she had never known before. She had youth and freshness and a quicksilver agility; Rambert, the circus proprietor, professed himself pleased with her performance. Twice a day, too, she watched Nurdo juggling. It was her business to stand quietly in the background beside a little table, watchful, tense, handing him his various properties with a deftness that must of course be self-effacing. He would have been very angry had she called attention to herself at such moments.
And so she watched her lover.
In the ring, vividly illuminated by the blaze of naphtha ïlares, he took on a new and strange personality. His body seemed talier, more muscular, in his costume of vermilion tights and black sequin trunks. He wore sham rubies stuck in his ears and painted purple shadows round his eyes. Perhaps it was this trick that made them seem so huge, so glittering and dilated, like the eyes of the tigers staring from their cages behind the red plush curtains that draped the ring-entrance. His face as he worked was agonizing, distorted, in its terrific concentration. He smiled, but the smile looked as though it were painted on, like the shadows about his eyes. He set his teeth, so that little muscles jumped in his cheeks and beads of sweat rose like bubbles beneath the powder on his forehead. And always about his head, like a bright flashing halo, there swirled a cluster of colored balls with silver stars painted or them, or sparkling gilded bottles, or spinning plates, whizzing like shiny moons in the blue hazy air of the big tent.
If he missed a trick he grunted, and the sweat streamed down his face. He grimaced then, and his eyes devoured the balls or plates as though he would eat them. Afterward he invariably became sulky and morose, brooding upon this tiny mishap that could scarcely have been remarked by the spectators. He was a strange man.