He took both her hands in his and drew her towards him. Her eyes, which began by being startled, grew suddenly soft, as his face came close to hers and his eyes looked into hers for a wavering second before they dropped awkwardly and looked at her cheek. And then he kissed her. It took a long time. It took just as long as it takes to transform a whole system of reasoned thinking into something chaotic, nebulous. The chances are that, had that kiss never happened to Marcella, she would have gone on with her dreams of deliverance, her ideals of a high road through life. Louis’s lips opened a locked door in her personality. When he let her go again she looked at him, rather frightened and bewildered. She was trembling almost unbearably; her face, usually the fairest white, made gold by the sun and the wind, was flushed; her grey eyes were deep blue; her mind, for the while, was a blank.
“Oh Louis!” she gasped.
“Marcella—” he began but she seized his hands again.
“Oh Louis, please do it again.” That time she closed her eyes and was only conscious of thinking that, if the ship went down, it would not matter just so long as nothing interrupted the kiss.
“Dear little girl,” he whispered, and ceased to feel frightened of her. As he saw the tremendous effect his kisses had on her, masculine superiority put pokers into his backbone and made him feel a very fine fellow indeed. He had no time to think what his kisses had done to Marcella. All that he grasped was that she was not like Violet who had drawn away from him to lead him on further; who had flirted with him and teased him seductively, and made him pay dearly for kisses by pleadings and humiliations: who had never given anything, and had never come one inch of the way to meet him.
“I say, Marcella,” he said, as he let her go. “Don’t you know anything at all about the art of lying? Can’t you lie?”
She frowned at him. He went on quickly.
“I’ve never met a girl yet who admitted that she liked a man to kiss her. They lie and lie—they put up barriers every minute.”
“There can’t be barriers between us, Louis. I’d rather die than have barriers,” she said quietly, though she did not realize why, or what she implied.
Looking back in after years on the six weeks of the voyage Marcella saw them as days and nights coloured by madness and storms through which Jimmy went like a little wistful ghost, hanging on to her hand, the only thing in grey tones amidst splashes of wild colour. Many a time in the sun-drowned days and windless nights Marcella was reminded of those old tales she had heard on Lashnagar from Wullie’s lips, of the hot summer when the witch-woman came and men went mad just before the destruction came on the village. It was as though the Oriana went on ploughing through the waters, with the Dog-Star hitched to her masthead