Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/276

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
268
268
IDALIA FAIRY-GOLD.

he would have been a vainer man far than Exceldoune who could have flattered himself that this was done because her heart was touched; or who should have brought on him his exile for ever by warmer entreaties for a softer joy than friendship. While untrammeled by any of the bonds of conventionality, while accustomed to a liberty of thought, of speech, of act that brooked no dictator, while distinguished by a careless negligence of custom and of opinion that was patrician even whilst it was bohemian, Idalia still kept the light but inexorable rein upon his passion, which forbade him to pass the bounds that she tacitly prescribed to him. He was a bold and daring man enough; in his early days he had been steeped in vice, though he had learned to loathe it; he was impassioned in his pursuit of her as any lover that the Asian suns had ever nurtured to their own heat. But he loved her as William Craven loved the Winter Queen, as George Douglas the White Queen.

One who should not have cared for her—if such there could have been—would have found an infinite variety, an endless charm in her companionship. She had travelled in most countries, she was familiar with most nations, she had knowledge of the classic and the oriental literatures, deep to a scholar's scope