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THE SOVEREIGN OF THE ROUND TABLE.

man made himself her apologist, or had claim to explain her actions; his thoughts were in a conflict of conjecture as to the cause of her exclusion from the Embassies—for exclusion he believed it, by the look that for one instant he had seen upon her face.

The access of vivacity and abandon which a considerable amount of wine drunk, and the introduction of tobacco invariably produce, flowed into the conversation; its gaiety grew very gay, and though there was still nothing that was licentious, there was a tone in it not customary before women of rank; the anecdotes had a Bréda aroma, the epigrams had a Jockey Club flavour, the equivoques were fitted for a little gilded supper cabinet in the Maison Dorée; such a freedom in any other hour would have added to its piquance and its savour to Erceldonne as to all other men, but it now lashed him into vehement pain and incensement; it brought the breath of the world—and of a very profane world—on the woman of his dreams, it desecrated and almost dimmed the beauty of his ideal. Out of the mists of death he had once wakened to see her face in the haze of the sunlight; the face of an angel, the face of his altar-picture at Monastica: when he sat here in the perfume and lustre of the Eastern chamber, with the