Then first I noted on her left hand a large clumsy glove. In my mind's eye I saw hair and claws under it, but I knew it was a hand shut hard—perhaps badly bruised. I glanced at the other: it was lovely as hand could be, and I felt that, if I did less than loathe her, I should love her. Not to dally with usurping emotions, I turned my eyes aside.
She started to her feet. I sat motionless, looking down.
' To me she may be true !' said my vanity. For a moment I was tempted to love a lie.
An odour, rather than the gentlest of airy pulses, was fanning me. I glanced up. She stood erect before me, waving her lovely arms in seemingly mystic fashion.
A frightful roar made my heart rebound against the walls of its cage. The alabaster trembled as if it would shake into shivers. The princess shuddered visibly.
' My wine was too strong for you !' she said, in a quavering voice; I ought not to have let you take a full draught! Go and sleep now, and when you wake ask me what you please.—I will go with you : come.'
As she preceded me up the stair,—
I do not wonder that roar startled you !' she said. ' It startled me, I confess : for a moment I feared she had escaped. But that is impossible.'
The roar seemed to me, however—I could not tell why—to come from the white leopardess, and to be meant for me, not the princess.
With a smile she left me at the door of my room, but as she turned I read anxiety on her beautiful face.