“Then you will not marry me, Mildred?”
“That is your fixed determination?”
“Ah, well!” he sighed, “I suppose that I had better ‘top my boom’ again?”
“I mean I had better leave Madeira.”
“Why should you leave Madeira?”
He hesitated a little before replying.
“Well, because if I do not marry you, and still come here, people will talk. They did before, you know.”
“Are you afraid of being talked about, then?”
“I? Oh! dear no. What can it matter to me now?”
“And supposing I were to tell you that what ‘people’ say, with or without foundation, is as much a matter of indifference to me as the blowing of next summer’s breezes, would you still consider it necessary to leave Madeira?”
“I don’t know.”
He again rose and leant over the verandah rail.
“It is going to be a wild night,” he said, presently.
“Yes; the wind will spoil all the magnolias. Pick me that bud; it is too good to be wasted.”
He obeyed, and, just as he stepped back on to the verandah, a fierce rush of wind came up from the sea, and went howling away behind them.
“I love a storm,” she murmured, as he brought the flower to her. “It makes me feel so strong,” and she stretched out her perfect arms as though to catch the wind.
“What am I to do with this magnolia?”
“Give it to me. I will pin it in my dress—no, do you fasten it for me.”
The chair in which she was lounging was so low that, to do as she bade him, Arthur was forced to kneel beside her. Kneeling thus, the sweet, upturned face was but just beneath his own; the breath from the curved lips played amongst his hair, and again there crept over him that feeling of fascination, of utter helplessness, that he had once before resisted. But this time he did not attempt to resist, and no vision came to save him. Slowly drawn by the beauty of her tender eyes, he yielded to the spell, and soon her lips were pressed upon his own, and the white arms had closed around his neck, whilst the crushed magnolia bloom shed its perfume round them.
Fiercer swept the storm, the lightning flashed, and the gale catching the crests of the rising waves dashed them in spray to where they sat.
“Dear,” he said presently, “you must not stop here, the spray is wetting you.”
“I wish that it would drown me,” she answered, almost fiercely, “I shall never be so happy again. You think that you love me now; I should like to die before you learn to hate me. Come, let us go in!”
When Mildred received Lady Bellamy’s telegram, she was so sure that it would prove the forerunner of Arthur’s arrival at Madeira that she had at once set about making arrangements for his amusement.