There was implacable purpose in his strangely quiet, unhurried accents. Magda recognised it—recognised that death was very close to her. It would be useless to scream. Before help could come—if anyone heard her cries, which was unlikely—Dan would have accomplished what he meant to do.
In the last fraction of time these thoughts flashed through her mind. Her brain seemed to be working with abnormal clarity and speed. This was death, then—unavoidable, inevitable.
She felt Dan’s hand creep upward, closing round her throat. Quite suddenly she ceased to struggle and lay still in his grasp. After all, she didn’t know that she would much mind dying. Life was not so sweet. There would be pain, she supposed . . . a moment’s agony. . . .
All at once, Storran’s hands fell away from her passive, silent body and he stepped back. “I can’t do it!” he muttered hoarsely. “I can’t do it!”
For a moment the suddenness of her release left Magda swaying dizzily on her feet. Then her brain clearing, she looked across to where Dan Storran’s big figure faced her. The nonchalance with which she usually met life, and with which a few moments earlier she had been prepared to face inevitable death, stood by her now. A faint, quizzical smile tilted her mouth.
“So you couldn’t do it after all, Dan?” The familiar note of half-indifferent mockery sounded in her voice.
Storran stared at her. “By God! I don’t believe you are a woman!” he exclaimed thickly.
She regarded him contemplatively, her hands lightly touching the red marks scored by his fingers on the whiteness of her throat.
“Do you know,” she replied dispassionately, “I sometimes wonder if I am? I don’t seem to have—feelings, like other women. It doesn’t matter to me, really, a bit that I’ve—what was it you said?—smashed up your life. I don’t know that it would have mattered much if you had strangled me.” She paused, then stepped towards him. “Now you know the truth. Do you still want to kill me, Dan Storran! . . . Or may I go?”
He swung aside from her.
“Go!” he muttered sullenly. “Go to hell!”
THE DAY AFTER
“Magda, how could you?” Gillian’s voice was full of blank dismay. “You ought to be thoroughly ashamed of yourself!”
Magda perched on the foot of Gillian’s bed, her hands clasped round her knees, nodded.
“Yes, I suppose I ought. I don’t know what made me do it—except that he’d suggested I should leave Stockleigh! I’m not used to being—shunted!”
“Heaven knows you’re not!” agreed Gillian ruefully. “It would be a wholesome tonic for you if you were. I told you only yesterday that it would be better if we left here. And on top of that you must needs go and dance in the moonlight, of all things, while Dan Storran looks on! What ordinary man is going to keep his head in such circumstances, do you suppose? Especially when he was more than half in love with you to start with. . . . Oh, I should like to shake you!”