“Sit here beside me,” directed Madame, and she slightly changed her position with that languorous and lithe grace suggestive of a creature of the jungle.
Breathing rapidly betwixt the importance of his mission and a new, intoxicating emotion which had come upon him at the moment of entering the perfumed room, the yellow man obeyed, but always with glance averted from the taunting face of Madame. A golden incense-burner stood upon the floor, over between the high, draped windows, and a faint pencil from its dying fires stole grayly upward. Upon the scented smoke the Buddhist priest fixed his eyes, and began, with a rapidity that grew as he proceeded, to pour out his tale. Seated beside him, one round arm resting upon the cushions so as almost to touch him, Madame listened, watching the averted yellow face, and always smiling—smiling.
The tale was done at last; the incense-burner was cold, and breathlessly the Buddhist clutched his knees with lean, clawish fingers and swayed to and fro, striving to conquer the emotions that whirled and fought within him. Selecting another cigarette from the box beside her, and lighting it deliberately, Madame de Medici spoke.
“My friend of old,” she said, and of the language of China she made strange music, “you come to me from your home in the secret city, because you know that I can serve you. It is enough.”
She touched the bell upon the table, and the white-robed servant reentered, and, bowing low, held open the door. The little yellow man, first kneeling upon the carpet before the divan as before an altar, hurried from the apartment. As the door was reclosed, and Madame found herself alone again, she laughed lightly, as Calypso laughed when Ulysses’ ship appeared off the shores of her isle.
God fashions few such women. It is well.
THE TIGER LADY
“By heavens, Annesley!” whispered Rene Deacon, “what eyes that woman has!” His companion, following the direction of Deacon’s glance, nodded rather grimly.
“The eyes of a Circe, or at times the eyes of a tigress.”
“She is magnificent!” murmured Deacon rapturously. “I have never seen so beautiful a woman.”
His glance followed the tall figure as it passed into a smaller salon on the left; nor was he alone in his regard. Fashionable society was well represented in the gallery—where a collection of pictures by a celebrated artist was being shown; and prior to the entrance of the lady in the strangely fashioned tiger-skin cloak, the somewhat extraordinary works of art had engaged the interest even of the most fickle, but, from the moment the tiger-lady made her appearance, even the most daring canvases were forgotten.
“She wears tiger-skin shoes!” whispered one.
“She is like a design for a poster!” laughed another.
“I have never seen anything so flashy in my life,” was the acrid comment of a third.