She felt very low-spirited. Since she had seen and talked with the two men in whose lives Magda had played so big a part, she was oppressed with a sense of the utter hopelessness of trying to put matters right. Things must take their course—drive on to whatever end, bitter or sweet, lay hidden in the womb of fate.
She had tried to stem the current of affairs, but she had proved as powerless to deflect it as a dried stick tossed on to a river in spate. And now, whether the end were ultimate happiness or hopeless, irretrievable disaster, Michael and Magda must still fight their way towards it, each alone, by the dim light of that “blind Understanding” which is all that Destiny vouchsafes.
The curtains swung together for the last time, the orchestra struck up the National Anthem, and the great audience which had come from all parts to witness the Wielitzska’s farewell performance began to disperse.
A curious quietness attended its departure. It was as though a pall of gravity hung over the big assemblage. Public announcements of the performance had explained that the famous dancer proposed taking a long rest for reasons of health. “But,” as everyone declared, “you know what that means! She’s probably broken down—heart or something. We shall never see her dance again.” And so, beneath the tremendous reception which they gave her, there throbbed an element of sadness, behind all the cheers and the clapping an insistent minor note which carried across the footlights to where Magda stood bowing her thanks, and smiling through the mist of tears which filled her eyes.
The dance which she had chosen for her last appearance was the Swan-Maiden. There had seemed a strange applicability in the choice, and to those who had eyes to see there was a new quality in the Wielitzska’s dancing—a depth of significance and a spirituality of interpretation which was commented upon in the Press the next day.
It had been quite unmistakable. She had gripped her audience so that throughout the final scene of the ballet no word was spoken. The big crowd, drawn from all classes, sat tense and silent, sensitive to every movement, every exquisite, appealing gesture of the Swan-Maiden. And when at last she had lain, limp in death, in her lover’s embrace, and the music had quivered into silence, there followed a vibrant pause—almost it seemed as though a sigh of mingled ecstasy and regret went up—before the thunderous applause roared through the auditorium.
The insatiable few were still clapping and stamping assiduously when Magda, after taking innumerable calls, at last came off the stage. It had been a wonderful night of triumph, and as she made her way towards her dressing-room she was conscious of a sudden breathless realisation of all that she was sacrificing. For a moment she felt as though she must rush back on to the stage and tell everybody that she couldn’t do it, that it was all a mistake—that this was not a farewell! But she set her teeth and moved resolutely towards her dressing-room.