The uncontrolled violence of his speech was terrible. His hold upon Puck was violent also, more violent than he knew. Her whole body lay a throbbing weight upon him, and he was not even aware of it.
“Go!” he reiterated, with eyes of leaping flame. “Go! or—” He left the sentence uncompleted. It was even more terrible than his flow of words had been. The whole man vibrated with a wrath that possessed him in a fashion so colossal as to render him actually sublime. He mastered the situation by the sheer, indomitable might of his fury. There was no standing against him. It would have been as easy to stem a racing torrent.
Vulcan, for all his insolence, realized the fact. The man’s strength in that moment was gigantic, practically limitless. There was no coping with it. Still with the snarl upon his lips he turned away.
“You will pay for this, my wife,” he said. “You will pay in full. When I punish, I punish well.”
He reached the door and opened it, still leering back at the limp, girlish form in Merryon’s arms.
“It will not be soon over,” he said. “It will take many days, many nights, that punishment—till you have left off crying for mercy, or expecting it.”
He was on the threshold. His eyes suddenly shot up with a gloating hatred to Merryon’s.
“And you,” he said, “will have the pleasure of knowing every night when you lie down alone that she is either writhing under the lash—a frequent exercise for a while, my good sir—or finding subtle comfort in my arms; both pleasant subjects for your dreams.”
He was gone. The door closed slowly, noiselessly, upon his exit. There was no sound of departing feet.
But Merryon neither listened nor cared. He had turned Puck’s deathly face upwards, and was covering it with burning, passionate kisses, drawing her back to life, as it were, by the fiery intensity of his worship.
GREATER THAN DEATH
She came to life, weakly gasping. She opened her eyes upon him with the old, unwavering adoration in their depths. And then before his burning look hers sank. She hid her face against him with an inarticulate sound more anguished than any weeping.
The savagery went out of his hold. He drew her to the charpoy on which she had spent so many evenings waiting for him, and made her sit down.
She did not cling to him any longer; she only covered her face so that he should not see it, huddling herself together in a piteous heap, her black, curly head bowed over her knees in an overwhelming agony of humiliation.
Yet there was in the situation something that was curiously reminiscent of that night when she had leapt from the burning stage into the safety of his arms. Now, as then, she was utterly dependent upon the charity of his soul.
He turned from her and poured brandy and water into a glass. He came back and knelt beside her.