“Have we what?”
“Decided whether you will sit for my picture of Circe?”
Magda lifted her long white lids and met his glance.
“Why should I?” she asked lazily.
He shrugged his shoulders with apparent unconcern.
“No reason in the world—unless you feel inclined to do a good turn.”
His indifference was maddening.
“I don’t make a habit of doing good turns,” she retorted sharply.
“So I should imagine.”
The contemptuous edge to his voice roused her to indignation. As always, she found herself stung to the quick by the man’s coolly critical attitude towards her. She was back once more in the atmosphere of their first meeting on the day he had come to her assistance in the fog. It seemed almost incredible that all that followed had ever taken place—incredible that he had ever cared for her or taught her to care for him. At least he was making it very clear to her now that he intended to cut those intervening memories out of his life.
It was a sheer challenge to her femininity, and everything that was woman in her rose to meet it.
She smiled across at him engagingly.
“I might—perhaps—make an exception.”
For a moment there was silence. Quarrington’s gaze was riveted on her slim, supple figure with its perfect symmetry and rare grace of limb. It was difficult to interpret his expression. Magda wondered if he were going to reject her offer. He seemed to be fighting something out with himself—pulled two ways—the artist in him combating the man’s impulse to resist her.
Suddenly the artist triumphed. He rose and, coming to her side, stood looking down at her.
“Will you?” he said. “Will you?”
Something more than the artist spoke in his voice. It held a note of passionate eagerness, a clipped tensity that set all her pulses racing.
She turned her head aside.
“Yes,” she answered, a little breathlessly. “Yes—if you want me to.”
A READJUSTMENT OF IDEAS
Magda glanced from the divan covered with a huge tiger-skin to Michael, wheeling his easel into place. A week’s hard work on the part of the artist had witnessed the completion of Lady Arabella’s portrait, and to-day he proposed to make some preliminary sketches for “Circe.”
Magda felt oddly nervous and unsure of herself. This last fortnight passed in daily companionship with Quarrington had proved a considerable strain. Not withstanding that she had consented to sit for his picture of Circe, he had not deviated from the attitude which he had apparently determined upon from the first moment of her arrival at the Hermitage—an attitude of aloof indifference to which was added a bitterness of speech that continually thrust at her with its trenchant cynicism. It was as though he had erected a high wall between them which Magda found no effort of hers could break down, and she was beginning to ask herself whether he could ever really have cared for her at all. Surely no man who had once cared could be so hard—so implacably hard!