“Magnifique!” ejaculated the Countess de Coude, beneath her breath.
“Eh?” questioned the count, turning toward his young wife. “What is itthat is magnificent?” and the count bent his eyes in various directionsin quest of the object of her admiration.
“Oh, nothing at all, my dear,” replied the countess, a slight flushmomentarily coloring her already pink cheek. “I was but recalling withadmiration those stupendous skyscrapers, as they call them, of NewYork,” and the fair countess settled herself more comfortably in hersteamer chair, and resumed the magazine which “nothing at all” hadcaused her to let fall upon her lap.
Her husband again buried himself in his book, but not without a mildwonderment that three days out from New York his countess shouldsuddenly have realized an admiration for the very buildings she had butrecently characterized as horrid.
Presently the count put down his book. “It is very tiresome, Olga,” hesaid. “I think that I shall hunt up some others who may be equallybored, and see if we cannot find enough for a game of cards.”
“You are not very gallant, my husband,” replied the young woman,smiling, “but as I am equally bored I can forgive you. Go and play atyour tiresome old cards, then, if you will.”
When he had gone she let her eyes wander slyly to the figure of a tallyoung man stretched lazily in a chair not far distant.
“Magnifique!” she breathed once more.
The Countess Olga de Coude was twenty. Her husband forty. She was avery faithful and loyal wife, but as she had had nothing whatever to dowith the selection of a husband, it is not at all unlikely that she wasnot wildly and passionately in love with the one that fate and hertitled Russian father had selected for her. However, simply becauseshe was surprised into a tiny exclamation of approval at sight of asplendid young stranger it must not be inferred therefrom that herthoughts were in any way disloyal to her spouse. She merely admired,as she might have admired a particularly fine specimen of any species.Furthermore, the young man was unquestionably good to look at.
As her furtive glance rested upon his profile he rose to leave thedeck. The Countess de Coude beckoned to a passing steward. “Who isthat gentleman?” she asked.
“He is booked, madam, as Monsieur Tarzan, of Africa,” replied thesteward.
“Rather a large estate,” thought the girl, but now her interest wasstill further aroused.
As Tarzan walked slowly toward the smoking-room he came unexpectedlyupon two men whispering excitedly just without. He would havevouchsafed them not even a passing thought but for the strangely guiltyglance that one of them shot in his direction. They reminded Tarzan ofmelodramatic villains he had seen at the theaters in Paris. Both werevery dark, and this, in connection with the shrugs and stealthy glancesthat accompanied their palpable intriguing, lent still greater force tothe similarity.
Tarzan entered the smoking-room, and sought a chair a little apart fromthe others who were there. He felt in no mood for conversation, and ashe sipped his absinth he let his mind run rather sorrowfully over thepast few weeks of his life. Time and again he had wondered if he hadacted wisely in renouncing his birthright to a man to whom he owednothing. It is true that he liked Clayton, but — ah, but that was notthe question. It was not for William Cecil Clayton, Lord Greystoke,that he had denied his birth. It was for the woman whom both he andClayton had loved, and whom a strange freak of fate had given toClayton instead of to him.