Sunday, 1 November 2015

ONE DAY Part III


      "I don't wonder at the court escapades that occasionally scandalize allEurope, " said the Boy. "I don't wonder at all! The real wonder is thatmore of the poor slaves to royalty do not snap the chains that bindthem, 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 itwould be very like the Boy to do such a thing, and he sighed as hethought that some time, perhaps, he might do it. And yet he could notblame him!

      


"Father Paul, " went on the Boy,
 his thoughts taking a new turn, "you area bachelor--a hopeless old bachelor--and you have never told me why. Ofcourse there's a woman or two in it! We have talked about everythingelse under the sun, I think--you and I--but, curiously enough, we havenever 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, andI want to hear what drove you to a life of single blessedness--what mademy romantic old pal such a confirmed old celibate! I don't believe thatyou 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 lipswhen you smile, in your eyes when you are moved, in your voice when youallow yourself to become reminiscent. You are full of memories that youhave never spoken of to me. And now, Father Paul--now is the acceptedtime!"

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

      So, as they sat together over their coffee and cigarettes, Verdayne toldhis young guest about the Curate's daughter, who had all unconsciouslywielded such an influence over the events of his past life. He told ofthe girl's kindness to him when he had broken his collarbone; of herassistance so freely offered to his mother; of her jolly, livelyspirits, her amiable disposition and general gay good-fellowship; andthen of the unlucky kiss that had aroused the suspicion and augustdispleasure of Lady Henrietta, and had sent her erring son a wandererover the face of Europe—to forget!

      He painted his sadness at leaving home--and Isabella--in patheticcolors. Indeed, he became quite affecting when he pictured his partingwith Isabella, and when in repeating his parting words, he managed toget just the right suspicion of a tremble into his voice, he really feltquite 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 curedmerely 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 likethat! 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 asyour Uncle Peter now means it for the best for you and yours. Shethought 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 bequite six foot tall. I could never love a woman small either in body ormind. I am sure I should have liked your Isabella, Father Paul. Majesticwomen of majestic minds for me, for there you have the royal stamp ofnature that makes some women born to the purple. Yes, I am sure I shouldhave liked Isabella. Tell me more. "

      Paul Verdayne smiled. He should hardly have considered Isabella Waringin any degree "majestic"--but he did not say so.  "She was charmingly healthy and robust--athletic, you know, and allthat--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 herstyle at all. And she naturally thought--mother did, I mean--that whenshe sent me away 'for my health'"--the Boy smiled--"that I'd forget allabout her. "

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

      "Forget!" and there was a fine scorn in the tones of the youngenthusiast. "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 shedie?"

      "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 wasdifferent. Tell me how it was when you came home. "

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

      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! Andhow could he, poor man, still keep his firm, dauntless belief in thegoodness and truth of human nature after so bitter an experience asthis! It shocked his sense of right and justice--this story. He wishedhe had not asked to hear it. 

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

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


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

      But the mind of the young prince was restive, that day. Nothing held hisattention long. It seemed, like his eye, to be roving hither andthither, 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 hehad passed one season of keenest anguish. He had good reason to rememberit--such good reason that in all their wanderings about the world he hadnever seen fit to take the Boy  there. 

      But something had aroused the young fellow's passing interest, and nownothing would satisfy him save that he must hear all about America; andso, for a full hour, as best he could, Verdayne described the country ofthe far West as he remembered it. 

      "Nothing in America appealed to me so strongly as the giganticprairies, " he said at last. "You were so deeply moved by our trip toAfrica, Boy, that you must remember the impression of vastness andinfinity the great desert made upon us. Well, in the glorious West ofAmerica it is as if the desert had sprung to life, and from every grainof sand had been born a blade of grass, waving and fluttering with thejoy of new birth. Oh, it is truly wonderful, Paul! Once I went therewith the soil of my heart scorched as dry and lifeless as the burningsands of Sahara, but in that revelation of a new creation,

 some pulsewithin me sprang mysteriously into being again. It could never be thesame heart that it once was, but it would now know the semblance of anew 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 forme, Boy!" He paused for a moment, and then spoke in a sadder tone. "Itwas soon after that, Paul, that I first found you. "

      Paul Zalenska thought that he understood. That, of course, was afterIsabella Waring had wrecked his life. Cruel, heartless Isabella! He hadnever even heard her name before to-day, but he hated her, wherever shemight be!

      "There is a legend they tell out there that is very pretty andappropriate, " went on Verdayne, dreamily. "They say that when theCreator made the world, He had indiscriminately strewn continents andvalleys, mountains and seas, islands and lakes, until He came to thewestern part of America, and despite His omnipotence, was puzzled toknow what new glories He could possibly contrive for this corner of theearth. Something majestic and mighty it must be, He thought, and yet ofan altogether different beauty from that in the rest of theuniverse--something individual, distinctive. The seas still overflowedthe land, as they had through past eternities, awaiting His touch tocall into form and being the elements still sleeping beneath thewater--the living representation of His thought. Suddenly stretching outHis rod, He bade the waters recede--and they did so, leaving a vastextent of grassy land where the majestic waves had so lately rolled andtossed. And it is said that the land retains to this day the memory ofthe sea it then was, while the grasses wave with a subtle suggestion ofthe ocean's ebb and flow beneath the influence of a wind that is like noother 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 didbefore the mystic change from water into earth. Indeed, the firstimpression one receives of the prairie is that of a vast sea of growingvegetation!"

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

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

      "Yes, Boy, some time!"

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

      Why should _not_ Paul be happy? Was he not twenty, and handsome, andrich, and popular, and destined for great things? Was there a want inthe 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 thanreverence, and he rode along silently, slowly, a frown clouding hisfresh, boyish brow, face to face with the prose of the existence hewould fain have had all romance and poetry. 

      It had all been arranged for him by well-meaning minds--minds that couldnever see how the blessing they had intended to bestow might by anychance become a curse. 

      The Boy came of age in February next--February nineteenth--but it hadbeen the strongly expressed wish of his mother that his coronationshould 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 herown early death, and had formed many plans and voiced many preferencesfor his future. No one knew what personal reasons the Imperatorskoye hadfor the wish, but she had so definitely and unmistakably made the desireknown to all her councillors that none dreamed of disobeying the mandateof their deceased and ever-to-be-lamented Queen. Her slightest wish hadalways been to them an Unassailable law. 

      So the coronation ceremonies were to take place in the May following thePrince's birthday, and the Regent had arranged that the marriage shouldalso be celebrated at that time. Of course, the Boy had acquiesced. Hesaw no reason to put it off any longer. It was always best to swallowyour bitterest pill first, he thought, and get the worst over and thetaste 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 theRegent, finding him in all other respects so amenable to his leading, gladly made the concession. This left him a year--that is, nearly ayear, 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 happybridegroom; a year of Father Paul!

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

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

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

      She was only a girl--about eighteen or nineteen, he should judge by herfigure and the girlish poise of her small head--but she certainly knewhow to ride. She sat her horse as though a part of him, and controlledhis every motion as she would her own. "Just that way might she manage a man, " Paul thought, and then laughedaloud at the absurdity of the thought. For he had never seen the girlbefore. 

      Paul admired a good horsewoman--they are so pitifully few. And hefollowed her, at a safe distance, with an interest unaccountable, evento 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 abird, so lightly tripping over the walk that her feet scarcely seemed totouch the ground. She was a wee thing--certainly not more than five foottall--and _petite_, almost to an extreme. The Boy had expressed apreference, only a few days before, for tall, magnificent women. Now hesuddenly discovered that the woman for a man to love should by all meansbe short and small. He wondered why it had never occurred to him in thatlight before, and thought of Jacques' question about Rosalind, "Whatstature 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 stonesteps by this time, and suddenly turning to look over her shoulder, justas he passed the gate, met his gaze squarely. Gad! what eyes thosewere!--full of mystery and magnetism, and--possibilities!

      For an instant their eyes clung together in that strange mingling ofglances that sometimes holds even utter strangers spell-bound by itscompelling force. 

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

      But that glance went with him. It tormented him, troubled him, perplexedhim. 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 owneyes? 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 everseen--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 theyare--nor _care!_"

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

      But the strangest thing of all was that the Boy, for the nonce, was notthinking of--nor listening for--the voice!

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

      He was not very far from the Verdayne house, when, turning a suddencorner, he came upon the girl again, riding at a leisurely pace in theopposite direction. Startled by his unexpected appearance, she glancedback over her shoulder as she passed, surprising him--and perhapsherself, too, for girls do that sometimes--by a ringing and tantalizinglaugh!

      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 swifterand was far down the street before he was fairly started in pursuit. Hisone desire of the moment was to catch and conquer the sprite thattempted him. 

      Her veil fluttered out behind her on the breeze, like a signal ofno-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 heheard 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 escapedbeyond his vision--and beyond his reach. He halted his panting horse atthe crossing of several streets, and swore again. But though he lookedsearchingly in every possible direction, there was no trace of thefugitive to be seen. It was as though the earth had opened andswallowed horse and rider in one greedy gulp. 

      Baffled and more disappointed than he cared to own, Paul rode slowlyback to Berkeley Square, his heart bounding with the excitement of thechase 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 tohim his position and its unwelcome responsibilities. One of themenclosed 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. " Yethe pushed the portrait aside with an impatient gesture, and before hismental vision rose a little figure tripping up the steps, with abackward glance that still seemed to pierce his very soul. 

      He was not thinking, as he certainly should have been, of the PrincessElodie! And he had not even noticed whether she had any eyes or not! He looked again at the picture of the Austrian princess, lying faceupward upon the pile of letters. With disgust and loathing he swept theoffending portrait into a drawer, and summoning Vasili, began to make ahasty toilet. 

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

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

      He had found the voice, but--


      It was the next morning at the breakfast table that Paul Zalenska, listlessly looking over the "Society Notes" in the _Times_, came uponthis 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 notbe more than one Opal in America!

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

      Verdayne smiled quietly at the suddenness of the proposal, but was notunduly surprised. He remembered many unaccountable impulses of his ownwhen his life was young and his blood was hot. He remembered too with atender gratitude how his father had humored him and--was he not "FatherPaul"?

      "I see no reason why not, Boy. "

      "You see, I have already lost a whole month out of my one free year. Iam 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 backto--prison!"

      "Certainly, Boy, certainly. My time is yours--when you want it, andwhere 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 wasnot so young as she once was and she still adored her son, as only themother of but one child can adore, and could not bear the idea of havinghim away from her. Old and steady as he had now become, he was still herboy, the idol of her heart. Yet she felt, as her son did, that the Boywas entitled to the few months of liberty left him, and she did notgreatly object, though there was a wistful look in her eyes as theyrested on her son that told how keenly she felt every separation fromhim. 

      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 theiryoung guest had upon their son. And he bade them go with a hearty graspof 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 wasimmediately secured on the Lusitania. * * * * *

      On the morning of the day appointed, Paul Zalenska from an upper deckwatched 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 assuredhimself that the Frenchman was as old as Ledoux and not the gay youngdandy in Opal's train that he had feared to find him. 

      He had eyes alone for the girl, and he watched her closely as shetripped up the gang-plank, clinging to her father's arm and chatteringgayly 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 outlinewell in proportion to the shortness of her stature. 

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

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

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

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

      How would it end? How _could_ it end?

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

      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 ofthinking people, was apparently worried, for his face bore unmistakablesigns of some mental disturbance. Paul Zalenska was struck by thehaunted expression of what must naturally have been a grave countenance. It was not guilt, for he had not the face of a man pursued byconscience, but it certainly was fear--a real fear. And Paul wondered. 

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

      It was not until the middle of the following afternoon that Opal Ledouxappeared on deck, when her father, with an air of pride, mingled with acertain curious element of timidity, presented to her in due form boththe Englishman and his friend. The eyes of the two young people flashed a recognition that the lips ofeach tacitly denied as they responded conventionally to theintroduction. 

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

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

      But not so our Boy!

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

      When the elderly gallant noted the attitude of the young fellow he casta quick glance of suspicion at Opal. He would have withdrawn hisproposal had he been able to find any plausible excuse. But it was toolate. And with an inward invective on his own blundering, he followedthe 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 longand searchingly into her face. If the girl intended to ignore theirformer meeting, he thought, he would at once put that idea beyond allquestion. She bore his scrutiny with no apparent embarrassment. She wasan 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 takeit back. 
Then she remembered that she had said that she would call him "Paul" thefirst 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 arethe things we don't--and can't--understand. Is it not so?"

      "Perhaps!" doubtfully. She had never thought of it in just that lightbefore, but it might be true. It was human nature to be attracted bymystery. "But you have been looking for me, you say! Since when?--ourrace?" 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, " andshe 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 uponthe 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 allsure 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 anabbreviation!"

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

      "Well, some abbreviations are more effective than the words they standfor, " she retorted. "I shall cling to the flattering hope that such maybe 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 italmost 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 fortunateas 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, thattold him she was not blind to his manoeuvres. Their eyes met and theylaughed again. Truly, life just then was exceedingly pleasant for thetwo 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 gardenparty--what a long time ago it seemed!--and his desire, ever since, tomeet 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 wellto keep some things to herself. 

      He did not say that he was deliberately following her to America, butthe girl had her own ideas upon the subject and smiled to herself at thelively development of affairs since that tiresome garden party she hadfound 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 thesigns upon her face correctly. She was troubled. 

      For a long time they sat together, and looking far out over the vastexpanse 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 itsflashes of personality and freedom from conventions, that it seemed likea meeting of old friends, rather than of strangers. Some intimacies arelike the oak, long and steady of growth; others spring to full maturityin an hour's time. And these two had bridged the space of years in a fewmoments of converse. They understood each other so well.  This same idea occurred to them simultaneously, as she looked up at himwith eyes glowing with a quick appreciation of some well-expressed andworthy thought. Something within him stirred to sudden life--somethingthat no one else had ever reached. 

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

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

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

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