He waved his hand to Hudson standing a few paces away with her skates, took them from him, motioned her to the bank.
She stepped forward, not very willingly. Hudson, at another sign, spread a rug for her. She sat down, and the glittering harlequin kneeled upon the ice before her and fastened the blades to her feet.
It only took a couple of minutes; he was deft in all his ways. And then he was on his feet again, and with a royal gesture had helped her to hers.
Anne looked at him half dazzled. The shimmering figure seemed to be decked in diamonds.
“Are you ready?” he said.
She looked into the glowing eyes and felt as if some magic attraction were drawing her against her will.
“So long!” called Lucas from the bank. “Take care of her, Boney.”
In another moment they were gliding into that prism of many lights and colours, and the harlequin, holding Anne’s hands, laughed enigmatically as he sped her away.
THE SLAVE OF GOODNESS
It seemed to Anne presently that she had left the earth altogether, and was gliding upwards through starland without effort or conscious movement of any sort, simply as though lifted by the hands that held her own. Their vitality thrilled through her like a strong current of electricity. She felt that whichever way they turned, wherever they led her, she must be safe. And there was a quivering ecstasy in that dazzling, rapid rush that filled her veins like liquid fire.
“Do you know where you are?” he asked her once.
And she answered, in a species of breathless rapture, “I feel as if I were caught in a rainbow.”
He laughed again at that, a soft, exultant laugh, and drew her more swiftly on.
They left the other masqueraders behind; they left the shimmering lake and its many lights; and at last in the starlight only they slackened speed.
Anne came out of her trance of delight to find that they were between the banks of the stream that fed the lake. The ground on each side of them shone white and hard in the frost-bound silence. The full moon was just rising over a long silver ridge of down. She stood with her face to its cold splendour, her hands still locked in that vital grip.
Slowly at last, compelled she knew not how, she turned to the man beside her. His eyes were blazing at her with a lurid fire, and suddenly that sensation that had troubled her once before in his presence—a sensation of sharp uneasiness—pricked through her confidence.
She stood quite still, conscious of a sudden quickening of her heart. But she did not shrink from that burning gaze. She met it with level eyes.
For seconds they stood so, facing one another. He seemed to be trying in some fashion to subjugate her, to beat her down; but she would not yield an inch. And it was he who finally broke the spell.