He did not notice. For a few seconds more he stood behind her, while she waited, palpitating, for his next move. Then, very suddenly he turned and left her.
And Olga, instantly relaxing from a tension too terrible to be born, covered her face with her hands and shuddered over and over again in sick disgust.
It was many minutes before she recovered, minutes during which her mind seemed to be almost too stunned for thought. Very gradually at length she began to remember the words she had last uttered, the weapon she had used; and numbly she wondered at herself.
No, she had scarcely acted on her own initiative. Her action had been prompted by some force of which till that moment she had had no knowledge, a force great enough to lift her above her own natural impulses, great enough to help her in her sore strait, and to make all other things seem of small importance.
What would Max have said to that emphatic declaration of hers? But surely it was Max, and none other, who had inspired it. Surely—surely—ah, what was this that was happening to her? What magic was at work? She suddenly lifted her face to the dazzling summer sky. A brief giddiness possessed her—and passed. She was as one over whom a mighty wave had dashed. She came up from it, breathless, trembling, yet with a throbbing ecstasy at her heart such as she had never known before. For the impossible had happened to her. She realized it now. She—Olga Ratcliffe, the ordinary, the colourless, the prosaic—was caught in the grip of the Unknown Power, that Immortal Wonder which for lack of a better name men call Romance. And she knew it, she exulted in it, she stretched out her woman’s hands to grasp it, as a babe will seek to grasp the sunshine, possessing and possessed.
In that moment she acknowledged that the bitter struggle through which she had just come had been indeed worth while. It had exhausted her, terrified her; but it had shown her her heart in such a fashion as to leave no room for doubt or misunderstanding. Even yet she quivered with the rapture of the revelation. It thrilled her through and through. For she knew that Max Wyndham reigned there in complete and undisputed possession. No other man had entered before him, or would ever enter after....
Slowly, reluctantly, she came back from her Elysium. She descended to earth and faced again the difficulties of the way.
She opened her eyes upon the yacht still running seawards, and decided that they must turn. She wondered if Hunt-Goring had regained his self-control, if he were ashamed of himself, if possibly he might bring himself to apologize, and what she should say to him if he did. Her heart felt very full. She knew she could not be very severe with him if he were really repentant.
Then she remembered Violet,—her friend....