I glanced at Fletcher across the table.
“Zarmi!” he whispered.
Again I raised my eyes to the face which now was close to mine, and became aware that I was trembling with excitement....
Heavens! why did enlightenment come too late! Either I was the victim of an odd delusion, or Zarmi had been the driver of the cab in which Nayland Smith had left the New Louvre Hotel!
Zarmi place the brass tray upon the table and bent down, resting her elbows upon it, her hands upturned and her chin nestling in her palms. The smoke from the cigarette, now held in her fingers, mingled with her disheveled hair. She looked fully into my face, a long, searching look; then her lips parted in the slow, voluptuous smile of the Orient. Without moving her head she turned the wonderful eyes (rendered doubly luminous by the kohl with which her lashes and lids were darkened) upon Fletcher.
“What you and your strong friend drinking?” she said softly.
Her voice possessed a faint husky note which betrayed her Eastern parentage, yet it had in it the siren lure which is the ancient heritage of the Eastern woman—a heritage more ancient than the tribe of the Ghazeeyeh, to one of whom I had mentally likened Zarmi.
“Same thing,” replied Fletcher promptly; and raising his hand, he idly toyed with a huge gold ear-ring which she wore.
Still resting her elbows upon the table and bending down between us, Zarmi turned her slumbering, half-closed black eyes again upon me, then slowly, languishingly, upon Fletcher. She replaced the yellow cigarette between her lips. He continued to toy with the ear-ring.
Suddenly the girl sprang upright, and from its hiding-place within the silken scarf, plucked out a Malay kris with a richly jeweled hilt. Her eyes now widely opened and blazing, she struck at my companion!
I half rose from my chair, stifling a cry of horror; but Fletcher, regarding her fixedly, never moved ... and Zarmi stayed her hand just as the point of the dagger had reached his throat!
“You see,” she whispered softly but intensely, “how soon I can kill you.”
Ere I had overcome the amazement and horror with which her action had filled me, she had suddenly clutched me by the shoulder, and, turning from Fletcher, had the point of the kris at my throat!
“You, too!” she whispered, “you too!”
Lower and lower she bent, the needle point of the weapon pricking my skin, until her beautiful, evil face almost touched mine. Then, miraculously, the fire died out of her eyes; they half closed again and became languishing, luresome Ghazeeyeh eyes. She laughed softly, wickedly, and puffed cigarette smoke into my face.
Thrusting her dagger into her waist-belt, and snatching up the brass tray, she swayed down the room, chanting some barbaric song in her husky Eastern voice.