He turned around and walked uneasily toward the door. He decided then that this was some sort of gruesome nightmare with which he was afflicted. He was quite certain that in a few minutes he would wake in his little iron bedstead with the sweat upon his forehead and a reproachful consciousness of having eaten an indiscreet supper. It could not possibly be a happening in real life! It could not be true that his knees were sinking beneath the weight of his body, that the clanging of iron hammers was really smiting the drums of his ears, that the purple of the room was growing red, and that his veins were strained to bursting! He threw out his arms in a momentary instinct of fiercely struggling consciousness. The idols on the walls jeered at him. Those strangely clad warriors seemed to him now to be looking down upon his discomfiture with a satanic smile, mocking the pygmy who had dared to raise his hand against one so jealously guarded. Clang once more went the blacksmith’s hammers, and then chaos! . ..
The end of the nightmare was not altogether according to Inspector Jacks’ expectations. He found himself in a small back room, stretched upon a sofa before the open French-windows, through which came a pleasant vision of waving green trees and a pleasanter stream of fresh air. His first instinct was to sniff, and a sense of relief crept through him when he realized that this room, at any rate, was free from abnormal odors. He sat up on the couch. A pale-faced Japanese servant stood by his side with a glass in his hand. A few feet away, the man whom he had come to visit was looking down upon him with an expression of grave concern in his kindly face.
“You are better, I trust, sir?” Prince Maiyo said.
“I am better,” Inspector Jacks muttered. “I don’t know—I can’t imagine what happened to me.”
“You were not feeling quite well, perhaps, this morning,” the Prince said soothingly. “A little run down, no doubt. Your profession—I gather from your card that you come from Scotland Yard—is an arduous one. I came into the room and found you lying upon your back, gasping for breath.”
Inspector Jacks was making a swift recovery. He noticed that the glass which the man-servant was holding was empty. He had a dim recollection of something having been forced through his lips. Already he was beginning to feel himself again.
“I was absolutely and entirely well,” he declared stoutly, “both when I left home this morning and when I entered that room to wait for you. I don’t know what it was that came over me,” he continued doubtfully, “but the atmosphere seemed suddenly to become unbearable.”
Prince Maiyo nodded understandingly.
“People often complain,” he admitted. “So many of my hangings in the room have been wrapped in spices to preserve them, and my people burn dead blossoms there occasionally. Some of us, too,” he concluded, “are very susceptible to strange odors. I should imagine, perhaps, that you are one of them.”