“I think I’m—lonely,” said Storran.
“Gillian,” he went on, his voice deepening. “Gillian . . . dear. We’re two rather lonely people. We shall be lonelier still when Michael and Magda are married. Couldn’t we be lonely—in company?”
Gillian’s hand moved a little beneath his, then stayed still.
“Why, Dan—Dan——” she stammered.
“Yes,” went on the strong, tender voice. “I’m asking you to marry me, Gillian, I’d never expect too much of you. We both know all that’s in the past of each of us. But we might help each other to be less lonely—good comrades together, Gillian.”
And suddenly Gillian realised how good it would be to rest once more in the shelter of a man’s affection and good comradeship—to have someone to laugh with or to be sorry with. There’s a tender magic in the word “together.” And she, too, had something to give in return—sympathy, and understanding, and a warm friendship. . . . She would not be going to him empty-handed.
“Is it yes, Gillian?”
She bent her head.
THE EDGE OF THE DAWN
Magda paused outside the closed door of the room. She knew whom she would see within. Lady Arabella had told her he was there waiting for her.
Her first impulse had been to refuse to meet him. Then the temptation to see him again—just once more—before she passed out of his life altogether, rushed over her like the surge of some resistless sea, sweeping everything before it.
Very quietly she opened the door and went into the room.
She never knew whether he really uttered her name or whether it was only the voiceless, clamorous cry of his whole consciousness—of a man’s passionate demand for the woman who is mate of his soul and body.
But she answered its appeal, her innermost being responding to the claim of it. All recollection of self, of the dimming of her beauty, even of the great gulf of months that lay between them, crowded with mistakes and failure, was burned away in the white-hot flame of love that blazed up within her.
She ran to him, and that white, searing flame found its expression in the dear human tenderness of the little cry that broke from her as he turned his gaunt face towards her.
“Oh, Saint Michel! Saint Michel! How dreadfully ill you look! Oh, my dear—sit down! You’re not fit to stand!”
But when that first instinctive cry had left her lips, memory came flooding over her once more. She shrank back from him, covering her face with her hands, agonisingly conscious of the change in herself—of that shadowing of her beauty which the sensitiveness of a woman in love had so piteously magnified.
Then, drawing her hands slowly down, she braced herself to say what must be said.