Sunday, 1 November 2015

ONE DAY Part IV

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!
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.
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 RĂ©camier 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 heartache 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 tonight!" "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 tonight! Her blood was rushing madly through her body. She was deliciously, thoroughly alive! "Paul!—are you listening?" "Yes, dear!" the answer strangely muffled.


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