Hour after hour she lay there, dry-eyed, staring into the darkness. And with the dawn her decision was taken.
AN UNANSWERED LETTER
“You shan’t do it!”
When first Magda had bruited her idea of rejoining the sisterhood—the decision which had crystallised out of the long black hours of the night of her return to Friars’ Holm—Gillian had merely laughed the notion aside, attaching little importance to it. But now, a week later, when Magda reverted to the subject with a certain purposeful definiteness, she grew suddenly frightened.
“Do you want to throw away every possibility of happiness?” she demanded indignantly. “Just because Michael isn’t here, waiting for you on the doorstep, so to speak, you decide to rush off and make it impossible for him ever to see you again!”
Magda kept her head bent, refusing to meet the other’s eyes.
“I don’t want him to see me now,” she said shrinkingly. “I’m not—not the Magda he knew any longer.”
“That’s an absurd exaggeration. You’re not looking very well, that’s all,” retorted Gillian with her usual practical common sense. “You can’t suppose that would make any difference to Michael! It didn’t make any to me. I’m only too glad to have you back at any price!”
Magda’s faint responsive smile was touched with that bitter knowledge which is the heritage of the woman who has been much loved for her beauty.
“You’re a woman, Gillyflower,” she said. “And Michael is not only a man—but an artist. Men don’t want you when the bloom has been brushed off. And you know how Michael worships beauty! He’s bound to—being an artist.”
“I think you’re morbidly self-conscious,” declared Gillian firmly. “I suppose it’s the result of being out of the world for so long. You’ve lost all sense of proportion. You’re quite lovely enough, now, to satisfy most people. You only look rather tired and worn out.”
But Magda’s face remained clouded.
“But even that isn’t—all,” she answered. “It’s—oh, it’s a heap of things! Somehow I thought when I came back I should see the road clear. But it isn’t. It’s all shadowed—just as it was before. I thought I should have so much to give Michael now. And I haven’t anything. I don’t think I ever quite realised before that, however much you try to atone, you can never undo the harm you’ve done. But I’ve had time to think things out while I was with the Sisters.”
“And if you go back to them you’ll have time to do nothing but think for the rest of your life!” flashed back Gillian.
“Oh, no!” Magda spoke quickly. “I shouldn’t return under a vow of penitence. There are working sisters attached to the community who go about amongst the sick and poor in the slums. I should join as a working sister if I went back.”
Gillian stared at her in amazement. Magda devoting her life to good works seemed altogether out of the picture! She began to feel that the whole affair was getting too complicated for her to handle, and as usual, when in a difficulty, she put the matter up to Lady Arabella.