Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/331

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"LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI."

have thought that he had nothing on earth which could give him the right ever to hope for her tenderness. But hope is always strong in tis till despair is forced on us, however little we may know that hope's existence; and thought was the last thing that was shaped in him—thought never grouped itself before him; he was still in the opium-dream: neither future nor past existed for him; he was drunk with his present; his love blinded him to any other memory than itself. It was too wholly in its early freshness for it to forecast its fate.

His eyes eagerly swept over the building as he rode up the avenue; the lattices were all closed; this was usual in the noon, yet it gave him a vague disquietude and dread. The echo of his step resounded on the marble, as it had done when he had forced his entrance into what he had believed the lair of his assassin: it was the only sound, and the stillness froze his heart like ice; the rolling bay of the hound had never before failed to challenge his arrival.

The first court was deserted; in the second he saw the Abyssinian.

"The Countess Vassalis?" he asked, rapidly.

"Is not here," answered the negress.