“More than enough,” declared the Greek with enthusiasm. He bowed, although Grantham was not looking at him. “In the little matter of fees I can rely upon your discretion, as always. Is it not said that a good dragoman is a desirable husband?”
Major Grantham resettled himself in his chair.
“M. Agapoulos,” he said icily, “we have done shady business together for years, both in Port Said and in London, and have remained the best of friends; two blackguards linked by our common villainy. But if this pleasant commercial acquaintance is to continue let there be no misunderstanding between us, M. Agapoulos. I may know I’m a dragoman; but in future, old friend”—he turned lazy eyes upon the Greek—“for your guidance, don’t remind me of the fact or I’ll wring your neck.”
The drooping eyelids of M. Agapoulos flickered significantly, but it was with a flourish more grand than usual that he bowed.
“Pardon, pardon,” he murmured. “You speak harshly of yourself, but ah, you do not mean it. We understand each other, eh?”
“I understand you perfectly,” drawled Grantham; “I was merely advising you to endeavour to understand me. My party will arrive at nine o’clock, Agapoulos, and I am going back to the Savoy shortly to dress. Meanwhile, if Hassan would bring me a whisky and soda I should be obliged.”
“Of course, of course. He shall do so at once,” cried Agapoulos. “I will tell him.”
Palpably glad to escape, the fat Greek retired, leaving Major Grantham lolling there upon the leopard skin, his hat, cane and gloves upon the carpet beside him; and a few moments later Hassan the silent glided into the extravagant apartment bearing refreshments. Placing his tray upon a little coffee-table beside Major Grantham, he departed.
There was a faint smell of perfume in the room, a heavy voluptuous smell in which the odour of sandal-wood mingled with the pungency of myrrh. It was very silent, so that when Grantham mixed a drink the pleasant chink of glass upon glass rang out sharply.
Zahara had overheard the latter part of the conversation from her own apartment. Once she had even crept across to the carven screen in order that she might peep through into the big, softly lighted room. She had interrupted her toilet to do so, and having satisfied herself that Grantham was one of the speakers (although she had really known this already), she had returned and stared at herself critically in the mirror.
Zahara, whose father had been a Frenchman, possessed skin of a subtle cream colour very far removed from the warm brown of her Egyptian mother, but yet not white. At night it appeared dazzling, for she enhanced its smooth, creamy pallor with a wonderful liquid solution which came from Paris. It was hard, Zahara had learned, to avoid a certain streaky appearance, but much practice had made her an adept.