“Dear friends,” said Olaf van Noord, taking the girl’s hand, and walking into the studio, “permit me to present my model!”
Following, came a slightly built man who carried himself with a stoop; an olive faced man, who squinted frightfully, and who dressed immaculately.
“What a most... Extraordinary-looking creature!” whispered Denise Ryland to Helen. “She has undoubted attractions of... a hellish sort... if I may use... the term.”
“She is the strangest looking girl I have ever seen in my life,” replied Helen, who found herself unable to turn her eyes away from Olaf van Noord’s model. “Surely she is not a professional model!”
The chatty reporter (his name was Crockett) confided to Helen Cumberly:
“She is not exactly a professional model, I think, Miss Cumberly, but she is one of the van Noord set, and is often to be seen in the more exclusive restaurants, and sometimes in the Cafe Royal.”
“She is possibly a member of the theatrical profession?”
“I think not. She is the only really strange figure (if we exclude Olaf) in this group of poseurs. She is half Burmese, I believe, and a native of Moulmein.”
“Most extraordinary creature!” muttered Denise Ryland, focussing upon the Eurasian her gold rimmed glasses—“Most extraordinary.” She glanced around at the company in general. “I really begin to feel... more and more as though I were... in a private lunatic... asylum. That picture... beyond doubt is the work ... of a madman... a perfect... madman!”
“I, also, begin to be conscious of an uncomfortable sensation,” said Helen, glancing about her almost apprehensively. “Am I dreaming, or did some one else enter the studio, immediately behind that girl?”
“A squinting man... yes!”
“But a third person?”
“No, my dear... look for yourself. As you say... you are ... dreaming. It’s not to be wondered... at!”
Helen laughed, but very uneasily. Evidently it had been an illusion, but an unpleasant illusion; for she should have been prepared to swear that not two, but three people had entered! Moreover, although she was unable to detect the presence of any third stranger in the studio, the persuasion that this third person actually was present remained with her, unaccountably, and uncannily.
The lady of the tiger skins was surrounded by an admiring group of unusuals, and Helen, who had turned again to the big canvas, suddenly became aware that the little cross-eyed man was bowing and beaming radiantly before her.
“May I be allowed,” said Olaf van Noord who stood beside him, “to present my friend Mr. Gianapolis, my dear Miss Cumberly?"...
Helen Cumberly found herself compelled to acknowledge the introduction, although she formed an immediate, instinctive distaste for Mr. Gianapolis. But he made such obvious attempts to please, and was so really entertaining a talker, that she unbent towards him a little. His admiration, too, was unconcealed; and no pretty woman, however great her common sense, is entirely admiration-proof.