“I want everyone to talk about me,” she returned composedly. Her voice was oddly attractive—low-pitched and with a faint blur of huskiness about it that caught the ear with a distinctive charm. “It increases the box-office receipts. And there’s no reason in the world for you to ‘explain’ me to people.”
Her godmother regarded her with increasing irritation, yet at the same time acutely conscious of the arresting quality of the young, vividly alive face that gleamed at her from its black-velvet background.
Ten years had only served to emphasise the unusual characteristics of the child Magda. Her skin was wonderful, of a smooth, creamy-white texture which gave to the sharply angled face something of the pale, exotic perfection of a stephanotis bloom. Her eyes were long, the colour of black pansies—black with a suggestion of purple in their depths. They slanted upwards a little at the outer corners, and this together with the high cheek-bones, alone would have betrayed her Russian ancestry. When Lady Arabella wanted to be particularly obnoxious she told her that she had Mongolian eyes, and Magda would shrug her shoulders and, thrusting out a foot which was so perfect in shape that a painting of it by a certain famous artist had been the most talked-of picture of the year, would reply placidly: “Well, thank heaven, that’s not English, anyway!”
“It certainly required some explanation when you chose to leave me and go off and live by yourself,” pursued Lady Arabella, resuming her knitting. “A girl of twenty! Of course people have talked. Especially as half the men in town imagine themselves in love with you.”
“Well, I’m perfectly respectable now. I’ve engaged a nice, tame pussy-cat person to take charge of my morals and chaperon me generally. Not—like you, Marraine—an Early Victorian autocrat with a twentieth-century tongue.”
“If you mean Mrs. Grey, she doesn’t give me the least impression of being a ‘nice, tame pussy-cat,’” retorted Lady Arabella. “You’ll find that out, my dear.”
Magda regarded her thoughtfully.
“Do you think so?”
“Oh, Gillian is all right,” affirmed Magda, dismissing the matter airily. “She’s a gorgeous accompanist, anyway—almost as good as Davilof himself. Which reminds me—I must go home and rehearse my solo dance in the Swan-Maiden. I told Davilof I’d be ready for him at four o’clock; and it’s half-past three now. I shall never get back to Hampstead through this ghastly fog in half an hour.” She glanced towards the window through which was visible a discouraging fog of the “pea-soup” variety.
Lady Arabella sniffed.
“You’d better be careful for once in your life, Magda. Davilof is in love with you.”
“Pouf! What if he is?”
Magda rose, and picking up her big black hat set it on her head at precisely the right angle, and proceeded to spear it through with a wonderful black-and-gold hatpin of Chinese workmanship.