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IDALIA

at least, as were some of those about her, all were constrained to obey her command—all were powerless to remain in her presence. Erceldoune was the first to accept her dismissal; he would not offer her even so much insult as would have laid in hesitation, and he took his farewell of her instantly and almost in silence.

Vane followed him with his glance."

"Why have you taken to patronise that Border moss-trooper, madame?" he asked, with a slight satirical laugh. "He is nothing but a courier, and has only an owl's roost at home that foxes burrow in, and cobwebs keep furnished. He is a rough rider and a wild shikari, nothing else; they are odd titles to your preference."

She looked him steadily in the eyes:

"He is a frank and gallant gentleman; that is, perhaps, as strange a one! It may be odd that I should care to see an honest man by way of variety; but—since it is my caprice, harm him at your peril."

 

Her guests were gone.

In solitude she sank down in the depths of a couch, with the light still playing on the diamonds in her hair, and her eyes watching the