In the limp figure with its upturned face and the purple shadows which fatigue had painted below the closed eyelids, there was an irresistible appeal. She looked so young, so helpless, and the knowledge that she had done this for him—forced her limbs into agonised subjection until at last conscious endurance had failed her—moved him indescribably.
Surely this was a new Magda! Or else he had never known her. Had he been too hard—hard to her and pitilessly hard to himself—when he had allowed the ugly facts of her flirtation with Kit Raynham to drive him from her?
Eighteen months ago! And in all those eighteen months no word of gossip, no lightest breath of scandal against her, had reached his ears. Had he been merely a self-righteous Pharisee, enforcing the penalty of old sins, bygone failings? A grim smile twisted his lips. If so, and he had made her suffer, he had at least suffered equally himself!
He stooped over the prone figure on the divan. Lower, lower still, till a tendril of dark hair that had strayed across her forehead quivered beneath his breath. Then suddenly he drew back, jerking himself upright. Striding across the room he pealed the bell and, when a neat maidservant appeared in response, ordered sharply:
“Bring some brandy—quick! And ask Mrs. Grey to come here. Mademoiselle Wielitzska has fainted.”
AT THE END OF THE STORM
“This is very nice—but it won’t exactly contribute towards finishing the picture!”
As she spoke Magda leaned back luxuriously against her cushions and glanced smilingly across at Michael where he sat with his hand on the tiller of the Bella Donna, the little sailing-yacht which Lady Arabella kept for the amusement of her guests rather than for her own enjoyment, since she herself could rarely be induced to go on board.
It had been what Magda called a “blue day”—the sky overhead a deep unbroken azure, the dimpling, dancing waters of the Solent flinging back a blue almost as vivid—and she and Quarrington had put out from Netherway harbour in the morning and crossed to Cowes.
Here they had lunched and Magda had purchased one or two of the necessities of life (from a feminine point of view) not procurable in the village emporia at Netherway. Afterwards, as there was still ample time before they need think of returning home, Michael had suggested an hour’s run down towards the Needles.
The Bella Donna sped gaily before the wind, and neither of its occupants, engrossed in conversation, noticed that away to windward a bank of sullen cloud was creeping forward, slowly but surely eating up the blue of the sky.
“Of course it will contribute towards finishing the picture.” Quarrington answered Magda’s laughing comment composedly. “A blow like this will have done you all the good in the world, and I shan’t have you collapsing on my hands again as you did a week ago.”