“I believe you would, Antoine,” she replied simply.
With a stifled exclamation he turned away and, dropping into a chair, leaned his arms on the table and hid his face. Once, twice she heard the sound of a man’s hard-drawn sob, and the dry agony of it wrung her heart. All that was sweet and compassionate in her—the potential mother that lies in every woman—responded to his need. She ran to him and, kneeling at his side, laid a kind little hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t Antoine!” she said pitifully. “Ah, don’t, my dear!”
He caught the hand and held it against his cheek.
“It’s unforgivable!” he muttered.
“No, no. I do forgive you.”
“You can’t forgive! . . . Impossible!”
“I think I can, Antoine. You see, I need forgiveness so badly myself. I wouldn’t want to keep anyone else without it. Besides, Michael would have been bound to learn—what you told him—sooner or later.” She rose to her feet, pushing back the hair from her forehead rather wearily. “It’s better as it is—that he should know now. It—it would have been unbearable if it had come later—when I was his wife.”
Antoine stumbled to his feet. His beautiful face was marred with grief.
“I wish I were dead!”
The words broke from him like an exceeding bitter cry. To Magda they seemed to hold some terrible import.
“Not that, Antoine!” she answered in a frightened voice. “You’re not thinking—you’re not meaning——”
He shook his head, smiling faintly.
“No,” he said quietly. “The Davilofs have never been cowards. I shan’t take that way out. You need have no fears, Magda.” The sudden tension in her face relaxed. “But I shall not stay in England. England—without you—would be hell. A hell of memories.”
“What shall you do, then, Antoine? You won’t give up playing?”
He made a fierce gesture of distaste.
“I couldn’t play in public! Not now. Not for a time. I think I shall go to my mother. She always wants me, and she sees me very little.”
Magda nodded. Her eyes were wistful.
“Yes, go to her. I think mothers must understand—as other people can’t ever understand. She will be glad to have you with her, Antoine.”
He was silent for a moment, his eyes dwelling on her face as though he sought to learn each line of it, so that when she would be no more beside him he might carry the memory of it in his heart for ever.
“Then it is good-bye,” he said at last.
Magda held out her hands and, taking them in his, he drew her close to him.
“I love you,” he said, “and I have brought you only pain.” There was a tragic simplicity in the statement.
“No,” she answered steadily. “Never think that. I spoiled my own life. And—love is a big gift, Antoine.”
She lifted her face to his and very tenderly, almost reverently, he kissed her. She knew that in that last kiss there was no disloyalty to Michael. It held renunciation. It accepted forgiveness.