“Why——” And Gillian proceeded to recount the events which had led up to the abrupt termination of the visit to Stockleigh Farm.
“She was in a very odd kind of mood after Antoine had gone. I even asked her if he had brought any bad news, but I couldn’t get any sensible answer out of her. And that night she proceeded to dance in the moonlight with Dan Storran for audience—out of sheer devilment, of course!”
“Or sheer heartsickness,” suggested Lady Arabella, with one of those quick flashes of tender insight which combined so incongruously with the rest of her personality.
“Do you think she—cared, then?” asked Gillian.
“For Quarrington? Of course I do. Oh, well it will all come right in the end, I hope. And, anyway”—with a wicked little grin—“Davilof won’t have quite such a clear coast as he anticipated.”
“But if Michael Quarrington is married—”
“He isn’t,” interrupted Lady Arabella briskly. “It was contradicted in the papers the very next morning. Only I suppose Davilof hustled off to Devonshire in such a hurry that he never saw it.
“Contradicted? But how did such a mistake arise?”
“Oh, whoever supplied that particular tidbit of news got the names mixed. It ought really to have been Warrington, not Quarrington—Mortrake Warrington, the sculptor, you know. It seems he and Michael were both using the same woman as a model—only Warrington married her! Spoiled Michael’s picture—or his temper—when he ran off with her for a honeymoon, I expect!”
On her return to Friars’ Holm Gillian hastened to retail for Magda’s benefit the information she had acquired from Lady Arabella, and was rewarded by the immediate change in her which became apparent. The haunted, feverish look in her eyes was replaced by a more tranquil shining, the intense restlessness she had evinced of late seemed to fall away from her, and she ceased to pepper her conversation with the bitter speeches which had worried Gillian more than a little, recognising in them, as she did, the outcrop of some inward and spiritual turmoil.
To Magda, the fact that Michael was not married, after all, seemed to re-create the whole world. It left hope still at the bottom of the box of life’s possibilities. Looking backward, she realised now how strongly she had clung to the belief that some day he would come back to her. It had been the one gleam of light through all those dark months which had followed his abrupt departure; and the intolerable pain of the hours that had succeeded Davilof’s announcement of his marriage to the Spanish woman had taught her how much Michael meant to her.
She was beginning to appreciate, too, the tangle of convictions and emotions which had driven him from her side. His original attitude toward her, based on the treatment she had accorded to his friend who had loved her, had been one of plain censure and distrust, strengthened and intensified by that strong “partisan” feeling of one man for another—fruit of the ineradicable sex antagonism which so often colours the judgments men pass on women and women on men. Then had come love, against which he had striven in vain, and gradually, out of love, had grown a new tentative belief which the pitiful culmination of the Raynham episode had suddenly and very completely shattered.