Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/304

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the mercy of every hand, strange or familiar—an odd virtue that! It would not commend itself to me."

"True. Is sensitiveness much after all except vanity quick to be wounded, as the sea-dianthus that dies of a finger thrust at it? Believe me, I meant not to offer the insult of pity, scarcely dared to intend the familiarity of sympathy; I merely felt—forgive me if I say it—I have long known Conrad, I have but of late known you; can you not guess that the old and the recent friendship alike tell me that you, despite all your pride, indeed because of all your pride, are bitterly galled, are shamefully companioned by a life unworthy you?"

He paused; he had doubted in how far he might venture even thus much, for she was of a nature to which compassion was unendurable, a thing to be shunned far more than pain itself. He knew that already; had he never known he would have seen it in the barely perceptible quiver with which she drew away as a high-hearted and fearless hound will take its mortal wound, and refuse a sign of suffering.

"You say a fact too plain for me to give it denial," she said, chilly; "but it is also one that I must decline to discuss with you. Let us talk of other matters."