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2. The Apartments Of Kazmah
It was rather less than two hours earlier on the same evening that Quentin Gray
came out of the confectioner's shop in old Bond Street carrying a neat parcel.
Yellow dusk was closing down upon this bazaar of the New Babylon, and many of
the dealers in precious gems, vendors of rich stuffs, and makers of modes had
already deserted their shops. Smartly dressed show-girls, saleswomen, girl clerks
and others crowded the pavements, which at high noon had been thronged with
ladies of fashion. Here a tailor's staff, there a hatter's lingered awhile as iron
shutters and gratings were secured, and bidding one another good night,
separated and made off towards Tube and bus. The working day was ended.
Society was dressing for dinner.
Gray was about to enter the cab which awaited him, and his fresh-colored, boyish
face wore an expression of eager expectancy, which must have betrayed the fact
to an experienced beholder that he was hurrying to keep an agreeable
appointment. Then, his hand resting on the handle of the cab-door, this expression
suddenly changed to one of alert suspicion.
A tall, dark man, accompanied by a woman muffled in grey furs and wearing a silk
scarf over her hair, had passed on foot along the opposite side of the street. Gray
had seen them through the cab windows.
His smooth brow wrinkled and his mouth tightened to a thin straight line beneath
the fair "regulation" moustache. He fumbled under his overcoat for loose silver,
drew out a handful and paid off the taximan.
Sometimes walking in the gutter in order to avoid the throngs upon the pavement,
regardless of the fact that his glossy dress-boots were becoming spattered with
mud, Gray hurried off in pursuit of the pair. Twenty yards ahead he overtook them,
as they were on the point of passing a picture dealer's window, from which yellow
light streamed forth into the humid dusk. They were walking slowly, and Gray
stopped in front of them.
"Hello, you too!" he cried. "Where are you off to? I was on my way to call for you,
Flushed and boyish he stood before them, and his annoyance was increased by
their failure to conceal the fact that his appearance was embarrassing if not
unwelcome. Mrs. Monte Irvin was a petite, pretty woman, although some of the
more wonderful bronzed tints of her hair suggested the employment of henna, and
her naturally lovely complexion was delicately and artistically enhanced by art.
Nevertheless, the flower-like face peeping out from the folds of a gauzy scarf, like
a rose from a mist, whilst her soft little chin nestled into the fur, might have
explained even in the case of an older man the infatuation which Quentin Gray was
at no pains to hide.
She glanced up at her companion, Sir Lucien Pyne, a swarthy, cynical type of
aristocrat, imperturbably. Then: "I had left a note for you, Quentin," she said
hurriedly. She seemed to be in a dangerously high-strung condition.
"But I have booked a table and a box," cried Gray, with a hint of juvenile petulance.