“Then you admit yourself to be cruel and unprincipled?” he said.
Gervase smiled, with a little shrug of impatience.
“Do I? I was not aware of it. Is inconstancy to women cruelty and want of principle? If so, all men must bear the brunt of the accusation with me. For men were originally barbarians, and always looked upon women as toys or slaves; the barbaric taint is not out of us yet, I assure you,—at any rate, it is not out of me. I am a pure savage; I consider the love of woman as my right; if I win it, I enjoy it as long as I please, but no longer,—and not all the forces of heaven and earth should bind me to any woman I had once grown weary of.”
“If that is your character,” said Murray stiffly, “it were well the Princess Ziska should know it.”
“True,” and Gervase laughed loudly. “Tell her, man ami! Tell her that Armand Gervase is an unprincipled villain, not worth a glance from her dazzling eyes! It will be the way to make her adore me! My good boy, do you not know that there is something very marvellous in the attraction we call love? It is a pre-ordained destiny,—and if one soul is so constituted that it must meet and mix with another, nothing can hinder the operation. So that, believe me, I am quite indifferent as to what you say of me to Madame la Princesse or to anyone else. It will not be for either my looks or my character that she will love me if, indeed, she ever does love me; it will be for something indistinct, indefinable but resistless in us both, which no one on earth can explain. And now I must go, Denzil, and claim the fair one for this waltz. Try and look less miserable, my dear fellow,—I will not quarrel with you on the Princess’s account, nor on any other pretext if I can help it,—for I don’t want to kill you, and I am convinced your death and not mine would be the result of a fight between us!”
His eyes flashed under his straight, fierce brows with a sudden touch of imperiousness, and his commanding presence became magnetic, almost over-powering. Tormented with a dozen cross-currents of feeling, young Denzil Murray was mute;—only his breath came and went quickly, and there was a certain silently-declared antagonism in his very attitude. Gervase saw it and smiled; then turning away with his peculiarly noiseless step and grace of bearing, he disappeared.
Ten minutes later the larger number of dancers in the ball-room came to a sudden pause in their gyrations and stood looking on in open-mouthed, reluctantly-admiring wonderment at the exquisite waltz movements of the Princess Ziska as she floated past them in the arms of Gervase, who, as a “Bedouin chief,” was perhaps only acting his part aright when he held her to him with so passionate and close a grip and gazed down upon her fair face with such a burning ardor in his eyes. Nothing in the dancing world was ever seen like the dancing of these two—nothing