And so it was arranged, and Lord Tancred got up to go; but just at the door he paused and said with a laugh:
“And shall I see the niece?”
The financier had his back turned, and so he permitted the flicker of a smile to come over his mouth as he answered:
“It might be; but we have dismissed the subject of the niece.”
And so they parted.
At the sound of the closing of the door Mr. Markrute pressed the button of a wonderful trifle of Russian enamel and emeralds, which lay on his writing table, and a quiet servant entered the room.
“Tell the Countess Shulski I wish to speak to her here immediately, please,” he said. “Ask her to descend at once.”
But he had to walk up and down several times, and was growing impatient, before the door opened and a woman came slowly into the room.
The financier paused in his restless pacing as he heard the door open and stood perfectly still, with his back to the light. The woman advanced and also stood still, and they looked at one another with no great love in their eyes, though she who had entered was well worth looking at, from a number of points of view. Firstly, she had that arresting, compelling personality which does not depend upon features, or coloring, or form, or beauty. A subtle force of character—a radiating magnetism—breathed from her whole being. When Zara Shulski came into any assemblage of people conversation stopped and speculation began.
She was rather tall and very slender; and yet every voluptuous curve of her lithe body refuted the idea of thinness. Her head was small and her face small, and short, and oval, with no wonderfully chiseled features, only the skin was quite exceptional in its white purity—not the purity of milk, but the purity of rich, white velvet, or a gardenia petal. Her mouth was particularly curved and red and her teeth were very even, and when she smiled, which was rarely, they suggested something of great strength, though they were small and white. And now I am coming to her two wonders, her eyes and her hair. At first you could have sworn the eyes were black; just great pools of ink, or disks of black velvet, set in their broad lids and shaded with jet lashes, but if they chanced to glance up in the full light then you knew they were slate color, not a tinge of brown or green—the whole iris was a uniform shade: strange, slumberous, resentful eyes, under straight, thick, black brows, the expression full of all sorts of meanings, though none of them peaceful or calm. And from some far back Spanish-Jewess ancestress she probably got that glorious head of red hair, the color of a ripe chestnut when it falls from its shell, or a beautifully groomed bright bay horse. The heavy plaits which were wound tightly round her head must have fallen below her knees when they were undone. Her coiffure gave you the impression