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Tales of Chinatown

The Key Of The Temple Of Heaven
I
THE KEEPER OF THE KEY
The note of a silver bell quivered musically through the scented air of the ante-
room. Madame de Medici stirred slightly upon the divan with its many silken
cushions, turning her head toward the closed door with the languorous, almost
insolent, indifference which one perceives in the movements of a tigress. Below,
in the lobby, where the pillars of Mokattam alabaster upheld the painted roof, the
little yellow man from Pekin shivered slightly, although the air was warm for
Limehouse, and always turned his mysterious eyes toward a corner of the great
staircase which was visible from where he sat, coiled up, a lonely figure in the
mushrabiyeh chair. Madame blew a wreath of smoke from her lips, and, through
half-closed eyes, watched it ascend, unbroken, toward the canopy of cloth-of-
gold which masked the ceiling. A Madonna by Leonardo da Vinci faced her
across the apartment, the painted figure seeming to watch the living one upon
the divan. Madame smiled into the eyes of the Madonna. Surely even the great
Leonardo must have failed to reproduce that smile--the great Leonardo whose
supreme art has captured the smile of Mona Lisa. Madame had the smile of
Cleopatra, which, it is said, made Caesar mad, though in repose the beauty of
Egypt's queen left him cold. A robe of Kashmiri silk, fine with a phantom fineness,
draped her exquisite shape as the art of Cellini draped the classic figures which
he wrought in gold and silver; it seemed incorporate with her beauty.
A second wreath of smoke curled upward to the canopy, and Madame watched
this one also through the veil of her curved black lashes, as the Eastern woman
watches the world through her veil. Those eyes were notable even in so lovely a
setting, for they were of a hue rarely seen in human eyes, being like the eyes of a
 
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