“You will not!” she gasped out in an agony of entreaty. “You could not! You shall not!”
He stopped, looking down without pity into her face of supplication. “Then give me that promise!” he said.
She shook her head. “No, not that—not that!”
“Why not?” he insisted. “Are you hoping to catch your red-haired doctor? You are not likely to secure anyone else, and he will probably prove elusive.”
She flinched at the gibing words, but still she held him back. “No, no! I don’t want to marry anyone. I have always said so.”
“Have you said so to him?” asked Hunt-Goring.
She was silent, but the quick blood ran to her temples betraying her.
“I thought not,” he said. “So that is the explanation, is it? That is why you will have none of me, eh?”
“Oh, how can you be so hateful?” she cried vehemently.
He laughed. “You won’t let me be anything else, I assure you I would be amiability itself if you would permit. Well now, which is it to be? You say you don’t want to marry anyone. That, we have seen, is only a figure of speech. But since the red-haired doctor is not wanting you and I am—”
“You are wrong!” she broke in, with sudden heat.
Some hidden fire within her had kindled into flame at his words; it burned with a fierce strength. For the first time she challenged him without any sense of fear.
He looked at her in unfeigned astonishment. “I beg your pardon?”
“You are wrong!” she said again, and it was as if some inner force inspired the words. She spoke without conscious volition of her own. “Max Wyndham has asked me to marry him—and marry him I will!”
She never knew with what triumphant finality she spoke, but the effect of her words was instant and terrible. Even as they left her lips, she saw the dark blood rise in a wave to his forehead, swelling the veins there to purple cords. His eyes became suddenly bloodshot and glittered devilishly. His hands clenched, and she almost thought he was going to strike her.
With a desperate effort she faced him without a tremor, instinctively aware that courage alone could save her.
For fully thirty seconds he said no word, and as they slipped away she saw the dreadful wave of passion gradually recede. But even then he continued to glare at her till with a quiet movement she took her hand from his arm and turned away.
Then, as she stood at the deck-rail, at last he spoke. “So that is your last word upon the subject?”
She answered him briefly, “Yes.”
She kept her face turned seawards. She was suddenly and overwhelmingly conscious of bodily weakness. All her strength seemed to have gone into that one great effort, that at the moment had seemed no effort at all. She felt as if she were going to faint, and gripped herself with all her quivering resolution, praying wildly that he might not notice.