“Billikins, darling! You aren’t very decent, are you? I’m not decent either, Billikins. I’d like to take off all my clothes and dance on my head.”
He laughed grimly. “You will certainly have to undress—the sooner the better.”
She spread out her hands. “But I’ve nothing to wear, Billikins, nothing but what I’ve got on. I didn’t know it was going to rain so. You’ll have to lend me a suit of pyjamas, dear, while I get my things dried. You see”—she halted a little—“I came away in rather a hurry. I—was bored.”
Merryon, oddly sobered by her utter dependence upon him, turned aside and foraged for brandy. She came close to him while he poured it out.
“It isn’t for me, is it? I couldn’t drink it, darling. I shouldn’t know what was happening for the next twenty-four hours if I did.”
“It doesn’t matter whether you do or not,” he said. “I shall be here to look after you.”
She laughed at that, a little quivering laugh of sheer content. Her cheek was against his shoulder. “Live for ever, O king!” she said, and softly kissed it.
Then she caught sight of something on the arm below. “Oh, darling, did I do that?” she cried, in distress.
He put the arm about her. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t feel it,” he said. “I’ve got you.”
She lifted her lips to his again. “Billikins, darling, I didn’t know it was you—at first, not till I heard you laugh. I’d rather die than hurt you. You know it, don’t you?”
“Of course I know it,” he said.
He caught her to him passionately for a moment, then slowly relaxed his hold. “Drink this, like a good child,” he said, “and then you must get to bed. You are wet to the skin.”
“I know I am,” she said, “but I don’t mind.”
“I mind for you,” he said.
She laughed up at him, her eyes like stars. “I was lucky to get in when I did,” she said. “Wasn’t the heat dreadful—and the lightning? I ran all the way from the station. I was just terrified at it all. But I kept thinking of you, dear—of you, and how—and how you’d kissed me that night when I was such a little idiot as to cry. Must I really drink it, Billikins? Ah, well, just to please you—anything to please you. But you must have one little sip first. Yes, darling, just one. That’s to please your silly little wife, who wants to share everything with you now. There’s my own boy! Now I’ll drink every drop—every drop.”
She began to drink, standing in the circle of his arm; then looked up at him with a quick grimace. “It’s powerful strong, dear. You’ll have to put me to bed double quick after this, or I shall be standing on my head in earnest.”
He laughed a little. She leaned back against him.
“Yes, I know, darling. You’re a man that likes to manage, aren’t you? Well, you can manage me and all that is mine for the rest of my natural life. I’m never going to leave you again, Billikins. That’s understood, is it?”