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26. In Madame's Room
Madame de Staemer's apartment was a large and elegant one. From the
window-drapings, which were of some light, figured satiny material, to the bed-
cover, the lampshades and the carpet, it was French. Faintly perfumed, and
decorated with many bowls of roses, it reflected, in its ornaments, its pictures, its
slender-legged furniture, the personality of the occupant. In a large, high bed,
reclining amidst a number of silken pillows, lay Madame de Staemer. The theme
of the room was violet and silver, and to this everything conformed. The toilet
service was of dull silver and violet enamel. The mirrors and some of the pictures
had dull silver frames, There was nothing tawdry or glittering. The bed itself,
which I thought resembled a bed of state, was of the same dull silver, with a
coverlet of delicate violet I hue. But Madame's decollete robe was trimmed with
white fur, so that her hair, dressed high upon her head, seemed to be of silver,
Reclining there upon her pillows, she looked like some grande dame of that
France which was swept away by the Revolution. Immediately above the
dressing-table I observed a large portrait of Colonel Menendez dressed as I had
imagined he should be dressed when I had first set eyes on him, in tropical riding
kit, and holding a broad-brimmed hat in his hand. A strikingly handsome,
At the face of Madame de Staemer I looked long and searchingly. She had not
neglected the art of the toilette. Blinds tempered the sunlight which flooded her
room; but that, failing the service of rouge, Madame had been pale this morning,
I perceived immediately. In some subtle way the night had changed her.
Something was gone out of her face, and something come into it. I thought, and
lived to remember the thought, that it was thus Marie Antoinette might have
looked when they told her how the drums had rolled in the Place de la Revolution
on that morning of the twenty-first of January.
"Oh, M. Knox," she said, sadly, "you are there, I see. Come and sit here beside
me, my friend. Val, dear, remain. Is this Inspector Aylesbury who wishes to speak
to me?"
The Inspector, who had entered with all the confidence in the world, seemed to
lose some of it in the presence of this grand lady, who was so little impressed by
the dignity of his office.
She waved one slender hand in the direction of a violet brocaded chair.
"Sit down, Monsieur l'inspecteur," she commanded, for it was rather a command
than an invitation.
Inspector Aylesbury cleared his throat and sat down.
"Ah, M. Knox!" exclaimed Madame, turning to me with one of her rapid
movements, "is your friend afraid to face me, then? Does he think that he has
failed? Does he think that I condemn him?"
"He knows that he has failed, Madame de Staemer," I replied, "but his absence is
due to the fact that at this hour he is hot upon the trail of the assassin."