And Verdayne threw his arm around the Boy’s neck, and said, “Blame you? No, Boy, no! And may God bless and speed you!”
And the next day they started for the South.
It was early in the morning, a few days later, when Paul Verdayne and his young friend reached New Orleans. Immediately after breakfast—he would have presented himself before had he dared—the Boy called at the home of the Ledouxs. Verdayne had important letters to write, as he informed the Boy with a significant smile, and begged to be allowed to remain behind.
And the impatient youth, blessing him mentally for his tact, set forth alone.
The residence that he sought was one of the most picturesque and beautiful of the many stately old mansions of the city. It was enclosed by a high wall that hid from the passers-by all but the most tantalizing glimpses of a fragrant, green tropical garden, and gave an air of exclusiveness to the habitation of this proud old family. As the Boy passed through the heavy iron gate, and his eye gazed in appreciation upon the tints of foliage no autumn chills had affected, and the glints of sun and shadow that only heightened the splendor of blossom, and shrub, and vine, which were pouring their incense upon the air, he felt that he was indeed entering the Garden of Eden—the Garden of Eden with no French serpents to tempt from him the woman that had been created his helpmeet.
He found Opal, and a tall, handsome young man in clerical vestments, sitting together upon the broad vine-shaded veranda. The girl greeted him cordially and introduced him to the priest, Father Whitman.
At first Paul dared not trust himself to look at Opal too closely, and he did not notice that her face grew ashen at his approach. She had recovered her usual self-possession when he finally looked at her, and now the only apparent sign of unusual agitation was a slight flush upon her cheek—an excited sparkle in her eye—which might have been the effect of many causes.
He watched the priest curiously. How noble-looking he was! He felt sure that he would have liked him in any other garb. What did his presence here portend?
Paul had supposed that Opal was a Catholic; indeed had been but little concerned what she professed. She had never appeared to him to be specially religious, but, if she was, that absurd idea of self-sacrifice for a dead mother she had never known might appeal to the love of penance which is inherent in all of Catholic faith, and she might not surrender to her great love for him.
The priest rose.
“Must you go, Father?” asked Opal.
“Yes!... I will call to-morrow, then?”
“Yes—tomorrow! And”—she suddenly threw herself upon her knees at his feet—“your blessing, Father” she begged.
The priest laid a hand upon her head, and raised his eyes to Heaven. Then, making the sign of the cross upon her forehead, he took her hands in his, and gently raised her to her feet. She clung to his hands imploringly.