And then, without turning toward him, she said, “Some day, when I die, I wish I might have as pleasant a room as this.”
“I hope you never die,” he replied devoutly.
She came back and stood for a moment beside him.
“I have had a very pleasant time,” she said, as though he had given her a special sort of entertainment. “It’s too bad you are going to die. I’m sure we should have been good friends. Aren’t you?”
“Yes, very sure. If you had only arrived sooner—”
“And I shall always think of you as a different kind of man-beast,” she interrupted him. “It is really true that I shouldn’t like to see you die. I want to get away before it happens. Would you care to have me kiss you?”
For an instant Kent felt that his aorta was about to give away. “I—I would,” he gasped huskily.
“Then—close your eyes, please.”
He obeyed. She bent over him. He felt the soft touch of her hands and caught for an instant the perfume of her face and hair, and then the thrill of her lips pressed warm and soft upon his.
She was not flushed or embarrassed when he looked at her again. It was as if she had kissed a baby and was wondering at its red face. “I’ve only kissed three men before you,” she avowed. “It is strange. I never thought I should do it again. And now, good-by!” She moved quickly to the door.
“Wait,” he cried plaintively. “Please wait. I want to know your name. It is Marette—”
“Radisson,” she finished for him. “Marette Radisson, and I come from away off there, from a place we call the Valley of Silent Men.” She was pointing into the north.
“The North!” he exclaimed.
“Yes, it is far north. Very far.”
Her hand was on the latch. The door opened slowly.
“Wait,” he pleaded again. “You must not go.”
“Yes, I must go. I have remained too long. I am sorry I kissed you. I shouldn’t have done that. But I had to because you are such a splendid liar!”
The door opened quickly and closed behind her. He heard her steps almost running down the hall, where not long ago he had listened to the last of O’Connor’s.
And then there was silence, and in that silence he heard her words again, drumming like little hammers in his head, “Because you are such A splendid liar!”
James Kent, among his other qualities good and bad, possessed a merciless opinion of his own shortcomings, but never, in that opinion, had he fallen so low as in the interval which immediately followed the closing of his door behind the mysterious girl who had told him that her name was Marette Radisson. No sooner was she gone than the overwhelming superiority of her childlike cleverness smote him until, ashamed of himself, he burned red in his aloneness.