He seated himself beside her and took her in his arms, blankets and all.
“Did you think I’d be willing to wait?” he said.
“I didn’t think you wanted to marry me at all!” returned Magda, the words coming out with a little rush. “I thought you—you disapproved of me too much!”
His mouth twisted queerly.
“So I did. I’m scrapping the beliefs of half a lifetime because I love you. I’ve fought against it—tried not to love you—kept away from you! But it was stronger than I.”
“Saint Michel, I’m so glad—glad it was stronger,” she said tremulously, a little break in her voice.
He bent his head and kissed her lips, and with the kiss she gave him back she surrendered her very self into his keeping. She felt his arms strain about her, and the fierce pressure of their clasp taught her the exquisite joy of pain that is born of love.
She yielded resistlessly, every fibre of her being quivering responsive to the overwhelming passion of love which had at last stormed and broken down all barriers—both the man’s will to resist and her own defences.
Somewhere at the back of her consciousness Diane’s urgent warning: "Never give your heart to any man. Take everything, but do not give!" tinkled feebly like the notes of a worn-out instrument. But even had she paused to listen to it she would only have laughed at it. She knew better.
Love was the most wonderful thing in the world. If it meant anything at all, it meant giving. And she was ready to give Michael everything she had—to surrender body, soul, and spirit, the threefold gift that a man demands of his mate.
She drew herself out of his arms and slipped to her knees beside him.
“Saint Michel, do you believe in me now?”
“Believe in you? I don’t know whether I believe in you or not. But I know I love you! . . . That’s all that matters. I love you!”
“No, no!” She resisted his arms that sought to draw her back into his embrace. “I want more than that. I’m beginning to realise things. There must be trust in love. . . . Michael, I’m not really hard—and selfish, as they say. I’ve been foolish and thoughtless, perhaps. But I’ve never done any harm. Not real harm. I’ve never”—she laughed a little brokenly—“I’ve never turned men into swine, Michael. . . . I’ve hurt people, sometimes, by letting them love me. But, I didn’t know, then! Now—now I know what love is, I shall be different. Quite different. Saint Michel, I know now—love is self-surrender.”
The tremulous sweetness of her, the humble submissiveness of her appeal, could not but win their way. Michael’s lingering disbelief wavered and broke. She had been foolish, spoilt and thoughtless, but she had never done any real harm. Men had loved her—but how could it be otherwise? And perhaps, after all, they were none the worse for having loved her.
Deliberately Michael flung the past behind him and with it his last doubt of her. He drew her back into his arms, against his heart, and their lips met in a kiss that held not only love but utter faith and confidence—a pledge for all time.