As in a dream-picture he saw the figure of a girl standing on the steps of the terrace in front of the hotel. The searchlight discovered her and lingered upon her. She stood in the brilliant line of light, a splendid vision of almost unearthly beauty. Her neck and arms were bare, curved with the exquisite grace of a Grecian statue. Her face was turned towards the light—a marvellous face, touched with a faint, triumphant smile. She was dressed in a robe of pure white that fell around her in long, soft folds.
Merefleet gazed upon the wonder before him and asked himself one breathless question: “Is that—a woman?”
And the answer seemed to spring from the very depth of his being: “No! A goddess!”
It was the most gloriously perfect picture of beauty he had ever looked upon.
The searchlight flashed on and the hotel garden was left in darkness.
A chill sense of loss swept down upon Merefleet, but the impression did not last. He threw away his cigar with an impetuosity oddly out of keeping with his somewhat rugged and unimpressionable nature. A hot desire to see that face again at close quarters possessed him—the face of the loveliest woman he had ever beheld.
He reached the hotel and sat down in the vestibule. Evidently this marvellous woman was staying in the place. He watched the doorway with a strange feeling of excitement. He had not been so moved for years.
At length there came a quick, light tread. The next moment he was gazing again upon the vision that had charmed him out of all commonsense. She stood, framed in the night, white and pure and gloriously, most surpassingly, beautiful. Merefleet felt his heart throb heavily. He sat in dead silence, looking at her with fascinated eyes. Had he called her a Greek goddess? He had better have said angel. For this was no earth-born loveliness.
She stood for several seconds looking towards him with shining, radiant eyes. Then she moved forward. Merefleet’s eyes were fixed upon her. He could not have looked away just then. He was absurdly uncertain of himself.
She paused near him with the light pouring full upon her. Her eyes met his with a momentary questioning. Then ruthlessly she broke the spell.
“Say, now!” she said in brisk, high tones. “Isn’t that searchlight thing a real cute invention?”
Merefleet shivered at the words. He did not answer her. The shock had been too great. He sat stiff and silent, waiting for more.
The American girl looked at him with a pitying little smile. She was wholly unabashed.
“I reckon the man who invented searchlights was no fool,” she remarked. “I just wish that quaint old battleship would come right along here. It’s not exciting, this place.”
“New Silverstrand would be more to your taste, I fancy,” said Merefleet, reluctantly forced to speak.