“I want you to invite Magda to stay with you, please,” she informed Lady Arabella abruptly.
“Of course I will,” she replied. “But why? You’ve got a reason.”
“Yes,” she acknowledged quietly. “I’m going to Paris—to find Michael.”
Lady Arabella, whose high spirits had wilted a little in the face of the double disappointment regarding any answer from Quarrington, beamed satisfaction.
“You blessed child!” she exclaimed. “I’d have gone myself, but my old body is so stiff with rheumatism that I don’t believe they’d get me on board the boat except in an ambulance!”
“Well, I’m going,” said Gillian. “Only the point is, Magda mustn’t know. If she thought I was going off in pursuit of Michael I believe she’d lock me up in the cellar. She intends never to let him see her again. Melrose will manage about the letters, and somehow you’ve got to prevent Magda from coming to Friars’ Holm and finding out that I’m not there.”
“I’ll take her away with me,” declared Lady Arabella. “Rheumatism—Harrogate. It’s quite simple.”
Gillian heaved a sigh of relief.
“Yes. That would be a good plan,” she agreed. “Then I’d let you know when we should arrive—”
“Michael and I. I’m not coming back without him. And you could bring Magda straight back to town with you.”
Lady Arabella’s keen old eyes searched her face.
“You sound very certain of success. Supposing you find Michael still unforgiving—and he refuses to return with you?”
“I believe in Michael,” replied Gillian steadily. “He’s made mistakes. People in love do. But when he knows all that Magda has endured—for his sake, really—why, he’ll come back. I’m sure of it.”
“I don’t know, my dear. I was sure he would come back within six months. But, you see, I was wrong. Men are kittle cattle—and often very slow to arrive at the intrinsic value and significance of things. A woman jumps to it while a man is crawling round on his hands and knees in the dark, looking for it with a match.”
Gillian laughed and got up to go, and Lady Arabella—whose rheumatism was quite real at the moment—rose rather painfully and hobbled down the room beside her, her thin, delicate old hand resting on the silver knob of a tall, ebony walking-stick.
“Now, remember,” urged Gillian. “Magda mustn’t have the least suspicion Michael may be coming back—or she’d be off into her slums before you could stop her. Whatever happens, you’ve got to prevent her rushing back to the Sisters of Penitence.”
“Only over my dead body, my dear,” Lady Arabella assured her determinedly. “She shan’t go any other way.”
So Gillian returned to Friars’ Holm bearing with her a note from Lady Arabella in which she asked her god-daughter to pay her a visit. In it, however, the wily old lady made no mention of her further idea of going to Harrogate, lest it should militate against an acceptance of the invitation. Magda demurred a little at first, but Gillian, suddenly endowed with diplomacy worthy of a Machiavelli, pointed out that if she really had any intention of ultimately withdrawing into a community the least she could do was to give her godmother the happiness of spending a few days with her.