Part 2 out of 3
shut, remember. No d----d gossip back to the servants here, or in hotels,
or houses--and, above all, no details must ever reach her Ladyship. If he
gets into any thundering mess let me know--but mum's the word, d'y
"I do, Sir Charles," said Tompson, stolidly.
And he did, as events proved.
The rooms on the Buergenstock looked so simple, so unlike the sitting-room
at Lucerne! Just fresh and clean and primitive. Paul wandered through
them, and in the one allotted to himself he came upon Anna--Madame's maid,
whom Dmitry had pointed out to him--putting sheets as fine as gossamer on
his bed; with the softest down pillows. How dear of his lady to think thus
of him!--her secretary.
The tiger--his tiger--had arrived in the sitting-room, and some simple
cushions of silk; sweet-peas and spring flowers decorated the vases--there
were no tuberoses, or anything hot-house, or forced.
The sun blazed in at the windows, the green trees all washed and fresh
from the rain gladdened his eye, and down below, a sapphire lake reflected
the snow-capped mountains. What a setting for a love-dream. No wonder Paul
trod on air!
The only possible crumpled rose-leaves were some sentences in the lady's
reply to his impassioned letter of the morning:
"Yes, I will come, Paul--but only on one condition, that you never ask me
questions as to who I am, or where I am going. You must promise me to take
life as a summer holiday--an episode--and if fate gives us this great joy,
you must not try to fetter me, now or at any future time, or control my
movements. You must give me your word of honour for this--you will never
seek to discover who or what was your loved one--you must never try to
follow me. Yes, I will come for now--when I have your assurance--but I
will go when I will go--in silence."
And Paul had given his word. He felt he could not look ahead. He must just
live in this gorgeous joy, and trust to chance. So he awaited her,
thrilling in all his being.
About tea time she drove up in a carriage--she and Dmitry having come the
long way round.
And was it not right that her secretary should meet and assist her out,
and conduct her to her apartments?
How beautiful she looked, all in palest grey, and somehow the things had a
younger shape. Her skirt was short, and he could see her small and slender
feet, while a straw hat and veil adorned her black hair. Everything was
simple, and as it should be for a mountain top and unsophisticated
Tea was laid out on the balcony, fragrant Russian tea, and when Dmitry had
lit the silver kettle lamp he retired and left them alone in peace.
"Darling!" said Paul, as he folded her in his arms--"darling!--darling!"
And when she could speak the lady cooed back to him:
"So sweet a word is that, my Paul. Sweeter in English than in any other
language. And you are glad I have come, and we shall live a little and be
quite happy here in our pretty nest, all fresh and not a bit too grand--is
it not so? Oh! what joys there are in life; and oh! how foolish just to
"Indeed, _yes_," said Paul.
Then they played with the tea, and she showed him how he was to drink it
with lemon. She was sweet as a girl, and said no vague, startling things;
it was as if she were a young bride, and Paul were complete master and
lord! Wild happiness rushed through him. How had he ever endured the time
before he had met her?
When they had finished they went out. She must walk, she said, and Paul,
being English, must want exercise! Oh! she knew the English and their
exercise! And of course she must think of everything that would be for the
pleasure of her lover Paul.
And he? You old worn people of the world, who perhaps are reading, think
what all this was to Paul--his young strong life vibrating to passionate
joys, his imagination kindled, his very being uplifted and thrilled with
happiness! His charming soul expanded, he found himself saying gracious
tender phrases to her. Every moment he was growing more passionately in
love, and in each new mood she seemed the more divine. Not one trace of
her waywardness of the day before remained. Her eyes, as they glanced at
him from under her hat, were bashful and sweet, no look of the devil to
provoke a saint. She talked gently.
He must take her to the place where she had peeped at him through the
"Oh! Paul!" she said. "If you had known that day, how you tempted me,
looking up at me, your whole soul in your eyes! I had to run, run, run!"
"And now I have caught you, darling mine," said Paul. "But you were wrong.
I had no soul--it is you who are giving me one now."
They sat on the bench where he had sat. She was getting joy out of the
colour of the moss, the tints of the beeches, every little shade and shape
of nature, and letting Paul see with her eyes.
And all the while she was nestling near him like a tender ring-dove to her
mate. Paul's heart swelled with exultation. He felt good, as if he could
be kind to every one, as if his temper were a thing to be ashamed of, and
all his faults, as if for ever he must be her own true knight and
defender, and show her he was worthy of this great gift and joy. And ah!
how could he put into words his tender worshipping love?
So the afternoon faded into evening, and the young crescent moon began to
show in the sky--a slender moon of silver, only born the night before.
"See, this is our moon," said the lady, "and as she waxes, so will our
love wax--but now she is young and fresh and fair, like it. Come, my Paul.
Let us go to our house; soon we shall dine, and I want to be beautiful for
So they went in to their little hotel.
She was all in white when Paul found her in their inner salon, where they
were to dine alone, waited on only by Dmitry. Her splendid hair was bound
with a fillet of gold, and fell in two long strands, twisted with gold,
nearly to her knees. Her garment was soft and clinging, and unlike any
garment he had ever seen. They sat on a sofa together, the table in front
of them, and they ate slowly and whispered much--and before Paul could
taste his wine, she kissed his glass and sipped from it and made him do
the same with hers. The food was of the simplest, and the only things
exotic were the great red strawberries at the end.
Dmitry had left them, placing the coffee on the table as he went, and a
bottle of the rare golden wine.
Then this strange lady grew more tender still. She must lie in Paul's
arms, and he must feed her with strawberries. And the thought came to him
that her mouth looked as red as they.
To say he was intoxicated with pleasure and love is to put it as it was.
It seemed as if he had arrived at a zenith, and yet he knew there would be
more to come. At last she raised herself and poured out the yellow
wine--into one glass.
"My Paul," she said, "this is our wedding might, and this is our wedding
wine. Taste from this our glass and say if it is good."
And to the day of his death, if ever Paul should taste that wine again, a
mad current of passionate remembrance will come to him--and still more
Oh! the divine joy of that night! They sat upon the balcony presently, and
Elaine in her worshipping thoughts of Lancelot--Marguerite wooed by
Faust--the youngest girl bride--could not have been more sweet or tender
or submissive than this wayward Tiger Queen.
"Paul," she said, "out of the whole world tonight there are only you and I
who matter, sweetheart. Is it not so? And is not that your English word
for lover and loved--'sweetheart'?"
And Paul, who had never even heard it used except in a kind of joke, now
knew it was what he had always admired. Yes, indeed, it was
"sweetheart"--and she was his!
"Remember, Paul," she whispered when, passion maddening him, he clasped
her violently in his arms--"remember--whatever happens--whatever
comes--for now, to-night, there is no other reason in all of this but
just--I love you--I love you, Paul!"
"My Queen, my Queen!" said Paul, his voice hoarse in his throat.
And the wind played in softest zephyrs, and the stars blazed in the sky,
mirroring themselves in the blue lake below.
Such was their wedding night.
Oh! glorious youth! and still more glorious love!
Who can tell the joy of their awakening? The transcendent pleasure to
Paul to be allowed to play with his lady's hair, all unbound for him to do
with as he willed? The glory to realise she was his--his own--in his arms?
And then to be tenderly masterful and give himself lordly airs of
possession. She was almost silent, only the history of the whole world of
passion seemed written in her eyes--slumbrous, inscrutable, their heavy
lashes making shadows on her soft, smooth cheeks.
The ring-dove was gone, a thing of mystery lay there instead--unresisting,
motionless, white. Now and then Paul looked at her half in fear. Was she
real? Was it some dream, and would he wake in his room at Verdayne Place
among the sporting prints and solid Chippendale furniture to hear Tompson
saying, "Eight o'clock, sir, and a fine day"?
Oh, no, no, she was real! He raised himself, and bent down to touch her
tenderly with his forefinger. Yes, all this fascination was indeed his,
living and breathing and warm, and he was her lover and lord. Ah!
The same coloured orchid-mauve silk curtains as at Lucerne were drawn over
the open windows, so the sun in high heaven seemed only as dawn in the
room, filtering though the _jalousies_ outside. But what was time? Time
counts as one lives, and Paul was living now.
It was twelve o'clock before they were ready for their dainty breakfast,
laid out under the balcony awning.
And the lady talked tenderly and occupied herself with the fancies of her
lord, as a new bride should.
But all the time the mystery stayed in her eyes. And the thought came to
Paul that were he to live with her for a hundred years, he would never be
sure of their real meaning.
"What shall we do with our day, my Paul?" she said presently. "See, you
shall choose. Shall we climb to the highest point on this mountain and
look at our kingdom of trees and lake below? Or shall we rest in the
launch and glide over the blue water, and dream sweet dreams? Or shall we
drive in the carriage far inland to a quaint farmhouse I know, where we
shall see people living in simple happiness with their cows and their
sheep? Decide, sweetheart--decide!"
"Whatever you would wish, my Queen," said Paul.
Then the lady frowned, and summer lightnings flashed from her eyes.
"Of course, what I shall wish! But I have told you to choose, feeble Paul!
There is nothing so irritates me as these English answers. Should I have
asked you to select our day had I decided myself? I would have commanded
Dmitry to make the arrangements, that is all. But no! to-day I am thy
obedient one. I ask my Love to choose for me. To-morrow I may want my own
will; to-day I desire only thine, beloved," and she leant forward and
looked into his eyes.
"The mountain top, then!" said Paul, "because there we can sit, and I can
gaze at you, and learn more of life, close to your lips. I might not touch
you in the launch, and you might look at others at the farm--and it seems
as if I could not bear one glance or word turned from myself today!"
"You have chosen well. _Mylyi moi._"
The strange words pleased him; he must know their meaning, and learn to
pronounce them himself. And all this between their dainty dishes took
time, so it was an hour later before they started for their walk.
Up, up those winding paths among the firs and larches--up and up to the
top. They dawdled slowly until they reached their goal. There, aloof from
the beaten track, safe from the prying eyes of some chance stranger, they
sat down, their backs against a giant rock, and all the glory of their
lake and tree-tops to gaze at down below.
Paul had carried her cloak, and now they spread it out, covering their
couch of moss and lichen. A soft languor was over them both. Passion was
asleep for the while. But what exquisite bliss to sit thus, undisturbed in
their eyrie--he and she alone in all the world.
Her words came back to him: "Love means to be clasped, to be close, to be
touching, to be One!" Yes, they were One.
Then she began to talk softly, to open yet more windows in his soul to joy
and sunshine. Her mind seemed so vast, each hour gave him fresh surprises
in the perception of her infinite knowledge, while she charmed his fancy
by her delicate modes of expression and un-English perfect pronunciation,
no single word slurred over.
"Paul," she said presently, "how small seem the puny conventions of the
world, do they not, beloved? Small as those little boats floating like
scattered flower-leaves on the great lake down there. They were invented
first to fill the place of the zest which fighting and holding one's own
by the strength of one's arm originally gave to man. Now, he has only laws
to combat, instead of a fiercer fellow creature--a dull exchange forsooth!
Here are you and I--mated and wedded and perfectly happy--and yet by these
foolish laws we are sinning, and you would be more nobly employed yawning
with some bony English miss for your wife--and I by the side of a mad,
drunken husband. All because the law made us swear a vow to keep for ever
stationary an emotion! Emotion which we can no more control than the trees
can which way the wind will blow their branches! To love! Oh! yes, they
call it that at the altar--'joined together by God!' As likely as not two
human creatures who hate each other, and are standing there swearing those
impossibilities for some political purpose and advantage of their family.
They desecrate the word love. Love is for us, Paul, who came together
because our beings cried, 'This is my mate!' I should say nothing of
it--oh no! if it had no pretence--marriage. If it were frankly a
contract--'Yes, I give you my body and my dowry.' 'Yes, you give me your
name and your state.' It is of the coarse, horrible things one must pass
through in life--but to call the Great Spirit's blessing upon it, as an
exaltation! To stand there and talk of love! Ah--that is what must make
God angry, and I feel for Him."
Paul noticed that she spoke as if she had no realisation of the lives of
lesser persons who might possibly wed because they were "mated" as
well--not for political reasons or ambition of family. Her keen senses
divined his thought.
"Yes, beloved, you would say--?"
"Only that supposing you were not married to any one else, we should be
swearing the truth if we swore before God that we loved. I would make any
vows to you from my soul, in perfect honesty, for ever and ever, my
His blue eyes, brimming with devotion and conviction of the truth of his
thought, gazed up at her. And into her strange orbs there came that same
look of tenderness that once before had made them as a mother's watching
the gambols of her babe.
"There, there," she said. "You would swear them and hug your chains of
roses--but because they were chains they would turn heavy as lead. Make no
vows, sweetheart! Fate will force you to break them if you do, and then
the gods are angry and misfortune follows. Swear none, and that fickle one
will keep you passionate, in hopes always to lure you into her
pitfalls--to vow and to break--pain and regret. Live, live, Paul, and
love, and swear nothing at all."
Paul was troubled. "But, but," he said, "don't you believe I shall love
you for ever?"
The lady leant back against the rock and narrowed her eyes.
"That will depend upon me, my Paul," she said. "The duration of love in a
being always depends upon the loved one. I create an emotion in you, as
you create one in me. You do not create it in yourself. It is because
something in my personality causes an answering glow in yours that you
love me. Were you to cease to do so, it would be because I was no longer
able to call forth that answer in you. It would not be your fault any more
than when you cease to please me it will be mine. That is where people are
"But surely," said Paul, "it is only the fickle who can change?"
"It is according to one's nature; if one is born a steadfast gentleman,
one is more likely to continue than if one is a _farceur_--prince or
no--but it depends upon the object of one's love--whether he or she can
hold one or not. One would not blame a needle if it fell from a magnet,
the attraction of the magnet being in some way removed, either by a
stronger at the needle's side, or by some deadening of the drawing quality
in the magnet itself--and so it is in love. Do you follow me, Paul?"
"Yes." said Paul gloomily. "I must try to please you, or you will throw me
"You see," she continued, "the ignorant make vows, and being
weaklings--for the most part--vanity and fate easily remove their
inclination from the loved one; it may not be his fault any more than a
broken leg keeping him from walking would be his fault, beyond the fact
that it was _his_ leg; but we have to suffer for our own things--so there
it is. We will say the weakling's inclination wants to make him break his
vows; so he does, either in the letter or spirit--or both! And then he
feels degraded and cheap and low, as all must do who break their sacred
word given of their own free will when inclination prompted them to. So
how much better to make no vow; then at least when the cord of attraction
snaps, we can go free, still defying the lightning in our untarnished
"Oh! darling, do not speak of it," cried Paul, "the cord of attraction
between us can never snap. I worship, I adore you--you are just my life,
my darling one, my Queen!"
"Sweet Paul!" she whispered, "oh! so good, so good is love, keep me loving
you, my beautiful one--keep my desire long to be your Queen."
And after this they melted into one another's arms, and cooed and kissed,
and were foolish and incoherent, as lovers always are and have been from
the beginning of old time. More concentrated--more absorbed--than the
sternest Eastern sage--absorbed in each other.
The spirit of two natures vibrating as One.
That evening it was so warm and peaceful they dined at the wide-open
balcony windows. They could see far away over the terrace and down to the
lake, with the distant lights towards Lucerne. The moon, still slender and
fine, was drawing to her setting, and a few cloudlets floated over the
sky, obscuring the stars here and there.
The lady was quiet and tender, her eyes melting upon Paul, and something
of her ring-dove mood was upon her again. Not once, since they had been on
the Buergenstock, had she shown any of the tigerish waywardness that he had
had glimpses of at first. It seemed as if her moods, like her chameleon
eyes, took colour from her surroundings, and there all was primitive
simplicity and nature and peace.
Paul himself was in a state of ecstasy. He hardly knew whether he trod on
air or no. No siren of old Greek fable had ever lured mortal more under
her spell than this strange foreign woman thing--Queen or Princess or what
you will. Nothing else in the world was of any consequence to him--and it
was all the more remarkable because subjection was in no way part of his
nature. Paul was a masterful youth, and ruled things to his will in his
The lady talked of him--of his tastes--of his pleasures. There was not an
incident in his life, or of his family, that she had not fathomed by now.
All about Isabella even--poor Isabella! And she told him how she
sympathised with the girl, and how badly he had behaved.
"Another proof, my Paul, of what I said today--no one must make vows about
But Paul, in his heart, believed her not. He would worship her for ever,
"Yes," she said, answering his thoughts. "You think so, beloved, and it
may be so because you do not know from moment to moment how I shall be--if
I shall stay here in your arms, or fly far away beyond your reach. You
love me because I give you the stimulus of uncertainty, and so keep bright
your passion, but once you were sure, I should become a duty, as all women
become, and then my Paul would yawn and grow to see I was no longer young,
and that the expected is always an _ennui_ when it comes!"
"Never, never!" said Paul, with fervour.
Presently their conversation drifted to other things, and Paul told her
how he longed to see the world and its people and its ways. She had been
almost everywhere, it seemed, and with her talent of word-painting, she
took him with her on the magic carpet of her vivid description to east and
west and north and south.
Oh! their _entr'actes_ between the incoherence of just lovers' love were
not banal or dull. And never she forgot her tender ways of insinuated
caresses--small exquisite touches of sentiment and grace. The note ever of
One--that they were fused and melted together into one body and soul.
Through all her talk that night Paul caught glimpses of the life of a
great lady, surrounded with state and cares, and now and then there was a
savage echo which made him think of things barbaric, and wonder more than
ever from whence she had come.
It was quite late before the chill of night airs drove them into their
salon, and here she made him some Russian tea, and then lay in his arms,
and purred love-words to him, and nestled close like a child who wants
petting to cure it of some imaginary hurt. Only, in her tenderest caresses
he seemed at last to feel something of danger. A slumbering look of
passion far under the calm exterior, but ready to break forth at any
moment from its studied control.
It thrilled and maddened him.
"Beloved, beloved!" he cried, "let us waste no more precious moments. I
want you--I want you--my sweet!"
* * * * *
At the first glow of dawn, he awoke, a strange sensation, almost of
strangling and suffocation, upon him. There, bending over, framed in a
mist of blue-black waves, he saw his lady's face. Its milky whiteness lit
by her strange eyes--green as cats' they seemed, and blazing with the
fiercest passion of love--while twisted round his throat he felt a great
strand of her splendid hair. The wildest thrill as yet his life had known
then came to Paul; he clasped her in his arms with a frenzy of mad,
The next day was Sunday, and even through the silk blinds they could hear
the rain drip in monotonous fashion. Of what use to wake? Sleep is
blissful and calm when the loved one is near.
Thus it was late when Paul at last opened his eyes. He found himself
alone, and heard his lady's voice singing softly from the sitting-room
beyond, and through the open door he could perceive her stretched on the
tiger, already dressed, reclining among the silk pillows, her guitar held
in her hands.
"Hasten, hasten, lazy one. Thy breakfast awaits thee," she called, and
Paul bounded up without further delay.
This day was to be a day of books, she said, and she read poetry to him,
and made him read to her--but she would not permit him to sit too near
her, or caress her--and often she was restless and moved about with the
undulating grace of a cat. She would peep from the windows, and frown at
the scene. The lake was hidden by mist, the skies cried, all nature was
weeping and gloomy.
And at last she flung the books aside, and crept up to Paul, who was
huddled on the sofa, feeling rather morose from her decree that he must
not touch or kiss her.
"Weeping skies, I hate you!" she said. Then she called Dmitry in a sharp
voice, and when he appeared from the passage where he always awaited her
pleasure, she spoke to him in Russian, or some language Paul knew not, a
fierce gleam in her eyes. Dmitry abased himself almost to the floor, and
departing quickly, returned with sticks and lit a blazing pine-log fire in
the open grate. Then he threw some powder into it, and with stealthy haste
drew all the orchid-silk curtains, and departed from the room. A strange
divine scent presently rose in the air, and over Paul seemed to steal a
spell. The lady crept still nearer, and then with infinite sweetness, all
her docility of the first hours of their union returned, she melted in his
"Paul--I am so wayward to-day, forgive me," she said in a childish,
lisping voice. "See, I will make you forget the rain and damp. Fly with me
to Egypt where the sun always shines."
And Paul, like a sulky, hungry baby, who had been debarred, and now
received its expected sweetmeat, clasped her and kissed her for a few
minutes before he would let her speak.
"See, we are getting near Cairo," she said, her eyes half closed, while
she settled herself among the cushions, and drew Paul down to her until
his head rested on her breast, and her arms held him like a mother with a
Her voice was a dream-voice as she whispered on. "Do you not love those
minarets and towers against the opal sky, and the rose-pink granite hills
beyond? And look, Paul, at this peep of the Nile--those are the
water-buffaloes--those strange beasts--you see they are pulling that
ridiculous water-drawer--just the same as in Pharaoh's time. Ah! I smell
the scent of the East. Look at the straight blue figures, the lines so
pleasing and long. The dignity, the peace, the forever in it all.... Now
we are there. See the brilliant crowd all moving with little haste, and
listen to the strange noise. Look at the faces of the camels, disdainful
and calm, and that of an old devil-man with tangled hair....
"Come--come from this; I want the desert and the Sphinx!
"Ah! it is bright day again, and we have all the green world between us
and the great vast brown tract of sand. And those are the Pyramids
clear-cut against the turquoise sky, and soon we shall be there, only you
must observe this green around us first, my Paul--the green of no other
country in all the world--pure emerald--nature's supreme concentrated
effort of green for miles and miles. No, I do not want to live in that
small village in a brown mud hut, shared with another wife to that gaunt
blue linen-clad man; I would kill them all and be free. I want to go on,
beloved--on to the desert for you and me alone, with its wonderful passion,
and wonderful peace...."
Her voice became still more dreamy; there was a cadence in it now as if
some soul within were forcing her to chant it all, with almost the lilt of
"Oh! the strange drug of the glorious East, flooding your senses with
beauty and life. 'Tis the spell of the Sphinx, and now we are there, close
in her presence. Look, the sun has set....
"Hush! hush! beloved! we are alone, the camels and guides afar off--we are
alone, sweetheart, and we go on together, you and I and the moon. See, she
is rising all silver and pure, and blue is the sky, and scented the night.
Look, there is the Sphinx! Do you see the strange mystery of her smile and
the glamour of her eyes? She is a goddess, and she knows men's souls, and
their foolish unavailing passion and pain--never content with the _Is_
which they have, always regretting the _Was_ which has passed, and
building false hopes on the phantom _May be._ But you and I, my lover, my
sweet, have fathomed the riddle which is hid in the smile of our goddess,
our Sphinx--we have guessed it, and now are as high gods too. For we know
it means to live in the present, and quaff life in its full. Sweetheart,
beloved--joy and life in its full----"....
Her voice grew faint and far away, like the echo of some exquisite song,
and the lids closed over Paul's blue eyes, and he slept.
The light of all the love in the world seemed to flood the lady's face.
She bent over and kissed him, and smoothed his cheek with her velvet
cheek, she moved so that his curly lashes might touch her bare neck, and
at last she slipped from under him, and laid his head gently down upon the
Then a madness of tender caressing seized her. She purred as a tiger might
have done, while she undulated like a snake. She touched him with her
finger-tips, she kissed his throat, his wrists, the palms of his hands,
his eyelids, his hair. Strange, subtle kisses, unlike the kisses of women.
And often, between her purrings, she murmured love-words in some strange
fierce language of her own, brushing his ears and his eyes with her lips
And through it all Paul slept on, the Eastern perfume in the air still
drugging his sense.
It was quite dark when he awoke again, and beside him--seated on the
floor, all propped with pillows, his lady reclined her head against his
shoulder. And as he looked down at her in the firelight's flickering
gleam, he saw that her wonderful eyes were wet with great glittering
"My soul, my soul!" he said tenderly, his heart wrung with emotion. "What
is it, sweetheart--why have you these tears? Oh! what have I
done--darling, my own?"
"I am weary," she said, and fell to weeping softly, and refused to be
Paul's distress was intense--what could have happened? What terrible thing
had he done? What sorrow had fallen upon his beloved while he selfishly
slept? But all she would say was that she was weary, while she clung to
him in a storm of passion, as if some one threatened to take her out of
his arms. Then she left him abruptly and went off to dress.
But later, at dinner, it seemed as if a new and more radiant light than
ever glowed on her face. She was gay and caressing, telling him merry
tales of Paris and its plays. It was as if she meant to efface all
suggestion of sorrow or pain--and gradually the impression wore off in
Paul's mind, and ere it came to their sipping the golden wine, all was
brightness and peace.
"See," she said, looking from the window just before they retired to rest,
"the sky has stopped crying, and there are our stars, sweetheart, come out
to wish us good-night. Ah! for us tomorrow once more will be a glorious
"My Queen," said Paul; "rain or fine, all days are glorious to me, so long
as I have you to clasp in my arms. You are my sun, moon and stars--always,
She laughed a laugh, the silver echo of satisfaction and joy.
"Sweet Paul," she lisped mischievously, "so good you have been, so gentle
with my moods. You must have some reward. Listen, beloved while I tell it
But what she said is written in his heart!
His lady was so intensely _soignee_--that is what pleased Paul. He had
never thought about such things, or noticed them much in other women, but
she was a revelation.
No Roman Empress with her bath of asses' milk could have had a more
wonderful toilet than she. And ever she was illusive, and he never quite
got to the end of her mystery. Always there was a veil, when he least
expected it, and so these hours for the most part were passed at the
boiling-point of excitement and bliss. The experiences of another man's
whole lifetime Paul was going through in the space of days.
It was the Monday following the wet Sunday when an incident happened which
soon came back to him, and gave him food for reflection.
They would spend the day in the launch, she decided, going whither they
wished, stopping here to pick gentians, going there under the shadow of
trees--landing where and when they desired--even sleeping at Flueclen if
the fancy took them to. Anna was sent on with their things in case this
contingency occurred. And earth, water and sky seemed smiling them a
Just before they started, Dmitry, after the gentlest tap, noiselessly
entered Paul's room. Paul was selecting some cigars from a box, and looked
up in surprise as the stately servant cautiously closed the door.
"Yes, Dmitry, what is it?" he said half impatiently.
Dmitry advanced, and now Paul saw that he carried something in his hand.
He bowed low with his usual courtly respect. Then he stammered a little as
he began to speak.
The substance of his sentence, Paul gathered, was that the Excellency
would not be inconveniencing himself too much, he hoped, if he would
consent to carry this pistol. A very good pistol, he assured him, which
would take but little room.
Paul's surprise deepened. Carry a pistol in peaceful Switzerland! It
seemed too absurd.
"What on earth for, my friend?" he said.
But Dmitry would give no decided answer, only that it was wiser, when away
from one's home and out with a lady, never to go unarmed. Real anxiety
peeped from his cautious grey eyes.
Did Paul know how to shoot? And would he be pardoned for asking the
Excellency such a question?--but in England, he heard, they dealt little
with revolvers--and this was a point to be assured of.
Yes, Paul knew how to shoot! The idea made him laugh. But now he came to
think of it, he had not had great practice with a revolver, and might not
do so well as with a gun or rifle. But the whole thing seemed so absurd,
he did not think it of much consequence.
"Of course I'll take it to please you, Dmitry," he said, "though I wish
you would tell me why."
However, Dmitry escaped from the room without further words, his finger
upon his lips.
The lady was looking more exquisitely white than usual; she wore soft pale
mauve, and appeared in Paul's eyes a thing of joy.
When they were seated on the launch in their chairs, she let him hold her
hand, but she did not talk much at first; only now he understood her
silences, and did not worry over them--so great a teacher is love to
quicken the perception of man.
He sat there, and gazed at her, and tried to realise that it was really he
who was experiencing all this happiness. This wonderful, wonderful
woman--and he was her lover.
At last something in her expression of sadness caught his watchful eye,
and an ache came into his mind to know where hers had gone.
"Darling," he said tenderly, "mayn't I come there, too?"
She turned towards him--a shadow was in her eyes.
"No, Paul," she said. "Not there. It is a land of rocks and
precipices--not for lovers."
"But if you can go--where is the danger for me, my Queen? Or, if there is
danger, then it is my place to stand by your side."
"Paul, my sweet Paul," she whispered, while her eyes filled with mist, "I
was thinking how fair the world could be, perhaps, if fate allowed one to
meet one's mate while there was yet time. Surely two souls together, like
you and I, might climb to Paradise doing deeds of greatness by the way.
But so much of life is like a rushing torrent tearing along making a
course for itself, without power to choose through what country it will
pass, until it meets the ocean and is swallowed up and lost. If one could
only see--only know in time--could he change the course? Alas! who can
Her voice was sad, and as ever it wrung Paul's heart.
"My darling one," he said, "don't think of those odd things. Only remember
that I am here beside you, and that I love you, love you so--"
"My Paul!" she murmured, and she smiled a strange, sweet smile, "do you
know, I find you like a rare violin which hitherto has been used by
ordinary musicians to play their popular airs upon, but which is now
highly strung and being touched by the bow of an artist who loves it. And
oh! the exquisite sounds which are coming, and will yet come forth to
enchant the ear, and satisfy the sense. All the capacity is there, Paul,
in you, beautiful one--only I must bring it out with my bow of love! And
what a progress you have made already--a great, great progress. Think,
only a few days ago you had never noticed the colours of this lake, or
even these great mountains, they said nothing to you at all except as
places to take your exercise upon. Life, for you, was just eating and
sleeping and strengthening your muscles." And she laughed softly.
"I know I was a Goth," said Paul. "I can hardly realise it myself, the
change that has happened to me. Everything now seems full of joy."
"Your very phrases are altered, Paul, and will alter more yet, while our
moon waxes and our love grows."
"Can it grow? Can I possibly love you more intensely than I do now--surely
no!" he exclaimed passionately. "And yet--"
"Ah! yes, I know it. Yes, it can grow until it is my life--my very life."
"Yes, Paul," she said, "your life"--and her strange eyes narrowed again,
the Sphinx's inscrutable look of mystery in their chameleon depths.
Then her mood altered, she became gay and laughing, and her wit sparkled
like dry champagne, while the white launch glided through the blue waters
with never a swirl of foam.
"Paul," she said presently, "to-morrow we will go up the Rigi to the
Kaltbad, and look from the little kiosk over the world, and over the
Bernese Oberland. It gives me an emotion to stand so high and see so vast
a view--but to-day we will play on the water and among the trees."
He had no desires except to do what she would do, so they landed for lunch
at one of the many little inviting hotels which border the lake in
sheltered bays. All through the meal she entertained him with subtle
flattery, drawing him out, and making him shine until he made flint for
her steel. And when they came to the end she said with sudden, tender
"Paul--it is my caprice--you may pay the bill to-day--just for
to-day--because--Ah! you must guess, my Paul! the reason why!"
And she ran out into the sunlight, her cheeks bright pink.
But Paul knew it was because now she _belonged_ to him. His heart swelled
with joy--and who so proud as he?
She had gone alone up a mountain path when he came out to join her, and
stood there laughing at him provokingly from above. He bounded up and
caught her, and would walk hand in hand, and made her feel that he was
master and lord through the strength of his splendid, vigorous youth. He
pretended to scold her if she stirred from him, and made her stand or walk
and obey him, and gave himself the airs of a husband and prince.
And the lady laughed in pure ecstatic joy. "Oh! I love you, my Paul--like
this, like this! Beautiful one! Just a splendid primitive savage beneath
the grace, as a man should be. When I feel how strong you are my heart
melts with bliss!"
And Paul, to show her it was true, seized her in his arms, and ran with
her, placing her on a high rock, where he made her pay him with kisses and
tell him she loved him before he would lift her down.
And it was his lady's caprice, as she said, that this state of things
should last all day. But by night time, when they got to Flueelen, the
infinite mastery of her mind, and the uncertainty of his hold over her,
made her his Queen again, and Paul once more her worshipping slave.
* * * * *
Now, although his master was quite oblivious of posts, Tompson was not,
and that Monday he took occasion to go into Lucerne, whence he returned
with a pile of letters, which Paul found on again reaching the
Buergenstock, after staying the night at Flueelen in a little hotel.
That had been an experience! His lady quite childish in her glee at the
smallness and simplicity of everything.
"Our picnic," she called it to Paul--only it was a wonderfully _recherche_
picnic, as Anna of course had brought everything which was required by
heart of sybarite for the passing of a night.
Ah! they had been happy. The Queen had been exquisitely gracious to her
slave, and entranced him more deeply than ever. And here at the
Buergenstock, when he got into his room, his letters stared him in the
"Damned officiousness!" he said to himself, thinking of Tompson.
He did not want to be reminded of any existence other than the dream of
heaven he was now enjoying.
Oh! they were all very real and material, these epistles--quite of earth!
One was from his mother. He was enjoying Lucerne, she hoped, and she was
longing for his return. She expected he also was craving for his home and
horses and dogs. All were well. They--she and his father--were moving up
to the town house in Berkeley Square the following week until the end of
June, and great preparations were already in contemplation for his
twenty-third birthday in July at Verdayne Place. There was no mention of
Isabella except a paragraph at the end. Miss Waring was visiting friends
at Blackheath, he was informed. Ah, so far away it all seemed! But it
brought him back from heaven. The next was his father's writing. Laconic,
but to the point. This parent hoped he was not wasting his time--d--d
short in life! and that he was cured of his folly for the parson's girl,
and found other eyes shone bright. If he wanted more money he was
to say so.
Several were from his friends, banal and everyday. And one was from
Tremlett, his own groom, and this was full of Moonlighter and--Pike! That
gave him just a moment's feeling--Pike! Tremlett had "made so bold" as to
have some snapshots done by a friend, and he ventured to send one to his
master. The "very pictur'" of the dog, he said, and it was true. Ah! this
touched him, this little photograph of Pike.
"Dear little chap," he said to himself as he looked. "My dear little
And then an instantaneous desire to show it to his lady came over him, and
he went back to the sitting-room in haste.
There she was--the post had come for her too, it seemed, and she looked up
with an expression of concentrated fierceness from a missive she was
reading as he entered the room. Her marvellous self-control banished all
but love from her eyes after they had rested on him for an instant, but
his senses--so fine now--had remarked the first glance, just as his eye
had seen the heavy royal crown on the paper as she hastily folded it and
threw it carelessly aside.
"Darling!" he said "Oh! look! here is a picture of Pike!"
And if it had been the most important document concerning the fate of
nations the lady could not have examined it with more enthralled interest
and attention than she did this snapshot photograph of a rough terrier
"What a sweet fellow!" she said. "Look at his eye! so intelligent; look at
that _patte_! See, even he is asking one to love him--and I do--I do--"
"Darling!" said Paul in ecstasy, "oh, if we only had him here, wouldn't
that be good!"
And he never knew why his lady suddenly threw her arms round his neck, and
kissed him with passionate tenderness and love, her eyes soft as a dove's.
"Oh, my Paul," she said, a break in her wonderful voice, whose tones said
many things, "my young, darling, English Paul!"
Presently they would drive to see that quaint farm she wanted to show him.
The day was very warm, and to rest in the comfortable carriage would be
nice. Paul thought so, too. So after a late lunch they started. And once
or twice on the drive through the most peaceful and beautiful scenery, a
flash of the same fierceness came into the lady's eyes, gazing away over
distance as when she had read her letter, and it made Paul wonder and long
to ask her why. He never allowed himself to speculate in coherent thought
words even as to who she was, or her abode in life. He had given his word,
and was an Englishman and would keep it, that was all. But in his
subconsciousness there dwelt the conviction that she must be some Queen or
Princess of a country south in Europe--half barbaric, half advanced. That
she was unhappy and hated it all, he more than divined. It was a proof of
the strength of his character that he did not let the terrible thought of
inevitable parting mar the bliss of the tangible now. He had promised her
to live while the sun of their union shone, and he had the force to keep
But oh! he wished he could drive all care from her path, and that this
glorious life should go on for ever.
When they got to the farm in the soft late afternoon light, the most
gracious mood came over his lady. It was just a Swiss farmhouse of many
storeys, the lower one for the cows and other animals, and the rest for
the family and industries. All was clean and in order, with that wonderful
outside neatness which makes Swiss chalets look like painted toy houses
popped down on the greensward without yard or byre. And these people were
well-to-do, and it was the best of its kind.
The _Baeuerin_, a buxom mother of many little ones, was nursing another not
four weeks old, a fat, prosperous infant in its quaint Swiss clothes. Her
broad face beamed with pride as she welcomed the gracious lady. Old
acquaintances they appeared, and they exchanged greetings. Foreign
languages were not Paul's strong point, and he caught not a word of
meaning in the German _patois_ the good woman talked. But his lady was
voluble, and seemed to know each flaxen-haired child by name, though it
was the infant which longest arrested her attention. She held it in her
arms. And Paul had never seen her look so young or so beautiful.
The good woman left them alone while she prepared some coffee for them in
the adjoining kitchen, followed by her troop of _kinder_. Only the little
one still lay in the lady's arms. She spoke not a word--she sang to it a
cradle-song, and the thought came to Paul that she seemed as an angel, and
this must be an echo of his own early heaven before his life had descended
A strange peace came over him as he sat there watching her, his thoughts
vague and dreamy of some beautiful sweet tenderness--he knew not what.
Ere the woman returned with the coffee the lady looked up from her
crooning and met his eyes--all her soul was aglow in hers--while she
whispered as he bent over to meet her lips:
"Yes, some day, my sweetheart--yes."
And that magic current of sympathy which was between them made Paul know
what she meant. And the gladness of the gods fell upon him and exalted
him, and his blue eyes swam with tears.
Ah! that was a thought, if that could ever be!
All the way back in the carriage he could only kiss her. Their emotion
seemed too deep for words.
And this night was the most divine of any they had spent on the
Buergenstock. But there was in it an essence about which only the angels
Do you know the Belvedere at the Rigi Kaltbad, looking over the corner to
a vast world below, on a fair day in May, when the air is clear as crystal
and the lake ultra-marine? When the Bernese Oberland undulates away in
unbroken snow, its pure whiteness like cold marble, the shadows grey-blue?
Have you seen the tints of the beeches, of the pines, of the firs,
clinging like some cloak of life to the hoary-headed mountains, a reminder
that spring is eternal, and youth must have its day, however grey beards
and white heads may frown?
Ah--it is good!
And so is the air up there. Hungry and strong and--young.
Paul and his lady stood and looked down in rapt silence. It was giving
her, as she said, an emotion, but of what sort he was not sure. They were
all alone. No living soul was anywhere in view.
She had been in a mood, all day when she seldom raised her eyes. It
reminded him of the first time he had seen her, and wonder grew again in
his mind. All the last night her soul had seemed melted into his in a
fusion of tenderness and trust, exalted with the exquisite thought of the
wish which was between them. And he had felt at last he had fathomed its
But to-day, as he gazed down at her white-rose paleness, the heavy lashes
making their violet shadow on her cheek--her red mouth mutinous and
full--the conviction came back to him that there were breadths and depths
and heights about which he had no conception even. And an ice hand
clutched his heart. Of what strange thing was she thinking? leaning over
the parapet there, her delicate nostrils quivering now and then.
"Paul," she said at last, "did you ever want to kill any one? Did you ever
long to have them there at your mercy, to choke their life out and throw
them to hell?"
"Good God, no!" said Paul aghast.
Then at last she looked up at him, and her eyes were black with hate.
"Well, I do, Paul. I would like to kill one man on earth--a useless,
vicious weakling, too feeble to deserve a fine death--a rotting carrion
spoiling God's world and encumbering my path! I would kill him if I
could--and more than ever today."
"Oh, my Queen, my Queen!" said Paul, distressed. "Don't say such
things--you, my own tender woman and love--"
"Yes, that is one side of me, and the best--but there is another, which he
draws forth, and that is the worst. You of calm England do not know what
it means--the true passion of hate."
"Can I do nothing for you, beloved?" Paul asked. Here was a phase which he
had not yet seen.
"Ah!" she said, bitterly, and threw up her head. "No! his high place
protects him. But for his life I would conquer all fate."
"Darling, darling--" said Paul, who knew not what to say.
"But, Paul, if a hair of your head should be hurt, I would kill him myself
with these my own hands."
Once Paul had seen two tigers fight in a travelling circus-van which came
to Oxford, and now the memory of the scene returned to him when he looked
at his lady's face. He had not known a human countenance could express
such fierce, terrible rage. A quiver ran through him. Yes, this was no
idle boast of an angry woman--he felt those slender hands would indeed be
capable of dealing death to any one who robbed her of her mate.
But what passion was here! What force! He had somehow never even dreamt
such feelings dwelt in women--or, indeed, in any human creatures out of
sensational books. Yet, gazing there at her, he dimly understood that in
himself, too, they could rise, were another to take her from him. Yes, he
could kill in suchlike case.
They were silent for some moments, each vibrating with passionate
thoughts; and then the lady leant over and laid her cheek against the
sleeve of his coat.
"Heart of my heart," she said, "I frighten and ruffle you. The women of
your country are sweet and soft, but they know not the passion I know, my
Paul--the fierceness and madness of love--"
Paul clasped her in his arms.
"It makes me worship you more, my Queen," he said. "Englishwomen would
seem like wax dolls now beside you and your exquisite face--they will
never again be anything but shadows in my life. It can only hold you, the
one goddess and Queen."
Her eyes were suffused with a mist of tenderness, the passion was gone;
her head was thrown back against his breast, when suddenly her hand
inadvertently touched against the pocket where Dmitry's pistol lay. She
started violently, and before he could divine her purpose she snatched the
weapon out, and held it up to the light.
Her face went like death, and for a second she leant against the parapet
as if she were going to faint.
"Paul," she gasped with white lips, "this is Dmitry's pistol. I know it
well. How did you come by it?--tell me, beloved. If he gave it to you,
then it means danger, Paul--danger--"
"My darling," said Paul, in his strong young pride "fear nothing, I shall
never leave you. I will protect you from any danger in the world, only
depend upon me, sweetheart. Nothing can hurt you while I am here."
"Do you think I care a _sou_ for my life?" she said, while she stood
straight up again with the majesty of a queen. "Do you think I feared for
me--for myself? Oh! no, my own lover, never that! They can kill me when
they choose, but they won't; it is you for whom I fear. Only your danger
could make me cower, no other in the whole world."
Paul laughed with joy at her speech. "There is nothing to fear at all
then, darling," he said. "I can take care of myself, you know. I am an
And even in the tumult of her thoughts the lady found time to smile with
tender amusement at the young insular arrogance of his last words. An
Englishman, forsooth! Of course that meant a kind of god untouched by the
failings of other nations. A great rush of pride in him came over her and
gladdened her. He was indeed a splendid picture of youth and strength, as
he stood there, the sunlight gilding his fair hair, and all the
magnificent proportions of his figure thrown into relief against the
background of grey stone and sky, an _insouciante_ smile on his lips, and
all the light of love and self-confidence in his fine blue eyes.
She responded to the fire in them, and appeared to grow comforted and at
peace. But all the way back through the wood to the Kalibad Hotel she
glanced furtively into the shadows, while she talked gaily as she held
And he never asked her a question as to where she expected the danger to
come from. No anxiety for his own safety troubled him one jot--indeed, an
unwonted extra excitement flooded his veins, making him enjoy himself with
an added zest.
Dmitry as usual awaited them at the hotel; his face was serene, but when
Paul's back was turned for a moment while he lit a cigarette, the lady
questioned her servant with whispered fierceness in the Russian tongue.
Apparently his answer was satisfactory, for she looked relieved, and
presently, seated on the terrace, they had a merry tea--the last they
would have on mountain tops, for she broke it gently to Paul that on the
morrow she must return to Lucerne. Paul felt as if his heart had stopped
beating. Return to Lucerne! O God! not to part--surely not to part--so
"No, no," she said, the thought making her whiten too. "Oh no! my Paul,
Ah--he could bear anything if it did not mean parting, and he used no
arguments to dissuade her. She was his Queen and must surely know best.
Only he listened eagerly for details of how matters could be arranged
there. Alas! they could never be the same as this glorious time they had
"You must wait two days, sweetheart," she said, "before you follow me.
Stay still in our nest if you will, but do not come on to Lucerne."
"I could not stand it," said Paul. "Oh! darling, don't kill me with aching
for your presence two whole days! It is a lifetime! not to be endured--"
"Impatient one!" she laughed softly. "No--neither could I bear not to see
you, sweetheart, but we must not be foolish. You must stay on in our rooms
and each morning I will meet you somewhere in the launch. Dmitry knows
every inch of the lake, and we can pass most of days thus,
happy at last--"
"But the nights!" said Paul, deep distress in his voice. "What on earth do
you think I can do with the nights?"
"Spend them in sleep, my beloved one," the lady said, while she smiled a
soft fine smile.
But to Paul this idea presented the poorest compensation--and in spite of
his will to the contrary his thoughts flew ahead for an instant to the
inevitable days and nights when--Ah! no, he could not face the picture.
Life would be finished for him when that time came.
The thought of only a temporary parting on the morrow made them cling
together for this, their last evening, with almost greater closeness and
tenderness than usual. Paul could hardly bear his lady out of his sight,
even while she dressed for dinner, when they got back to the Buergenstock,
and twice he came to the door and asked plaintively how long she would be,
until Anna took pity on him, and implored to be allowed to ask him to come
in while she finished her mistress's hair. And that was a joy to Paul! He
sat there by the dressing-table, and played with the things, opening the
lids of gold boxes, and sniffing bottles of scent with an air of right and
possession which made his lady smile like a purring cat. Then he tried on
her rings, but they would only go on to the second joint of his little
finger, as he laughingly showed her--and finally he pushed Anna aside, and
insisted upon putting the last touches himself to the glorious waves of
And all the while he teased the maid, and chaffed her in infamous French,
to her great delight, while his lady looked at him, whole wells of
tenderness deep in her eyes. Paul had adorable ways when he chose. No
wonder both mistress and maid should worship him.
The moon was growing larger, her slender contours more developed, and the
stars seemed fainter and farther off. Nothing more exquisite could be
dreamed of, thought Paul, than the view from their balcony windows, the
light on the silver snows. And he would let no thought that it was the
last night they would see it together mar the passionate joy of the hours
still to be. His lady had never been more sweet; it was as if this wayward
Undine had at last found her soul, and lay conquered and unresisting in
her lover's strong arms.
Thus in perfect peace and happiness they; passed their last night on the
The desolation which came over Paul when next day before lunch time he
found himself alone on the terrace, looking down vainly trying to
distinguish his lady's launch as it glided over the blue waters, seemed
unendurable. An intense depression filled his being. It was as if a limb
had been torn from him; he felt helpless and incomplete, and his whole
soul drawn to Lucerne.
The green trees and the exquisite day seemed to mock him. Alone,
alone--with no prospect of seeing his Queen until the morrow, when at
eleven he was to meet her at the landing-steps at the foot
of the _funiculaire_.
But that was to-morrow, and how could he get through to-day?
After an early lunch he climbed to their rock at the summit, and sat there
where they had sat together--alone with his thoughts.
And what thoughts!
What was this marvellous thing which had happened to him? A fortnight ago
he was in Paris, disgusted with everything around him, and fancying
himself in love with Isabella Waring. Poor Isabella! How had such things
ever been possible? Why, he was a schoolboy then--a child--an infant! and
now he was a man, and knew what life meant in its greatest and best. That
was part of the wonder of this lady, with all her intense sensuousness and
absence of what European nations call morality; there was yet nothing low
or degrading in her influence, its tendency was to exalt and elevate into
broad views and logical reasonings. Nothing small would ever again appeal
to Paul. His whole outlook was vaster and more full of wide thoughts.
And then among the other emotions in his breast came one of deep gratitude
to her. For, apart from her love, had she not given him the royalest gift
which mankind could receive--an awakened soul? Like her story of Undine it
had truly been born with that first long kiss.
Then his mind flew to their after-kisses, the immense divine bliss of
these whole six days.
Was it only six days since they had come there? Six days of Paradise. And
surely fate would not part them now. Surely more hours of joy lay in store
for them yet. The moon was seven days old--and his lady had said, "While
she waxes our love will wax." Thus, even by that calculation, there was
still time to live a little longer.
Paul's will was strong. He sternly banished all speculations as to the
future. He remembered her counsel of the riddle which lay hidden in the
eyes of the Sphinx--to live in the present and quaff life in its full.
He was in a mood of such worship that he could have kissed the grey rock
because she had leant against it. And to himself he made vows that, come
what might, he would ever try to be worthy of her great spirit and
teaching. Dmitry's pistol still lay in his pocket; he took it out and
examined it--all six chambers were loaded. A deadly small thing, with a
finely engraved stock made in Paris. There was a date scratched. It was
about a year old.
What danger could they possibly have dreaded for him?--he almost laughed.
He stayed up on the highest point until after the sun had set; somehow he
dreaded going back to the rooms where they had been so happy--going back
alone! But this was weakness, and he must get over the feeling. After
dinner he would spend the evening writing his letters home. But when this
solitary meal was over, the moon tempted him out on to the terrace, and
there he stayed obsessed with passionate thoughts until he crept in to his
He could not sleep. It had no memories there to comfort him. He got up,
and went across the sitting-room to the room his lady had left so lately.
Alas! it was all dismantled of her beautiful things. The bed unmade and
piled with uncovered hotel pillows, and a large German eiderdown, on top
of folded blankets, it all looked ghastly and sad and cold. And more
depressed than ever he crept back to his own bed.
Next morning was grey--not raining, but dull grey clouds all over the sky.
Not a tempting prospect to spend it in a launch on the lake. A wind, too,
swept the water into small rough wavelets. Would she come? The uncertainty
was almost agony. He was waiting long before the time appointed, and
walked up and down anxiously scanning the direction towards Lucerne.
Yes, that was the launch making its way along, not a moment late. Oh! what
joy thrilled his being! He glowed all over--in ten minutes or less he
could clasp her hands.
But when the launch came in full view, he perceived no lady was
there--only Dmitry's black form stood alone by the chairs.
Paul's heart sank like lead. He could hardly contain his anxiety until the
servant stepped ashore and handed him a letter, and this was its contents:
"My beloved one--I am not well to-day--a foolish chill. Nothing of
consequence, only the cold wind of the lake I could not face. At one
o'clock, when Lucerne is at lunch, come to me by the terrace gate. Come to
me, I cannot live without you, Paul."
"What is it, Dmitry?" he said anxiously. "Madame is not ill, is she? Tell
"Not ill--oh no!" the servant said, only Paul must know Madame was of a
delicacy at times in the cold weather, and had to be careful of herself.
He added, too, that it would be wiser if Paul would lunch early before
they started, because, as he explained, it was not for the people of the
hotel to know he was there, and how else could he eat?
All of which advice was followed, and at one o'clock they landed at
Lucerne, and Paul walked quickly towards his goal, Dmitry in front to see
that the way was clear. Yes--there was no one about for the moment, and
like ghosts they glided through the little terrace door, and Paul went
into the room by the window, while Dmitry held the heavy curtains, and
It was empty--the fact struck a chill note, in spite of the great bowls of
flowers and the exquisite scent. His tiger was there, and the velvet
pillows of old. All was warm and luxurious, as befitting the shrine of his
goddess and Queen. Only he was alone--alone with his thoughts.
An incredible excitement swept through him, his heart beat to suffocation
in the longing for her to come. Was it possible--was it true that soon she
would be in his arms? A whole world of privation and empty hours to make
up for in their first kiss.
Then from behind the screen of the door to her room she came at last--a
stately figure in long black draperies, her face startlingly white, and
her head wrapped in a mist of black veil. But who can tell of the note of
gladness and welcome she put into the two words, "My Paul!"?
And who can tell of the passionate joy of their long, tender embrace, or
of their talk of each one's impossible night? His lady, too, had not
slept, it appeared. She had cried, she said, and fought with her pillow,
and been so wicked to Anna that the good creature had wept. She had torn
her fine night raiment, and bitten a handkerchief through! But now he had
come, and her soul was at rest. What wonder, when all this was said in his
ear with soft, broken sighs and kisses divine, that Paul should feel like
a god in his pride!
Then he held her at arms'-length and looked at her face. Yes, it was very
pale indeed, and the violet shadows lay under her black lashes. Had she
suffered, his darling--was she ill? But no, the fire in her strange eyes
gave no look of ill-health.
"I was frightened, my own," he said, "in case you were really not well. I
must pet and take care of you all the day. See, you must lie on the sofa
among the cushions, and I will sit beside you and soothe you to rest." And
he lifted her in his strong arms and carried her to the couch as if she
had been a baby, and settled her there, every touch a caress.
His lady delighted in these exhibitions of his strength. He had grown to
understand that he could always affect her when he pretended to dominate
her by sheer brute force. She had explained it to him thus one day:
"You see, Paul, a man can always keep a woman loving him if he kiss her
enough, and make her feel that there is no use struggling because he is
too strong to resist. A woman will stand almost anything from a passionate
lover. He may beat her and pain her soft flesh; he may shut her up and
deprive her of all other friends--while the motive is raging love and
interest in herself on his part, it only makes her love him the more. The
reason why women become unfaithful is because the man grows casual, and
having awakened a taste for passionate joys, he no longer gratifies
them--so she yawns and turns elsewhere."
Well, there was no fear of her doing so if he could help it! He was more
than willing to follow this receipt. Indeed, there was something about her
so agitating and alluring that he knew in his heart all men would feel the
same towards her in a more or less degree, and wild jealousy coursed
through his veins at the thought.
"My Paul," she said, "do you know I have a plan in my head that we shall
go to Venice?"
"To Venice!" said Paul in delight. "To Venice!"
"Yes--I cannot endure any more of Lucerne, parted from you, with only the
prospect of snatched meetings. It is not to be borne. We shall go to that
home of strange joy, my lover, and there for a space at least we can live
Paul asked no better gift of fate. Venice he had always longed to see, and
now to see it with her! Ah! the very thought was ecstasy to him, and made
the blood bound in his veins.
"When, when, my darling?" he asked. "Tomorrow? When?"
"To-day is Friday," she said. "One must give Dmitry time to make the
arrangements and take a palace for us. Shall we say Sunday, Paul? I shall
go on Sunday, and you can follow the next day--so by Tuesday evening we
shall be together again, not to part until--the end."
"The end?" said Paul, with sinking heart.
"Sweetheart," she whispered, while she drew his face down to hers, "think
nothing evil. I said the end--but fate alone knows when that must be. Do
not let us force her hand by speculating about it. Remember always to live
while we may."
And Paul was more or less comforted, but in moments of silence all through
the day he seemed to hear the echo of the words--The End.
It was a beautiful apartment that Dmitry had found for them on the Grand
Canal in Venice, in an old palace looking southwest. A convenient door in
a side canal cloaked the exit and entry of its inhabitants from curious
eyes--had there been any to indulge in curiosity; but in Venice there is a
good deal of the feeling of live and let live, and the _dolce far niente_
of the life is not conducive to an over-anxious interest in the doings of
Money and intelligence can achieve a number of things in a short space of
time, and Dmitry had had both at his command, so everything, including a
_chef_ from Paris and a retinue of Italian servants, was ready when on the
Tuesday evening Paul arrived at the station.
What a wonderland it seemed to him, Venice! A wonderland where was
awaiting him his heart's delight--more passionately desired than ever
after three days of total abstinence.
As after the Friday afternoon he had spent more or less in hiding in the
terrace-room, his lady had judged it wiser for him not to come at all to
Lucerne, and on the Saturday had met him at a quiet part of the shore of
the lake, beyond the landing-steps of the _funiculaire,_ and for a few
short hours they had cruised about on the blue waters--but her sweetest
tenderness and ready wit had not been able entirely to eliminate the
feeling of unrest which troubled them. And then there were the nights, the
miserable evenings and nights of separation. On the Sunday she had
departed to Venice, and after she had gone, Paul had returned for one day
to Lucerne, leaving again on the Monday, apparently as unacquainted with
Madame Zalenska as he had been the first night of his arrival.
He had not seen her since Saturday. Three whole days of anguishing
longing. And now in half an hour at least she would be in his arms. The
journey through the beautiful scenery from Lucerne had been got through at
night--all day from Milan a feverish excitement had dominated him, and
prevented his taking any interest in outward surroundings. A magnetic
attraction seemed drawing him on--on--to the centre of light and joy--his
Dmitry and an Italian servant awaited his arrival; not an instant's delay
for luggage called a halt. Tompson and the Italian were left for that, and
Paul departed with his trusty guide.
It was about seven o'clock, the opalescent lights were beginning to show
in the sky, and their reflection in the water, as he stooped his tall head
to enter the covered gondola. It was all too beautiful and wonderful to
take in at once, and then he only wanted wings the sooner to arrive, not
eyes to see the passing objects. Afterwards the strange soft cry of the
gondoliers and the sights appealed to him; but on this first evening every
throb of his being was centred upon the one moment when he should hold his
beloved one to his heart.
He could hardly contain his impatience, and walk sedately beside Dmitry
when they ascended the great stone staircase--he felt like bounding up
three steps at a time. Dmitry had been respectfully silent. Madame was
well--that was all he would say. He opened the great double door with a
latch-key, and Paul found himself in vast hall almost unfurnished but for
some tapestry on the walls, and a huge gilt marriage-chest, and a couple
of chairs. It was ill lit, and there was something of decay and gloom in
On they went, through other doors to a salon, vast and gloomy too, and
then the glory and joy of heaven seemed to spring upon Paul's view when
the shrine of the goddess was reached--a smaller room, whose windows faced
the Grand Canal, now illuminated by the setting sun in all its splendour,
coming in shafts from the balcony blinds. And among the quaintest and most
old-world surroundings, mixed with her own wonderful personal notes of
luxury, his lady rose from the tiger couch to meet him.
His lady! His Queen!
And, indeed, she seemed a queen when at last he held her at arms'-length
to look at her. She was garbed all ready for dinner in a marvellous
garment of shimmering purple, while round her shoulders a scarf of
brilliant pale emerald gauze, all fringed with gold, fell in two long
ends, and on her neck and in her ears great emeralds gleamed--a
pear-shaped one of unusual brilliancy fell at the parting of her waves
of hair on to her white smooth forehead. But the colour of her eyes he
could not be sure of--only they were two wells of love and passion
gazing into his own.
All the simplicity of the Buergenstock surroundings was gone. The flowers
were in the greatest profusion, rare and heavy-scented; the pillows of the
couch were more splendid than ever; cloths of gold and silver and
wonderful shades of orange and green velvet were among the purple ones he
already knew. Priceless pieces of brocade interwoven with gold covered the
screens and other couches; and, near enough to pick up when she wanted
them, stood jewelled boxes of cigarettes and bonbons, and stands of
Her expression, too, was altered. A new mood shone there; and later, when
Paul learnt the history of the wonderful women of _cinquecento_ Venice, it
seemed as if something of their exotic voluptuous spirit now lived in her.
This was a new queen to worship--and die for, if necessary. He dimly felt,
even in these first moments, that here he would drink still deeper of the
mysteries of life and passionate love.
_"Beztzenny-moi,"_ she said, "my priceless one. At last I have you again
to make me _live_. Ah! I must know it is really you, my Paul!"
They were sitting on the tiger by now, and she undulated round and all
over him, feeling his coat, and his face, and his hair, as a blind person
might, till at last it seemed as if she were twined about him like a
serpent. And every now and then a narrow shaft of the glorious dying
sunlight would strike the great emerald on her forehead, and give forth
sparks of vivid green which appeared reflected again in her eyes. Paul's
head swam, he felt intoxicated with bliss.
"This Venice is for you and me, my Paul," she said. "The air is full of
love and dreams; we have left the slender moon behind us in Switzerland;
here she is nearing her full, and the summer is upon us with all her
richness and completeness--the spring of our love has passed."
Her voice fell into its rhythmical cadence, as if she were whispering a
prophecy inspired by some presence beyond.
"We will drink deep of the cup of delight, my, lover, and bathe in the
wine of the gods. We shall feast on the tongues of nightingales, and rest
on couches of flowers. And thou shalt cede me thy soul, beloved, and I
will give thee mine--"
But the rest was lost in the meeting of their lips.
* * * * *
They dined on the open loggia, its curtains drawn, hiding them from the
view of the palaces opposite, but not preventing the soft sounds of the
singers in the gondolas moored to the poles beneath from reaching their
ears. And above the music now and then would come the faint splash of
water, and the "Stahi"--"Preme" of some moving gondolier.
The food was of the richest, beginning with strange fishes and quantities
of _hors d'oeuvres_ that Paul knew not, accompanied by _vodka_ in several
forms. And some of the _plats_ she would just taste, and some send
And all the while a little fountain of her own perfume played from a group
of sportive cupids in silver, while the table in the centre was piled with
red roses. Dmitry and two Italian footmen waited, and everything was done
with the greatest state. A regal magnificence was in the lady's air and
mien. She spoke of the splendours of Venice's past, and let Paul feel the
atmosphere of that subtle time of passion and life. Of here a love-scene,
and there a murder. Of wisdom and vice, and intoxicating emotion, all
blended in a kaleidoscope of gorgeousness and colour.
And once again her vast knowledge came as a fresh wonder to Paul--no
smallest detail of history seemed wanting in her talk, so that he lived
again in that old world and felt himself a Doge.
When they were alone at last, tasting the golden wine, she rose and drew
him to the loggia balustrade. Dmitry had drawn back the curtains and
extinguished the lights, and only the brilliant moon lit the scene; a
splendid moon, two nights from the full. There she shone straight down
upon them to welcome them to this City of Romance.
What loveliness met Paul's view! A loveliness in which art and nature
blended in one satisfying whole.
"Darling," he said, "this is better than the Buergenstock. Let us go out on
the water and float about, too."
It was exceedingly warm these last days of May, and that night not a
zephyr stirred a ripple. A cloak and scarf of black gauze soon hid the
lady's splendour, and they descended the staircase hand in hand to the
waiting open gondola.
It was a new experience of joy for Paul to recline there, and drift away
down the stream, amidst the music and the coloured lanterns, and the
wonderful, wonderful spell of the place.
The lady was silent for a while, and then she began to whisper passionate
words of love. She had never before been thus carried away--and he must
say them to her--as he held her hand--burning words, inflaming the
imagination and exciting the sense. It seemed as if all the other nights
of love were concentrated into this one in its perfect joy.
Who can tell of the wild exaltation which filled Paul? He was no longer
just Paul Verdayne, the ordinary young Englishman; he was a god--and this
"Look, Paul!" she said at last. "Can you not see Desdemona peeping from
the balcony of her house there? And to think she will have no happiness
before her Moor will strangle her to-night! Death without joys. Ah! that
is cruel. Some joys are well worth death, are they not, my lover, as you
and I should know?"
"Worth death and eternity," said Paul. "For one such night as this with
you a man would sell his soul."
It was not until they turned at the opening of the Guidecca to return to
their palazzo that they both became aware of another gondola following
them, always at the same distance behind--a gondola with two solitary
figures in it huddled on the seats.
The lady gave a whispered order in Italian to her gondolier, who came to a
sudden stop, thus forcing the other boat to come much nearer before it,
too, arrested its course. There a moonbeam caught the faces of the men as
they leant forward to see what had occurred. One of them was Dmitry, and
the other a younger man of the pure Kalmuck type whom Paul had never seen.
"Vasili!" exclaimed the lady, in passionate surprise. "Vasili! and they
have not told me!"
She trembled all over, while her eyes blazed green flames of anger and
excitement. "If it is unnecessary they shall feel the whip for this."
Her cloak had fallen aside a little, disclosing a shimmer of purple
garment and flashing emeralds. She looked barbaric, her raven brows knit.
It might have been Cleopatra commanding the instant death of an offending
It made Paul's pulses bound, it seemed so of the picture and the night.
All was a mad dream of exotic emotion, and this was just an extra note.
But who was Vasili? And what did his presence portend? Something fateful
at all events.
The lady did not speak further, only by the quiver of her nostrils and the
gleam in her eyes he knew how deeply she was stirred.
Yes, one or the other would feel the whip, if they had been over-zealous
in their duties!
It seemed out of sheer defiance of some fate that she decided to go on
into the lagoon when they passed San Georgio. It was growing late, and
Paul's thoughts had turned to greater joys. He longed to clasp her in his
arms, to hold her, and prove her his own. But she sat there, her small
head held high, and her eyes fearless and proud--thus he did not dare to
plead with her.
But presently, when she perceived the servants were no longer following,
her mood changed, the sweetness of the serpent of old Nile fell upon her,
and all of love that can be expressed in whispered words and tender
hand-clasps, she lavished upon Paul, after ordering the gondolier to
hasten back to the palazzo. It seemed as if she, too, could not contain
her impatience to be again in her lover's arms.
"I will not question them to-night," she said when they arrived, and she
saw Dmitry awaiting her on the steps. "To-night we will live and love at
least, my Paul. Live and love in passionate bliss!"
But she could not repress the flash of her eyes which appeared to
annihilate the old servant. He fell on his knees with the murmured words
_"O Imperatorskoye!"_ And Paul guessed it meant Imperial Highness, and a
great wonder grew in his mind.
Their supper was laid in the loggia again, and under the windows the
musicians still played and sang a gentle accompaniment to their sighs of
But later still Paul learnt what fiercest passion meant, making other
memories as moonlight unto sunlight--as water unto wine.
To some natures security hath no charm--the sword of Damocles suspended
over their heads adds to their enjoyment of anything. Of such seemed Paul
and his lady. It was as if they were snatching astonishing pleasures from
the very brink of some danger, none the less in magnitude because unknown.
They did not breakfast until after one o'clock the next day, and then she
bade him sleep--sleep on this other loggia where they sat, which gave upon
the side canal obliquely, while looking into a small garden of roses and
oleanders below. Here were shade and a cool small breeze.
"We are so weary, my beloved one," the lady said. "Let us sleep on these
couches of smooth silk, sleep the heavy hours of the afternoon away, and
go to the Piazza when the heat of the sun has lessened in measure."
An immense languor was over Paul--he asked nothing better than to rest
there in the perfumed shade, near enough to his loved one to be able to
stretch out his arm and touch her hair. And soon a sweet sleep claimed
him, and all was oblivion and peace.
The lady lay still on her couch for a while, her eyes gleaming between
their half-closed lids. But at last, when she saw that Paul indeed slept
deeply, she rose stealthily and crept from the place back to the room, the
gloomy vast room within, where she summoned Dmitry, and ordered the man
she had called Vasili the night before into her presence. He came with
cringing diffidence, prostrating himself to the ground before her, and
kissing the hem of her dress, mute adoration in his dark eyes, like those
of a faithful dog--a great scar showing blue on his bronzed cheek and
She questioned him imperiously, while he answered humbly in fear. Dmitry
stood by, an anxious, strained look on his face, and now and then he put
in a word.
Of what danger did they warn her, these two faithful servants? One came
from afar for no other purpose, it seemed. Whatever it was she received
the news in haughty defiance. She spoke fiercely at first, and they
humbled themselves the more. Then Anna appeared, and joined her
supplications to theirs, till at last the lady, like a pettish child
chasing a brood of tiresome chickens, shooed them all from the room,
'twixt laughter and tears. Then she threw up her arms in rage for a
moment, and ran back to the loggia where Paul still slept. Here she sat
and looked at him with burning eyes of love.
He was certainly changed in the eighteen days since she had first seen
him. His face was thinner, the beautiful lines of youth were drawn with a
finer hand. He was paler, too, and a shadow lay under his curly lashes.
But even in his sleep it seemed as if his awakened soul had set its seal
upon his expression--he had tasted of the knowledge of good and evil now.
The lady crept near him and kissed his hair. Then she flung herself on her
own couch, and soon she also slept.
It was six o'clock before they awoke, Paul first--and what was his joy to
be able to kneel beside her and watch her for a few seconds before her
white lids lifted themselves! An attitude of utter weariness and _abandon_
was hers. She was as a child tired out with passionate weeping, who had
fallen to sleep as she had flung herself down. There was something even
pathetic about that proud head laid low upon her clasped arms.
Paul gazed and gazed. How he worshipped her! Wayward, tigerish, beautiful
Queen. But never selfish or small. And what great thing had she not done
for him--she who must have been able to choose from all the world a
lover--and she had chosen him. How poor and narrow were all the thoughts
of his former life, everywhere hedged in with foolish prejudice and
ignorant certainty. Now all the world should be his lesson-book, and some
day he would show her he was worthy of her splendid teaching and belief in
him, and her gift of an awakened soul. He bent still lower on his knees,
and kissed her feet with deepest reverence. She stirred not. She was so
very pale--fear came to him for an instant--and then he kissed her mouth.
Her wonderful eyes unclosed themselves with none of the bewildered stare
people often wake with when aroused suddenly. It seemed that even in her
sleep she had been conscious of her loved one's presence. Her lips parted
in a smile, while her heavy lashes again swept her cheeks.
"Sweetheart," she said, "you could awake me from the dead, I think. But we
are living still, my Paul--waste we no more time, in dreams."
They made haste, and were soon in the gondola on their way to the Piazza.
"Paul," she said, with a wave of her hand which included all the beauty
around, "I am so glad you only see Venice now, when your eyes can take it
in, sweetheart. At first it would have said almost nothing to you," and
she smiled playfully. "In fact, my Paul would have spent most of his time
in wondering how he could get exercise enough, there being so few places
to walk in! He would have bought a nigger boy with a dish for his father,
and some Venetian mirrors for his aunts, and perhaps--yes--a piece of Mr.
Jesurum's lace for his mother, and some blown glass for his friends. He
would have walked through St. Mark's, and thought it was a tumble-down
place, with uneven pavements, and he would have noticed there were a
'jolly lot of pigeons' in the square! Then he would have been captious
with the food at his hotel, grumbled at the waiters, scolded poor
Tompson--and left for Rome!"
"Oh! darling!" said Paul, laughing too, in spite of his protest. "Surely,
surely, I never was so bad as that--and yet I expect it is probably true.
How can I ever thank you enough for giving me eyes and an understanding?"
"There--there, beloved," she said.
They walked through the Piazza; the pigeons amused Paul, and they stopped
and bought corn for them, and fed the greedy creatures, ever ready for the
unending largess of strangers. One or two, bolder than the rest, alighted
on the lady's hat and shoulder, taking the corn from between her red lips,
and Paul felt jealous even of the birds, and drew her on to see the
Campanile, still standing then. They looked at it all, they looked at the
lion, and finally they entered St. Mark's.
And here Paul held her arm, and gazed with bated breath. It was all so
beautiful and wonderful, and new to his eyes. He had scarcely ever been in
a Roman Catholic church before, and had not guessed at the gorgeous beauty
of this half-Byzantine shrine. They hardly spoke. She did not weary him
with details like a guide-book--that would be for his after-life
visits--but now he must see it just as a glorious whole.
"They worshipped here, and endowed their temple with gold and jewels," she
whispered, "and then they went into the Doge's Palace, and placed a word
in the lion's mouth which meant death or destruction to their best
friends! A wonderful people, those old Venetians! Sly and fierce--cruel
and passionate--but with ever a shrewd smile in their eye, even in their
love-affairs. I often ask myself, Paul, if we are not too civilised, we of
our time. We think too much of human suffering, and so we cultivate the
nerves to suffer more, instead of hardening them. Picture to yourself, in
my grandfather's boyhood we had still the serfs! I am of his day, though
it is over--I have beaten Dmitry--"
Then she stopped speaking abruptly, as though aware she had localised her
nation too much. A strange imperious expression came into her eyes as they
met Paul's--almost of defiance.
Paul was moved. He began as if to speak, then he remembered his promise
never to question her, and remained silent.
"Yes, my Paul--you have promised, you know," she said. "I am for you, your
love--your love--but living or dead you must never seek to know more!"
"Ah!" he cried, "you torture me when you speak like that. 'Living or
dead.' My God! that means us both--we stand or fall together."
"Dear one"--her voice fell softly into a note of intense
earnestness--"while fate lets us be together--yes--living or dead--but
if we must part, then either would be the cause of the death of the other
by further seeking--never forget that, my beloved one. Listen"--her eyes
took a sudden fierceness--"once I read your English book, 'The Lady and
the Tiger.' You remember it, Paul? She must choose which she would give
her lover to--death and the tiger, or to another and more beautiful woman.
One was left, you understand, to decide the end one's self. It caused
question at the moment; some were for one choice, some for the other--but
for me there was never any hesitation. I would give you to a thousand
tigers sooner than to another woman--just as I would give my life a
thousand times for your life, my lover."
"Darling," said Paul, "and I for yours, my fierce, adorable Queen. But why
should we speak of terrible things? Are we not happy today, and now, and
have you not told me to live while we may?"
"Come!" she said, and they walked on down to the gondola again, and
floated away out to the lagoon. But when they were there, far away from
the world, she talked in a new strain of earnestness to Paul. He must
promise to do something with his life--something useful and great in
"You must not just drift, my Paul, like so many of your countrymen do. You
must help to stem the tide of your nation's decadence, and be a strong
man. For me, when I read now of England, it seems as if all the hereditary
legislators--it is what you call your nobles, eh?--these men have for
their motto, like Louis XV., _Apres moi le deluge_--It will last my time.
Paul, wherever I am, it will give me joy for you to be strong and great,
sweetheart. I shall know then I have not loved just a beautiful shell,
whose mind I was able to light for a time. That is a sadness, Paul,
perhaps the greatest of all, to see a soul one has illuminated and
awakened to the highest point gradually slipping back to a browsing sheep,
to live for _la chasse_ alone, and horses, and dogs, with each day no
higher aim than its own mean pleasure. Ah, Paul!" she continued with
sudden passion, "I would rather you were dead--dead and cold with me, than
I should have to feel you were growing a _rien du tout_--a thing who will
go down into nothingness, and be forgotten by men!"
Her face was aflame with the _feu sacre_. The noble brow and line of her
throat will ever remain in Paul's memory as a thing apart in womankind.
Who could have small or unworthy thoughts who had known her--this splendid
And his worship grew and grew.
That night, as they looked from the loggia on the Grand Canal after
dinner, the moonlight making things almost light as day, Dmitry begged
admittance from the doorway of the great salon. The lady turned
imperiously, and flashed upon him. How dared he interrupt their happy hour
with things of earth? Then she saw he was loth to speak before Paul, and
that his face was grey with fear.
Paul realised the situation, and moved aside, pretending to lean from the
wide windows and watch the passing gondolas, his wandering attention,
however, fixing itself upon one which was moored not far from the palazzo,
and occupied by a solitary figure reclining motionless in the seats. It
had no coloured lights, this gondola, or merry musicians; it was just a
black object of silence, tenanted by one man.
Dmitry whispered, and the lady listened, a quiver of rage going through
her lithe body. Then she turned and surveyed the moored gondola, the same
storm of passion and hate in her eyes as once before had come there, at
the Rigi Kaltbad Belvedere.
"Shall I kill the miserable spy? Vasili would do it this night," she
hissed between her clenched teeth. "But to what end? A day's respite,
perhaps, and then another, and another to face."
Dmitry raised an imploring hand to draw her from the wide arched opening,
where she must be in full view of those watching below. She motioned him
furiously aside, and took Paul's hand. "Come, my lover," she said, "we
will look no more on this treacherous stream! It is full of the ghosts of
past murders and fears. Let us return to our shrine and shut out all jars;
we will sit on our tiger and forget even the moon. Beloved one--come!"
And she led him to the open doorway, but the hand which held his was cold
A tumult of emotion was dominating Paul. He understood now that danger was
near--he guessed they were being watched--but by whom? By the orders
of--her husband? Ah! that thought drove him mad with rage--her husband!
She--his own--the mate of his soul--of his body and soul--was the legal
belonging of somebody else! Some vile man whom she hated and loathed, a
"rotting carrion spoiling God's earth." And he--Paul--was powerless to
change this fact--was powerless altogether except to love her and die for
her if that would be for her good.
"Queen," he said, his voice hoarse with passion and pain, "let us leave
Venice--leave Europe altogether--let me take you away to some far land of
peace, and live there in safety and joy for the rest of our lives. You
would always be the empress of my being and soul."
She flung herself on the tiger couch, and writhed there for some moments,
burying her clenched fists in the creature's deep fur. Then she opened
wide her arms, and drew Paul to her in a close, passionate embrace.
"_Moi-Lioubimyi_--My beloved--my darling one!" she whispered in anguish.
"If we were lesser persons--yes, we could hide and live for a time in a
tent under the stars--but we are not They would track me, and trap us, and
sooner or later there would be the end, the ignominious, ordinary end of
disgrace--" Then she clasped him closer, and whispered right in his ear in
her wonderful voice, now trembling with love.
"Sweetheart--listen! Beyond all of this there is that thought, that hope,
ever in my heart that one day a son of ours shall worthily fill a throne,
so we must not think of ourselves, my Paul, of the Thou, and the I, and
the Now, beloved. A throne which is filled most ignobly at present, and
only filled at all through my birth and my family's influence. Think not I
want to plant a cheat. No! I have a right to find an heir as I will, a
splendid heir who shall redeem the land--the spirit of our two selves
given being by love, and endowed by the gods. Ah! think of it, Paul. Dream
of this joy and pride, it will help to still the unrest we are both
suffering now. It must quiet this wild, useless rage against fate. Is it
not so, my lover?"
Her voice touched his very heartstrings, but he was too deeply moved to
answer her for a moment. The renewal of this thought exalted his very
soul. All that was noble and great in his nature seemed rising up in one
A son of his and hers to fill a throne! Ah! God, if that were so!
"I love the English," she whispered. "I have known the men of all
nations--but I love the English best. They are straight and just--the
fine ones at least. They are brave and fair--and fearless. And our baby
Paul shall be the most splendid of any. Beloved one, you must not think me
a visionary--a woman dreaming of what might never be--I see it--I know it.
This will come to pass as I say, and then we shall both find consolation
Thus she whispered on until Paul was intoxicated with joy and glory, and
forgot time and place and danger and possible parting. A host of
triumphant angels seemed singing in his ears.
Then she read him poetry, and let him caress her, and smiled in his arms.
But towards morning, if he had awakened, he would have found his lady
prostrate with silent weeping. The intense concentrated grief of a strong
nature taking its farewell.
Now this Thursday was the night of the full moon. A cloudless morning sky
promised a glorious evening.
The lovers woke early, and had their breakfast on the loggia overlooking
the oleander garden. The lady was in an enchanting mood of sunshine, and
no one could have guessed of the sorrow of her dawn vigil thoughts. She was
wayward and playful--one moment petting Paul with exquisite sweetness, the
next teasing his curls and biting the lobes of his ears. She never left him
for one second--it seemed she must teach him still more subtle caresses,
and call forth even new shades of emotion and bliss. All fear was banished,
only a brilliant glory remained. She laughed and half-closed her eyes with
provoking smiles. She undulated about, creeping as a serpent over her
lover, and kissing his eyelids and hair. They were so infinitely happy it
was growing to afternoon before they thought of leaving their loggia, and
then they started in the open gondola, and glided away through quaint,
narrow canals until they came to the lagoon.
"We shall not stay in the gondola long, my Paul," she said. "I cannot bear
to be out of your arms, and our palace is fair. And oh! my beloved,
to-night I shall feast you as never before. The night of our full moon!
Paul, I have ordered a bower of roses and music and song. I want you to
remember it the whole of your life."
"As though I could forget a moment of our time, my sweet," said Paul. "It
needs no feasts or roses--only whatever delights you to do, delights me
"Paul," she cooed after a while, during which her hand had lain in his and
there had been a soft silence, "is not this a life of joy, so smooth and
gliding, this way of Venice? It seems far from ruffles and storms. I shall
love it always, shall not you? and you must come back in other years and
study its buildings and its history, Paul--with your new, fine eyes."
"We shall come together, my darling," he answered. "I should never want
"Sweetheart!" she cooed again in his ears; and then presently, "Paul," she
said, "some day you must read 'Salammbo,' that masterpiece of Flaubert's.
There is a spirit of love in that which now you would understand--the love
which looked out of Matho's eyes when his body was beaten to jelly. It is
the love I have for you, my own--a love 'beyond all words or sense'--as one
of your English poets says. Do you know, with the strange irony of things,
when a woman's love for a man rises to the highest point there is in it
always an element of _the wife_? However wayward and tigerish and
undomestic she may be, she then desires to be the acknowledged possession
and belonging of the man, even to her own dishonour. She desires to
reproduce his likeness, she wants to compass his material good. She will
think of his food, and his raiment, and his well-being, and never of her
own--only, if she is wise she will hide all these things in her heart, for
the average man cannot stand this great light of her sweetness, and when
her love becomes selfless, his love will wane."
"The average man's--yes, perhaps so," agreed Paul. "But then, what does the
average person of either sex know of love at all?"
"They think they know," she said. "Really think it, but love like ours
happens perhaps once in a century, and generally makes history of some
sort--bad or good."
"Let it!" said Paul. "I am like Antony in that poem you read me last
night. I must have you for my own, 'Though death, dishonour, anything you
will, stand in the way.' He knew what he was talking about, Antony! so did
the man who wrote the poem!"
"He was a great sculptor as well as a poet," the lady said. "And yes, he
knew all about those wonderful lovers better far than your Shakespeare did,
who leaves me quite cold when I read his view of them. Cleopatra was to me
so subtle, so splendid a queen."
"Of course she was just you, my heart," said Paul. "You are her soul living
over again, and that poem you must give me to keep some day, because it
says just what I shall want to say if ever I must be away from you for a
time. See, have I remembered it right?
"'Tell her, till I see Those eyes, I do not live--that Rome to me Is
hateful,--tell her--oh!--I know not what--That every thought and feeling,
space and spot, Is like an ugly dream where she is not; All persons
plagues; all living wearisome; All talking empty...'.