But Lanyard remembered uneasily that somebody—Solomon or some other who must have led an interesting life—had remarked that the lips of a strange woman are smoother than oil.
“None the less, monsieur, I am deeply in your debt.”
His smile of impersonal courtesy failed. He was becoming more sensitive than he liked to her charm and the warm sentiment she was giving out to him. This strange access in her of haunting loveliness, the gentle shadows that lay beneath her wide—yet languorous eyes, the almost imperceptible tremor of her sweetly fashioned lips, all troubled him profoundly. He exerted himself to break the spell upon his senses which this woman, wittingly or not, was weaving. But the effort was at best half-hearted.
“I am well repaid,” he said a bit stiffly, “by the knowledge that the honour of madame la princesse is safe.”
Sofia laughed breathlessly. Somehow her hands had found the way to his. Her glance wavered and fell.
“But is it?” she asked in a tone so intimate that it was barely audible. And she laughed once more. “I am not so sure ... as long as monsieur is here.”
Lanyard’s mouth twitched, slow colour mounted in his face, the light in his eyes was lambent. He found himself looking deep into other eyes that were like pools of violet shadow troubled by a deep surge and resurge of feeling for which there was no name. Aware that they revealed more than he ought to know, he sought to escape them by bending his lips to Sofia’s hands.
Sighing softly, she resigned them to his kisses.
PAID IN FULL
It was late when Lanyard got home, but not too late: when he entered his living-room enough life lingered in the embers in the grate to betray to him a feline shape on all-fours creeping toward his bedchamber door. As he switched up the lights it bounded to its feet and dived through the portieres with such celerity that he saw little more of it than coat-tails level on the wind.
Dropping hat and canvas, Lanyard gave chase and overhauled the marauder as he was clambering out through the open window, where a firm hand on his collar checked his preparations to drop half a dozen feet to the flagged court.
Victor swore fretfully and lashed out a random fist, which struck Lanyard’s cheek a glancing blow that carried just enough sting to kindle resentment. So the virtuous householder was rather more than unceremonious about yanking the princely housebreaker inside and lending him a foot to accelerate his return to the living-room; where Victor brought up, on all-fours again, in almost precisely the spot from which he had risen.
He bounced up, however, with a surprising amount of animation and ambition, and flew back to the offensive with flailing fists. In this his judgment was grievously in fault. Lanyard sidestepped, nipped a wrist, twitched it smartly up between the man’s shoulder-blades (with a wrench that won a grunt of agony), caught the other arm from behind by the hollow of its elbow, and held his victim helpless—though ill-advised enough to continue to hiss and spit and squirm and kick.