There was a moments silence. Marius asked him if he liked champagne. Kenji Mori replied that although the sparkling drink could never compare to sake, he would be delighted to have a glass. Impressed by the virile allure of this polite, refined Asian man, Eudoxie speedily revised her preconceptions of him. The others seemed to be expecting something from Kenji Mori. He had unwittingly upset the equilibrium of the group.
My friend Victors business associate is Japanese, announced Marius triumphantly.
Victor noticed Tashas almost imperceptible smile. Their eyes met and she saw his expression change. He finds me attractive, she thought. She would have liked to sketch his face: he has an interesting, sensual mouth . . .
Leaning towards Kenji Mori, Eudoxie asked: Have you visited the Japanese Pavilion?
Im not interested in Japanese knick-knacks manufactured in bulk and intended for bazaars, he replied without departing from his customary affability.
Yet there are some beautiful pieces on display, said Tasha, especially the prints . . .
In the West, few people who are not experts understand that kind of pictorial art. For them they are nothing more than pretty, exotic images with which to decorate the Henri the Second-style drawing rooms. You clutter your homes with such a profusion of objects that in the end you dont notice any of them.
Tasha protested vehemently. Youre wrong! Why tar everyone with the same brush? I was lucky enough to see the exhibition of Japanese prints organised by the Van Gogh brothers. The Great Wave by Hokusai made a real impression on me.
Isidore Gouvier suddenly intervened. Talking about making an impression up here one might almost be on the bridge of a transatlantic liner, he remarked in a sinister tone. All we need is a really good ground swell to topple this red pylon youve made me climb.
Dont criticise Monsieur Eiffels Tower. Its the technical apotheosis of our century, declared Kenji Mori. Its amazing to think its seven thousand tonnes of iron weigh no more heavily on the ground than a ten-metre-high wall.
Especially if that wall were as long as the Great Wall of China, retorted Tasha.
There was a silence. Victor studied the pretty redhead. Twenty-two, twenty-three years old at most. She had a self-confidence that was very provocative. He felt his heart quicken, then regain its normal rhythm.
Antonin Clusel got up, muttering: Im going to the gallery for a cigarette.
Marius cleared his throat. Children, a toast to a prosperous future for Le Passe-partout and our new literary columnist, Victor Legris.
Not so fast. You cant trap me like that. Ill have to think about it first, laughed Victor.
Boss! Its an emergency!
Everyone turned to look at Antonin Clusel.
What is it?
Theres a woman outside. Shes dead.
Marius leaped up. To work, children. Tasha, I want sketches, right away. Eudoxie, hurry back to the office well have to prepare a special edition. Quickly! Isidore, off you go to police headquarters and try to find out the exact cause of death. Antonin, you come with me.
He turned to his guests. Monsieur Mori, Victor, I do apologise, but news waits for nobody. Think about my proposition! he called before dashing outside.
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