“I will not!” she gasped back. “I will not!”
Her face was raised to his. With her left hand she sought and grasped his right wrist. Her whole body quivered against him, but she stood her ground.
“I shall hurt you!” he said between his teeth.
“I don’t care!” she cried back hysterically. “You—you can kill me, if you like!”
He turned his eyes suddenly upon her, flaming them straight into hers mercilessly, scorchingly. She felt as though an electric current had run through her, so straight, so piercing was his look. But she met it fully, with wide, unflinching eyes, while her fingers still clutched desperately at his iron wrists.
“Nan! Nan! For Heaven’s sake go, and leave us to fight it out!” implored Jerry. “This can’t be settled with you here. You are only making things worse for yourself. You don’t suppose I’m afraid of him, do you?”
She did not so much as hear him. All her physical strength was leaving her; but still, panting and quivering, she met those fiery, searching eyes.
Suddenly she knew that her hold upon him was weaker than a child’s. She made a convulsive effort to renew it, failed, and fell forward against him with a gasping cry.
“Piet!” she whispered, in nerveless entreaty. “Piet!”
He put his arm around her, supporting her; then as he felt her weight upon him he bent and gathered her bodily into his arms. She sank into them, more nearly fainting than she had ever been in her life; and, straightening himself, he turned rigidly, and bore her into the inner room.
He laid her upon the bed there, but still with shaking, powerless fingers she tried to cling to him.
“Don’t leave me! Don’t go!” she besought him.
He took her hands and put them from him. He turned to leave her, but even then she caught his sleeve.
“Piet, I—I want to—to tell you something,” she managed to say.
He wheeled round and bent over her. There was something of violence in his action.
“Tell me nothing!” he ordered harshly. “Be silent! Anne, do you hear me? Do you hear me?”
Under the compulsion of his look and voice she submitted at last. Trembling she hid her face.
And in another moment she heard his step as he went out, heard him close the door and the sharp click of the key as he turned it in the lock.
For many, many seconds after his departure she lay without breathing, exactly as he had left her, listening, listening with all the strength that remained to her for the sounds of conflict.
But all she heard was Piet’s voice pitched so low that she could not catch a word. Then came Jerry’s in sharp, staccato tones. He seemed to be surprised at something, surprised and indignant. Twice she heard him fling out an emphatic denial. And, while she still listened with a panting heart, there came the tread of their feet upon the stairs, and she knew that they had descended to the lower regions.