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!”
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.