Denzil grew very pale. Bending down he murmured something to her in a low tone. She raised her lovely brows with a little touch of surprise that was half disdain, and looked at him straightly.
“You say very pretty things; but they do not always please me,” she observed. “However, that is my fault, no doubt.”
And she began to move onwards, her Nubian page preceding her as before. Gervase stood in her path and confronted her as she came.
“Introduce me,” he said in a commanding tone to Denzil.
Denzil looked at him, somewhat startled by the suppressed passion in his voice.
“Certainly. Princess, permit me!” She paused, a figure of silent grace and attention. “Allow me to present to you my friend, Armand Gervase, the most famous artist in France—Gervase, the Princess Ziska.”
She raised her deep, dark eyes and fixed them on his face, and as he looked boldly at her in a kind of audacious admiration, he felt again that strange dizzying shock which had before thrilled him through and through. There was something strangely familiar about her; the faint odors that seemed exhaled from her garments,—the gleam of the jewel-winged scarabei on her breast,—the weird light of the emerald-studded serpent in her hair; and more, much more familiar than these trifles, was the sound of her voice—dulcet, penetrating, grave and haunting in its tone.
“At last we meet, Monsieur Armand Gervase!” she said slowly and with a graceful inclination of her head. “But I cannot look upon you as a stranger, for I have known you so long—in spirit!”
She smiled—a strange smile, dazzling yet enigmatical—and something wild and voluptuous seemed to stir in Gervase’s pulses as he touched the small hand, loaded with quaint Egyptian gems, which she graciously extended towards him.
“I think I have known you, too!” he said. “Possibly in a dream,—a dream of beauty never realized till now!”
His voice sank to an amorous whisper; but she said nothing in reply, nor could her looks be construed into any expression of either pleasure or offence. Yet through the heart of young Denzil Murray went a sudden pang of jealousy, and for the first time in his life he became conscious that even among men as well as women there may exist what is called the “petty envy” of a possible rival, and the uneasy desire to outshine such an one in all points of appearance, dress and manner. His gaze rested broodingly on the tall, muscular form of Gervase, and he noted the symmetry and supple grace of the man with an irritation of which he was ashamed. He knew, despite his own undeniably handsome personality, which was set off to such advantage that night by the richness of the Florentine costume he had adopted, that there was a certain fascination about Gervase which was inborn, a trick of manner which made him seem picturesque at all times; and that even when the great French artist had stayed with him in Scotland and got himself