Magda felt her pulses throb unevenly. The whole atmosphere seemed sentient and athrill with the surge of some deep-lying emotion. She could feel it beating up against her—the clamorous demand of something hardly curbed and straining for release.
“Michael——” The word stammered past her lips.
The sound of her voice snapped the iron control he had been forcing on himself. With a hoarse, half-strangled exclamation he caught her up from where she lay, crushing her slim, soft body in a grip that almost stifled her, kissing her fiercely on eyes and lips and throat. Then abruptly he released her and, without a word, without a backward look, strode out of the cabin and up on to the deck.
Magda sank down weakly on the edge of the narrow bunk. The storm of his passion had swept through her as the wind sweeps through a tree, leaving her spent and trembling. Sleep was an impossibility. Ten minutes, twenty passed—she could not have told how long it was. Then she heard him coming back, and as he gained the threshold she sprang to her feet and faced him, nervously on the defensive. In the pale, elusive moonlight, and with that startled poise of figure, she might well have been the hamadryad at bay of one of her most famous dances.
Michael looked rather white and there was a grim repression about the set of his lips. As he caught sight of her face with its mute apprehension and dilated eyes, he spoke quickly.
“You should be resting,” he said. “Let me tuck you up and then try to go to sleep.”
There was something infinitely reassuring in the steady tones of his voice. It held nothing but kindness—just comradeship and kindness. He was master of himself once more. For her sake he had fought back the rising tide of passion. It had no place while they two were here alone on the wide waters.
He stooped and picked up the blankets, laying them over her with a tenderness that seemed in some subtle way to be part of his very strength. Her taut nerves relaxed. She smiled up at him.
“Good-night, Saint Michel,” she said simply. “Take care of me.”
He stooped and kissed the slim hand lying outside the blanket.
“Now and always,” he answered gravely.
When Magda awoke, seven hours later, the sunlight was streaming into the cabin. She could hear Michael moving about the deck, and she sprang up and proceeded to make such toilette as was possible in the circumstances, taking down her hair and dressing it afresh at the tiny looking-glass hung on the wall. She had barely completed the operation when she heard Michael give a shout.
“Ahoy! Ahoy there!”
She ran up on deck. Approaching them was a small steam-tug, and once again Quarrington sent his voice ringing lustily across the water, while he flourished a large white handkerchief in the endeavour to attract the attention of those on board.
Suddenly the tug saw them and, altering her course, came fussing up alongside. Quarrington briefly explained their predicament—in the face of the Bella Donna’s battered appearance a lengthy explanation was hardly necessary—and a few minutes later the tug was steaming for Netherway harbour, towing the crippled yacht behind her.