Silently as a shadow, M. Max glided into the bathroom, and silently, swiftly, returned, carrying a cake of soap. Three clear, sharp impressions, he secured of the Yale, the soap leaving no trace of the operation upon the metal. He dropped the precious soap tablet into his open bag.
In a state of semi-torpor, M. Max sprawled upon the bed for ten minutes or more, during which time, as he noted, the door remained ajar. Then there entered a figure which seemed wildly out of place in the establishment of Ho-Pin. It was that of a butler, most accurately dressed and most deferential in all his highly-trained movements. His dark hair was neatly brushed, and his face, which had a pinched appearance, was composed in that “if-it-is-entirely-agreeable-to-you-Sir” expression, typical of his class.
The unhealthy, yellow skin of the new arrival, which harmonized so ill with the clear whites of his little furtive eyes, interested M. Max extraordinarily. M. Max was blinking like a week-old kitten, and one could have sworn that he was but hazily conscious of his surroundings; whereas in reality he was memorizing the cranial peculiarities of the new arrival, the shape of his nose, the disposition of his ears; the exact hue of his eyes; the presence of a discolored tooth in his lower jaw, which a fish-like, nervous trick of opening and closing the mouth periodically revealed.
“Good morning, sir!” said the valet, gently rubbing his palms together and bending over the bed.
M. Max inhaled deeply, stared in glassy fashion, but in no way indicated that he had heard the words.
The valet shook him gently by the shoulder.
“Good morning, sir. Shall I prepare your bath?”
“She is a serpent!” muttered M. Max, tossing one arm weakly above his head... “all yellow.... But roses are growing in the mud ... of the river!”
“If you will take your bath, sir,” insisted the man in black, “I shall be ready to shave you when you return.”
“Bath... shave me!”
M. Max began to rub his eyes and to stare uncomprehendingly at the speaker.
“Yes, sir; good morning, sir,”—there was another bow and more rubbing of palms.
“Ah!—of course! Morbleu! This is Paris....”
“No, sir, excuse me, sir, London. Bath hot or cold, sir?”
“Cold,” replied M. Max, struggling upright with apparent difficulty; “yes,—cold.”
“Very good, sir. Have you brought your own razor, sir?”
“Yes, yes,” muttered Max—“in the bag—in that bag.”
“I will fill the bath, sir.”
The bath being duly filled, M. Max, throwing about his shoulders a magnificent silk kimono which he found upon the armchair, steered a zigzag course to the bathroom. His tooth-brush had been put in place by the attentive valet; there was an abundance of clean towels, soaps, bath salts, with other necessities and luxuries of the toilet. M. Max, following his bath, saw fit to evidence a return to mental clarity; and whilst he was being shaved he sought to enter into conversation with the valet. But the latter was singularly reticent, and again M. Max changed his tactics. He perceived here a golden opportunity which he must not allow to slip through his fingers.