He looked at the windows of that enchanted room. All was darkness and silence. Cursing himself for a madman, he strode into the hall and examined the Visitors’ List. Suddenly the blood leaped to his face—his head reeled—his heart beat to suffocation. He was not dreaming, for there, as plainly as words could be written, was the entry:
Miss Ledoux and maid, New Orleans, U. S. A.
She was there—in Lucerne!—his Opal!
How Paul reached his room, he never knew. He was in an ecstasy—his young blood surging through his veins in response to the leap of the seething passions within.
Have you never felt it, Reader? If you have not, you had better lay aside this book, for you will never, never understand what followed—what must follow, in the very nature of human hearts.
Fate once more had placed happiness in his grasp—should he fling it from him? Never! never again! He remembered his mother and her great love, as she had bade him.
This day, following as it did his mother’s letter, had been a revelation to him of the possibilities of life, and of his own capacity for enjoying it. In one week, only one week more, he must take upon his shoulders the burdens of a kingdom. Should he let a mistaken sense of right and duty defraud him a second time? Was this barrier—which a stronger or a weaker man would have brushed aside without a second thought—to wreck his life, and Opal’s? He laughed exultingly. His whole soul was on fire, his whole body aflame.
Beyond the formality of the betrothal, Opal had not yet been bound to the Count. She was not his—yet! She could not be Paul’s wife—Fate had made that forever impossible—but she should be his, as he knew she already was at heart.
They loved, and was not love—everything!
He paced the floor in an excitement beyond his control. Opal should give him, out of her life, one day—one day in the little hotel on the Buergenstock, where his mother and her lover had been so happy. They, too, should be happy—as happy as two mating birds in a new-built nest—for one day they would forget all yesterdays and all to-morrows. He would make that one day as glorious and shadowless for her as a day could possibly be made—one day in which to forget that the world was gray—– one day which should live in their memories throughout all the years to come as the one ray of sunshine in two bleak and dreary lives!
And tempted, as he admitted to himself, quite beyond all reason, he swore by all that he held sacred to risk everything—brave everything—for the sake of living one day in Paradise.
“We have a right to be happy,” he said. “Everyone has a right to be happy, and we have done no wrong to the world. Why should we two, who have the capability of making so much of our lives and doing so much for the world, as we might have, together—why should we be sentenced to the misery of mere existence, while men and women far less worthy of happiness enjoy life in its utmost ecstasy?”