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Page:Harris Dickson--The black wolf's breed.djvu/83

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Thinking only to see that the lady reached her destination in safety, here was a complication of which I had never dreamed. What her singular errand was, or wherein she desired my assistance, I could not even hazard a guess. Yet there she stood and beckoned me to enter, and I moved forward a pace or two so I could see within the door.

The concierge held the door ajar, and a more repulsive, deformed wretch I never laid eyes upon. His left arm hung withered by his side; at his girdle he swung a bunch of keys, with any one of which a strong man might have brained an ox. Every evil passion which curses the race of men had left its imprint upon his lowering countenance. Yet for a moment, when his gaze rested upon the girl, it was as though some spark of her loveliness drove the villainy from his face. He was hardly so tall as she who stood beside him watching me, the semblance of a mocking sneer about her lips. Looking past them both I could see what manner of place it was. A smoky oil-lamp sputtered in the rear, sufficiently distinct to disclose the paved court-yard, covered with the green slime which marks the place where no sun ever shines. Further than this I could see nothing except the tall gray buildings which shut in every side and this wall in front. That door once locked upon the intruder there would be no easy egress. Instinctively I held back.

"Monsieur is afraid?" she inquired, then tossed back her head, and laughed such a low, disdainful, mean laugh, as fired my every nerve to hear. I hesitated no