Page:Idalia, by 'Ouida'.djvu/249

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
241
THE SOVEREIGN OF THE ROUND TABLE.

glanced at her to see if she resented it. She lay back with her beautiful languor, laughing softly, slightly. She was either too familiar with it to note it, or if she felt resentment did not display it.

When only the Turkish and Levantine bruits and crystallised confections remained on the table in their silver baskets, which dainty statuettes of Odalisque slaves and Greek girls held up in a shower of flowers, hookahs were brought round by a Nubian to each of the guests.

"We have permission to smoke in your presence, then, madame?" said Erceldoune, as the porcelain narghilé was set beside him.

She looked up in slight surprise, as though the solicitation were new to her.

"Oh, yes! It is as necessary to you after dinner as your cup of coffee. Is it not?"

"It is always welcome—since you have the compassion to allow it," he answered her, as he raised the long amber-tipped tube.

She smiled.

"Of course—why not? That Latakia, I believe, is good? All the rest of it, they tell me, was bought up by the French Legation."

"It is excellent, full fragrance, but very soft. Apropos of the Chancelleries, at which of them shall