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.
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!