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Part I Baroness Emmuska Orczy

X Shadows

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The tension on her nerves relaxed; there was the inevitable reaction. Her knees were shaking under her, and she literally staggered into the room.

But Armand was already near her, down on both his knees this time, his arms clasping the delicate form that swayed like the slender stems of narcissi in the breeze.

"Oh! you must go out of Paris at once--at once," she said through sobs which no longer would be kept back.

"He'll return--I know that he will return--and you will not be safe until you are back in England."

But he could not think of himself or of anything in the future. He had forgotten Heron, Paris, the world; he could only think of her.

"I owe my life to you!" he murmured. "Oh, how beautiful you are--how brave! How I love you!"

It seemed that he had always loved her, from the moment that first in his boyish heart he had set up an ideal to worship, and then, last night, in the box of the theatre--he had his back turned toward the stage, and was ready to go--her voice had called him back; it had held him spellbound; her voice, and also her eyes.... He did not know then that it was Love which then and there had enchained him. Oh, how foolish he had been! for now he knew that he had loved her with all his might, with all his soul, from the very instant that his eyes had rested upon her.

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He babbled along--incoherently--in the intervals of covering her hands and the hem of her gown with kisses. He stooped right down to the ground and kissed the arch of her instep; he had become a devotee worshipping at the shrine of his saint, who had performed a great and a wonderful miracle.

Armand the idealist had found his ideal in a woman. That was the great miracle which the woman herself had performed for him. He found in her all that he had admired most, all that he had admired in the leader who hitherto had been the only personification of his ideal. But Jeanne possessed all those qualities which had roused his enthusiasm in the noble hero whom he revered. Her pluck, her ingenuity, her calm devotion which had averted the threatened danger from him!

What had he done that she should have risked her own sweet life for his sake?

But Jeanne did not know. She could not tell. Her nerves now were somewhat unstrung, and the tears that always came so readily to her eyes flowed quite unchecked. She could not very well move, for he held her knees imprisoned in his arms, but she was quite content to remain like this, and to yield her hands to him so that he might cover them with kisses.

Indeed, she did not know at what precise moment love for him had been born in her heart. Last night, perhaps ... she could not say ... but when they parted she felt that she must see him again ... and then today ... perhaps it was the scent of the violets ... they were so exquisitely sweet ... perhaps it was his enthusiasm and his talk about England ... but when Heron came she knew that she must save Armand's life at all cost ... that she would die if they dragged him away to prison.

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El Dorado
Baroness Emmuska Orczy

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