The end came abruptly. Quarrington chanced to glance out of the window where the street lamps were now glimmering serenely through a clear dusk. The fog had lifted.
“Perhaps it’s just as well,” he said shortly. “I was beginning—” He checked himself and glanced at her with a sudden stormy light in his eyes.
“Beginning—what?” she asked a little breathlessly. The atmosphere had all at once grown tense with some unlooked-for stress of emotion.
“Shall I tell you?”
“I was beginning to forget that you’re the ‘type of woman I hate,’” he said. And strode out of the room, leaving her startled and unaccountably shaken.
When he came back he had completely reassumed his former non-committal manner.
“There’s a taxi waiting for you,” he announced. “It’s perfectly clear outside now, so I think you will be spared any further adventures on your way home.”
He accompanied her into the hall, and as they shook hands she murmured a little diffidently:
“Perhaps we shall meet again some time?”
He drew back sharply.
“No, we shan’t meet again.” There was something purposeful, almost vehemently so, in the curtly spoken words. “If I had thought that——”
“Yes?” she prompted. “If you had?”
“If I’d thought that,” he said quietly, “I shouldn’t have dared to risk this last half-hour.”
A momentary silence fell between them. Then, with a shrug, he added lightly:
“But we shan’t meet again. I’m leaving England next week. That settles it.”
Without giving her time to make any rejoinder he opened the street-door and stood aside for her to pass out. A minute later she was in the taxi, and he was standing bare-headed on the pavement beside it.
“Good-bye,” she said. “Good-bye—Saint Michel.”
His hand closed round hers in a grip that almost crushed the slender fingers.
“You!” he cried hoarsely. There was a note of sudden, desperate recognition in his voice. “You!”
As Magda smiled into his startled eyes—the grey eyes that had burned their way into her memory ten years ago—the taxi slid away into the lamp-lit dusk.
With a grinding of brakes the taxi slowed up and came to a standstill at Friars’ Holm, the quaint old Queen Anne house which Magda had acquired in north London.
Once within the high wall enclosing the old-world garden in which it stood, it was easy enough to imagine oneself a hundred miles from town. Fir and cedar sentinelled the house, and in the centre of the garden there was a lawn of wonderful old turf, hedged round in summer by a riot of roses so that it gleamed like a great square emerald set in a jewelled frame.
Magda entered the house and, crossing the cheerfully lit hall, threw open the door of a room whence issued the sound of someone—obviously a first-rate musician—playing the piano.