As her fingers closed round the handle of the door, someone stepped out from the shadows of the passage and spoke:
The voice, wrung and urgent, was Antoine Davilof’s.
Her first impulse was to hurry forward and put the dressing-room door betwixt herself and him. She had not seen him since that night when he had come down to the theatre and implored her to be his wife, warning her that he would prevent her marriage with Michael. He had carried out his threat with a completeness that had wrecked her life, and although, since the breaking-off of her engagement, he had both written and telephoned, begging her to see him, she had steadfastly refused. Once he had come to Friars’ Holm, but had been met with an inexorable “Not at home!” from Melrose.
“Magda! For God’s sake, give me a moment!”
Something in the strained tones moved her to an unexpected feeling of compassion. It was the voice of a man in the extremity of mental anguish.
Silently she opened the door of the dressing-room and signed to him to follow her.
“Well,” she said, facing him, “what is it? Why have you come?”
The impulse of compassion died out suddenly. His was the hand that had destroyed her happiness. The sight of him roused her to a fierce anger and resentment.
“Well?” she repeated. “What do you want? To know the result of your handiwork?”—bitterly. “You’ve been quite as successful as even you could have wished.”
“Don’t,” he said unevenly. “Magda, I can’t bear it. You can’t give up—all this. Your dancing—it’s your life! I shall never forgive myself . . . I’ll see Quarrington and tell him—”
“You can’t see him. He’s gone away.”
“Then I’ll find him.”
“If you found him, nothing you could say would make any difference,” she answered unemotionally. “It’s the facts that matter. You can’t alter—facts.”
Davilof made a gesture of despair.
“Is it true you’re going into some sisterhood?” he asked hoarsely.
“And it is I—I who have driven you to this! Dieu! I’ve been mad—mad!”
His hands were clenched, his face working painfully. The hazel eyes—those poet’s eyes of his which she had seen sometimes soft with dreams and sometimes blazing with love’s fire—were blurred by misery. They reminded her of the contrite, tortured eyes of a dog which, maddened by pain, has bitten the hand of a beloved master. Her anger died away in the face of that overwhelming remorse. She herself had learned to know the illimitable bitterness of self-reproach.
“Antoine——” Her voice had grown very gentle.
He swung round on her.
“And I can’t undo it!” he exclaimed desperately. “I can’t undo it! . . . Magda, will you believe me—will you try to believe that, if my life could undo the harm I’ve done, I’d give it gladly?”