One thing he was firmly resolved upon. Opal should not know his real rank. She should give herself to Paul Zalenska, the man—not to Paul the Prince! His rank should gloss over nothing—nothing—and for all she knew now to the contrary, her future rank as Countess de Roannes was superior to his own.
And then as silence fell about the little hotel, unbroken save by some strolling musicians in the square near at hand who sent the most tender of Swiss love-melodies out upon the evening air, Paul walked out to the terrace, passed through the little gate, and reaching the balcony, knocked gently but imperatively upon the door of the room that was once his mother’s.
The door was opened cautiously.
Paul stepped inside, and closed it softly behind him.
In the moonlit room, Paul and Opal faced each other in a silence heavy with emotion.
It had been months since they parted, yet for some moments neither spoke. Opal first found her voice.
“Paul! You-saw me!”
“I felt your eyes!”
“Oh, why did I come!”
Opal had begun to prepare for the night and had thrown about her shoulders a loose robe of crimson silk. Her lustrous hair, like waves of burnished copper, hung below her waist in beautiful confusion. With trembling fingers she attempted to secure it.
“Your hair is wonderful, Opal! Please leave it as it is,” Paul said softly. And, curiously enough, she obeyed in silence.
“Paul,” she said at last, with a little nervous laugh, as she recovered her self-possession and seated herself on the couch, “don’t stand staring at me! I’m not a tragedy queen! You’re too melodramatic. Sit down and tell me why you’ve come here at this hour.”
Paul obeyed mechanically, his gaze still upon her. She shrank from the expression of his eyes—it was the old tiger-look again!
“I came because I had to, Opal. I could not have done otherwise. I have something to tell you.”
“Something to tell me?” she repeated.
“Yes. The most interesting story in the world to me, Opal—a letter from my mother—a letter to me alone, which I can share with only one woman in the world—the woman I love!”
Her eyes fell. As she raised her hand abstractedly to adjust the curtain, Paul saw the flash of her betrothal ring. He caught her hand in his and quietly slipped the ring from her finger. She seized the jewel with her free hand and tried to thrust it into her bosom.
“No! no!—not there!” he remonstrated, and was not satisfied until she had crossed the room and hidden it from his sight.
“Does that please your majesty?” she asked, with a curious little tremble in her voice.
Paul started, and stared at her with a world of wonder in his eyes. Could she know?
“Your majesty—” he stammered.