Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/53

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
45
45
IDALIA HAVING BROKEN HIS BREAD.

graphist, with a yawn, retnrning to his dog-eared green-covered shilliug novel, relating the pungent adventures of a soiled dove of St. John's Wood, and showing beyond all doubt—if anybody ever doubted it yet—that virtue, after starving on three-halfpence a shirt, will be rewarded with pneumonia and the parish shell, while vice eats her truffles, drinks her wines, and retires with fashionable toilettes, and a competence, to turn repentant and respectable at leisure. Meanwhile, the night-express rushed on through silent hills, and sleeping hamlets, over dark water-pools and through bright gaslit cities, and above head the electric message flashed, outstripping steam, and flying, like a courier of the air, towards France before the man it menaced.

With noon on the morrow the best-known messenger in the service reported himself at the Foreign Oilice, received despatches for Paris, Turin, and Jassy, and started with the F. O. bags as usual express.

Had any prophet told him that as he lay back in the mail-train, with a curled silver Eastern pipe coming out of his waving beard, and papers of critical European import in the white bags lying at his feet, Chance was drifting him at its wanton caprice as idly and as waywardly as the feathery