Her whole being was in a turmoil. She drew nearer to the papers upon the table. She was now within a yard of Prince Shan himself. He made no effort to intercept her, no movement of any sort to stop her. Only his eyes never left her face, and she felt a madness which seemed to be choking the life out of her, a pounding of her heart against her ribs, a strange and wonderful joy, a joy in which there was no fear, a joy of new things and new hopes. With the papers for which she had come only a few yards away, she forgot them. She turned her head slowly. His arms seemed to steal out from those long, silken sleeves. She suddenly felt herself held in a wonderful embrace.
“Dear lady of all my desires,” he whispered in her ear, “you shall make me happy and find the secret of happiness yourself in giving, in suffering, in love.”
For a long and wonderful moment she lay in his arms. She felt the soft burning of his kisses, the call of the room with its intoxicating, yet strangely ascetic perfume, the room to which all the time he seemed to be gently leading her. And then a flood of strange, alien recollections and realisations seemed to bring her from a better place back to a worse,—the sound of a passing taxicab, the distant booming of Big Ben, sounds of the world outside, the actual day-by-day world, with its day-by-day code of morals, the world in which she lived, and her friends, and all that had made life for her. She drew away, and he watched the change in her.
“I want to go!” she cried. “Let me go!”
“You are no prisoner,” he assured her sadly.
He clapped his hands. She had reached the door by now and found the handle yield to her fingers. Outside in the hall, the front door stood open, and a heavy rain was beating in on the white flags. She looked around. She was in her own atmosphere here. Their eyes met, and his were very sorrowful.
“My servants are assembling,” he said. “You will find a car at your service.”
Even then she hesitated. There was a strange return of the wonderful emotion of a few minutes ago. She hoped almost painfully that he would call. Instead, he lifted the silk hangings and passed out of sight. Somehow or other, she made her way down the hall. A butler stood upon the steps, another servant was holding open the door of a limousine just drawn up. She had no distinct recollection of giving any address. She simply threw herself back amongst the cushions. It was not until they were in Piccadilly that she suddenly remembered that she had left upon the table the papers he had scornfully offered her. Then she began to laugh.