The immediate result was an augmented post-bag for the Hermitage, and Gillian had to waste the better part of a couple of sunshiny days in writing round to Magda’s friends assuring them of her continued existence and wellbeing, and thanking them for their kind inquiries.
It was decided to keep the engagement private for the present, and life at the Hermitage resumed the even tenor of its way, Magda continuing to sit daily for the picture of Circe which Michael was anxious to complete before she returned to London for the autumn season.
“It’s our picture now, Saint Michel,” she told him, with a happy, possessive pride in his work.
In this new atmosphere of tranquil happiness Magda bloomed like a flower in the sun. To the nameless natural charm which was always hers there was added a fresh sweetness and appeal, and the full revelation of her love for him startled even Michael. He had not realised the deep capacity for love which had lain hidden beneath her nonchalance.
It seemed as though her whole nature had undergone a change. Alone with him she was no longer the assured woman of the world, the spoilt and feted dancer, but just a simple, unaffected girl, sometimes a little shy, almost diffident, at others frank and spontaneous with the splendid candour and simplicity of a woman who knows no fear of love, but goes courageously to meet it and all that it demands of her.
She was fugitively sweet and tender with Coppertop, and now and then her eyes would shine with a quiet, dreaming light as though she visioned a future wherein someone like Coppertop, only littler, might lie in the crook of her arm.
Often during these tranquil summer days the two were to be found together, Magda recounting the most gorgeous stories of knights and dragons such as Coppertop’s small soul delighted in. On one such occasion, at the end of a particularly thrilling narrative, he sat back on his heels and regarded her with a certain wistful anxiety.
“I suppose,” he asked rather forlornly, “when you’re married they’ll give you a little boy like me, Fairy Lady, won’t they?”
The clear, warm colour ran up swiftly beneath her skin.
“Perhaps so, Topkins,” she answered very low.
He heaved a big sigh. “He’ll be a very lucky little boy,” he said plaintively. “If Mummie couldn’t have been my mummie, I’d have choosed you.”
And so, in this tender atmosphere of peace and contentment, the summer slipped by until it was time for Magda to think of going back to London. The utter content and happiness of these weeks almost frightened her sometimes.
“It can’t last, Gilly,” she confided to Gillian one day, caught by an access of superstitious fear. “It simply can’t last! No one was meant to be as happy as I am!”
“I think we were all meant to be happy,” replied Gillian simply. “Happy and good!” she added, laughing.