Magda hardly comprehended the full meaning of this speech. Still she gathered that her father had left her—though not quite in the same way as petite maman had done—and that henceforth this autocratic old lady with the hawk’s eyes and quick, darting movements was to be the arbiter of her fate. She also divined, beneath Lady Arabella’s prickly exterior, a humanness and ability to understand which had been totally lacking in Sieur Hugh. She proceeded to put it to the test.
“Will you let me dance?” she asked.
“Tchah!” snorted the old woman. “So the Wielitzska blood is coming out after all!” She turned to Virginia. “Can she dance?” she demanded abruptly.
“Mais oui, madame!” cried Virginie, clasping her hands ecstatically. “Like a veritable angel!”
“I shouldn’t have thought it,” commented her ladyship drily.
Her shrewd eyes swept the child’s tense little face with its long, Eastern eyes and the mouth that showed so vividly scarlet against its unchildish pallor.
“Less like an angel than anything, I should imagine,” muttered the old woman to herself with a wicked little grin. Then aloud: “Show me what you can do, then, child.”
“Very well.” Magda paused, reflecting. Then she ran forward and laid her hand lightly on Lady Arabella’s knee. “Look! This is the story of a Fairy who came to earth and lost her way in the woods. She met one of the Mortals, and he loved her so much that he wouldn’t show her the way back to Fairyland. So”—abruptly—“she died.”
Lady Arabella watched the child dance in astonished silence. Technique, of course, was lacking, but the interpretation, the telling of the story, was amazing. It was all there—the Fairy’s first wonder and delight in finding herself in the woods, then her realisation that she was lost and her frantic efforts to find the way back to Fairyland. Followed her meeting with the Mortal and supplication to him to guide her, and finally the Fairy’s despair and death. Magda’s slight little figure sank to the ground, drooping slowly like a storm-bent snowdrop, and lay still.
Lady Arabella sat up with a jerk.
“Good gracious! The child’s a born dancer! Lydia Tchinova must see her. She’ll have to train. Poor Hugh!” She chuckled enjoyably. “This will be the last straw! He’ll be compelled to invent a new penance.”
“You’re very trying, Magda. Everyone is talking about you, and I’m tired of trying to explain you to people.”
Lady Arabella paused in her knitting and spoke petulantly, but a secret gleam of admiration in her sharp old eyes as they rested upon her god-daughter belied the irritation of her tones.
Magda leaned back negligently against the big black velvet cushions in her chair and lit a cigarette.