It troubled Gillian—this incalculable hardness in Dan’s nature towards one woman. She found him kindly and tolerant in his outlook on life—with the understanding tolerance of the man who has dragged himself out of the pit by his own sheer force of will, and who, knowing the power of temptation, is ready to give a helping hand to others who may have fallen by the way. So that his relentlessness towards Magda was the more inexplicable.
More than once she tried to soften his attitude, tried to make him realise something of the conflicting influences both of temperament and environment which had helped to make Magda what she was. But he remained stubbornly unmoved.
“No punishment is too severe for a woman who has done what Magda Vallincourt has done. She has wrecked lives simply in order to gratify her vanity and insensate instinct for conquest.”
Gillian shook her head.
“No, you’re wrong. You won’t understand! It’s all that went before—her parents’ mistakes—that should be blamed for half she’s done. I think you’re very merciless, Dan.”
“Perhaps I am—in this case. Frankly, if I could lessen her punishment by lifting my little finger—I wouldn’t do it.”
Yet this same man when, as often happened, he took Gillian and Coppertop for a run into the country in his car, was as simple and considerate and kindly as a man could be. Coppertop adored him, and, as Gillian reflected, the love of children is rarely misplaced. Some instinct leads them to divine unfailingly which is gold and which dross.
The car was a recent acquisition. As Storran himself expressed it, rather bitterly: “Now that I can’t buy a ha’p’orth of happiness with the money, my luck has turned.” He explained to Gillian that after he had left England he had sold his farm in Devonshire, and that a lucky investment of the capital thus realised had turned him into a comparatively rich man.
“Even when I was making ducks and drakes of my life generally, I didn’t seem to make a mistake over money matters. If I played cards, I won; if I backed a horse, he romped in first; it I bought shares, they jumped up immediately.”
“What a pity!” replied Gillian ingenuously. “If only your financial affairs hadn’t prospered, you’d have had to settle down and work—instead of—of——”
“Playing the fool,” he supplemented. “No, I don’t suppose I should. I hadn’t learned—then—that work is the only panacea, the one big remedy.”
“I’ve learned a lot of things in the last two years,” quietly. “And I’m still learning.”
As the months went on, Dan’s friendship began to mean a good deal to Gillian. It had come into her life just at a time when she was intolerably lonely, and quite unconsciously she was learning to turn to him for advice on all the large and small affairs of daily life as they came cropping up.