He almost hoped one of these two things would happen. As he stood there, listening, waiting, the thought became almost a prayer. He had Pelly’s revolver. Within twenty seconds he could have Kedsty looking down the barrel of it. The night was ideal for escape. Within half an hour they would be on the river. They could even load up with provisions from Kedsty’s place. He opened the door a little more, scarcely making an effort to combat the impulse that dragged him out. Marette must be in danger, or she would not have confessed to him that she was in the house of a man who would like to see her dead. Why she was there did not interest him deeply now. It was the fact of the moment that was moving him swiftly toward action.
The door below opened again, and Kent’s body grew rigid. He heard Kedsty charging through the lower hall like a mad bull. The outer door opened, slammed shut, and he was gone.
Kent drew back into the darkness of his room. It was some moments before he heard Marette coming slowly up the stairs. She seemed to be groping her way, though there was a dim illumination out there. Then she came through the door into the blackness of her room.
“Jeems,” she whispered.
He went to her. Her hands reached out, and again they rested on his arms.
“You—you didn’t come down the stair?”
“I heard no words. Only Kedsty’s voice.”
It seemed to him that her voice, when she spoke again, trembled with an immeasurable relief. “You were good, Jeems. I am glad.”
In that darkness he could not see. Yet something reached into him, thrilling him, quickening his pulse with a thing to which his eyes were blind. He bent down. He found her lips upturned, offering him the sweetness of the kiss which was to be his reward; and as he felt their warmth upon his own, he felt also the slightest pressure of her hands upon his arms.
“He is gone. We will light the lamp again,” she said then.
Kent stood still while Marette moved in that gloom, found matches, and lighted the lamp. He had not spoken a word after the kiss. He had not taken advantage of it. The gentle pressure of her hands had restrained him from taking her in his arms. But the kiss itself fired him with a wild and glorious thrill that was like a vibrant music to which every atom of life in his body responded. If he claimed his reward at all, he had expected her kiss to be perhaps indifferent, at least neutral. But the lips she had given him there in the darkness of the room were warm, living, breathing lips. They had not been snatched away from him too quickly. Their sweetness, for an instant, had lingered.