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George H. Doran Company
By George H. Doran Company
Count Emile Poleski was obliged to be at the Barcelona Station at five
o'clock in the afternoon one hot Friday in May. His business, having
to do with that which was known to himself and his associates as "the
Cause," necessitated careful attention, and required the performance of
certain manoeuvres in such a way that they should be unobserved by the
various detectives to whom he was an object of interest.
He looked round, scowling, till he found the man he wanted, and who was
to all outward appearances the driver of one of the row of _fiacres_
that waited outside the station. Cigarettes were exchanged, and a tiny
slip of paper passed imperceptibly from hand to hand, then he turned
ostensibly to watch the incoming train from Port-Bou. As he was on the
platform it would be better to look as if he had come to meet someone,
and as he had nothing particular to do just then it would make a
distraction to watch the various types of humanity arriving at this
continental Buenos Ayres, the city of romance, anarchy, commerce and
Emile Poleski called it _l'entresol de l'enfer_, and certainly he was
not there by his own choice. It was the centre of intrigue, and to
intrigue his life, intellect, and the little money he had left from his
Polish estates, were devoted. To him life meant "The Cause," and that
exigeant mistress left little room for other and more natural
In his career women did not count, at least they did not count as
women. If they had money to spend, or brains and energies that could
be utilised, that was a different matter. He had a trick of studying
people as one studies natural history through a microscope.
The train came in, slackened speed and stopped, and its contents
resolved themselves into little groups of people all hunting with more
or less excitement for their luggage, and porters to convey the same to
The figure of a girl who had just alighted and was standing alone,
caught and held his roving eyes. The pose of her abnormally slim body
had all the grace of a figure on a Grecian vase in its clean curves and
Her head was beautifully set upon a long throat, and her feet were
conspicuously slender and delicate in their high French boots of
champagne-coloured kid. Her face, which as far as he could see was of
a startling pallor, was obscured by a white lace veil tied loosely
round her Panama hat, and left to fall down her back in floating ends;
and she wore a rather crumpled, cream-coloured dress.
She stood, looking round, as if uncertain how to act, evidently in
expectation of someone to meet her. No one appeared and she moved off
in search of a porter. Emile followed at a reasonable distance. Books
he found desperately dull, but humanity in any shape or form was
attractive to him, and the girl's appearance appealed to a deeply
embedded love of the exotic and mysterious.
He watched with cynical amusement as she tried to explain her wishes in
French to a porter, who spoke only the dialect of Catalonia. Her voice
finally decided Emile on his line of conduct. Low-pitched it was, with
subtle inflections, and with a hoarseness in the lower notes such as
one hears in the voices of Jewish women.
"Many thanks, _Monsieur_! I know scarcely any Spanish. Perhaps you
would tell me where one could get lodgings. It seems rather hopeless
for this man and myself to continue arguing in different languages, so
if you would not mind--"
When they were both in the _fiacre_ she did not speak, but leaned back,
her hands in her lap, her feet crossed, looking straight in front of
her with hazel-green eyes, expressionless as those of the Sphinx.
Count Poleski congratulated himself in silence over his discovery.
Here was a woman so unique that she asked no questions, did not
volunteer after the manner of most women a flood of voluble
information, apparently took everything for granted, and was in no way
embarrassed by himself or his company.
certainly not youthful.
"So you're out from England," he said at last.
"From Paris," she answered him serenely. "I'm Arithelli of the
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