Phrases which had fallen from Michael’s lips scourged her anew throughout the long hours of the night. “Women like you make this world into plain hell,” he had said. “You’re like a blight—spreading disease and corruption wherever you go.” And the essential truth which each sentence held left her writhing.
It was all true—horribly, hideously true. The magical, mysterious power of beauty which had been given her, which might have helped to lighten the burden of the sad old world wherever she passed, she had used to destroy and deface and mutilate. The debt against her—the debt of all the pain and grief which she had brought to others—had been mounting up, higher and higher through the years. And now the time had come when payment was to be exacted.
Quite simply and directly, without seeking in any way to exculpate herself, she had told Gillian the bare facts of what had happened—that her engagement was broken off and the reason why. But she had checked all comment and the swift, understanding sympathy which Gillian would have given. Criticism or sympathy would equally have been more than she could bear.
“There is nothing to be said or done about it,” she maintained. “I’ve sinned, and now I’m to be punished for my sins. That’s all.”
The child of Hugh Vallincourt spoke in that impassive summing up of the situation and Lady Arabella, with her intimate knowledge of both Hugh and his sister Catherine, would have ascribed it instantly to the Vallincourt strain in her god-daughter. To Gillian, however, to whom the Vallincourts were nothing more than a name, the strange submissiveness of it was incomprehensible. As the days passed, she tried to rouse Magda from the apathy into which she seemed to have fallen, but without success.
“It’s no use, Gillyflower,” she would reply with a weary little smile. “There is no way out. Do you remember I once said I was too happy for it to last? It was quite true. . . . Have you told Marraine?” she asked suddenly.
“Yes. And she wants to see you.”
“I don’t think I want to see her—or anyone just at present. I’ve got to think—to think things out.”
“What do you mean? What are you going to do?”
Gillian regarded her with some anxiety. That Magda, usually so unreserved and spontaneous, should shut her out of her confidence thoroughly disquieted her. She felt afraid. It seemed to her as though the girl were more or less stunned by the enormity of the blow which had befallen her. She went about with a curious absence of interest in anything—composed, quiet, absorbed in her own thoughts, only rousing herself to appear at the Imperial as usual. Probably her work at the theatre was the one thing that saved her from utter collapse.
As far as Gillian knew she had not shed a single tear. Only her face seemed to grow daily more strained-looking, and her eyes held a curious expression that was difficult to interpret.