Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/186

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IDALIA

idly in his hand. His roin mare's hoofs—she was a Barbary—sank noiselessly in the sands; and Erceldoune did not lift his head; he sat motionless under the cypress, resting on his rifle, with the starlight falling fitfully on the white folds of the Arab cloak and the Rembrandt darkness of his face, as his head was bent down and his eyes gazed seaward. The rider came nearer, the hoofs still noiseless on the loose soil; and the hummed song on his lips broke louder, till he sang the words dearly and mellowly on the air, in the mischievous truth of Dufresny's chanson:


"Deux époux dit un grand oracle,
Tout d'un coup deviendront heureax,
Quand deux époux, pas un miracle,
Pourront devinir veufs touts deux!"

The voice fell on Erceldoune's ear, rich, harmonious; soft as a woman's contralto—the voice that had given the word to "kill the Border Eagle." He started to his feet, flinging back his burnous; in the silvery silent Eastern night they met once more—and knew each other at a glance: there is no instinct so rapid and so unerring as the instinct of a foe. With an oath that rang over the silent seas, Erceldoune sprang forward, as lions spring, and covered him with his rifle; swift as an unconsidered thought,