“Certainly, Boy! You are to stay in Lucerne only until you are sure you understand all the revelations of these letters, and their full import. It may be a week—it may be a day—it may be but a few hours, but—I can’t go with you, and you must not ask me to! It is an experience you must face alone. I will await you in Venice, Paul, and be sure that when you want me, Boy, I will come!”
The Boy’s sensitive nature was stirred to the depths by the emotion in Sir Paul’s face—emotion that all his life long he had never seen there before. He grasped his hand—
“Father Paul,” he began, but Sir Paul shook his head at the unspoken appeal in his face and bade him be patient just a little longer and await his letters, for he could tell him nothing.
And thus they parted; the Boy to seek in Lucerne the unveiling of his destiny, the man to wait in Venice, a place he had shunned for one-and-twenty years, but which was dearer to him than any other city in the world. It was there that he had lived the climax of his love-life, with its unutterable ecstasy—and unutterable pain.
Vasili had preceded his young master to Lucerne with the letters that had been too precious, and of too secret a nature, to be entrusted to the post. Who can define the sensations of the young prince as he held in his hand the whole solution of the mystery that had haunted all his years? He trembled—paled. What was this secret—perhaps this terrible secret—which was to be a secret no longer?
Alone in his apartment, he opened the little packet and read the note from the Regent, which enclosed the others, and then—he could read no further. The few words of information that there stared him in the face drove every other thought from his mind, every other emotion from his heart. His father! Why hadn’t he seen? Why hadn’t he known? A thousand significant memories rushed over him in the light of the startling revelation. How blind he had been! And he sat for hours, unheeding the flight of time, thinking only the one thought, saying over and over again the one name, the name of his father, his own father, whom he had loved so deeply all his life—
At last, when he felt that he could control his scattered senses, he turned over the letters in the packet and found his mother’s. How his boyish heart thrilled at this message from the dead!—a message that he had waited for, and that had been waiting for him, one-and-twenty years! The letter began:
“Once, my baby, thy father—long before he was thy father—had a presentiment that if he became my lover my life would find a tragic end.
“Once, likewise, I told thy father, before he became my lover, that the price we might have to pay, if we permitted ourselves to love, would be sorrow and death! For, my baby, these are so often the terrible cost of such a love as ours. That he has been my lover—my beloved—heart of my heart—thine own existence is the living proof; and something—an intangible something—tells me that the rest of his prophecy will likewise be fulfilled. We have known the sorrow—aye, as few others have—and even now I feel that we shall also know death!