It was more difficult to arrange matters with Lady Henrietta. She was not so young as she once was and she still adored her son, as only the mother of but one child can adore, and could not bear the idea of having him away from her. Old and steady as he had now become, he was still her boy, the idol of her heart. Yet she felt, as her son did, that the Boy was entitled to the few months of liberty left him, and she did not greatly object, though there was a wistful look in her eyes as they rested on her son that told how keenly she felt every separation from him.
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 their young guest had upon their son. And he bade them go with a hearty grasp of 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 was immediately secured on the Lusitania.
* * * * *
On the morning of the day appointed, Paul Zalenska from an upper deck watched 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 assured himself that the Frenchman was as old as Ledoux and not the gay young dandy in Opal’s train that he had feared to find him.
He had eyes alone for the girl, and he watched her closely as she tripped up the gang-plank, clinging to her father’s arm and chattering gayly 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 outline well in proportion to the shortness of her stature.
He had been proud of his kingship—very proud of his royal blood and his mission to his little kingdom. But of late he had known some rebellious thoughts, quite foreign to his mental habit.
And to-day, as he looked at Opal Ledoux, he thought, “After all, how much of a real man can I ever be? What am I but a petty pawn on the chessboard of the world, moved hither and yon, to gain or to lose, by the finger of Fate!”
As Opal Ledoux passed him, she met his glance, and slightly flushed by the rencontre, looked back over her shoulder at him and—smiled! And such a smile! She passed on, leaving him tingling in every fibre with the thrill of it.
It was Fate. He had felt it from the very first, and now he was sure of it.
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 of thinking people, was apparently worried, for his face bore unmistakable signs of some mental disturbance. Paul Zalenska was struck by the haunted expression of what must naturally have been a grave countenance. It was not guilt, for he had not the face of a man pursued by conscience, but it certainly was fear—a real fear. And Paul wondered.