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His Hour
by Elinor Glyn
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And the Princess had too much tact to do more than embrace her, and express her joy, and give her her blessing. All as if the news contained no flaw, and had come in the most delightful manner.

Then she left her alone in her room.

Yes, this was the only thing to be done, and the sooner the ceremony should be over the better. Lent would come on in a few short weeks; that would be the excuse to hasten matters, and this idea was all Tamara was conscious of as she finished dressing.

At twelve o'clock, with formal ceremony, Prince Milaslvski sent to ask if the Princess Ardcheff could receive him—and soon after he was shown up into the first salon, where the hostess awaited him.

He was dressed in his blue and scarlet uniform, and was groomed with even extra care, she noticed, as he advanced with none of his habitual easy familiarity to greet her.

"I come to ask your consent to my marriage with your goddaughter, Tantine," he said, with grave courtesy, as he kissed her hand. "She has graciously promised to become my wife, and I have only to secure your consent to complete my felicity."

"Gritzko! my dear boy!" was all the Princess could murmur. "If—if—you are sure it is for the happiness of you both nothing of course could give me greater joy; but—"

"It will be for our happiness," he answered, letting the hinted doubt pass.

Then his ceremonious manner melted a little, and he again kissed his old friend's hand. "Dear Tantine, have no fears. I promise you it shall be for our happiness."

The Princess was deeply moved. She knew there must be something underneath all this, but she was accustomed to believe Gritzko blindly, and she felt that if he gave his word, things must be right. She would ask no questions.

"Will you go and fetch my fiance like the darling you are," he said presently, "I want you to give her to me."

And the Princess, quite overcome with emotion, left the room.

It was not like a triumphant prospective Princess and bride that Tamara followed her godmother, when they returned together. She looked a slender drooping girl, in a clinging dove-colored gown, and she hardly raised her eyes from the carpet. Her trembling hand was cold as death when the Princess took it and placed it in Gritzko's, and as they stood receiving her blessing she kissed them both, and then hurriedly made her exit.

When they were alone Tamara remained limp and still, her eyes fixed on the ground. It was he who broke the silence—as he took her left hand, and touched it with his lips.

He drew from her finger her wedding ring and carelessly put it on a table—while he still held her hand—then he placed his gift in the wedding ring's place, a glittering thing of an immense diamond and ruby.

Tamara shivered. She looked down at her hand, it seemed as if all safe and solid things were slipping from her with the removal of that plain gold band. She made no remark as to the beauty of the token of her engagement, she did not thank him, she remained inert and nerveless.

"I thank you, Madame, for your consent," he said stiffly, "I will try to make you not regret it." He used no word of love, nor did he attempt any caresses, although if she had looked up she would have seen the passionate tenderness brimming in his eyes, which he could not conceal. But she did not raise her head, and it all seemed to her part of the same thing—he knew he had sinned against her, and was making the only reparation a gentleman could offer.

And even now with her hand in his, and the knowledge that soon she would be his Princess, there was no triumph or joy, only the sick sense of humiliation she felt. Passion, and its result—necessity—not love, had brought about this situation.

So she stood there in silence. It required the whole force of Gritzko's will to prevent him from folding her shrinking pitiful figure in his strong arms, and raining down kisses and love words upon her. But the stubborn twist in his nature retained its hold. No, that glorious moment should come with a blaze of sunlight when all was won, when he had made her love him in spite of everything.

Meanwhile nothing but reserved homage, and a settling of details.

"You will let the marriage take place before Lent, won't you?" he said, dropping her hand.

And Tamara answered dully.

"I will marry you as soon as you wish," and she turned and sat down.

He leant on the mantlepiece and looked at her. He understood perfectly the reason which made her consent to any date—and he smiled with some strange powerful emotion—and yet his eye had a whimsical gleam.

"You are afraid that something can happen—isn't it?" he said. "Well, I shall be most pleased when that day comes."

But poor Tamara could not bear this—the crystalizing of her fears! With a stifled cry, she buried her face in the cushions. He did not attempt to comfort her—though he could hardly control his longing to do so. Instead of which he said gravely, "I suppose you must communicate with your family? They will come here perhaps for the wedding? You have not to ask any one's consent by the laws of your country, have you?—being a widow."

Tamara with a shamed crimson face half raised her head.

"I am free to do as I choose," she said, and she looked down in crushed wretchedness. "Yes, I suppose they will come to the wedding."

"Lent is such an excellent excuse," he went on. "And all this society is accustomed to my doing as I please, so there will be no great wonder over the haste—only I am sorry if it inconveniences you—such hurried preparation."

"How long is it before Lent?" Tamara asked without interest.

"Just under a month—almost four weeks—shall the wedding take place in about a fortnight? Then we can go south to the sun to spend our honeymoon."

"Just as you will;" Tamara agreed in a deadly resigned voice. "I am always confused with the dates—the difference between the English and Russian—will you write down what it will be that I may send it to my father?"

He picked up a calendar which lay upon the table, and made the calculations, then he jotted it all down on a card and handed it to her.

She took it and never looking at him rose and made a step toward the door, and as she passed the table where he had put her wedding ring she surreptitiously secured it.

"I suppose you are staying for lunch?" she said in the same monotonous voice. "Can I go now?—do you want to say any more?"

"Tamara!" he exclaimed, with entreaty in his tone, and then with quick repression he bowed gravely and once more touched her hand with his lips—ere he held open the door for her.

"I will be here when you return—I will await your pleasure."

So she left the room quietly. And when she was gone he walked wildly up and down for a moment—then he bent and passionately kissed the cushion she had leant on.

Tamara would learn what his love meant—when the day should come.



CHAPTER XX

The lunch passed off with quiet reserve—there was no one present but Stephen Strong. Tamara endeavored to behave naturally and answered Gritzko whenever he spoke to her. He, too, played his part, but the tone of things did not impose upon Stephen Strong.

As they were leaving the diningroom, on the plea of finding something, Tamara went to her room, and Gritzko took his leave.

"I will fetch you for the French plays tonight, Tantine," he said, "and probably will come back to tea—tell Tamara," and so he left, and the two old friends were alone.

They stirred their coffee and then lit cigarettes—there was an awkward silence for a moment, and then the Princess said:

"Stephen, I count upon you to help us all over this. I do not, and will not, even guess what has happened, but of course something has. Only tell me, do you think he loves her? I cannot bear the idea of Tamara's being unhappy."

The old Englishman puffed rings of smoke.

"If she is prepared never to cross his will, but let him be absolute master of her body and soul, while he makes continuous love to her, I should think she will be the happiest woman in the world. She is madly infatuated with him. She has been ever since we came from Egypt—I saw the beginning on the boat—and I warned you, as you know, when I thought he was only fooling."

"In Egypt!—they had met before then!" the Princess exclaimed, surprised; "how like Gritzko to pretend he did not know her,—and be introduced all over again! They had already quarreled, I suppose, and that accounts for the cat and dog like tone there has always been between them."

"Probably," said Stephen Strong; but now I think we can leave it to chance. You may be certain that to marry her is what he wishes most to do,—or he would not have asked her."

"Not even if—he thought he ought to?"

"No—dear friend. No! I believe I know Gritzko even better than you do. If there was a sense of obligation, and no desire in the case, he would simply shoot her and himself, rather than submit to a fate against his inclination. You may rest in peace about that. Whatever strain there is between them, it is not of that sort. I believe he adores her in his odd sort of way, just let them alone now and all will be well."

And greatly comforted the Princess was able to go out calling.

The news was received with every sort of emotion,—surprise, chagrin, joy, excitement, speculation, and there were even those among them who averred they had predicted this marriage all along.

"Fortunately we like her," Countess Olga said. "She is a good sort, and perhaps she will keep Gritzko quiet, and he may be faithful to her."

But this idea was laughed to scorn, until Valonne joined in with his understanding smile.

"I will make you a bet," he said; "in five years' time they will still be love-birds. She will be the only one among this party who won't have been divorced and have moved on to another husband."

"You horribly spiteful cat!" Princess Sonia laughed. "But I am sure we all hope they will be happy."

Meanwhile Jack Courtray had come in at once to see Tamara.

"Well, upon my word! fancy you marrying a foreigner, old girl!" he said; "but you have got just about the best chap I have ever met, and I believe you'll be jolly happy."

And Tamara bent down so that he should not see the tears which gathered in her eyes, while she answered softly, "Thank you very much, Jack; but no one is ever sure of being happy."

And even though Lord Courtray's perceptions were rather thick he wondered at her speech—it upset him.

"Look here, Tamara," he said, "don't you do it then if it is a chancy sort of thing. Don't go and tie yourself up if you aren't sure you love him."

Love him!—good God!—

Pent-up feeling overcame Tamara. She answered in a voice her old playmate had never dreamed she possessed—so concentrated and full of passion. In their English lives they were so accustomed to controlling every feeling into a level commonplace that if they had had time to think, both would have considered this outburst melodramatic.

"Jack," Tamara said, "you don't know what love is. I tell you I know now—I love Gritzko so that I would rather be unhappy with him than happy with any one else on earth. And if they ask you at home, say I would not care if he were a Greek, or a Turk, or an African nigger, I would follow him to perdition.—There!"—and she suddenly burst into tears and buried her face in her hands.

Yes, it was true. In spite of shame and disgrace, and fear, she loved him—passionately loved him.

Of course Jack, who was the kindest-hearted creature, at once put his arm around her and took out his handkerchief and wiped her eyes, while he said soothingly:

"I say, my child—there! there!—this will never do," and he continued to pet and try to comfort her, but all she could reply was to ask him to go, and to promise her not to say anything about her outburst of tears to any one.

And, horribly distressed, Jack did what she wished, running against Gritzko in the passage as he went out; but they had met before that day, so he did not stop, but, nodding in his friendly way, passed down the stairs.

Tamara sat where he had left her, the tears still trickling over her cheeks, while she stared into the fire. The vision she saw there of her future did not console her.

To be married to a man whom she knew she would daily grow to love more—every moment of her time conscious that the tie was one of sufferance, her pride and self respect in the dust—it was a miserable picture.

Gritzko came in so quietly through the anteroom that, lost in her troubled thoughts, she did not hear him until he was quite close. She gave a little startled exclamation and then looked at him defiantly— she was angry that he saw her tears.

His face went white and his voice grew hoarse with overmastering emotion.

"What has happened between you and your friend, Madame? Tell me the truth. No man should see you cry! Tell me everything, or I will kill him."

And he stood there his eyes blazing.

Then Tamara rose and drew herself to her full height, while a flash of her vanished pride returned to her mien, and with great haughtiness she answered in a cold voice:

"I beg you to understand one thing, Prince, I will not be insulted by suspicions and threats against my friends. Lord Courtray and I have been brought up as brother and sister. We spoke of my home, which I may never see again, and I told him what he was to say to them there when they asked about me. If I have cried I am ashamed of my tears, and when you speak and act as you have just done, it makes me ashamed of the feeling which caused them."

He took a step nearer, he admired her courage.

"What was the feeling which caused them? Tell me, I must know,—" he said; but as he spoke he chanced to notice she had replaced her wedding ring, it shone below his glittering ruby.

"That I will not bear!" he exclaimed, and with almost violence he seized her wrist and forcibly drew both rings from her finger, and then replaced his own.

"There shall be no token of another! No gold band there but mine, and until then, no jewel but this ruby!"

Then he dropped her hand and turning, threw the wedding ring with passion in the fire!

Tamara made a step forward in protest, and then she stood petrified while her eyes flashed with anger.

"Indeed, yes, I am ashamed I cried!" she said at last between her teeth.

He made some restless paces, he was very much moved.

"I must know—" he began. But at that moment the servants came in with the tea, and Tamara seized the opportunity while they were settling the tray to get nearer the door, and then fled from the room, leaving Gritzko extremely disturbed.

What could she mean? He knew in his calmer moments he had not the least cause to be jealous of Jack. What was the inference in her words? Two weeks seemed a long time to wait before he could have all clouds dispersed, all things explained—as she lay in his arms. And this thought—to hold her in his arms—drove him wild. He felt inclined to rush after her, to ask her to forgive him for his anger, to kiss and caress her, to tell her he loved her madly and was jealous of even the air she breathed until he should hear her say she loved him.

He went as far as to write a note.

"Madame," he began—He determined to keep to the severest formality or he knew he would never be able to play his part until the end.—"I regret my passion just now. The situation seemed peculiar as I came in. I understand there was nothing for me to have been angry about,—please forgive me. Rest now. I will come and fetch you at quarter to eight.

"Gritzko."

And as he went away he had it sent to her room.

And when Tamara read it the first gleam of comfort she had known since the night at the hut illumined her thoughts. If he should love her— after all!—But no, this could not be so; his behavior was not the behavior of love. But in spite of the abiding undercurrent of humiliation and shame, the situation was intensely exciting. She feverishly looked forward to the evening. Her tears seemed to have unlocked her heart—she was no longer numb. She was perfectly aware that no matter what he had done she wildly loved him. He had taken everything from her, dragged her down from her pedestal, but that last remnant of self-respect she would keep. He should not know of this crowning humiliation—that she still loved him. So her manner was like ice when he came into the room, and the chill of it communicated itself to him. They hardly spoke on the way to the Thtre Michel, and when they entered the box she pretended great interest in the stage, while, between the acts, all their friends came in to give their congratulations.

Tamara asked to be excused from going on to supper and the ball which was taking place. And she kept close to her godmother while going out, and so contrived that she did not say a word alone with Gritzko. It was because he acquiesced fully in this line of conduct that she was able to carry it through, otherwise he would not have permitted it for a moment.

He realized from this night that the situation could only be made possible if he saw her rarely and before people—alone with her, human nature would be too strong. So with the most frigid courtesy and ceremony between them the days wore on, and toward the beginning of the following week Gritzko went off with Jack Courtray on the bear-hunt. He could stand no more.

But after he was gone Tamara loathed the moments. She was overwrought and overstrung. Harassed by the wailing and expostulations of her family for what they termed her "rash act," worried by dressmakers and dozens of letters to write, troubled always with the one dominating fear, at last she collapsed and for two days lay really ill in a darkened room.

Then Gritzko returned, and there were only five days before the wedding. He had sent her flowers each morning as a lover should, and he had loaded her with presents,—all of which she received in the same crushed spirit. With the fixed idea in her brain that he was only marrying her because as a gentleman he must, none of his gifts gave her any pleasure. And he, with immense control of passion had played his part, only his time of probation was illumined by the knowledge of coming joy. Whereas poor Tamara, as the time wore on, lost all hope, and grew daily paler and more fragile-looking.

Her father had a bad attack of the gout, and could not possibly move; but her brother Tom and her sister, Lady Newbridge, and Millicent Hardcastle were to arrive three days before the wedding.



CHAPTER XXI

The night of the bear-hunter's return there was to be a small dinner at the Ardcheff house. The Princess had arranged that there should be a party of six; so that while the four played bridge the fiancs might talk to one another. She was growing almost nervous, and indeed it had required all Stephen Strong's assurance that things eventually would come right to prevent her from being actually unhappy.

"Let 'em alone!" the old man said. "Take no notice! you won't regret it."

Tamara had only got up from her bed that afternoon and was very pale and feeble. She wore a white clinging dress and seemed a mere slip of a girl. The great string of beautiful pearls, Gritzko's latest gift, which had arrived that morning, was round her neck, and her sweet eyes glanced up sadly from the blue shadows which encircled them.

Gritzko was already there when the Princess and Tamara reached the first salon, and his eyes swam with passionate concern when he saw how Tamara had been suffering. He could not restrain the feeling in his voice as he exclaimed:

"You have been ill!—my sweet lady! Oh! Tantine, why did you not send for me? How could you let her suffer?"

And a sudden wave of happiness came over Tamara when he kissed her hand. She was so weak the least thing could have made her cry.

But her happiness was short-lived, for Gritzko—afraid yet of showing what was in his heart—seemed now colder than ever; though he was exulting within himself at the thought that the moment would come soon when all this pretence should end.

Tamara, knowing nothing of these things, felt a new sinking depression. In five days she would be his wife, and then when he had paid the honorable price—how would he treat her?—

He was looking wildly attractive tonight, his voice had a thousand tones in it when he addressed the others, he was merry and witty and gay—and almost made love to the Princess—only to his fiance did he seem reserved.

The food appeared impossible to swallow. She almost felt at last as though she were going to faint. The hopeless anguish of the situation weighed upon her more than ever; for alas! she felt she loved him now beyond any pride, every barrier was broken down. She had no more anger or resentment for the night at the hut. All his many sins were forgiven.

Dinner was an impossible penance, and with a feverish excitement she waited for the time when they should be alone.

It seemed an eternity before coffee was finished and the four retired to their bridge. Then the two passed out of the room and on into the blue salon.

It was extremely difficult for both of them. The Prince could scarcely control his mad longing to caress her. Only that strange turn in his character held him. Also the knowledge that once he were to grant himself an inch he could never restrain the whole of his wild passion, and there were yet five days before she should be really his—.

Tamara looked a white, frozen shape as she almost fell into the sofa below the Falconet group. Cupid with his laughing eyes peeped down and mocked her. Gritzko did not sit beside her. He took a chair and leant on a table near.

"We had good sport," he said dryly. "Your friend can hit things. We got two bears."

"Jack must have been pleased," Tamara answered dully.

"And your family—they arrive on Monday, isn't it?" he asked. "Your brother and sister and the estimable Mrs. Hardcastle?" and he laughed as he always did at the mention of Millicent. "They will wonder, won't they, why you are marrying this savage! but they will not know."

"No!" said Tamara. "They must never know." Gritzko's face became whimsical, a disconcerting, mischievous provoking smile stole into his eyes.

"Do you know yourself?" he asked.

She looked up at him startled. It was her habit now never to meet his eyes. Indeed, the sense of humiliation under which she lived had changed all her fearless carriage of head.

"Why do you ask such questions? I might as well ask you why are you marrying me. We both know that we cannot help it," and there was a break in her voice which touched him profoundly.

"Answer for yourself please, I may have several other reasons," he said coldly, and got up and walked across the room picking up a bibelot here and there, and replacing it restlessly.

Tamara longed to ask him what these reasons were. She was stirred with a faint hope, but she had not the courage, the intensity of her feeling made her dumb.

"They—Tantine—or Sonia—have explained to you all the service, I suppose," he said at last. "It is different to yours in your country. It means much more—"

"And is more easily broken."

"That is so, but we shall not break ours, except by death," and he raised his head proudly. "From Wednesday onward the rest of your life belongs to me."

Tamara shivered. If she could only overcome this numbness which had returned—if she could only let her frozen heart speak; this was surely the moment, but she could not, she remained silent and white and lifeless.

He came over to the sofa.

"Tamara," he said, and his voice vibrated with suppressed passion. "Will you tell me the truth? Do you hate me,—or what do you feel for me?"

She thought he meant only to torture her further; she would not answer the question.

"Is it not enough that you have conquered me by force? Why should you care to know what my feelings are? As you say, after Wednesday I shall belong to you—You can strangle me at Milaslv if you wish. My body will be yours, but my soul you shall never soil or touch, you have no part or lot in that matter, Prince."

His eyes filled with pain.

"I will even have your soul," he said. Then, as though restraining further emotion, he went on coldly. "I have arranged that after the wedding we go to my house, and do not start for the South until Saturday. There are some things I wish to show you there. Will that be as you wish?"

"I have no wishes, it is as you please," Tamara answered monotonously.

He gave an impatient shrug, and walked up and down the room, his will kept its mastery, but it was a tremendous strain. Her words had stung him, her intense quiet and absence of emotion had produced a faint doubt. What if after all he should never be able to make her love him. For the first time in his life a hand of ice clutched his heart. He knew in those moments of agony that she meant the whole world to him.

He glanced at her slender graceful figure so listlessly leaning against the blue cushions, at her pale ethereal face, and then he turned abruptly away toward the door to the other salon.

"Come," he said, "it is of no avail to talk further, we will say goodnight." Tamara rose. The way to her room led from the opposite side.

"Goodnight then," she said, "make my adieu to Sonia and the rest. I shall go to bed," and she walked that way. The whole floor was between them, as she looked back. He stood rigid by the other door.

Then with great strides he was beside her, and had taken her in his arms.

"Ah! God!" he said, as he fiercely kissed her, and then almost flung her from him, and strode from the room.

And Tamara went on to her own, trembling with excitement.

This was passion truly, but what if some love lurked underneath?—and when she reached her great white bed she fell upon her knees, and burying her face in her hands she prayed to God.

* * * * *

Now of what use to write of the days that followed—the stiff restrained days—or of the arrival of Tom Underdown and his sister, and Millicent Hardcastle—or of the splendid Russian ceremonies in the church or the quieter ones at the Embassy. All that it concerns us to know is that Gritzko and Tamara were at last alone on this their wedding night. Alone with all their future before them. Both their faces had been grave and solemn through all the vows and prayers, but afterward his had shone with a wild triumph. And as they had driven to his house on the Fontonka he had held Tamara's hand but had not spoken.

It was a strange eventful moment when he led her up the great stairs between the rows of bowing servants—up into the salons all decorated with flowers. Then, still never speaking, he opened the ballroom doors, and when they had walked its great length and came to the rooms beyond, he merely said:

"These you must have done by that man in Paris—or how you please," as though the matter were aloof, and did not interest him. And then instead of turning into his own sitting-room, he opened a door on the right, which Tamara did not know, and they entered what had been his mother's bedroom. It was warmed and lit, but it wore that strange air of gloom and melancholy which untenanted rooms, consecrated to the memory of the dead, always have, in spite of blue satin and bright gilding.

"Tamara," he said, and he took her hand, "these were my mother's rooms. I loved her very much, and I always thought I would never let any woman—even my wife—enter them. I have left them just as she used them last. But now I know that is not what she would have wished."

His deep voice trembled a little with a note of feeling in it which was new, and which touched Tamara's innermost being.

"I want you to see them now with me, and then while we are in the South all these things shall be taken away, and they shall be left bare and white for you to arrange them when we come back, just as you would like. I want my mother's blessing to rest on us—which it will do—"

Then he paused, and there was a wonderful silence, and when he went on, his tones were full of a great tenderness.

"Little one, in these rooms, some day I will make you happy."

Tamara trembled so she could hardly stand, the reaction from her misery was so immense. She swayed a little and put out her hand to steady herself by the back of a chair. He thought she was going to fall, seeing her so white, and he put his arm round her as he led her through the room and into the sitting-room, and then beyond again to a little sanctuary. Here a lamp swung before the Ikon, and the colors were subdued and rich, while the virgin's soft eyes looked down upon them. There were fresh lilies, too, in a vase below, and their scent perfumed the air. He knelt for a second and whispered a prayer, then he rose, and they looked into each other's eyes—and their souls met—and all shadows rolled away.

"Tamara!" he said, and he held out his arms—and with a little inarticulate cry almost of pain Tamara fell into them—and he folded her to his heart—while he bent and kissed her hair.

Then he held her from him and looked deep into her eyes.

"Sweetheart—am I forgiven?" he asked, and when she could speak she answered:

"Yes—you are forgiven."

Then he questioned again.

"Tamara, do you love me?"

But he saw the answer in her sweet face, and did not wait for her to speak, but kissed her mouth.

Then he lifted her in his arms like a baby and carried her back through the ghostly rooms to his warm human sitting-room, and there he laid her tenderly down upon the couch and knelt beside her.

"Oh, my heart," he said. "What this time has been—since you promised to marry me!—but I would not change it—I wanted you to love me beyond everything—beyond anger with me, beyond—fear—beyond your pride. Now tell me you do. My sweet one. Moia Doushka. I must know. I must know. You mean my life—tell me?"

And passion overcame Tamara, and she answered him in a low voice of vibrating emotion.

"Gritzko! do you think I care for what you have done or will do! You know very well I have always loved you!" And she put up her mouth for him to kiss her. Then he went quite mad for a few moments with joy—he caressed her as even on the dawn-drive she had never dreamed, and presently he said with deep earnestness.

"Darling, we must live for one another—in the world of course for duty; but our real life shall be alone at Milaslv for only you and me. You must teach me to be calm and to banish impossible thoughts. You must make yourself my center—Tamara, you must forget all your former life, and give yourself to me, sweetheart. My country must be your country, my body your body, and my soul your soul. I love you better than heaven or earth—and you are mine now till death do us part."

Then the glory of paradise seemed to descend upon Tamara, as he bent and kissed her lips.

Oh! what did anything else matter in the world since after all he loved her! This beautiful fierce lover!

Visions of enchantment presented themselves—a complete intoxication of joy.

He held her in his arms, and all the strange passion and mystic depths which had fascinated her always, now dwelt in his eyes, only intensified by delirious love.

"Do you remember, Sweetheart, how you defied and resisted me? Darling! Heart of mine! but I have conquered you and taken you, in spite of all! You cannot struggle any more, you are my own. Only you must tell me that you give me, too, your soul. Ah! you said once I should have no part or lot in that matter. Tamara, tell me that I have it?"

And Tamara thrilled with ecstasy as she whispered, "Yes, you have it."

She cared not at all about pride—she did not wish to struggle, she adored being conquered. Her entire being was merged in his.

He held her from him for a second and the old whimsical smile full of tender mischief stole into his eyes.

"That night at the hut—when you dropped the pistol when—well, don't you want to know what really did happen?" he said.

She buried her face in his scarlet coat.

"Oh, no, no, no!" she cried. "It is all forgotten and forgiven."

Then with wild passion he clasped her to his breast.

"Oh! Love!" he said. "My sweet Princess; the gods are very kind to us, for all happiness is yet to come—! I did but kiss your little feet."

THE END

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