Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/287

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Strange though the words were, no vanity of power spoke in them, but a fatal truth, a mournful earnestness, tinged by, deepened to, remorse; the shadow of the cypress seemed to fall across, the brilliancy of her face as she uttered them.

"Then,—will you let me live for you?"

The words escaped him before he knew they were uttered, before he realised all they meant, before he was conscious what he offered and pledged to a stranger who, for aught he knew or could tell, might be the head of an illustrious race, the wife of one of the royal chiefs of the Levant or of the East, or—might be anything that Europe held of what was most evil, most fatal, most dangerous in her sex,

She looked at him with a long, earnest, unwavering look,

"It is well for you that I will not take you at your word. No!—your life is a noble, gallant thing; treasure its liberty, and never risk it in a woman's hands."

The calmness with which she put aside words that had been nothiug less than a declaration of the love he bore her, the serenity with which her gaze had dwelt on him, were not those of a woman who did or who would give him answering tenderness; yet the tone, the glance with which she had spoken,