“No,” she said. The brief negative fell clear and distinct as a bell.
“I won’t take no,” he returned hotly. “I won’t take no. I want you. Good God! Don’t you understand? My love for you isn’t just a boy’s infatuation that you can dismiss with a word. It’s all of me. I worship you! Haven’t I been with you day after day, worked with you, followed your every mood—shared your very soul with you? You’re mine! Mine, because I understand you. You’ve shown me all you thought, all you felt. You couldn’t have done that if I hadn’t meant something to you.”
“Certainly you meant something to me. You meant an almost perfect accompanist. Why should you have imagined you meant more? I gave you no reason to think so.”
It was as though the two short words were the key which unlocked the floodgates of some raging torrent. Magda could never afterwards recall the words he used. She only knew they beat upon her with the cruel, lancinating sharpness of hail driven by the wind.
She had treated him much as other men, evoking the love of his ardent temperament by that subtle witchery which was second nature to her and which can be such a potent weapon in the hands of a woman whose own emotions remain untouched. And now the thwarted passion of the lover and the savage anger of a man who felt himself deceived and duped broke over her in a resistless storm—an outburst so bitter and so trenchant that for the moment she remained speechless before it, buffeted into helpless, resentful silence. When he ceased, he had stripped her of every rag of feminine defence.
“Have you finished?” she asked in a stifled voice.
She made no attempt to palliate matters or to refute anything he had said. In his present frame of mind it would have been useless pointing out to him that she had treated him no differently from other men. He was a Pole, and he had caught fire where others would merely have glowed smoulderingly.
“Yes,” he rejoined sullenly. “I’ve finished.”
“So much the better.”
He regarded her speculatively.
“What are you made of, I wonder? Does it mean nothing to you that a man has given you his very best—all that he has?”
She appeared to reflect a moment.
“I’m afraid it doesn’t. There’s only one thing really means much to me—and that is my art. And Lady Arabella,” she added after a pause. “She’ll always mean a good deal.”
She sat down by the fire and held out her hands to its warmth. The slender fingers seemed almost transparent, glowing rosily in the firelight. Davilof turned to go.
“Good-bye, then,” he said curtly.
“Good-bye.” Magda nodded indifferently. Then, carelessly: “I shall want you to-morrow, Davilof—same time.”
He swung round.
“I will never play for you again. Did you imagine I should?”
She smiled at him—that slow, subtle smile of hers with its hint of mockery.