The latter, with her accumulated wisdom of seventy years, saw more clearly than the younger woman, although even she hardly understood that sense of the deadly emptiness and failure of her life which had overwhelmed Magda since her return to Friars’ Holm. But the old woman realised that she had passed through a long period of strain, and that, now the reaction had come, the Vallincourt blood in her might drive her into almost any extreme of conduct.
“If only Michael were on the spot!” she burst out irritably. “I own I’m disappointed in the man! I was so sure six months would bring him to his senses.”
“I know,” assented Gillian miserably. “It’s—it’s—the most hopeless state of things imaginable!”
Lady Arabella’s interview with Magda herself proved unproductive.
“Have you written to Michael?” she demanded.
“Written to him?” A flash of the old defiant spirit sounded in Magda’s voice. “No, nor shall I.”
“Don’t be a fool, child. He’s probably learned something during this last twelve months—as well as you. Don’t let pride get in your way now.”
“It’s not pride. Marraine, I never knew—I never thought——Look at me! What have I to give Michael now? Have you forgotten that he’s an artist and that beauty means everything to him?”
“‘Well!’” Magda held out her hands. “Can’t you see that I’m changed? . . . Michael wouldn’t want me to pose for him as Circe now!”
“He wanted you for a wife—not a model, my dear. You can buy models at so much the hour.”
“Oh, Marraine! You won’t understand——”
Lady Arabella took the slender, work-roughened hands in hers.
“Perhaps I understand better than you think,” she said quietly. “There are other ways of assessing life than merely in terms of beauty. And you can believe this, too: you’ve lost nothing from the point of view of looks that a few months of normal healthy life won’t set right. Moreover, if you’d grown as plain as a pikestaff, I don’t think Michael would care twopence! He’s an artist, I know. He can’t help that, but he’s a man first. And he’s a man who knows how to love. Promise me one thing,” she went on insistently. “Promise that you’ll do nothing definite—yet. Not, at least, without consulting me.”
“Very well. I’ll do nothing without—telling you—first.”
That was the utmost concession she would make, and with that her godmother had to be content.
The same evening a letter in Lady Arabella’s spirited, angular handwriting sped on its way to Paris.
“If you’re not absolutely determined to ruin both your own and Magda’s lives, my dear Michael, put your pride and your ridiculous principles in your pocket and come back to England. I don’t happen to be a grandmother, but I’m quite old enough for the job, so you might pay my advice due respect by taking it.”