That brief adventure with “Saint Michel”—she remembered calling him “Saint Michel”—stood out as one of the clearest memories of her childhood. That, and the memory of her mother, kneeling on the big bearskin rug and saying in a hard, dry voice: “Never give your heart to any man. Take everything. But do not give—anything—in return.”
OUT OF THE FOG
A sudden warning shout, the transient glare of fog-blurred headlights, then a crash and a staggering blow on the car’s near side which sent it reeling like a drunken thing, bonnet foremost, straight into a motor-omnibus.
Magda felt herself pitched violently forward off the seat, striking her head as she fell, and while the car yet rocked with the force of its collision with the motor-bus another vehicle drove blindly into it from the rear. It lurched sickeningly and jammed at a precarious angle, canted up on two wheels.
Shouts and cries, the frenzied hooting of horns, the grinding of brakes and clash of splintered glass combined into a pandemonium of terrifying hubbub.
Magda, half-dazed with shock, crouched on the floor of the car where she had been flung. She could see the lights appearing and disappearing in the fog like baleful eyes opening and shutting spasmodically. A tumult of hoarse cries, cursing and bellowing instructions, crossed by the thin scream of women’s cries, battered against her ears.
Then out of the medley of raucous noise came a cool, assured voice:
“Don’t be frightened. I’ll get you out.”
Magda was conscious of a sudden reaction from the numbed sense of bewildered terror which had overwhelmed her. The sound of that unknown voice—quiet, commanding, and infinitely reassuring—was like a hand laid on her heart and stilling its terrified throbbing.
She heard someone tugging at the handle of the door. There came a moment’s pause while the strained woodwork resisted the pull, then with a scrape of jarring fittings the door jerked open and a man’s figure loomed in the aperture.
“Where are you?” he asked, peering through the dense gloom. “Ah!” She felt his outstretched hands close on her shoulders as she knelt huddled on the floor. “Can you get up? Or are you hurt?”
Magda tested her limbs cautiously, to discover that no bones were broken, though her head ached horribly, so that she felt sick and giddy with the pain.
“No, I’m not hurt,” she answered.
“Then come along. The car’s heeled up a bit, but I’ll lift you out if you can get to the door.”
She stumbled forward obediently, groping her way towards the vague panel of lighter grey revealed by the open door.
Once more, out of the swathing fog, hands touched her.
“There you are! That’s right. Now lean forward.”
She found herself clasped by arms like steel—so strong, so sure, that she felt as safe and secure as when Vladimir Ravinski, the amazingly clever young Russian who partnered her in several of her dances, sometimes lifted her, lightly and easily as a feather, and bore her triumphantly off the stage aloft on his shoulder.