But in a low voice full of anguish she said, “Do not speak.”
Bored by this taciturn, almost hostile tete-a-tete, he began to examine the route through the windows of the cab. The street stretched out interminable, already deserted, so badly paved that at every step the cab springs creaked. The lamp-posts were beginning to be further and further apart. The cab was approaching the ramparts.
“Singular itinerary,” he murmured, troubled by the woman’s cold, inscrutable reserve.
Abruptly the vehicle turned up a dark street, swung around, and stopped.
Hyacinthe got out. Waiting for the cabman to give him his change, Durtal inspected the lay of the land. They were in a sort of blind alley. Low houses, in which there was not a sign of life, bordered a lane that had no sidewalk. The pavement was like billows. Turning around, when the cab drove away, he found himself confronted by a long high wall above which dry leaves rustled in the shadows. A little door with a square grating in it was cut into the thick unlighted wall, which was seamed with fissures. Suddenly, further away, a ray of light shot out of a show window, and, doubtless attracted by the sound of the cab wheels, a man wearing the black apron of a wineshop keeper lounged through the shop door and spat on the threshold.
“This is the place,” said Mme. Chantelouve.
She rang. The grating opened. She raised her veil. A shaft of lantern light struck her full in the face, the door opened noiselessly, and they penetrated into a garden.
“Good evening, madame.”
“Good evening, Marie. In the chapel?”
“Yes. Does madame wish me to guide her?”
The woman with the lantern scrutinized Durtal. He perceived, beneath a hood, wisps of grey hair falling in disorder over a wrinkled old face, but she did not give him time to examine her and returned to a tent beside the wall serving her as a lodge.
He followed Hyacinthe, who traversed the dark lanes, between rows of palms, to the entrance of a building. She opened the doors as if she were quite at home, and her heels clicked resolutely on the flagstones.
“Be careful,” she said, going through a vestibule. “There are three steps.”
They came out into a court and stopped before an old house. She rang. A little man advanced, hiding his features, and greeted her in an affected, sing-song voice. She passed, saluting him, and Durtal brushed a fly-blown face, the eyes liquid, gummy, the cheeks plastered with cosmetics, the lips painted.
“I have stumbled into a lair of sodomists.—You didn’t tell me that I was to be thrown into such company,” he said to Hyacinthe, overtaking her at the turning of a corridor lighted by a lamp.
“Did you expect to meet saints here?”