Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/151

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THE WISDOM OF MOTHER VERONICA.

That solitary word seemed all he could see or hear as he sat in the twilight, while the mist slowly stole over the bright primroses, the sculptured ivory Passion, and the silver I.H.S. that glistened on the draperies of the Mother Superior's peaceful altar, as it had once done on the labarum of the Constantines.

"Idalia!"

It seemed to fill the night, that single name of the shadow he pursued, as Erceldoune stood on the balcony that ran round the convent, alone, while all around him slept,, while the great forests stretched away on every side into the darkness, burying in them the little Swiss-like chalets, in each of which there dwelt, according to Moldavian custom, one nun alone; safe in that lonely wilderness, though with no guardian but her own sanctity.

The stars were bright, the murmurs of innumerable torrents filled the silence, the heavy odours of a million pines rose up from below, and over the far Danubian plains the woods trembled as though stirred by the shadowy hosts of Persian myriads and of Scythian chiefs, of Roman legions and of Avar hordes, whose bones had whitened in their eternal sands, and whose graves were locked in their funereal depths. It was profoundly still,