“Yes,” he said slowly. “She is the perfect model for such a subject—body and soul.”
Lady Arabella ignored the sneer.
“Then why not ask her to sit for you?”
Quarrington’s brows drew together.
“You know the answer to that, I think, Lady Arabella,” he answered curtly.
“Oh, you men! I’ve no patience with you!” exclaimed the old lady testily. “I shall ask her, then!”
Gillian and Magda, laden with parcels, entered the room as she spoke, and, before Quarrington could prevent her, she had flashed round on her god-daughter.
“Magda, here’s Michael in need of a model for the best picture he’s ever likely to paint, and it seems you exactly fit the bill. Will you sit for him?”
Followed an astonished silence. Gillian glanced apprehensively towards Magda. She felt as though Lady Arabella had suddenly let off a firework in their midst. Magda halted in the process of unwrapping a small parcel.
“What is the subject of the picture?”
There was a perceptible pause. Then Lady Arabella took the bull by the horns.
“Circe,” she said tersely.
“Oh!” Magda seemed to reflect. “She turned men into swine, didn’t she?” She looked across at Quarrington. “And I’m to understand you think I’d make a suitable model for that particular subject?”
“She was a very beautiful person,” suggested Gillian hastily.
“Mr. Quarrington hasn’t answered my question,” persisted Magda.
He met her glance with cool defiance.
“Then, yes,” he returned with a little bow. “As Mrs. Grey has just remarked—Circle was very beautiful.”
“You score,” observed Magda demurely. There was a glint of amusement in her eyes.
“Yes, I think he does,” agreed Lady Arabella, who was deriving an impish, pixie-like enjoyment from the situation. Then, recognising that it might be more diplomatic not to press the matter any further at the moment, she skilfully drew the conversation into other channels.
It was not until evening, after dinner, that she reverted to the subject. They had all four been partaking of coffee and cigarettes on the verandah, and subsequently she had proposed a stroll in the garden—a suggestion to which Gillian responded with alacrity. Magda, her slim length extended on a comfortably cushioned wicker lunge, shook her head.
“I’m too comfortable to stir,” she declared idly.
Lady Arabella paused at the edge of the verandah and contemplated her critically. Something in the girl’s pose and in the long, lithe lines of her recumbent figure was responsible for her next remark.
“I can see you as Circe,” she commented, “quite well.” She tucked her arm into Gillian’s and, as they moved away together, threw back over her shoulder: “By the way, have you two settled the vexed question of the model for the picture yet?”
Quarrington blew a thin stream of smoke into the air before replying. Then, looking quizzically across at Magda, he asked: “Have we?”