“Well, she intruded on you that day in the fog, didn’t she? So you’ll be quits.” She glanced impatiently round the box. “Where on earth has Davilof vanished to? Has he gone up in flame?”
Michael laughed involuntarily.
“Something of the kind, I fancy,” he replied. “Anyway, he departed rather hurriedly.”
“Poor Antoine!” Gillian spoke with a kind of humorous compassion. “He has a temperament. I’m glad I haven’t.”
“You have the best of all temperaments, Mrs. Grey,” answered Michael, as they both followed Lady Arabella out of the box.
She looked at him inquiringly.
“The temperament that understands other people’s temperaments,” he added.
“How do you know?” she asked, smiling.
Lady Arabella was prancing on ahead down the corridor, and for the moment Michael and Gillian were alone.
“We artists learn to look for what lies below the surface. If your work is sincere, you find when you’ve finished a portrait that the soul of the sitter has revealed itself unmistakably.”
“I’ve been told you’ve an almost diabolical genius for expressing just what a man or woman is really like—in character, I mean—in your portraits.”
“I can’t help it,” he said simply. “It comes—it reveals itself—if you paint sincerely.”
“And do you—always paint sincerely?”
“I try to. Though once I got hauled over the coals pretty sharply for doing so. My sitter happened to be a pretty society woman, possessed of about as much soul as would cover a threepenny-bit, and when I’d finished her portrait she simply turned and rent me. ’I wanted a taking picture,’ she informed me indignantly, ’not the bones of my personality laid bare for public inspection.’”
They were outside Magda’s dressing-room by this time, and Virginie, who had flown to her nurseling the moment the dance was at an end, opened the door in response to Lady Arabella’s preemptory knock. Gillian paused a moment before entering the room.
“Yours is a wonderful gift of perception,” she said quietly. “It ought to make you—very merciful.”
Michael looked at her swiftly. Her eyes seemed to be asking something of him—entreating. But before he could speak Lady Arabella’s voice interposed remorselessly.
“Come in, you two; and for goodness’ sake shut the door. There’s draught enough to waft one to heaven.”
There was no choice but to obey, and silently Quarrington followed Mrs. Grey into the room.
MICHAEL CHANGES HIS MIND
Magda’s dressing-room at the Imperial Theatre was something rather special in the way of dressing-rooms. It had been designed expressly for her by the management, and boasted a beautifully appointed bathroom adjoining it where she could luxuriate in a refreshing dip immediately after the strain and fatigue of her work on the stage.