“I have seen quite enough of this very entertaining exhibition,” she said languidly, toying with a great unset emerald which swung by a thin gold chain about her neck. “Might I entreat you to take pity upon a very lonely woman and return with me to tea?”
Annesley seemed on the point of refusing, when:
“I have acquired a reputed Leonardo,” continued Madame, “and I wish you to see it.”
There was something so like a command in the words that Deacon stared at his companion in frank surprise. The latter avoided his glance, and:
“Come!” said Madame de Medici.
As of old the great Catherine of her name might have withdrawn with her suite, so now the lady of the tiger skins withdrew from the gallery, the two men following obediently, and one of them at least a happy courtier.
TWIN POOLS OF AMBER
The white-robed Chinese servant entered and placed fresh perfume upon the burning charcoal of the silver incense-burner. As the scented smoke began to rise he withdrew, and a second servant entered, who facially, in dress, in figure and bearing, was a duplicate of the first. This one carried a large tray upon which was set an exquisite porcelain tea-service. He placed the tray upon a low table beside the divan, and in turn withdrew.
Deacon, seated in a great ebony chair, smoked rapidly and nervously—looking about the strangely appointed room with its huge picture of the Madonna, its jade Buddha surmounting a gilded Burmese cabinet, its Persian canopy and Egyptian divan, at the thousand and one costly curiosities which it displayed, at this mingling of East and West, of Christianity and paganism, with a growing wonder.
To one of his blood there was delight, intoxication, in that room; but something of apprehension, too, now grew up within him.
Madame de Medici entered. The garish motor-coat was discarded now, and her supple figure was seen to best advantage in one of those dark silken gowns which she affected, and which had a seeming of the ultra-fashionable because they defied fashion. She held in her hand an orchid, its structure that of an odontoglossum, but of a delicate green colour heavily splashed with scarlet—a weird and unnatural-looking bloom.
Just within the doorway she paused, as Deacon leaped up, and looked at him through the veil of the curved lashes.
“For you,” she said, twirling the blossom between her fingers and gliding toward him with her tigerish step.
He spoke no word, but, face flushed, sought to look into her eyes as she pinned the orchid in the button-hole of his coat. Her hands were flawless in shape and colouring, being beautiful as the sculptured hands preserved in the works of Phidias.
The slight draught occasioned by the opening of the door caused the smoke from the incense-burner to be wafted toward the centre of the room. Like a blue-gray phantom it coiled about the two standing there upon a red and gold Bedouin rug, and the heavy perfume, or the close proximity of this singularly lovely woman, wrought upon the high-strung sensibilities of Deacon to such an extent that he was conscious of a growing faintness.