Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/247

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
239
THE SOVEREIGN OF THE ROUND TABLE.

that they had filled with champagne. The wine that he was used to drink like water felt now like so much fire: the fever was in his life, not in the liquid.

The dinner was as choice and seductive a one as that with which the fair intriguing Queen of Arragon subdued the senses and stole the allegiance of Villeña. There was a shadow of melancholy still on their hostess; but the dazzling glitter of her wit gained rather than lost by that certain disdainful languor—half scorn, half weariness—which was more marked in her that evening than when she had been with Erceldoune alone in the sunny, silence of the Bosphorus. A woman far less conscious of her power than she was conscious of it, would have known that all these men loved her, and were, even if unknown to them, each other's rivals. But the knowledge gave her no more sort of embarrassment than if they had been guests of her own sex. She was well used to all conquest; used to men in all their moods and all their passions; used to intoxicate them with a smile, to subdue them with a glance. She took little wine, touching each variety with her lips; but once or twice she drank a single draught of hot Chartreuse—a fiery liqueur that her sex rarely choose—and with it drove away