“Liane’s address, if you know it.”
The girl named a number on an avenue not far distant. Lanyard remarked this.
“Yes; you can walk there in less than five minutes. And finally?”
“Show me the way out.” Again she made no response. He pursued in some constraint: “Thus you will enable me to make you my only inadequate return—leave you to your rest.”
Yet another space of silence; then a gusty little laugh. “That is a great favour, truly, petit Monsieur Paul! So give me your hand once more.” But she no longer clung to it as before; the clasp of her fingers was light, cool, impersonal to the point of indifference. Vexed, resentful of her resentment, Lanyard suffered her guidance through the darkness of another room, a short corridor, and then a third room, where she left him for a moment.
He heard again the clash of curtain rings. The dim violet rectangle of a window appeared in the darkness, the figure of the woman in vague silhouette against it. A sash was lifted noiselessly, rain-sweet air breathed into the apartment. Athenais returned to his side, pressed into his palm a key.
“That window opens on a court. The drop from the sill is no more than four feet. In the wall immediately opposite you will find a door. This key opens it. Lock the door behind you, and at your first opportunity throw away the key: I have several copies. You will find yourself in a corridor leading to the entrance of the apartment house in the rear of this, facing on the next street. Demand the cordon of the concierge as if you were a late guest leaving one of the apartments. He will make no difficulty about opening.... I think that is all.”
“Not quite. There remains for me to attempt the impossible, to prove my gratitude, Athenais, in mere, unmeaning words.”
“Don’t try, Paul.” The voice was softened once more, its accents broken. “Words cannot serve us, you and me! There is one way only, and that, I know, is ... rue Barre!” Her sad laugh fluttered, she crept into his arms. “But still, petit Monsieur Paul, she will not care if ... only once!”
She clung to him for a long, long moment, then released his lips.
“Men have kissed me, yes, not a few,” she whispered, resting her face on his bosom, “but you alone have known my kiss. Go now, my dear, while I have strength to let you go, and ... make me one little promise...”
“Whatever you ask, Athenais....”
“Never come back, unless you need me; for I shall not have so much strength another time.”
Alone, she rested a burning forehead against the lifted window-sash, straining her vision to follow his shadow as it moved through the murk of the court below and lost itself in the deeper gloom of the opposing wall.
THE HOUSE OF LILITH