“His Highness shall be informed that you are here,” he said. “I fear, however, that you waste your time. I go to see.”
Inspector Jacks subsided into a bamboo chair and looked out of the window with a frown upon his forehead. It was certain that he was not proceeding with altogether his usual caution. As a matter of tactics, this visit of his might very well be fatal!
Inspector Jacks was a man who had succeeded in his profession chiefly on account of an average amount of natural astuteness, and also because he was one of those favored persons whose nervous system was a whole and perfect thing. Yet, curiously enough, as he sat in this large, gloomy apartment into which he had been shown, a room filled with art treasures whose appearance and significance were entirely strange to him, he felt a certain uneasiness which he was absolutely unable to understand. He was somewhat instinctive in his likes and dislikes, and from the first he most heartily disliked the room itself,—its vague perfumes, its subdued violet coloring, the faces of the grinning idols, which seemed to meet his gaze in every direction, the pictures of those fierce-looking warriors who brandished two-edged swords at him from the walls. They belonged to the period when Japanese art was perhaps in its crudest state, and yet in this uncertain atmosphere they seemed to possess an extraordinary vitality, as though indeed they were prepared at a moment’s notice to leap from their frames and annihilate this mysterious product of modern days, who in black clothes and silk hat, unarmed and without physical strength, yet wielded the powers of life and death as surely as they in their time had done.
The detective rose from his seat and walked around the room. He made a show of examining the arms against the walls, the brocaded hangings with their wonderful design of faded gold, the ivory statuettes, the black god who sat on his haunches and into whose face seemed carved some dumb but eternal power. Movement was in some respects a solace, but the sound of a hansom bell tinkling outside was a much greater relief. He crossed to the windows and looked out over the somewhat silent square. A hurdy-gurdy was playing in the corner opposite the club, just visible from where he stood. The members were passing in and out. The commissionaire stood stolidly in his place, raising every now and then his cab whistle to his lips. A flickering sunlight fell upon the wind-shaken lilac trees in the square enclosure. Inspector Jacks found himself wishing that the perfume of those lilacs might reach even to where he stood, and help him to forget for a moment that subtler and to him curiously unpleasant odor which all the time became more and more apparent. So overpowering did he feel it that he tried even to open the window, but found it an impossible task. The atmosphere seemed to him to be becoming absolutely stifling.