Soames, unconsciously, clenched his fists: this slim man embodied the very spirit of the outre. The fantastic surroundings melted from the ken of Soames, and he seemed to stand in a shadow-world, alone with an incarnate shadow.
For this was a Chinaman! His jet black lusterless hair was not shaven in the national manner, but worn long, and brushed back from his slanting brow with no parting, so that it fell about his white collar behind, lankly. He wore gold-rimmed spectacles, which magnified his oblique eyes and lent him a terrifying beetle-like appearance. His mephistophelean eyebrows were raised interrogatively, and he was smiling so as to exhibit a row of uneven yellow teeth.
Soames, his amazement giving place to reasonless terror, fell back a step—into the arms of Gianapolis.
“This is our friend from Palace Mansions,” said the Greek. He squeezed Soames’ arm, reassuringly. “Your new principal, Soames, Mr. Ho-Pin, from whom you will take your instructions.”
“I have these instructions for Mr. Soames,” said Ho-Pin, in a metallic, monotonous voice. (He gave to r half the value of w, with a hint of the presence of l.) “He will wremain here as valet until the search fowr him becomes less wrigowrous.”
Soames, scarce believing that he was awake, made no reply. He found himself unable to meet the glittering eyes of the Chinaman; he glanced furtively about the room, prepared at any moment to wake up from what seemed to him an absurd, a ghostly dream.
“Said will change his appeawrance,” continued Ho-Pin, smoothly, “so that he will not wreadily be wrecognized. Said will come now.”
Ho-Pin clapped his hands three times.
The door at the end of the room immediately opened, and a thick-set man of a pronounced Arabian type, entered. He wore a chauffeur’s livery of dark blue; and Soames recognized him for the man who had driven the car.
“Said,” said Ho-Pin very deliberately, turning to face the new arrival, “ahu hina—Lucas Effendi—Mr. Lucas. Waddi el—shenta ila beta oda. Fehimt?”
Said bowed his head.
“Fahim, effendi,” he muttered rapidly.
Again Said bowed his head, then, glancing at Soames:—
“Ta’ala wayyaya!” he said.
Soames, looking helplessly at Gianapolis—who merely pointed to the door—followed Said from the room.
He was conducted along a wide passage, thickly carpeted and having its walls covered with a kind of matting kept in place by strips of bamboo. Its roof was similarly concealed. A door near to the end, and on the right, proved to open into a square room quite simply furnished in the manner of a bed-sitting room. A little bathroom opened out of it in one corner. The walls were distempered white, and there was no window. Light was furnished by an electric lamp, hanging from the center of the ceiling.
Soames, glancing at his bag, which Said had just placed beside the white-enameled bedstead, turned to his impassive guide.