“Ah,” he thought, “had they deliberately searched the world over for a fitting setting for their idyl, they could not have selected a retreat more perfect than this. It was made for lovers who love as they did.”
And at last, under the witchery of the star-studded skies, wearied and hungry, but filled and thrilled with the fragrance and glory of the memories of the mother whom his young heart idealized, he left the launch at the landing by the terrace steps and started blithely for the little restaurant, dreaming, always dreaming, not of the future—but of the past.
For him, alas, the future held no promise!
During the Boy’s absence that day a new guest had arrived at the little hotel. A capricious American lady, who had come to Lucerne, “for a day or two’s rest,” she said, before proceeding to Paris where an impatient Count awaited her and his wedding-day.
Yes, Opal was actually in Lucerne, and the suite of rooms once occupied by the mysterious Madame Zalenska were now given over to the little lady from over the seas, who, in spite of her diminutive stature, contrived to impress everybody with a sense of her own importance. She had just received a letter from her fiance, an unusually impatient communication, even from him. He was anxious, he said, for her and his long-delayed honeymoon. Honeymoon! God help her! Her soul recoiled in horror from the hideous prospect. Only two days more, she thought, pressing her lips tightly together. Oh, the horror of it! She dared not think of it, or she would go mad! But she would not falter. She had told herself that she was now resigned. She was going to defeat Fate after all!
She had partaken of her dinner, and was standing behind the ivy that draped the little balcony, watching the moon in its setting of Swiss skies and mystic landscape. How white and calm and spotless it appeared! It was not a man’s face she saw there—but that of a woman—the face of a nun in its saintly, virgin purity, suggesting only sweet inspiring thoughts of the glory of fidelity to duty, of the comfort and peace and rest that come of renunciation.
Opal clasped her hands together with a thrill of exultation at her own victory over the love and longings that were never to be fulfilled. A song of prayer and thanksgiving echoed in her heart over the thought that she had been strong enough to do her duty and bear the cross that life had so early laid upon her shoulders. She felt so good—so true—so pure—so strong to-night. She would make her life, she thought—her life that could know no personal love—abound in love for all the world, and be to all it touched a living, breathing benediction.
As she gazed she suddenly noticed a lighted launch on the little lake, and an inexplicable prescience disturbed the calm of her musings. She watched, with an intensity she could not have explained, the gradual approach of the little craft. What did that boat, or its passenger, matter to her that she should feel such an acute interest in its movements? Yet something told her it did matter much, and though she laughed at her superstition, nevertheless her heart listened to it, and dared not gainsay its insistent whisper.