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A Parisian Sultana (Complete)

118 pages
Library of Alexandria
A charming retreat, one of a luxurious suite of apartments in the Boulevard Malesherbes, the abode, evidently, of a woman both young and of elegant tastes. One glance round the room sufficed to establish the innate refinement of its owner—the couch covered with pearl-grey brocaded satin, the timepiece of Dresden china, the Venetian mirror, the crayons bearing the signature of Latour, the tasteful what-nots filled with miniature figures, the Smyrna carpet, the cushions adorned with antique lace, and the diminutive chairs, a modern creation, which the Parisians have invented to enable them, on the first approach of frost, to creep as closely as possible to the genial warmth of a winter fire—everything, in short, bore the impress of the owner's taste and refinement. Nevertheless, however ardent might be the desire to meet the goddess of this charming sanctum, the sight of the various articles with which the furniture was laden could not fail to temper that eagerness, if indeed a decided chill did not result from the inspection. A feeling of astonishment, at all events, would inevitably succeed, as, on a closer examination, the room, which at first sight appeared to be a boudoir, was seen to be equally suitable for the study of the most indefatigable of members of a modern Geographical Society. As a matter of fact, the couch was lost to view, almost entirely, beneath a mass of books or pamphlets, published by Hachette, Arthur Bertrand, Delegrave and Lassailly, bearing some such titles as: "Au cœur de l'Afrique," "l'Albert Nyanza," "le Fleuve Blanc," "Ismailia," "Les Grandes Entreprises Géographiques," &c., &c. The corners of the room were littered with numbers of the "Annales des Voyages," and the slender frame of a gilded chair bent under the weight of Bouillet's famous "Atlas d'Histoire et de Géographie." Even the satin-flock, with which the walls were covered, had not been respected, for, here and there, simply fastened by pins, appeared a map by Stieler of Gotha, another by Brué, a survey by Emile Lavasseur of the Institute, and sketches by Malte-Brun, Peterman and the Viscount de Bizemont, all of them explanatory or illustrative of the discoveries made by Burton, Speke, Grant, Livingstone and Dr. Cuny. On a small ebony table, inlaid with mother-of-pearl, and of exquisite design, was piled a perfect pyramid of the "Bulletin" of the Geographical Society, whose remaining numbers found a resting-place at the foot of the couch, on the Smyrna carpet. A view of the Albert Nyanza, taken from the plans of Schweinfurth, the great German traveller, rested on the mantelpiece, between the time-piece and the mirror. In the midst of all this furniture, which science had, as it were, taken by assault and alienated from its original destiny, amid the many seats which wore an air of astonishment at having been coverted into book-shelves, one tiny chair alone remained unoccupied, doubtless reserved for the particular use of the master or mistress of the abode. As the clock struck eight, a lady made her appearance in the room. She might be from three and twenty to twenty-five years of age, and her figure, albeit considerably above the average height, was admirably proportioned. Her small, shapely head was gracefully poised on a well-turned neck, and her drooping shoulders and full, though not too full, bust prepared the beholder for the tiny foot which peeped beneath a dress of some dark material—a foot though, small, yet firm and evidently accustomed to being used. She is fair, decidedly fair, and still there is plenty of decision in the features. There is self-will and determination in the wide and somewhat square forehead, and in the straight nose, with its clear-cut nostrils; there is energy in the bluish-grey eyes, and the mouth, with its resolute outline and the upper lip slightly shaded with down, might well give utterance to soft nothings, but would be equally at home with a word of command.