There was an unwontedly hard note in Magda’s voice as she detailed the afternoon’s events, and Gillian glanced at her sharply.
“I don’t understand. Was he a strait-laced prig who disapproved of dancing, do you mean?”
“Nothing of the sort. He had a most comprehensive appreciation of the art of dancing. His disapproval was entirely concentrated on me—personally.”
“But how could it be—since he didn’t know you?”
Magda gave a little grin.
“You mean it would have been quite comprehensible if he had known me?” she observed ironically.
The other laughed.
“Don’t be so provoking! You know perfectly well what I meant! You deserve that I should answer ‘yes’ to that question.”
“Do, if you like.”
“I would—only I happen to know you a good deal better than you know yourself.”
“What do you know about me, then, that I don’t?”
Gillian’s nice brown eyes smiled across at her.
“I know that, somewhere inside you, you’ve got the capacity for being as sweet and kind and tender and self-sacrificing as any woman living—if only something would happen to make it worth while. I wish—I wish to heaven you’d fall in love!”
“I’m not likely to. I’m in love with my art. It gives you a better return than love for any man.”
“No,” answered Gillian quietly. “No. You’re wrong. Tony died when we’d only been married a year. But that year was worth the whole rest of life put together. And—I’ve got Coppertop.”
Magda leaned forward suddenly and kissed her.
“Dear Gillyflower!” she said. “I’m so glad you feel like that—bless you! I wish I could. But I never shall. I was soured in the making, I think”—laughing rather forlornly. “I don’t trust love. It’s the thing that hurts and tortures and breaks a woman—as my mother was hurt and tortured and broken.” She paused. “No, preserve me from falling in love!” she added more lightly. “’A Loaf of Bread, and Thou beside me in the Wilderness’ doesn’t appeal to me in the least.”
“It will one day,” retorted Gillian oracularly. “In the meantime you might go on telling me about the man who fished you out of the smash. Was he young? And good-looking? Perhaps he is destined to be your fate.”
“He was rather over thirty, I should think. And good-looking—quite. But he ‘hates my type of woman,’ you’ll be interested to know. So that you can put your high hopes back on the top shelf again.”
“Not at all,” declared Gillian briskly. “There’s nothing like beginning with a little aversion.”
Magda smiled reminiscently.
“If you’d been present at our interview, you’d realise that ’a little aversion’ is a cloying euphemism for the feeling exhibited by my late preserver.”
“What was he like, then?”
“At first, because I wouldn’t take the sal volatile—you know how I detest the stuff!—and sit still where he’d put me like a good little girl, he ordered me about as though I were a child of six. He absolutely bullied me! Then it apparently occurred to him to take my moral welfare in hand, and I should judge he considered that Jezebel and Delilah were positively provincial in their methods as compared with me.”