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ONE DAY

A SEQUEL TO "THREE WEEKS"

ANONYMOUS


Original Publication Date 1909, by The Macaulay Company


NEW YORK THE MACAULAY COMPANY 1912



THE SCHILLING PRESS NEW YORK




FOREWORD TO MY AMERICAN FRIENDS


Now after spending some very pleasant weeks in your interesting country,
I feel sure that this book will find many sympathetic readers in
America. Quite naturally it will be discussed; some, doubtless, will
censure it - and unjustly; others will believe with me that the tale
teaches a great moral lesson.

Born as the Boy was born, the end which Fate forced upon him, to me, was
inevitable. Each word and act of the three weeks of his parents'
love-idyl must reflect in the character and life of the child. Little by
little the baby King grew before my mental vision until I saw at last
there was no escape from his importunity and I allowed the insistent
Boy - masterful even from his inception - to shape himself at his own
sweet will. Thus he became the hero of my study.

This is not a book for children or fools - but for men and women who can
grasp the underlying principle of morality which has been uppermost in
my mind as I wrote. Those who can see beyond the outburst of
passion - the overmastering belief in the power of love to justify all
things, which the Boy inherited so naturally from his Queen mother - will
understand the forces against which the young Prince must needs fight a
losing battle. The transgression was unavoidable to one whose very
conception was beyond the law - the punishment was equally inevitable.

In fairness to this book of mine - and to me - the great moral lesson I
have endeavored to teach must be considered in its entirety, and no
single episode be construed as the book's sole aim. The verdict on my
two years' work rests with you, dear Reader, but at least you may be
sure that I have only tried to show that those who sow the wind shall
reap the whirlwind.

- THE AUTHOR.




ONE DAY




CHAPTER I


The Prince tore the missive fiercely from its envelope, and scowled at
the mocking glint of the royal crown so heavily embossed at the top of
the paper. What a toy it was, he thought, to cost so much, and
eventually to mean so little! Roughly translated, the letter ran as
follows:

"Your Royal Highness will be gratified to learn that at last a
satisfactory alliance has been arranged between the Princess Elodie of
Austria and your royal self. It is the desire of both courts and
councils that the marriage shall be solemnized on the fifteenth of the
May following your twenty-first birthday, at which time the coronation
ceremony takes place that is to place the crown of the kingdom upon the
head of the son of our beloved and ever-to-be-regretted Imperatorskoye.
The Court and Council extend greetings and congratulations upon the not
far distant approach of both auspicious events to your Royal Highness,
which cannot fail to afford the utmost satisfaction in every detail to
the ever-beautiful-and-never-to-be-sufficiently beloved Prince Paul.

"Imperator-to-be, we salute thee. We kiss thy feet."

The letter was sealed with the royal crest and signed by the Regent - the
Boy's uncle - the Grand Duke Peter, his mother's brother, who had been
his guardian and protector almost from his birth. The young prince knew
that his uncle loved him, knew that the Grand Duke desired nothing on
earth so much as the happiness of his beloved sister's only son - and yet
at this crisis of the Boy's life, even his uncle was as powerless to
help as was Paul Verdayne, the Englishman.

"The Princess Elodie!" he grumbled. "Who the devil is this Princess
Elodie, anyway? Austrian blood has no particular charm for me! They
might at least have told me something a little more definite about the
woman they have picked out to be the mother of my children. A man
usually likes to look an animal over before he purchases!"

Known to London society as Monsieur Zalenska, the Prince had come up to
town with the Verdaynes, and was apparently enjoying to the utmost the
frivolities of London life.

At a fashionable garden party he sat alone, in a seclusion he had long
sought and had finally managed to secure, behind a hedge of hawthorn
where none but lovers, and men and women troubled as he was troubled,
cared to conceal themselves.

The letter, long-expected and dreaded, had finally crossed the continent
to his hand. It was only the written confirmation of the sentence Fate
had pronounced upon him, even as it had pronounced similar sentences
upon princes and potentates since the beginning of thrones and kingdoms.

While the Prince - or Paul Zalenska, as I will now call him - sat in his
brooding brown study, clutching the imperial letter tightly in his young
hand, his attention was arrested by the sound of voices on the other
side of the hawthorn hedge.

He listened idly, at first, to what seemed to be a one-sided
conversation, in a dull, emotionless feminine voice - a discourse on
fashion, society chit-chat, and hopeless nonentities, interspersed with
bits of gossip. Could women never talk about anything else? he thought
impatiently.

But his displeasure did not seem to affect the course of things at all.
The voice, completely unconscious of the aversion it aroused in the
invisible listener, continued its dreary, expressionless monotone.

"What makes you so silent, Opal? You haven't said a word to-day that you
didn't absolutely have to say. If all American girls are as dreamy as
you, I wonder why our English lords are so irresistibly attracted across
the water when in search of brides!"

And then the Boy on the other side of the hedge felt his sluggish pulse
quicken, and almost started to his feet, impelled by a sudden thrill of
delight; for another voice had spoken - a voice of such infinite charm
and sweetness and vitality, yet with languorous suggestion of emotional
heights and depths, that he felt a vague sense of disappointment when
the magnetic notes finally died away.

"Brides?" the voice echoed, with a lilt of girlish laughter running
through the words. "You mean '_bribes_,' don't you? For I assure you,
dear cousin, it is the metallic clink of American gold, and nothing
else, that lures your great men over the sea. As for my silence, _ma
belle_, I have been uncommunicative because there really seemed nothing
at all worth saying. I can't accustom myself to small-talk - I can't even
listen to it patiently. I always feel a wild impulse to fly far, far
away, where I can close my ears to it all and listen to my own thoughts.
I'm sorry if I disappoint you, Alice - I seem to disappoint everybody
that I would like to please - but I assure you, laugh at my dreams as you
may, to me my dream-life is far more attractive and beautiful than what
you term Life. Forgive me if I hurt you, cousin. I'm peculiarly
constituted, perhaps, but I don't like this twaddle, and I can't help
it! Everything in England is so beautiful, and yet its society seems
so - so hopelessly unsatisfactory to one who longs to _live!_"

"To live, Opal? We are not dead, surely! What do you mean by life?"

And so her name was Opal! How curiously the name suited the voice! The
Boy, as he listened, felt that no other name could possibly have
matched that voice - the opal, that glorious gem in which all the fires
of the sun, the iridescent glories of the rainbow, and the cold
brilliance of ice and frost and snow seemed to blend and crystallize.
All this, and more, was in that mysteriously fascinating voice.

"To live, Alice?" echoed the voice again. "To live? Why, to live is to
_feel!_ - to feel every emotion of which the human soul is capable, to
rise to the heights of love, and knowledge, and power; to sink - if need
be - to the deepest depths of despair, but, at all costs, at all hazards,
to _live!_ - to experience in one's own nature all the reality and
fullness of the deathless emotions of life!"

The voice sank almost to the softness of a whisper, yet even then was
vibrant, alive, intense.

"Ah, Alice, from my childhood up, I have dreamed of life and longed for
it. What life really is, each must decide for himself, must he not?
Some, they say, sleep their way through a dreamless existence, and
never, never wake to realities. Alice, I have sometimes wondered if that
was to be my fate, have wondered and wondered until I have cried out in
real terror at the hideous prospect! Surely Fate could not be so cruel
as to implant such a desperate desire in a soul that never was to know
its fulfilment. Could it, Alice? Tell me, _could_ it?"

The Boy held his breath now.

Who was this girl, anyhow, who seemed to express his own thoughts as
accurately as he himself could have done? He was bored no longer. He was
roused, stirred, awakened - and intensely interested. It was as though
the voice of his own soul spoke to him in a dream.

The cold, lifeless voice now chimed in again. In his impatience the Boy
clenched his fists and shut his teeth together hard. Why didn't she keep
still? He didn't want to miss a single note he might have caught of the
voice - that other! Why did this nonentity - for one didn't have to see
her to be sure that she was that - have to interrupt and rob him of his
pleasure?

"I don't understand you, Opal," she was saying. (Of course she didn't,
thought the Boy - how could she?) "I am sure that I live. And yet I have
never felt that way - thank goodness! It's vulgar to feel too deeply,
Mamma used to say, and as I have grown older, I can see that she was
right. The best people never show any excess of emotion. That is for
tragedy queens, operatic stars, and - the women we do not talk about!
Ladies cultivate repose!"

("Repose! - _mon Dieu!_" thought Paul, behind the hedge. He wished that
she would!)

"And yet, Alice, you are - married!"

"Married? - of course! - why not?" and the eavesdropper fancied he could
see the wide-open gaze of well-bred English surprise that accompanied
the words. "One has to marry, of course. That is what we are created
for. But one doesn't make a fuss about it. It's only a custom - a
ceremony - and doesn't change existence much for most women, if they
choose sensibly. Of course there is always the chance of a
_m├ęsalliance_! A woman has to risk that."

"And you don't - love?"

The Boy was struck by a note that was almost horror in the opaline voice
so near him.

"Love? Why, Opal, of course we do! It's easy to love, you know, when a
man is decent and half-way good to one. I am sure I think a great deal
of Algernon; but I dare say I should have thought as much of any other
man I had happened to marry. That is a wife's duty!"

"_Duty!_ - and you call that love?" The horror in the tones had now
changed to scorn.

"You have strange ideas of life, Opal. I should be afraid to indulge
them if I were you - really I should! You have lived so much in books
that you seem to have a very garbled idea of the world. Fiction is apt
to be much of a fairy tale, a crazy exaggeration of what living really
consists of!"

"_Afraid?_ Why should I be afraid? I am an American girl, remember, and
Americans are afraid of nothing - nothing! Come, cousin, tell to me, if
you can, why I should be afraid."

"Oh, I don't know! really I don't!" There was a troubled, perplexed note
in the English voice now. "Such notions are apt to get girls into
trouble, and lead them to some unhappy fate. Too much 'life' - as you
call it - must mean suffering, and sorrow, and many tears - and maybe,
_sin_!"

There was a shocked note in the voice of the young English matron as
she added the last word, and her voice sank to a whisper. But Paul
Zalenska heard, and smiled.

"Suffering, and sorrow, and many tears," repeated the American girl,
musingly, "and maybe - sin!" Then she went on, firmly, "Very well,
Alice, give me the suffering and sorrow, and many tears - and the sin,
too, if it must be, for we are all sinners of greater or less
degree - but at any rate, give me life! My life may still be far off in
the future, but when the time comes, I shall certainly know, and - I
shall _live_!"

"You are a peculiar girl, Opal, and - we don't say those things in
England."

"No, you don't say those things, you cold English women! You do not even
_feel_ them! As for sin, Alice, to my mind there can be no worse sin
under heaven than you commit when you give yourself to a man whom you do
not love better than you could possibly love any other. Oh, it is a
sin - it _must_ be - to sell yourself like that! It's no wonder, I think,
that your husbands are so often driven to 'the women we do not talk
about' for - consolation!"

"Opal! Opal! hush! What _are_ you saying? You really - but see! isn't
that Algernon crossing the terrace? He is probably looking for us."

"And like a dutiful English wife, you mustn't fail to obey, I suppose!
Lead the way, cousin mine, and I'll promise to follow you with due
dignity and decorum."

And the rustle of silken skirts heralded the departure of the ladies
away from the hedge and beyond Paul's hearing.

Then he too started at an eager, restless pace for the centre of the
crowd. He had quite forgotten the future so carefully arranged for him,
and was off in hot pursuit of - what? He did not know! He only knew that
he had heard a voice, and - he followed!

As he rejoined the guests, he looked with awakened interest into every
face, listened with eager intensity to every voice. But all in vain. It
did not occur to him that he might easily learn from his hostess the
identity of her American guest; and even if the thought had presented
itself to him, he would never have acted upon it. The experience was
his alone, and he would have been unwilling to share it with any one.

He was no longer bored as earlier in the afternoon, and he carried the
assurance of enthusiasm and interest in his every glance and motion.
People smiled at the solitary figure, and whispered that he must have
lost Verdayne. But for once in his life, the Boy was not looking for his
friend.

But neither did he find the voice!

Usually among the first to depart on such occasions as these, this time
he remained until almost all the crowd had made their adieux. And it was
with a keen sense of disappointment that he at last entered his carriage
for the home of the Verdaynes. He was hearing again and again in the
words of the voice, as it echoed through his very soul, "When my time
comes, I shall certainly know, and I shall - _live!_"

The letter in his pocket no longer scorched the flesh beneath. He had
forgotten its very existence, nor did he once think of the Princess
Elodie of Austria. What had happened to him?

Had he fallen in love with a - voice?




CHAPTER II


It was May at Verdayne Place, and May at Verdayne Place was altogether
different from May in any other part of the world. The skies were of a
far deeper and richer blue; the flowers reached a higher state of
fragrant and rainbow-hued perfection; the sun shining through the green
of the trees was tempered to just the right degree of shine and shadow.
To an Englishman, home is the beginning and the end of the world, and
Paul Verdayne was a typical Englishman.

To be sure, it had not always been so, but Paul had outlived his
vagabond days and had become thoroughly domesticated; yet there had been
a time in his youth when the wandering spirit had filled his soul, when
the love of adventure had lent wings to his feet, and the glory of
romance had lured him to the lights and shadows of other skies than
these. But Verdayne was older now, very much older! He had lived his
life, he said, and settled down!

In the shade of the tall trees of the park, two men were drinking in the
beauties of the season, in all the glory and splendor of its
ever-changing, yet ever-enduring loveliness. One of them was past forty,
the ripeness of middle age and the general air of a well-spent,
well-directed, and fully-developed life lending to his face and form an
unusual distinction - even in that land of distinguished men. His
companion was a boy of twenty, straight and tall and proud, carrying
himself with the regal grace of a Greek god. He was a strong, handsome,
healthy, well-built, and well-instructed boy, a boy at whom any one who
looked once would be sure to look the second time, even though he could
not tell exactly wherein the peculiar charm lay. Both men were fair of
hair and blue-eyed, with clear, clean skins and well-bred English faces,
and the critical observer could scarcely fail to notice how curiously
they resembled each other. Indeed, the younger of the pair might easily
have been the replica of the elder's youth.

When they spoke, however, the illusion of resemblance disappeared. In
the voice of the Boy was a certain vibrant note that was entirely
lacking in the deeper tones of the man - not an accent, nor yet an
inflection, but still a quality that lent a subtle suggestion of foreign
shores. It was an expressive voice, neither languorous nor unduly
forceful, but strangely magnetic, and adorably rich and full, and
musical, thrilling its hearers with its suggestion of latent physical
and spiritual force.

On the afternoon of which I write, those two were facing a crisis that
made them blind to everything of lesser import. Paul Verdayne - the man
- realized this to the full. His companion - the Boy - was dimly but just
as acutely conscious of it. The question had come at last - the question
that Paul Verdayne had been dreading for years.

"Uncle Paul," the Boy was saying, "what relation are you to me? You are
not really my uncle, though I have been taught to call you so after this
quaint English fashion of yours. I know it is something of a secret, but
I know no more! We are closer comrades, it seems to me - you and I - than
any others in all the world. We always understand each other, somehow,
almost without words - is it not so? I even bear your name, and I am
proud of it, because it is yours. But why must there be so much mystery
about our real relationship? Won't you tell me just what I am to you?"

The question, long-looked-for as it was, found the elder man all
unprepared. Is any one ever ready for any dire calamity, however
certainly expected? He paced up and down under the tall trees of the
park and for a time did not answer. Then he paused and laid his hand
upon the shoulder of the Boy with a tenderness of touch that proved
better than any words how close was the bond between them.

"Tell you what you are to me! I could never, never do that! You are
everything to me, everything!"

The Boy made a motion as if to speak, but the man forestalled him.

"We're jolly good friends, aren't we - the very best of companions? In
all the world there is no man, woman or child that is half so near and
dear to me as you. Men don't usually talk about these things to one
another, you know, Boy; but, though I am a bachelor, you see, I feel
toward you as most men feel toward their sons. What does the mere
defining of the relationship matter? Could we possibly be any more to
each other than we are?"

Paul Verdayne seated himself on a little knoll beneath the shade of a
giant oak. The Boy looked at him with the wistfulness of an infinite
question in his gaze.

"No, no, Boy! Some time, perhaps - yes, certainly - you shall know all,
all! But that time has not yet come, and for the present it is best that
things should rest as they are. Trust us, Boy - trust me - and be
patient!"

"Patient!" The Boy laughed a full, ringing laugh, as he threw himself on
the grass at his companion's feet. "I have never learned the word! Could
you be patient, Uncle Paul, when youth was all on fire in your heart,
with your own life shrouded in mystery? Could you, I say, be patient
then?"

Verdayne laughed indulgently as his strong fingers stroked the Boy's
brown curls.

"Perhaps not, Boy, perhaps not! But it is for you," he continued, "for
you, Boy, to make the best of that life of yours, which you are pleased
to think clouded in such tantalizing mystery. It is for you to develop
every God-given faculty of your being that all of us that love you may
have the happiness of seeing you perform wisely and well the mission
upon which you have been sent to this kingdom of yours to accomplish.
Boy! every true man is a king in the might of his manhood, but upon you
is bestowed a double portion of that universal royalty. This is a
throne-worshipping world we are living in, Paul, and it means even more
than you can realize to be a prince of the blood!"

The Boy looked around the park apprehensively. What if someone heard?
For this straight young sapling, who was only the "Boy" to Paul
Verdayne, was to the world at large an heir to a throne, a king who had
been left in infancy the sole ruler of his kingdom.

His visits to Verdayne Place were _incognito_. He did like to throw
aside the purple now and then and be the real live boy he was at heart.
He did enjoy to the full his occasional opportunities, unhampered by
the trappings and obligations of royalty.

"A prince of the blood!" he echoed scornfully. "Bah! - what is that?
Merely an accident of birth!"

"No, not an accident, Paul! Nothing in the world ever is that. Every
fragment of life has its completing part somewhere, given its place in
the scheme of the universe by intricate design - always by _design!_ As
for the duties of your kingdom, my Prince, it is not like you to take
them so lightly."

"I know! I know! Yet everybody might have been born a prince. It is far
more to be a man!"

"True enough, Boy! yet everybody might not have been born to your
position. Only you could have been given the heritage that is yours! My
Boy, yours is a mission, a responsibility, from the Creator of Life
Himself. Everybody can follow - but only God's chosen few can lead! And
you - oh, Boy! yours is a birthright above that of all other princes - if
you only knew!"

The young prince looked wistfully upward into the eyes of the elder man.

"Tell me, Uncle Paul! Dmitry always speaks of my birth with a reverence
and awe quite out of proportion to its possible consequence - poor old
man. And once even the Grand Duke Peter spoke of my 'divine origin'
though he could not be coaxed or wheedled into committing his wise self
any further. Now you, yourself the most reserved and secretive of
individuals when it pleases you to be so, have just been surprised into
something of the same expression. Do you wonder that I long to unravel
the mystery that you are all so determined to keep from me? I can learn
nothing at home - absolutely nothing! They glorify my mother - God bless
her memory! Everyone worships her! But they never speak of you, and they
are silent, too, about my father. They simply won't tell me a thing
about him, so I don't imagine that he could have been a very good king!
_Was_ he, Uncle Paul? Did you know him?"

"I never knew the king, Boy! - never even saw him!"

"But you must have heard - "

"Nothing, Boy, that I can tell you - absolutely nothing!"

Verdayne had risen again and was once more pacing back and forth under
the trees, as was his wont when troubled with painful memories.

"But my mother - you knew _her_!"

"Yes, yes - I knew your mother!"

"Tell me about her!"

A dull, hopeless agony came into the eyes of the older man. And so his
Gethsemane had come to him again! Every life has this garden to pass
through - some, alas! again and yet again! And Paul Verdayne had thought
that he had long since drained his cup of misery to the dregs. He knew
better now.

"Yes, I will tell you of your mother, Boy," he said, and there was a
strained, guarded note in his voice which his companion's quick ear did
not fail to catch. "But you must be patient if you wish to hear what
little there is, after all, that I can tell you. You must remember, my
Boy, that it is a long time since your mother - died - and men of my age
sometimes - forget!"

"I will remember," the Boy said, gently.

But as he looked up into the face of his friend, something in his heart
told him that Paul Verdayne did _not_ forget! And somehow the older man
felt confident that the Boy knew, and was strangely comforted by the
silent sympathy between them which both felt, but neither could express.

"Your mother, Boy, was the noblest and most beautiful woman that ever
graced a throne. Everyone who knew her must have said that! You are very
like her, Paul - not in appearance, a mistake of Fate to be everlastingly
deplored, but in spirit you are her living counterpart. Ah! you have a
great example to live up to, Boy, in attempting to follow her footsteps!


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Online LibraryAnonymousOne Day A sequel to 'Three Weeks' → online text (page 1 of 12)