His face sobered. “What possessed you to come back to this damnable place?” he said.
She laughed against his shoulder. “Now, Billikins, don’t you start asking silly questions. I’ll tell you as much as it’s good for you to know all in good time. I came mainly because I wanted to. And that’s the reason why I’m going to stay. See?”
She reached up an audacious finger and smoothed the faint frown from his forehead with her sunny, provocative smile.
“It’ll have to be a joint management,” she said. “There are so many things you mustn’t do. Now, darling, I’ve finished the brandy to please you. So suppose you look out your prettiest suit of pyjamas, and I’ll try and get into them.” She broke into a giddy little laugh. “What would Mrs. Paget say? Can’t you see her face? I can!”
She stopped suddenly, struck dumb by a terrible blast of wind that shook the bungalow to its foundations.
“Just hark to the wind and the rain, Billikins!” she whispered, as it swirled on. “Did you ever hear anything so awful? It’s as if—as if God were very furious—about something. Do you think He is, dear? Do you?” She pressed close to him with white, pleading face upraised. “Do you believe in God, Billikins? Honestly now!”
The man hesitated, holding her fast in his arms, seeing only the quivering, childish mouth and beseeching eyes.
“You don’t, do you?” she said. “I don’t myself, Billikins. I think He’s just a myth. Or anyhow—if He’s there at all—He doesn’t bother about the people who were born on the wrong side of the safety-curtain. There, darling! Kiss me once more—I love your kisses—I love them! And now go! Yes—yes, you must go—just while I make myself respectable. Yes, but you can leave the door ajar, dear heart! I want to feel you close at hand. I am yours—till I die—king and master!”
Her eyes were brimming with tears; he thought her overwrought and weary, and passed them by in silence.
And so through that night of wonder, of violence, and of storm, she lay against his heart, her arms wound about his neck with a closeness which even sleep could not relax.
Out of the storm she had come to him, like a driven bird seeking refuge; and through the fury of the storm he held her, compassing her with the fire of his passion.
“I am safe now,” she murmured once, when he thought her sleeping. “I am quite—quite safe.”
And he, fancying the raging of the storm had disturbed her, made hushing answer, “Quite safe, wife of my heart.”
She trembled a little, and nestled closer to his breast.
“You can’t mean to let your wife stay here!” ejaculated the colonel, sharply. “You wouldn’t do anything so mad!”
Merryon’s hard mouth took a sterner downward curve. “My wife refuses to leave me, sir,” he said.