Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/333

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"LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI."

Instinctively as bis hand closed on it he turned away from the Abyssinian, and went out of the court into the hot blaze of day, alone; he could not bear the eyes of even that African upon him in the desolation that had swept down upon his life. He went out; where, he did not see or know, passing into the scorching air and into the cooler shade of the groves, with a blind, dumb suffering on him like the suffering of a dog. For her he had no pride, against wounds from her hand he had no shield; and nothing with which she could wring his heart, nothing with which she could try his loyalty, could avail to turn his love away. They had been no idle words with which he had said that his life was hers to do with what she would; having made the vow he would keep it, no matter what the test, or what the cost.

He crushed in his grasp that pitiless letter;—her hand had touched it, her hand had written it, bitter as it was it was sacred to him; and he stood in the vertical sun, gazing blankly down on the waves below the terraces, tossing upward in the light at his feet. The blow had fallen on him with a crushing, sickening force,—again he had lost her! Again, when to the old baffled weariness with which he had so long vainly sought her was added the certainty