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C hapt er 34

Borek arrived at Varsovina's hotel exactly three minutes before four o'clock struck. The hotel itself (long since demolished) awed him not a little by its splendid opulence, nor did it tally in the least with his previous experience of dancers and their homes, for the ballerinas of Russia lived austerely and rather squalidly in humble houses of great antiquity, and some of them were even suspected of doing their own cooking, although it must be admitted that this dark secret had never actually been proved against any one above the rank of coryphée.

Borek presented Kessel's card and waited for about ten minutes, after which time he was conducted up-stairs into a private salon ablaze with gilt, draped in somber green brocade, and crowded with masses of brilliant, wilting, highly scented flowers. This room was untenanted except for a youth who sat hunched over the fire reading a yellow-backed novel and eating marron-glacés from an enormous beribboned box upon his knee.

"Good afternoon, Monsieur," said Borek politely.

"Good afternoon."

But the youth was obviously more interested in his novel and his bonbons than in the visitor, since he neither looked up from the one nor ceased to munch the other. Borek waited for about five minutes, then went across to the window, wherein was placed a beautifully wrought gilt cage in which four or five bright love-birds twittered, fluttering; he had not been there for a moment when his companion, still pretending to read, addressed him over his shoulder in French:

"Are you Borek?"