Across the lengthening silence Grange’s voice came to him. There was a certain hesitation in it as though he were not altogether sure of his ground.
“I am to take your word for all that?”
Nick turned swiftly round. “You can do as you choose. I have nothing else to offer you.”
Grange abandoned the point abruptly, feeling as a man who has lost his footing in a steep place and is powerless to climb back. Perhaps even he was vaguely conscious of something colossal hidden away behind that baffling, wrinkled mask.
“Very well,” he said, with that dogged dignity in which Englishmen clothe themselves in the face of defeat. “Then you will take my word to set her free.”
“To-night?” said Nick.
There was another pause. Then Nick crossed to the door and unlocked it.
“I will take your word,” he said.
A few seconds later, when Grange had gone, he softly shut and locked the door once more, and returned to his chair before the fire. Great gusts of rain were being flung against the window-panes. The wind howled near and far with a fury that seemed to set the walls vibrating. Now and then dense puffs of smoke blew out across the hearth into the room, and the atmosphere grew thick and stifling.
But Nick did not seem aware of these things. He sat on unheeding in the midst of his dust and ashes while the storm raged relentlessly above his head.
THE WOMAN’S CHOICE
With the morning there came a lull in the tempest though the great waves that spent themselves upon the shore seemed scarcely less mountainous than when they rode before the full force of the storm.
In Daisy Musgrave’s cottage above the beach, a woman with a white, jaded face sat by the window writing. A foreign envelope with an Indian stamp lay on the table beside her. It had not been opened; and once, glancing up, she pushed it slightly from her with a nervous, impatient movement. Now and then she sat with her head upon her hand thinking, and each time she emerged from her reverie it was to throw a startled look towards the sea as though its ceaseless roar unnerved her.
Nevertheless, at sight of a big, loosely-slung figure walking slowly up the flagged path, a quick smile flashed into her face, making it instantly beautiful. She half rose from her chair, and then dropped back again, still faintly smiling, while the light which only one man’s coming can kindle upon any woman’s face shone upon hers, erasing all weariness and bitterness while it lingered.
At the opening of the door she turned without rising. “So you have come after all! But I knew you would. Sit down a minute and wait while I finish this tiresome letter. I have just done.”
She was already scribbling last words as fast as her pen would move, and her visitor waited for her without a word.