“No!” Magda faced him with a defiance that was rather splendid. “No! You can’t hurt me, Davilof. Only the man I love can do that.”
He flinched at the proud significance of the words—denying him even the power to hurt her. It was almost as though she had struck him, contemptuously disdainful of his toy weapons—the weapons of the man who didn’t count.
There was a long silence. At last he spoke.
“You’ll be sorry for that,” he said in a voice of concentrated anger. “Damned sorry. Because it isn’t true. I can hurt you. And by God, if you won’t marry me, I will! . . . Magda——” With one of the swift changes so characteristic of the man he softened suddenly into passionate supplication. “Have a little mercy! God! If you knew how I love you, you couldn’t turn me away. Wait! Think again—”
“That will do.” She checked him imperiously. “I don’t want your love. And for the future please understand that you won’t even be a friend. I don’t wish to see or speak to you again!”
THE ROPES OF STEEL
Magda sat gazing idly into the fire, watching with abstracted eyes the flames leap up and curl gleefully round the fresh logs with which she had just fed it. She was thinking about nothing in particular—merely revelling in the pleasant warmth and comfort of the room and in the prospect of a lazy evening spent at home, since to-night she was not due to appear in any of the ballets to be given at the Imperial Theatre.
Outside, the snow was falling steadily in feathery flakes, hiding the grime of London beneath a garment of shimmering white and transforming the commonplace houses built of brick and mortar, each capped with its ugly chimneystack, into glittering fairy palaces, crowned with silver towers and minarets.
The bitter weather served to emphasise the easy comfort of the room, and Magda curled up into her chair luxuriously. She was expecting Michael to dinner at Friars’ Holm this evening. They had not seen each other for three whole days, so that there was an added edge to her enjoyment of the prospect. She would have so much to tell him! About the triumphant reception she had had the other night down at the theatre—he had been prevented from being present—and about the unwarrantable attitude Davilof had adopted, which had been worrying her not a little. He would sympathise with her over that—the effortless sympathy of the man in possession!
Then the unwelcome thought obtruded itself that if the snow continued falling Michael might be weather-bound and unable to get out to Hampstead. She uncurled herself from her chair and ran to the window. The sky stretched sombrely away in every direction. No sign of a break in the lowering, snow-filled clouds! She drummed on the window with impatient fingers; and then, drowning the little tapping noise they made, came the sound of an opening door and Melrose’s placid voice announcing: