Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/35

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THE BORDER EAGLE

equally at his ease in an Arab camp and a Paris café, in a Polish snow-storm, with the wolves baying in wrath and famine about the sleigh, and in the chancellérie of a British plenipotentiary over the dainty dishes of a First Secretary's dinner; and had an iron constitution, a frame steeled to all changes of climate or inroads of fatigue, and that coolness under close peril, and utter indifference to personal indulgence, which made him renowned in the messenger service, and as much at home in the Desert as a Sheikh. Indeed, the Desert life could not have been bolder, and freer, and simpler than that which Erceldoune had led from his boyhood, partly from nature, partly from habit; he had as much of the barbaric chief in him as he had of the man of the world.

His father—Regency Erceldoune, as he was called, from his alliance with "the mad Prince and Poynings"—had been a gambler, a debauchee, and a drunkard, though a gentleman with it all. Such orgies as George Rex had at the Cross Deep, his friend and favourite had at King's Rest, mad, witty, riotous, and shameless as the worst days of lascivious Rome. Lands and money went in them till there were neither left; and his son, brought to them and taught them, while he was nothing but a child, had sickened of the vice in which he was