Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/12

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IDALIA


science had brought down the eagle, at a distance, and with an aim, which marked him as one of the first shots in Europe. A hundred yards brought him to the place where his quarry had fallen, and he thrust the heather aside with impatient movement; he was keen in sport as a Shikari, and he had looked for no rarer game to-day than the blackcocks or the snipes, or at very best a heron from the marshes.

On the moor the King-bird lay, the pinions broken and powerless, the breast-feathers wet and bathed in blood, the piercing eyes, which loved the sun, blind and glazed with him; the life, a moment before strong, fearless, and rejoicing in the light, was gone. A feeling, new and strange, came on his slayer, as he stood there in the stillness of the solitary moor, alone with the dead eagle lying at his feet. He paused, and leaned on his rifle, looking downward:

"God forgive me. I have taken a life better than my own!"

The words were involuntary, and unlike enough to one whose superb shot had become noted from the jungles of Northern India to the ice-plains of Norway; from the bear-haunts of the Danube to the tropic forests of the Amazons. But he stood looking down on the mighty bird, while the red blood