The Chien Noir where Susie Boyd and Margaret usually dined was the most charming restaurant in the quarter. The room was full when Arthur Burdon entered, but Margaret had kept him an empty seat between herself and Miss Boyd. Everyone was speaking at once, and a furious argument was going on about the post-Impressionists.
Susie Boyd had just described everyone to Arthur when the door was flung open, and a large person entered. He threw off his cloak with a dramatic gesture.
“Here’s somebody I don’t know,” said Susie.
“But I do. I saw him once,” answered Burdon. He leaned over to Dr. Porhoet, who was sitting opposite quietly eating his dinner. ‘Isn’t it your magician?”
“Oliver Haddo,” said Dr. Porhoet with amazement.
The newcomer stood at the end of the room with all eyes upon him. He was a very tall and very fat man. He was not old, though his obesity added to his apparent age. His features were good, his mouth large with heavy bright red lips. He had the look of a very wicked, sensual priest. Dr. Porhoet introduced him to Arthur, Susie and Margaret. He raised his eyes to her slowly, and she looked away, blushing as though she had been caught doing something unseemly. The eyes were the most unusual thing about him. They were not large, but very pale blue and they looked at you in a way that made you feel extremely uncomfortable. Their gaze remained parallel, not converging. It gave the impression that he was looking straight through you. Another strange thing about him was the impossibility of telling whether he was serious. There was a mockery in that odd glance, a sardonic smile upon the mouth, which made you hesitate how to take his shocking words.
His presence caused an odd atmosphere. One by one all the visitors of the restaurant got up and left. Haddo stopped an American sculptor.
“You have modeled lions at the Jardm des Plantes, my dear Clayton.
Have you ever hunted them in Africa?”
“No, I haven’t.”
Then you don’t know how they really look. Then you have not seen the jackal, gnawing at a dead antelope, run away in terror when the King of Beasts came down to make his meal.”
Clayton slammed the door behind him. Haddo was left with Margaret, Arthur Burdon, Dr. Porhoet and Susie. He smiled quietly.
“By the way, are you a lion-hunter?” asked Susie. He turned to her.
“I have shot more lions than any man alive. No one can compare with me.”
This statement, made with the greatest calm, caused a moment of silence. Margaret stared at him with amazement.
“You suffer from no false modesty,” said Arthur.
“False modesty is a sign of ill-breeding, from which my birth fully protects me.”
Dr. Porhoet looked at him with a smile of irony.
“I hope Mr. Haddo will use this opportunity to disclose to us the mystery of his birth and family. I have a suspicion that, like the immortal Cagliostro, he was born of unknown but noble parents, and educated secretly in Eastern palaces.”
“My family has married into the noblest people in England and they were proud to give their daughters to my house.”
“And the Eastern palaces in which your youth was spent, and the black slaves who served you, and the bearded sheikhs who taught you the secrets of black magic?” cried Dr. Porhoet.
“I was educated at Eton, and I left Oxford in 1896.”
‘Those are facts which must be verified,” said Arthur coldly.
Oliver’s face turned red with anger. His strange blue eyes grew cold with hatred. Susie feared that he would make such an insulting reply that it would lead to quarrel.