Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/232

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

the sunlight, so smoothly, that a lazy stroke of the oars now and then sufficed to guide it along the shore, where the cypress and myrtle boughs drooped almost, to the water, and the heavy odours of jessamiae and roses floated to them from the gardens across the sea. Lying back among her cushions, so near him that he could feel the touch of her laces sweep across him as the breeze stirred them, and could see the breath of the wind steal among the chesnut masses of her hair that was drawn back in its own richness from her b0row and fastened with gold threads scarce brighter than its own hue, the fascination of Idalia—a danger that men far colder and better on their guard than he, found themselves powerless against—gained its empire on him, as the spell of the Venusberg stole on the will and the senses of the mailed knight Tannhauser. With a glittering gaiety when she would; with a knowledge of the world, varied, it seemed, almost beyond any woman's scope; with the acquisition of most languages and of their literature, polished and profound to scholarship; with a disdainful, graceful, ironic wit, delicate, but keenly barbed; and with all these a certain shadow of sadness, half scornful, half weary, that yet gave to her at times an exquisite gentleness and a deeper interest yet, she would have had a