in his arms!"

He passed his hand across his eyes, as if to brush away a veil.

"Oh, the red! the red! the red! It's blood and fire and hell! It glares
in my eyes! It screams in my ears! Bidding me kill! kill!"

He clasped her to him fiercely.

"To see you, after all this--to see you go from me--and know you were
going to him--_him_--while I went  ... Oh, beloved! beloved! God never
meant that! Surely He never meant that when He created us the creatures
that we are!"

She kissed his hot, quivering lips. She had not loved him so much in all
their one mad day as she loved him now.

"Paul," she whispered, "beloved!--what would you do?"

There was only a great wonder in her eyes, not the faintest sign of
fear. Even in his anguish the Boy noticed that.

"What would I do? Listen, Opal, my darling. Don't you remember, you said
it was not life but death--and I said it was both! And it is! it is! I
thought I was strong enough to brave hell! Opal--though you are
betrothed to the Count de Roannes you are _my wife_! And our
wedding-journey shall be eternal--through stars, Opal, and
worlds--far-off, glimmering worlds--our freed spirits together, always
together--together!"

She watched him, fascinated, spell-bound.

"Dear heart, Nature will not repulse us," Paul continued. "She will
gather us to her great, warm, peaceful heart, beloved!"

Opal held him close to her breast, almost maternally, with a great
longing to soothe and calm his troubled spirit.

"Think," he continued, "of what my poor, unhappy mother said was the
cost of love--'_Sorrow and death!_' We have had the sorrow, God knows!
And now for death! Kiss me, dearest, dearest! Kiss me for time and for
eternity, Opal, for in life and in death we can never part more!"

She kissed him--obediently, solemnly--and then, holding her to him,
drinking in all the love that still shone for him in those eyes that had
driven him to desperation, he suddenly plunged the little dagger to its
hilt through her heart.

She did not cry out. She did not even shudder. But looking at him with
"the light that never was on sea or land" in her still brilliant eyes,
she murmured, "In--life--and--in--death  ... beloved! beloved!"

And while he whispered between his set lips, "Sleep, my beloved, sleep,"
her little head dropped back against his arm with a long, peaceful sigh.

He held her form tenderly to his heart, murmuring senseless, meaningless
words of comfort and love, like a mother crooning her babe to sleep. And
he still clasped her there till the new day peeped through the blinds.
And the storm raged at intervals with all the ferocity of unspent
passion. But _his_ passion was over now, and he laughed a savage laugh
of triumph.

No one could take her from him now--no one! His darling was his--his
wife--in life and in death!

He laid her down upon the bed and arranged the blankets over her
tenderly, hiding the hideous, gaping wound, with its unceasing flow;
carefully from sight. He closed her eyes, kissing them as he did so, and
folded her little white hands together, and then he pulled out the
disarranged lace at her throat and smoothed it mechanically, till it lay
quite to his satisfaction. Opal was so fastidious, he thought--so
particular about these little niceties of dress. She would like to look
well when they found her--dear Heaven!--to-morrow!

"No to-morrow!" he thought. They had spoken more wisely than they knew.
There would be no to-morrow for her--nor for him!

There was a tiny spot of blood upon the frill of her sleeve, and he
carefully turned it under, out of sight. He looked at the ugly stains
upon his own garments with a thrill of satisfaction. She was his! Was it
not quite right and proper that her blood should be upon him?

But even then, frenzied as he was, he had a singular care for
appearances, a curious regard for detail, and busied himself in removing
all signs of his presence from her chamber--all tell-tale traces of the
storm of passion that swept away her life--and his! He felt himself
already but the ghost of his former self, and laughed a weird, half-mad
laugh at the thought as it came to him.

He bent over her again. He would have given much to have lain down
beside her and slept his last sleep in her cold, lifeless arms. But no!
Even this was denied him!

He wound a tress of her hair about his fingers, and it clung and twined
there as her white fingers had been wont to twine. Oh, the pity of her
stillness--her silence--who was never still nor silent--never
indifferent to his presence! She looked so like a sleeping child in her
whiteness and tranquillity, her red-brown hair in disordered waves about
her head, her eyes closed in the last long sleep. And he wept as he
pressed his burning lips to hers, so cold, so pitifully cold, and for
the first time unresponsive. Oh, God, unresponsive forever!

"Poor little girl!" he moaned, between sobs of hopeless pain. "Poor
little passionate girl!... Poor little tired Opal!"

And with a dry sob of unutterable anguish, he picked up the dagger--the
cruel, kind little dagger--and crept to his own room.

The dagger was still wet with her blood. "Her blood!--Oh, God!-her
blood!--hers! All mine in life, and yet never so much mine as now--mine
in death!--all mine! mine! And she was not afraid--not the least afraid!
Her eyes had room only for her overwhelming love--love--just love, no
fear, even that hour when face to face with the Great Mystery. And this
was her blood--_hers!_"

He believed that she had been glad to die. He believed--oh, he was sure,
that death in his arms--and from his hand--had been sweeter than life
could have been--with that wretch--and always without him--her lover!
Yes, she had been glad to die. She had been grateful for her escape! And
again the dagger drew his fascinated gaze and wrung from his lips the
cry, "Her blood--hers! God in Heaven! Her blood!--hers!"

He put his hand to his head with an inarticulate cry of bewilderment.
Then, with one supreme effort, he began to stagger hastily but
noiselessly about the room. The servants of the house were already
astir, and the day would soon be here. He put his sacred letters
carefully away, and destroyed all worthless papers, mechanically, but
still methodically.

Then he hastily scribbled a few lines, and laid them beside his letters,
for Verdayne would be with him now in a few hours. His father--yes, his
own father! How he would like to see him once more--just once more--with
the knowledge of their relationship as a closer bond between them--to
talk about his mother--his beautiful, queenly mother--and her wonderful,
wonderful love! Yet--and he sighed as he thought of his deserted
kingdom--after all, all in vain--in vain! It was not to be--all that
glory--that triumph! Fate had willed differently. He was obeying the
Law!

And his mother would not fail to understand. Verdayne must have loved
his mother like this! O God, Love was a fearful thing, he thought, to
wreck a life--a terrible thing, even a hideous thing--but in spite of
everything it was all that was worth living for--and dying for!

The storm had spent its fury now, and only the steady drip, drip of the
rain reminded him of the falling of tears.

"Opal!" he groaned, "Opal!" And he threw himself upon the bed, clasping
his dagger in uncontrollable agony. "O life is cruel, hard, bitter! I'll
none of it!--we'll none of it, you and I!" His voice grew triumphant in
its raving. "It was worth all the cost--even the sorrow and death! But
the end has come! Opal! Opal! I am coming, sweet!--coming!"

And the dagger, still red with the blood of his darling, found its
unerring way to his own heart; and Paul Zalenska forgot his dreams, his
ambitions, his love, his passion, and his despair in the darkness and
quiet of eternal sleep.

"_Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord._"



CHAPTER XXIX


Sir Paul Verdayne reached Lucerne on the afternoon of the next day. He
was as eager as a boy for the reunion with his son. How he loved the
Boy--his Boy--the living embodiment of a love that seemed to him greater
than any other love the world had ever known.

The storm had ceased and in the brilliancy of the afternoon sunshine
little trace of the fury of the night could be seen. Nature smiled
radiantly through the tear-drops still glistening on tree and shrub and
flower, like some capricious coquette defying the world to prove that
she had ever been sad.

To Sir Paul, the place was hallowed with memories of his Queen, and his
heart and soul were full of her as he left the train. At the station
Vasili awaited him with the news of the double tragedy that had
horrified Lucerne.

In that moment, Sir Paul's heart broke. He grasped at the faithful
servitor for a support the old man was scarce able to give. He looked up
into the pitying face, grown old and worn in the service of the young
King and his heart thrilled, as it ever thrilled, at the sight of the
long, cruel scar he remembered so well--the scar which the Kalmuck had
received in the service of his Queen, long years before.

Sir Paul loved Vasili for that--loved him even more for the service he
had done the world when he choked to death the royal murderer of his
Queen, on the fatal night of that tragedy so cruelly alive in his
memory. He looked again at the scar on the swarthy face, and yet he knew
it was as nothing to the scar made in the old man's heart that day.

In some way--they never knew how--they managed to reach the scene of the
tragedy, and Sir Paul, at his urgent request, was left alone with the
body of his son.

Oh, God! Could he bear this last blow--and live?

After a time, when reason began to re-assert itself, he searched and
found the letters that had told the Boy-king the story of his birth. Was
there no word at all for him--his father?--save the brief telegram he
had received the night before?

Ah, yes! here was a note. His Boy had thought of him, then, even at the
last. He read it eagerly.

     "Father--dear Father--you who alone of all the world can
     understand--forgive and pity your son who has found the cross too
     heavy--the crown too thorny--to bear! I go to join my unhappy
     mother across the river that men call death--and there together we
     shall await the coming of the husband and father we could neither
     of us claim in this miserable, gray old world. Father Paul--dearest
     and best and truest of fathers, your Boy has learned with you the
     cost of love, and has gladly paid the price--'sorrow and death!'"

He bent again over the cold form, he pushed aside the clustering curls,
and kissed again and again, with all the fervor and pain of a lifetime's
repression, the white marble face of his son.

And a few words of that little note rang in his ears
unceasingly--"dearest, and best, and _truest_ of fathers!" _Truest of
fathers_! Ah, yes! The Boy--his Boy--had understood!

And the scalding tears came that were his one salvation, for they washed
away for a time some of the deadly ache from his bereaved heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the force of his outburst was spent, Sir Paul Verdayne mastered
himself resolutely. There was much to be done. It was indeed a double
torture to find such an affliction here, of all places under Heaven, but
he told himself that his Queen would have him brave and strong, and
master his grief as an English gentleman should. And her wishes were
still, as they had ever been, the guide of his every thought and action.

One thing he was determined upon. The world must never know the truth.

To be sure, Sir Paul himself did not know the secret of that one day. He
could only surmise. Even Vasili did not know. The Boy had cleverly
managed to have the day, as he had the preceding one, "all to himself,"
as he had informed Vasili, and Opal had been equally skillful in
escaping the attendance of her maid. They had left the hotel separately
at night, in different directions, returning separately at night. Who
was there to suspect that they had passed the day together, or had even
met each other at all? Surely--no one!

And what was there for the world to know, in the mystery of their death?
Nothing! They were each found alone, stabbed to the heart, and the
dagger that had done the deed had not even been withdrawn from the body
of the Boy, when they found him. Sir Paul and Vasili had recognized it,
but who would dare to insinuate that the same dagger had drunk the blood
of the young American lady, or to say whose hand had struck either blow?
It was all a mystery, and Sir Paul was determined that it should remain
so.

Money can accomplish anything, and though all Europe rang with the
story, no scandal--nor hint of it--besmirched the fair fame of the
unhappy Boy and girl who had loved "not wisely, but too well!"

There had, indeed, been for them, as they had playfully said--"No
to-morrow!"

And Sir Paul Verdayne, kneeling by the bier, with its trappings of a
kingdom's mourning, which hid beneath its rich adornment all the joy
that life for twenty years had held for him, felt for the first time a
sense of guilt, as he looked back upon his past.

He did not regret his love. He could never do that! Truly, a man and a
woman had a right to love and mate as they would, if the consequences of
their deeds rested only upon their own heads. But to bring children into
the world, the fruit of such a union, to suffer and die, "for the sins
of the fathers," as his son had suffered and died--there was the sin--a
selfish, unpardonable sin! "And the wages of sin is death."

He had never felt the truth before. He had been so happy in his Boy, and
so proud of his future, that there had never been a question in his
mind. But now he was face to face with the terrible consequences.

"Oh, God!" he cried, "truly my punishment is just--but it is greater
than I can bear!"

       *       *       *       *       *

_And Paul Verdayne--what of him? Of course you want to know. Read the
sequel_

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       *       *       *       *       *

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Regina, the heroine, gives herself to a man for his own sake, for the
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marry him until she is satisfied that he cannot live without her.

The London _Athenaeum_ says: "Granted beautiful, rich, perfect,
passionate men and women, the author is capable of working out their
destiny."

Price $1.25 net; Postage 12 Cents

       *       *       *       *       *

The Macaulay Company, Publishers

15 West 38th Street New York



The Secret of the Night

By GASTON LEROUX

Author of "THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM," etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another thrilling mystery story in which the famous French detective
hero, Joseph Rouletabille, makes his appearance before the public again.
This character has won a place in the hearts of novel readers as no
other detective has since the creation of Sherlock Holmes.

Thousands upon thousands of people in two continents await eagerly every
book by Gaston Leroux that relates the adventures of the hero of "The
Mystery of the Yellow Room" and "The Perfume of the Lady in Black."

Price $1.25 net; Postage 12 Cents

       *       *       *       *       *

The Macaulay Company, Publishers

15 West 38th Street New York



Guardian Angels

By MARCEL PRÉVOST

Member of the Académie Française, Officer of the Legion of Honour

Author of "SIMPLY WOMEN," Etc.

       *       *       *       *       *

Every married woman ought to read this novel, if only to be forewarned
against a danger that may one day invade her own home. It is a story of
the double life led by the governesses of many young girls, showing the
dangers of such companionships.

It is no exaggeration to say that "Guardian Angels" is one of the most
remarkable novels that have been issued in any language during recent
years.

Price $1.25 net; Postage 12 Cents

       *       *       *       *       *

=The Macaulay Company, _Publishers_

15 West 38th Street New York=



The Crown Novels

FAMOUS BOOKS AT POPULAR PRICES

=HER SOUL AND HER BODY, By Louise Closser Hale=

The struggle between the spirit and the flesh of a young girl early in
life compelled to make her own way. Exposed to the temptations of life
in a big city, the contest between her better and lower natures is
described with psychological analysis and tender sympathy. Absorbingly
interesting.

=HELL'S PLAYGROUND, by Ida Vera Simonton=

This book deals with primal conditions in a land where "there ain't no
ten commandments"; where savagery, naked and unashamed, is not confined
to the blacks. It is a record of the life in the African tropics and it
is a powerful and fascinating story of a scene that has rarely been
depicted in fiction.

=THE MYSTERY OF No. 47, by J. Storer Clouston=

This is a most ingenious detective story--a thriller in every sense of
the word. The reader is led cleverly on until he is at a loss to know
what to expect, and, completely baffled, is unable to lay the book down
until he has finished the story and satisfied his perplexity.

=THE SENTENCE OF SILENCE, by Reginald Wright Kauffman=

Author of "The House of Bondage;" etc.

By "The Sentence of Silence" is meant that sentence of reticence
pronounced upon the subject of sex. That which means the continuance of
the human race is the one thing of which no one is permitted to speak.
In this book the subject is dealt with frankly.

=THE GIRL THAT GOES WRONG, by Reginald Wright Kauffman=

Author of "The House of Bondage."

The inexpressible conditions of human bondage of many young girls and
women in our cities demand fearless and uncompromising warfare. The
terrible peril that lingers just around the corner from every American
home must be stamped out with relentless purpose.

=TO-MORROW, by Victoria Cross=

Author of "Life's Shop Window." etc.

Critics agree that this is Victoria Cross' greatest novel. Those who
have read "Life's Shop Window," "Five Nights," "Anna Lombard," and
similar books by this author will ask no further recommendation.
"To-morrow" is a real novel--not a collection of short stories.

=SIMPLY WOMEN, by Marcel Prévost=

"Like a motor-car or an old-fashioned razor, this book should be in the
hands of mature persons only."--_St. Louis Post-Dispatch._

"Marcel Prévost. of whom a critic remarked that his forte was the
analysis of the souls and bodies of a type half virgin and half
courtesan, is now available in a volume of selections admirably
translated by R.I. Brandon-Vauvillez."--_San Francisco Chronicle._

=THE ADVENTURES OF A NICE YOUNG MAN, by Aix= =Joseph and Potiphar's Wife
Up-to-Date=

A handsome young, man, employed as a lady's private secretary, is bound,
to meet with interesting adventures.

"Under a thin veil the story unquestionably sets forth actual episodes
and conditions in metropolitan circles."--- _Washington Star._

=HER REASON, Anonymous=

This startling anonymous work of a well-known English novelist is a
frank exposure of Modern Marriage. "Her Reason" shows the deplorable
results of the process at work to-day among the rich, whose daughters
are annually offered for sale in the markets of the world.

=THE COUNTERPART, by Horner Cotes=

One of the best novels of the Civil War ever written. John Luther Loag,
the well-known writer, says of this book--"It is a perfectly bully story
and full of a fine sentiment. I have read it all--and with great
interest."

=THE PRINCESS OF FORGE, by George C. Shedd=

The tale of a man, and a maid, and a gold-mine--a stirring, romantic
American novel of the West. _The Chicago Inter-Ocean_ says--"Unceasing
action is the word for this novel. From the first to the last page there
is adventure."

=OUR LADY OF DARKNESS, by Albert Dorrington and A. G. Stephens=

A story of the Far East. _The Grand Rapids Herald_ says of the
book--"'Our Lady of Darkness' is entitled to be classed with 'The Count
of Monte Cristo.' It is one of the greatest stories of mystery and
deep-laid plot and its masterly handling must place it in the front rank
of modern fiction."

=THE DUPLICATE DEATH, by A. C. Fox-Davies=

A first-rate detective story--one that will keep you thrilled to the
very end. _The New York Tribune's_ verdict on the book is this--"We need
only commend it as a puzzling and readable addition to the fiction of
crime."

=THE DANGEROUS AGE, by Karin Michaelis=

Here is a woman's soul laid bare with absolute frankness. Europe went
mad about the book, which has been translated into twelve languages. It
betrays the freemasonry of womanhood.

=MY ACTOR HUSBAND, Anonymous=

The reader will be startled by the amazing truths set forth and, the
completeness of their revelations. Life behind the scenes is stripped
bare of all its glamor. Young women whom the stage attracts should read
this story. There is a ringing damnation in it.

=MRS. DRUMMOND'S VOCATION, by Mark Ryce=

Lily Drummond is an unmoral (not immoral) heroine. She was not a bad
girl at heart; but when chance opened up for her the view of a life she
had never known or dreamed of, her absence of moral responsibility did
the rest.

=DOWNWARD: "A Slice of Life," by Maud Churton Braby=

Author of "Modern Marriage and How to Bear It."

"'Downward' belongs to that great modern school of fiction built upon
woman's downfall. * * * I cordially commend this bit of fiction to the
thousands of young women who are yearning to see what they call
life.'"--_James L. Ford in the N. Y. Herald_.

=TWO APACHES OF PARIS, by Alice and Claude Askew=

Authors of "The Shulamite," "The Rod of Justice," etc.

All primal struggles originate with the daughters of Eve.

This story of Paris and London tells of the wild, fierce life of the
flesh, of a woman with the beauty of consummate vice to whom a man gave
himself, body and soul.

=THE VISITS OF ELIZABETH, by Elinor Glyn=

One of Mrs. Glyn's biggest successes. Elizabeth is a charming young
woman who is always saying and doing droll and, daring things, both
shocking and amusing.

=BEYOND THE ROCKS, by Elinor Glyn=

"One of Mrs. Glyn's highly sensational and somewhat erotic
novels."--_Boston Transcript_.

The scenes are laid in Paris and London; and a country-house party also
figures, affording the author some daring situations, which she has
handled deftly.

=THE REFLECTIONS OF AMBROSINE, by Elinor Glyn=

The story of the awakening of a young girl, whose maidenly emotions are
set forth as Elinor Glyn alone knows how.

"Gratitude and, power and self-control! * * * in nature I find there is
a stronger force than all these things, and that is the touch of the one
we love."--Ambrosine.

=THE VICISSITUDES OF EVANGELINE, by Elinor Glyn=

"One of Mrs. Glyn's most pungent tales of feminine idiosyncracy and
caprice."--Boston Transcript,

Evangeline is a delightful heroine with glorious red hair and amazing
eyes that looked a thousand unsaid challenges.

=DAYBREAK: a Prologue to "Three Weeks"=

"Daybreak" is a prologue to "Three Weeks" and forms the first of the
series, although published last. It is a highly interesting account of a
love episode that took place during the youth of the famous Queen of
"Three Weeks."

A story of the Balkans, this is one of the timely novels of the year.

=ONE DAY: a Sequel to "Three Weeks"=

"There is a note of sincerity in this book that is lacking in the
first."--Boston Globe.

"One Day" is the sequel you have been waiting for since reading "Three
Weeks," and is a story which points a moral, a clear, well-written
exposition of the doctrine, "As ye sow, so shall ye reap."

=HIGH NOON: a New Sequel to "Three Weeks" A Modern Romeo and Juliet=

A powerful, stirring love-story of twenty years after. Abounding in
beautiful descriptions and delicate pathos, this charming love idyl will
instantly appeal to the million and a quarter people who have read and
enjoyed "Three Weeks."

=THE DIARY OF MY HONEYMOON=

A woman who sets out to unburden her soul upon intimate things is bound
to touch upon happenings which are seldom the subject of writing at all;
but whatever may be said of the views of the anonymous author, the
"Diary" is a work of throbbing and intense humanity, the moral of which
is sound throughout and plain to see.

=THE INDISCRETION OF LADY USHER: a Sequel to "The Diary of My
Honeymoon"=

"Another purpose novel dealing with the question of marriage and dealing
very plainly,--one of the most interesting among the many books on these
lines which are at present attracting so much attention."--Cleveland
Town Topics.

_Price 50 cents per copy; Postage 10 cents extra Order from your
Bookseller or from the Publishers_

=THE MACAULAY COMPANY, 15 West 38th St., New York Send for Illustrated
Catalogue=





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