“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.
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.