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6. "I was the Flail of the Lord"
Lord John Roxton and I turned down Vigo Street together and through the dingy portals
of the famous aristocratic rookery. At the end of a long drab passage my new
acquaintance pushed open a door and turned on an electric switch. A number of lamps
shining through tinted shades bathed the whole great room before us in a ruddy radiance.
Standing in the doorway and glancing round me, I had a general impression of
extraordinary comfort and elegance combined with an atmosphere of masculine virility.
Everywhere there were mingled the luxury of the wealthy man of taste and the careless
untidiness of the bachelor. Rich furs and strange iridescent mats from some Oriental
bazaar were scattered upon the floor.
Pictures and prints which even my unpractised eyes could recognize as being of great
price and rarity hung thick upon the walls. Sketches of boxers, of ballet-girls, and of
racehorses alternated with a sensuous Fragonard, a martial Girardet, and a dreamy
Turner. But amid these varied ornaments there were scattered the trophies which brought
back strongly to my recollection the fact that Lord John Roxton was one of the great all-
round sportsmen and athletes of his day. A dark-blue oar crossed with a cherry-pink one
above his mantel-piece spoke of the old Oxonian and Leander man, while the foils and
boxing-gloves above and below them were the tools of a man who had won supremacy
with each. Like a dado round the room was the jutting line of splendid heavy game-
heads, the best of their sort from every quarter of the world, with the rare white
rhinoceros of the Lado Enclave drooping its supercilious lip above them all.
In the center of the rich red carpet was a black and gold Louis Quinze table, a lovely
antique, now sacrilegiously desecrated with marks of glasses and the scars of cigar-
stumps. On it stood a silver tray of smokables and a burnished spirit-stand, from which
and an adjacent siphon my silent host proceeded to charge two high glasses. Having
indicated an arm-chair to me and placed my refreshment near it, he handed me a long,
smooth Havana. Then, seating himself opposite to me, he looked at me long and fixedly
with his strange, twinkling, reckless eyes--eyes of a cold light blue, the color of a glacier
Through the thin haze of my cigar-smoke I noted the details of a face which was already
familiar to me from many photographs--the strongly-curved nose, the hollow, worn
cheeks, the dark, ruddy hair, thin at the top, the crisp, virile moustaches, the small,
aggressive tuft upon his projecting chin. Something there was of Napoleon III.,
something of Don Quixote, and yet again something which was the essence of the
English country gentleman, the keen, alert, open-air lover of dogs and of horses. His skin
was of a rich flower-pot red from sun and wind. His eyebrows were tufted and
overhanging, which gave those naturally cold eyes an almost ferocious aspect, an
impression which was increased by his strong and furrowed brow. In figure he was spare,
but very strongly built--indeed, he had often proved that there were few men in England
capable of such sustained exertions. His height was a little over six feet, but he seemed
shorter on account of a peculiar rounding of the shoulders. Such was the famous Lord