Magda shot him a swift glance of comprehension. Then, without a word, she moved towards the bole of a tree and flung herself down with all the supple grace of a young faun. The artist snatched up his palette; the pose she had assumed without a hint from him was inimitable—the slender limbs relaxed and drooping exactly as though from sheer fatigue. He painted furiously, blocking in the limp little figure with swift, sure strokes of his brush.
When at last he desisted he flung a question at her.
“Who taught you to pose—and to dance like that, you wonder-child?”
Magda surveyed him with that mixture of saint and devil in her long, suddenly narrow eyes which, when she grew to womanhood, was the measure of her charm and the curse of her tempestuous life.
“Le bon dieu,” she responded demurely.
The man smiled and shook his head. It was a crooked little smile, oddly humorous and attractive.
“No,” he said with conviction. “No. I don’t think so.”
The daylight was beginning to fade, and he started to pack up his belongings.
“What’s your name?” asked Magda suddenly.
She looked at him with sudden awe.
“Not—not Saint Michel?” she asked breathlessly.
Virginie had told her all about “Saint Michel.” He was a very great angel indeed. It would be tremendously exciting to find she had been talking to him all this time without knowing it! And the grey-eyed man had fair hair; it shone in the glinting sunset-light almost like a halo!
He quenched her hopes with that brief, one-sided smile of his.
“No,” he said. “I’m not Saint Michael. I’m only a poor devil of a painter who’s got his way to make in the world. Perhaps, you’ve helped me, Fairy Queen.”
And seeing that “The Repose of Titania” was the first of his paintings to bring Michael Quarrington that meed of praise and recognition which was later his in such full measure, perhaps she had.
“I think I’m glad you’re not a saint, after all,” remarked Magda thoughtfully. “Saint’s are dreadfully dull and superior.”
He smiled down at her.
“Are they? How do you know?”
“Because Sieur Hugh is preparing to be one. At least Virginie says so—and she sniffs when she says it. So you see, I know all about it.”
“I see,” he replied seriously. “And who are Sieur Hugh and Virginie?”
“Sieur Hugh is my father. And Virginie is next best to petite maman. Me, I love Virginie.”
Magda made no answer, but she stood looking at him with an odd, unchildlike deviltry in her sombre eyes.
“Fairy Queen, I should like to kiss you,” said the man suddenly. Then he jerked his head back. “No, I wouldn’t!” he added quickly to himself. “By Jove, it’s uncanny!”
Magda remained motionless, still staring at him with those long dark eyes of hers. He noticed that just at the outer corners they slanted upwards a little, giving her small, thin face a curiously Eastern look.