Michael Quarrington turned and spoke to Davilof as they stood together.
“This will be my last memory of England for some time to come. Mademoiselle Wielitzska is very wonderful. As much actress as dancer—and both rather superlatively.”
There was an odd note in Quarrington’s voice, as if he were forcibly repressing some less measured form of words.
Davilof glanced at him sharply.
“You think so?” he said curtly.
The musician’s hazel eyes were burning feverishly. One hand was clenched on the back of the chair from which he had just risen; the other hung at his side, the fingers opening and shutting nervously.
The eyes of the two men met, and Michael became suddenly conscious that the other was struggling in the grip of some strong emotion. He could even sense its atmosphere of antagonism towards himself.
“I think”—Davilof spoke with slow intensity—“I think she’s a soulless piece of devil’s mechanism.” And turning abruptly, he swung out of the box, slamming the door behind him.
Quarrington frowned. With his keen perceptions it was not difficult for him to divine what lay at the back of Davilof’s bitter criticism. The man was in love—hopelessly in love with the Wielitzska. Probably she had turned him down, as she had turned down better men than he, but he had been unable to resist the bitter-sweet temptation of watching her dance, and throughout the evening had almost certainly been suffering the torments of the damned.
The artist smiled a little grimly to himself, remembering the many evenings he, too, had spent at the Imperial Theatre, drawn thither by the magnetism of a white, slender woman with night-black hair, whose long, dark eyes haunted him perpetually, even coming between him and his work.
And then, just as he had made up his mind to go away, first to Paris and afterwards to Spain or perhaps even further afield, and thus set as many miles of sea and land as he could betwixt himself and the “kind of woman he had no place for,” fate had played him a trick and sent her out of the obscurity of the fog-ridden street straight to his very hearth and home, so that the fragrance and sweetness and charm of her must needs linger there to torment him.
He thought he could make a pretty accurate guess at the state of Davilof’s feelings, and was ironically conscious of a sense of fellowship with him.
Lady Arabella’s sharp voice cut across his reflections.
“I don’t care for this next thing,” she said, flicking at her programme. “Mrs. Grey and I are going round to see Magda. Will you come with us?”
Quarrington had every intention of politely excusing himself. Instead of which he found himself replying:
“With pleasure—if Mademoiselle Wielitzska won’t think I’m intruding.”
Lady Arabella chuckled.