An intensification of pride went over his nerves, because he felt, in some way she was compelled by him. The exchange of feeling between them was strong and apart from their consciousness.

And as if in a spell, Gudrun was aware of his body, stretching and surging like the marsh-fire, stretching towards her, his hand coming straight forward like a stem. Her voluptuous, acute apprehension of him made the blood faint in her veins, her mind went dim and unconscious. And he rocked on the water perfectly, like the rocking of phosphorescence. He looked round at the boat. It was drifting off a little. He lifted the oar to bring it back. And the exquisite pleasure of slowly arresting the boat, in the heavy- soft water, was complete as a swoon.

`That's what you have done,' said Hermione, looking searchingly at the plants on the shore, and comparing with Gudrun's drawing. Gudrun looked round in the direction of Hermione's long, pointing finger. `That is it, isn't it?' repeated Hermione, needing confirmation.

`Yes,' said Gudrun automatically, taking no real heed.

`Let me look,' said Gerald, reaching forward for the book. But Hermione ignored him, he must not presume, before she had finished. But he, his will as unthwarted and as unflinching as hers, stretched forward till he touched the book. A little shock, a storm of revulsion against him, shook Hermione unconsciously. She released the book when he had not properly got it, and it tumbled against the side of the boat and bounced into the water.

`There!' sang Hermione, with a strange ring of malevolent victory. `I'm so sorry, so awfully sorry. Can't you get it, Gerald?'

This last was said in a note of anxious sneering that made Gerald's veins tingle with fine hate for her. He leaned far out of the boat, reaching down into the water. He could feel his position was ridiculous, his loins exposed behind him.

`It is of no importance,' came the strong, clanging voice of Gudrun. She seemed to touch him. But he reached further, the boat swayed violently. Hermione, however, remained unperturbed. He grasped the book, under the water, and brought it up, dripping.

`I'm so dreadfully sorry -- dreadfully sorry,' repeated Hermione. `I'm afraid it was all my fault.'

`It's of no importance -- really, I assure you -- it doesn't matter in the least,' said Gudrun loudly, with emphasis, her face flushed scarlet. And she held out her hand impatiently for the wet book, to have done with the scene. Gerald gave it to her. He was not quite himself.

`I'm so dreadfully sorry,' repeated Hermione, till both Gerald and Gudrun were exasperated. `Is there nothing that can be done?'

`In what way?' asked Gudrun, with cool irony.

`Can't we save the drawings?'

There was a moment's pause, wherein Gudrun made evident all her refutation of Hermione's persistence.

`I assure you,' said Gudrun, with cutting distinctness, `the drawings are quite as good as ever they were, for my purpose. I want them only for reference.'

`But can't I give you a new book? I wish you'd let me do that. I feel so truly sorry. I feel it was all my fault.'

`As far as I saw,' said Gudrun, `it wasn't your fault at all. If there was any fault, it was Mr Crich's. But the whole thing is entirely trivial, and it really is ridiculous to take any notice of it.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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