I cannot say that I liked his looks or was greatly attracted by him. He was not prepossessing. Fair, with a flaccid unwholesome complexion, foxy haired, his beard cut to a point, small moustaches curled upward showing thin pale lips, and giving his mouth a disagreeable curve also upwards, a sort of set smile that was really a sardonic sneer, conveying distrust and disbelief in all around. His eyes were so deep set as to be almost lost in their recesses behind his sandy eyelashes, and he kept them screwed up close, with the intent watchful gaze of an animal about to make a spring. His whole aspect, his shifty, restless manner, his furtive looks, all were antipathetic and to his great advantage. I did not take to him at all, and plainly showed him that I had no desire for his talk or his company.
It was not easy to shake him off, however. He would take no offence; I was cold to positive rudeness, I snubbed him unmercifully; I did not answer his remarks or his questions, which were incessant and shamelessly inquisitorial. Nothing disconcerted him. I had all but shut the door of my compartment in his face, but it suddenly occurred to me that he was capable of wandering on, and when he found the ladies inflicting his greasy attentions upon them.
I felt that I had better submit to his unpalatable society than let him bore Mrs. Blair with his colossal impudence.
How right I was in this became at once apparent. He had taken out a cigar-case and pressed one upon me with such pertinacious, offensive familiarity that I could see no way out of it than by saying peremptorily:
“You cannot smoke here. There are ladies in that compartment yonder.”
“Ladies indeed! You surprise me,” but I saw a look on his face that convinced me he perfectly well knew they were there. “Ladies, aha! How many, may I ask?”
“One at least, with her maid and a child,” I replied gruffly.
“And a child,” he repeated, as if by rote. “Does monsieur, tell me quickly, I—I—beg—know them! Can he describe them to me?”
“I shall tell you nothing about them. What the mischief do you mean by asking me questions? Find out what you want for yourself.” I was hot and indignant with the brute.
“By George, you’re right. I’ll go and ask for leave to smoke. I shall find out then,” and he jumped up, the spring seat closing with a bang from under him.
The noise concealed the sound of the electric bell which I had pressed to summon the attendant, as I rushed out and caught the other man by the arm.
“You’ll do nothing of the kind,” I cried with very vigorous emphasis, backed by all my strength. “I’ll shake you to a jelly if you dare to move another inch.”
“Here, I say, drop it. Who the deuce are you? None of your bally nonsense. Hands off, or I’ll make you.”
But he was too soft and flabby to avail much, and I dragged him back helplessly with tightened grip, only too delighted to try conclusions with him.