Lady Arabella, as might have been anticipated, concealed her own sore-heartedness under a manner that was rather more militant than usual, if that were possible.
“Why you hadn’t more sense than to spend your time fooling with a sort of cave-man from the backwoods, I can’t conceive,” she scolded. “You must have known how it would end.”
“I didn’t. I never thought about it. I was just sick with Michael because he had gone abroad, and then, when I heard that he was married, it was the last straw. I don’t think—that night—I should have much cared what happened.”
Lady Arabella nodded.
“Women like you make it heaven or hell for the men who love you.”
“And hell, without the choice of heaven, for ourselves,” returned Magda.
The bitterness in her voice wrung the old woman’s heart. She sighed, then straightened her back defiantly.
“We have to bear the burden of our blunders, my dear.”
There was a reminiscent look in the keen old eyes. Lady Arabella had had her own battles to fight. “And, after all, who should pay the price if not we ourselves?”
“But if the price is outrageous, Marraine? What then?”
“Still you’ve got to pay.”
Magda returned home with those words ringing in her ears. They fitted into the thoughts which had been obsessing her with a curious precision. It was true, then. You had to pay, one way or another. Lady Arabella knew it. Little Suzette had somehow found it out.
That night a note left Friars’ Holm addressed to the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Penitence.
It was a bald, austere-looking room. Magda glanced about her curiously—at the plain, straight-backed chairs, at the meticulously tidy desk and bare, polished floor. Everything was scrupulously clean, but the total absence of anything remotely resembling luxury struck poignantly on eyes accustomed to all the ease and beauty of surroundings which unlimited money can procure.
By contrast with the severity of the room Magda felt uncomfortably conscious of her own attire. The exquisite gown she was wearing, the big velvet hat with its drooping plume, the French shoes with their buckles and curved Louis heels—all seemed acutely out of place in this austere, formal-looking chamber.
Her glance came back to the woman sitting opposite her, the Mother Superior of the Sisters of Penitence—tall, thin, undeniably impressive, with a stern, colourless face as clean-cut as a piece of ivory, out of which gleamed cold blue eyes that seemed to regard the dancer with a strange mixture of fervour and hostility.
Magda could imagine no reason for the antagonism which she sensed in the steady scrutiny of those light-blue eyes. As far as she was concerned, the Mother Superior was an entire stranger, without incentive either to like or dislike her.