Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/125

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

how you would hate and worship, in one breath, your captor, and how you would pant out your great life in torture till you sank down at last in slavery as intense as your resistance!"

"I! You do not know me much, Miladi."

The Duchesse gave him a perfumy touch with her fan as she swept away.

"Bah! M. Erceldoune, I know your tribe and I know their tamers. You will find a worse foe than a bullet, soon or late. Your assassins were merciful to what your love will be—when you love. See if I am wrong!"

And with a laugh of compassion and of mocking prescience the prophetess of dark omen went to her whist-table, where she played as well as Prince Metternich; and Erceldoune passed on his way to the smoking-room, a contemptuous disdain working in him;—"love!" he had never known it, he had never believed in it, the frank boldness of his nature had been proof against most of its seductions, and he only recognised in it a sophistical synonym for women's vanity and men's sensuality, or vice vera; and, take it in the long run, he was undoubtedly right.

His passions were great; but they had never been fairly aroused; and he had, or thought he had, them under an iron bridle, like some Knight of St. John,