He laid his fingers upon my coat-sleeve. I turned my head. Felicia was sailing down the room,—Felicia exquisitely dressed as usual, walking with a soft rustle of lace,—delightful, alluring; and in her wake Delora himself, tall, well-groomed, aristocratic, looking around him with mild but slightly bored interest. Louis was piloting them to a table, the best in the place. We watched them seat themselves. Delora, through a horn-rimmed eyeglass, studied the menu. Felicia, drawing off her gloves, looked a little wearily out into the busy courtyard. So they were sitting when the thing happened which Lamartine, I believe, had expected, but which, for me, was the most wonderful thing that had yet come to pass amongst this tangle of strange circumstances!
The entrance of these two persons into the room, apart from its astonishing significance to us, seemed to excite a certain amount of interest amongst the ordinary throng. My lady of the turquoises wore a dark-blue closely fitting gown, which only a Paris tailor could have cut, a large and striking hat, and a great bunch of red roses in the front of her dress. But, after all, it was upon her companion, not upon her, that our regard was riveted. He was dressed with the neat exactitude of a Frenchman of fashion. He wore a red ribbon in his button-hole. His white hair and moustaches were perfectly arranged. He leaned heavily upon a stick, and he had the appearance of a man prematurely aged, as though by an illness or some great suffering. His tone, as he turned to his companion, was courteous enough but querulous.
“My dear,” he said, “this place is full of draughts. We must find a table over there by the palm.”
He pointed with his stick, and it was just at this moment that Louis, rounding the corner from a distant part of the room, came face to face with them. Once before during the last twenty-four hours I had been struck with the pallor of Louis’ expression. This time he stood quite still in the middle of the floor, as though he had seen a ghost! He was close to a pillar, and I saw his hand suddenly go out to it as though in search of support. His breath was coming quickly. From where I sat I could see the little beads of sweat breaking out upon his forehead.
“Monsieur!” he exclaimed.
The newcomer turned to look at him. For a moment he seemed puzzled. It was as though some old memory were striving to reassert itself.
“My man,” he said to Louis, “surely I know your face? You have been here a long time, haven’t you?”
“Ten years, sir,” Louis answered. “Permit me!”
He gave them a table not far away from mine. The memory of his face as he preceded them down the room never left me. I glanced instinctively towards Delora. His back was turned towards the entrance of the restaurant, and he had apparently seen nothing. Felicia, on the contrary, sat as though she were turned to stone. I saw her lean over and whisper to her companion. A little murmur of excitement broke from my companion’s lips.