“What is that, Sir Brian?” inquired M. Max, whose opium vision was a faithful imitation of one related to him by an actual frequenter of the establishment near the Boulevard Beaumarchais.
“Only once before, M. Gaston, have I compared notes with a fellow opium-smoker, and he, also, was a patron of Madame Jean; he, also, met in his dreams that Eastern Circe, in the grove of apes, just as I"...
“As I meet her!”
“But this is astounding!” cried Max, who actually thought it so. “Your fancy—your superstition—was this: that only habitues of Rue St. Claude met, in poppyland, this vision? And in your fancy you are now confirmed?”
“It is singular, at least.”
“It is more than that, Sir Brian! Can it be that some intelligence presides over that establishment and exercises—shall I call it a hypnotic influence upon the inmates?”
M. Max put the question with sincere interest.
“One does not always meet her,” murmured Sir Brian. “But—yes, it is possible. For I have since renewed those experiences in London.”
“What! in London?”
“Are you remaining for some time longer in London?”
“Alas! for several weeks yet.”
“Then I will introduce you to a gentleman who can secure you admission to an establishment in London—where you may even hope sometimes to find the orange grove—to meet your dream-bride!”
“What!” cried M. Gaston, rising to his feet, his eyes bright with gratitude, “you will do that?”
“With pleasure,” said Sir Brian Malpas, wearily; “nor am I jealous! But—no! do not thank me, for I do not share your views upon the subject, monsieur. You are a devout worshiper; I, an unhappy slave!”
THE OPIUM AGENT
Into the Palm Court of the Hotel Astoria, Mr. Gianapolis came, radiant and bowing. M. Gaston rose to greet his visitor. M. Gaston was arrayed in a light gray suit and wore a violet tie of very chaste design; his complexion had assumed a quality of sallowness, and the pupils of his eyes had acquired (as on the occasion of his visit to the chambers of Sir Brian Malpas) a chatoyant quality; they alternately dilated and contracted in a most remarkable manner—in a manner which attracted the immediate attention of Mr. Gianapolis.
“My dear sir,” he said, speaking in French, “you suffer. I perceive how grievously you suffer; and you have been denied that panacea which beneficent nature designed for the service of mankind. A certain gentleman known to both of us (we brethren of the poppy are all nameless) has advised me of your requirements—and here I am.”
“You are welcome,” declared M. Gaston.
He rose and grasped eagerly the hand of the Greek, at the same time looking about the Palm Court suspiciously. “You can relieve my sufferings?”