Martin Fawley glanced irritably at the man stretched flat in the chair he coveted—the man whose cheeks were partly concealed by lather, and whose mass of dark hair was wildly disarranged. One of his hands—delicate white hands they were although the fingers were long and forceful—reposed in a silver bowl of hot water. The other one was being treated by the manicurist seated on a stool by his side, the young woman whose services Fawley also coveted. He had entered the establishment a little abruptly and he stood with his watch in his hand. Even Fawley’s friends did not claim for him that he was a good-tempered person.
“Monsieur is ten minutes en retard,” the coiffeur announced with a reproachful gesture.
“Nearly a quarter of an hour,” the manicurist echoed with a sigh.
The new-comer replaced his watch. The two statements were incontrovertible. Nevertheless, the ill humour which he felt was eloquently reflected in his face. The man in the chair looked at him expressionless, indifferent. The inconvenience of a stranger meant nothing to him.
“If Monsieur will seat himself,” Henri, the coiffeur, suggested, “this will not be a long affair.”
Fawley glanced once more at his watch. He really had nothing whatever to do at the moment, but he possessed all the impatience of the man of energy at being asked to wait at any time. While he seemed to be considering the situation the man in the chair spoke. His French was good enough, but it was not the French of a native.
“It would be a pity,” he said, “that Monsieur should be misled. I require ensuite a face massage, and I am not satisfied with the hands which Mademoiselle thinks she has finished. Furthermore, there is the trimming of my eyebrows—a delicate task which needs great care.”
Martin Fawley stared at the speaker rudely.
“So you mean to spend the morning here,” he observed. The man in the chair glanced at Fawley nonchalantly and remained silent. Fawley turned his back upon him, upon Henri, and Mathilde, the white painted furniture, the glit- tering mirrors, and walked out into the street…. He did not see again this man to whom he had taken so unreasonable a dislike until he was ushered, a few days later, with much ceremony into his very magnificent official apartment in the Plaza Margaretta at Rome.