Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/339

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"LA BELLE DAME SANS MERCI."

uttered he should strike his hand on the mouth that uttered it; and intense as his longing might be to pierce the mystery that apparently shrouded her, the Quixotic code of his lore and his honour would have let him ask nothing through strangers that she withheld herself. He prosecuted his search alone, and the rapidity in such investigations gained by habit soon brought him the knowledge he pursued.

Before evening he had learned among the sailors in the port that a steam yacht belonging to her, the Io, which had returned twenty-four hours previously from Athens, had taken its departure early in the morning; for Capri, the Greek crew had said, with no one on board but herself, her suite, and the Russian dog. The yacht was probably by now through the Dardanelles. It was well known in the Golden Horn, the sailors told him, that she usually came from Europe in it; it could be recognised anywhere on the seas, for it always carried the green white and scarlet of the Italian national colours, crossed on the Greek ensign, a fancy, it was supposed, of her Excellency's.

Erceldoune's eyes strained across the glittering expanse of water with a wistful longing as he listened; every word he gathered plunged like a knife into his heart,—no steamer went from the harbour