“But, Opal, am I never to see you?—never? Surely we may meet sometimes—rarely, of course, at long intervals, when life grows gray and gloomy, and I am starving for one ray of the sunshine of your smile?”
“It would be dangerous, Paul, for both of us!”
“But the world is only a little place after all, beloved. We shall be thrown together again by Fate—as we have been this time.”
Then she smiled at him archly. “Ah, Paul, I know you so well! Your eyes are saying that you will often manage to see me ’by chance’—but you must not, dear, you must not”
“Girl, I can never forget one word you have uttered, one caress you have given—one tone of your voice—one smile of your lips—one glance of your eye—never, never in God’s world!”
“Hold me closer, Paul, and teach me to be brave!”
They clung together in an agony too poignant for words, too mighty for tears! And of the unutterable madness and anguish of those last bitter kisses of farewell, no mortal pen can write!
But theirs had been from the beginning a mad love—a mad, hopeless, fatal love—and it could bring neither of them happiness nor peace—nothing but the bitterness of eternal regret!
And thus the day—their one day of life—came to an end!
* * * * *
That evening, from the hotel at Lucerne, two telegrams flashed over the wires. One was addressed to the Count de Roannes, Paris, and read as follows:
“Shall reach Paris Monday afternoon.—Opal.”
The other was addressed to Sir Paul Verdayne, at Venice, and was not signed at all, saying simply,
“A son awaits his father in Lucerne.”
That night a sudden storm swept across Lucerne.
The thunder crashed like the boom of a thousand cannon; like menacing blades the lightning flashed its tongues of savage flame; the winds raved in relentless fury, rocking the giant trees like straws in the majesty of their wrath. Madness reigned in undisputed sovereignty, and the earth cowered and trembled beneath the anger of the threatening heavens.
Opal crouched in her bed, and buried her head in the pillows. She had never before known the meaning of fear, but now she was alone, and the consciousness of guilt was upon her—the acute agony of their separation mingled with the despairing prospect of a long, miserable loveless—yes, shameful,—life as the legal slave of a man she abhorred.
She did not regret the one day she had given to her lover. Whatever the cost, she would never, never regret, she said to herself, for it had been well worth any price that might be required of her. She gloried in it, even now, while the storm raged outside.
And the thunders crashed like the falling of mighty rocks upon the roof over her head. Should she summon Celeste, her maid?