And from that far-off memory things surged up that stirred her to a deeper wrath.
“Ah, yes, parbleu! I am a daughter of adventure, and this adventurer is, of a truth, the fit husband for me.”
“You must wait at least till he is a widower,” replied Jenkins calmly. “And, in that case, you run the risk of having a long time to wait, for his Levantine seems to enjoy excellent health.”
Felicia Ruys turned pale.
“He is married?”
“Married? certainly, and father of a bevy of children. The whole camp of them landed a couple of days ago.”
For a minute she remained overwhelmed, looking into space, her cheeks quivering. Opposite her, the Nabob’s large face, with its flattened nose, its sensual and weak mouth, spoke insistently of life and reality in the gloss of its clay. She looked at it for an instant, then made a step forward and, with a gesture of disgust, overturned, with the high wooden stool on which it stood, the glistening and greasy block, which fell on the floor shattered to a heap of mud.
Married he was and had been so for twelve years, but he had mentioned the fact to no one among his Parisian acquaintances, through Eastern habit, that silence which the people of those countries preserve upon affairs of the harem. Suddenly it was reported that madame was coming, that apartments were to be prepared for herself, her children, and her female attendants. The Nabob took the whole second floor of the house on the Place Vendome, the tenant of which was turned out at an expense worthy of a Nabob. The stables also were extended, the staff doubled; then, one day, coachmen and carriages went to the Gare de Lyon to meet madame, who arrived by train heated expressly for her during the journey from Marseilles and filled by a suite of negresses, serving-maids, and little negro boys.
She arrived in a condition of frightful exhaustion, utterly worn out and bewildered by her long railway journey, the first of her life, for, after being taken to Tunis while still quite a child, she had never left it. From her carriage, two negroes carried her into her apartments on an easy chair which, subsequently, always remained downstairs beneath the entrance porch, in readiness for these difficult removals. Mme. Jansoulet could not mount the staircase, which made her dizzy; she would not have lifts, which creaked under her weight; besides, she never walked. Of enormous size, bloated to such a degree that it was impossible to assign to her any particular age between twenty-five and forty, with a rather pretty face but grown shapeless in its features, dull eyes beneath lids that drooped, vulgarly dressed in foreign clothes, laden with diamonds and jewels after the fashion of a Hindu idol, she was as fine a sample as could be found of those transplanted European women called Levantines—a curious race of obese creoles whom speech and costume alone attach to our world, but whom the East wraps round with its stupefying atmosphere, with the subtle poisons of its drugged air in which everything, from the tissues of the skin to the waists of garments, even to the soul, is enervated and relaxed.