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Folle-Farine. Ouida, 1839–1908.
page: 489


ERE another year had been fully born, the world spoke in homage and in wonder of two things.

The one,—a genius which had suddenly arisen in its midst, and taken vengeance for the long neglect of bitter years, and scourged the world with pitiless scorn until, before this mighty scourge which it had dared once to deride and deny, it crouched trembling; and wondered and did homage; and said in fear, “Truly this man is great, and truth is terrible.”

The other,—the bodily beauty of a woman; a beauty rarely seen in open day, but only in the innermost recesses of a sensualist’s palace; a creature barefooted, with chains of gold about her ankles, and loose white robes which showed each undulation of the perfect limbs, and on her breast the fires of a knot of opal; a creature in whose eyes there was one changeless look, as of some desert beast taken from the freedom of the air and cast to the darkness of some unutterable horror; a creature whose lips were for ever mute, mute as the tortured lips of Læna.

One day the man whom the nations at last had crowned, page: 490 saw the woman whom it was a tyrant’s pleasure to place beside him now and then, in the public ways, as a tribune of Rome placed in his chariot of triumph the vanquished splendour of some imperial thing of Asia made his slave.

Across the clear hot light of noon the eyes of Arslàn fell on hers for the first time since they had looked on her amidst the pale poppies, in the moonrise, in the fields.

They smiled on her with a cold, serene, ironic scorn.

“So soon?” he murmured, and passed onward, whilst the people made way for him in homage.

He had his heart’s desire. He was great. He only smiled to think—all women are alike.

Her body shrank, her head dropped, as though a knife were thrust into her breast.

But her lips kept their silence to the last. They were so strong, they were so mute; they did not even once cry out against him: “For thy sake!”