“Couldn’t help it?”—Oh, the scorn of her reply. “If there had been any man in you at all, you could have helped it!”
“No, Opal, you don’t understand! It is because I am a man that I couldn’t help it. It doesn’t strike you that way now, I know, but—some day you will see it!”
And suddenly she did see it. And she reached out her hand to him, and whispered, “Then let’s forget all about it. I am willing to—if you will!”
Forget? He would not promise that. He did not wish to forget! And she looked so pretty and provoking as she said it, that he wanted to—! But he only took her hand, and looked his gratitude into her eyes.
The Count de Roannes came unexpectedly and unobserved upon the climax of the little scene, and read into it more significance than it really had. It was not strange, perhaps, that to him this meeting should savour of clandestine relations and that he should impute to it false motives and impulses. The Count prided himself upon his tact, and was therefore very careful to use the most idiomatic English in his conversation. But at this sudden discovery—for he had not imagined that the acquaintance had gone beyond his own discernment—he felt the English language quite inadequate to the occasion, and muttered something under his breath that sounded remarkably like “Tison d’enfer!” as he turned on his heel and made for his stateroom.
And the Boy, unconscious and indifferent to all this by-play, had only time to press to his lips the little hand she had surrendered to him before the crowd was upon them.
But the waves were singing a Te Deum in his ears, and the skies were bluer in the moonlight than ever sea-skies were before. Paul felt, with a thrill of joy, that he was looking far off into the vaster spaces of life, with their broader, grander possibilities. He felt that he was wiser, nobler, stronger—nearer his ideal of what a brave man should be.
When two are young, and at sea, and in love, and the world is beautiful and bright, it is joyous and wonderful to drift thoughtlessly with the tide, and rise and fall with the waves. Thus Paul Zalenska and Opal Ledoux spent that most delightful of voyages on the Lusitania. They were not often alone. They did not need to be. Their intimacy had at one bound reached that point when every word and movement teemed with tender significance and suggestion. Their first note had reached such a high measure that all the succeeding days followed at concert pitch. It was a voyage of discovery. Each day brought forth revelations of some new trait of character—each unfolding that particular something which the other had always admired.
And so their intimacy grew.
Paul Verdayne saw and smiled. He was glad to see the Boy enjoying himself. He knew his chances for that sort of thing were all too pathetically few.