Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/254

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She turned from him with something of impatience, and as her Albanians wheeled the card-table nearer, sank into her couch, drawing some cards to her. She looked a woman to lean over a balcony in a starlit Southern night, and listen to a poet B cancion, or a lover's whimper stealing up through the murmurs of the leaves with the reverent worship of Petrarca; not one to need the feverish excitation of the gamester's reckless hazards. Who was she? what was she? this mystery whom men called Idalia? he wondered ceaselessly in eager unrest.

The baccarat commenced.

She played with the skill of her country, if that country were Greece, as her name implied; played like one accustomed to control chance by proficiency: but also with that alternate listlessness and eagerness which marks those who seek it as a distraction from those who crave it out of avarice. It was its excitement that was grateful to her, the rapid changes and chances. When she lost, she lost with an absolute indifference, and she staked her gold with a lavish extravagance that seemed to disdain speculation. Once or twice Erceldoune almost thought that she sought to guide the success of the hazard towards himself; if so, she succeeded;