And all at once she was in his arms. She felt them close about her, strong as steel and tender as love itself. In the rocking, helpless boat, with the storm beating up around them and death a sudden, imminent hazard, she had come at last into haven.
An hour later the storm had completely died away. It had begun to abate in violence almost immediately after the breaking of the Bella Donna’s mast. It was as though, having wreaked its fury and executed all the damage possible short of absolute destruction, it was satisfied. With the same suddenness with which it had arisen it sank away, leaving a sulky, sunless sky brooding above a sullen sea still heaving restlessly with the aftermath of tempest.
The yacht had drifted gradually out of mid-channel shorewards, and after one or two unsuccessful efforts Quarrington at last succeeded in casting anchor. Then he turned to Magda, who had been assisting in the operation, with a smile.
“That’s about all we can do,” he said. “We’re perfectly helpless till some tug or steamer comes along.”
“Probably they’ll run us down,” she suggested. “We’re in the fairway, aren’t we?”
“Yes—which is about our best hope of getting picked up before night.” Then, laying his hand on her arm: “Are you very cold and wet?”
Magda laughed—laughed out of sheer happiness. What did being cold matter, or wet either, if Michael loved her? And she was sure now that he did, though there had been but the one moment’s brief embrace. Afterwards he had had his hands full endeavouring to keep the Bella Donna afloat.
“I think the wind has blown my things dry,” she said. “How about you?”
“Oh, I’m all right—men’s clothing being adapted for use, not ornament! But I must find something to wrap you up in. We may be here for hours and the frock you’re wearing has about as much warming capacity as a spider’s web.”
He disappeared below into the tiny, single-berthed cabin, and presently returned armed with a couple of blankets, one of which he proceeded to wrap about Magda’s shoulders, tucking the other over her knees where she sat in the stern of the boat.
“I don’t want them both,” she protested, resisting. “You take one.”
There was something rather delightful in this unconventional comradeship of discomfort.
“You’ll obey orders,” replied Michael firmly. “Especially as you’re going to be my wife so soon.”
A warm flush dyed her face from brow to throat. He regarded her with quizzical eyes. Behind their tender mockery lurked something else—something strong and passionate and imperious, momentarily held in leash. But she knew it was there—could feel the essential, imperative demand of it.
“Well? Does the prospect alarm you?”
Magda forced herself to meet his glance.
“So soon?” she repeated hesitantly.
“Yes. As soon as it can be accomplished,” he said triumphantly.