Here her remarks grew general and evasive, and when pressed with questions she refused details. She declared that nothing had happened; she had been fed and fawned upon, nor been annoyed by any violence or unwelcome attentions.
“That is really too bad,” said I, with a smile. “I was, then, mistaken when I said ’your majesty’?”
“Faugh!” said Desiree. “That is hardly witty. For a time I was amused, but I am becoming bored. And yet—”
“I—don’t—know. They are mine, if you know what I mean. Eh, bien, since you ask me—for I see the question in your eye, friend Paul—I am content. If the world is behind me forever, so be it. Yes, they are unattractive to the eye, but they have power. And they worship me.”
“Desiree!” cried Harry in astonishment; and I was myself a little startled.
“Why not?” she demanded. “They are men. And besides, it is impossible for us to return. With all your cleverness, M. Paul, can you find the sunlight? To remain is a necessity; we must make the best of it; and I repeat that I am satisfied.”
“That’s bally rot,” said Harry, turning on her hotly. “Satisfied? You are nothing of the sort. I’ll tell you one thing—Paul and I are going to find our way out of this, and you are coming with us.”
For reply Desiree laughed at him—a laugh that plainly said, “I am my own mind, and obey no other.” It is one of the most familiar cards of the woman of beauty, and the most effective. It conquered Harry.
He gazed at her for a long moment in silence, while his eyes filled with an expression which one man should never show to another man. It is the betrayal of the masculine sex and the triumph of the feminine.
Suddenly he threw himself on his knees before her and took her hands in his own. She attempted to withdraw them; he clasped her about the waist.
“Do you not love me, Desiree?” he cried, and his lips sought hers.
They met; Desiree ceased to struggle.
At that moment I heard a sound—the faintest sound—behind me.
The king of the Incas was standing within the doorway, surveying the lovers with beadlike, sparkling eyes.
A royal visitor.
If it had not been for the manifest danger, I could have laughed aloud at what I read in the eyes of the king. Was it not supremely ridiculous for Desiree Le Mire, who had been sought after by the great and the wealthy and the powerful of all Europe, to be regarded with desire by that ugly dwarf? And it was there, unmistakably.
I sang out a sharp warning, but it was unnecessary; Desiree had already caught sight of the royal visitor. She pushed Harry from her bodily. He sprang to his feet in angry surprise; then, enlightened by the confusion in her face, turned quickly and swore as he, too, saw the intruder.