She had been very firm about the bathroom, airily dismissing a plaintive murmur from the manager to the effect that they were “somewhat crowded for space at the Imperial.”
“Then take another theatre, my dear man,” she had told him. “Or build! Or give the corps de ballet one less dressing-room amongst them. But if you want me, I must have a bathroom. If I dance, I bathe afterwards. If not, I don’t dance.”
Being a star of the first magnitude, the Wielitzska could dictate her own terms, and accordingly a bathroom she had.
She had just emerged from its white-tiled, silver-tapped luxury a few minutes before Lady Arabella, together with Gillian and Michael Quarrington, presented themselves at her dressing-room door, and they found her ensconced in an easy-chair by the fire, sipping a cup of steaming hot tea.
“I’ve brought Mr. Quarrington to see you,” announced Lady Arabella. “I thought perhaps you’d like some other congratulations besides family ones.”
“Am I permitted?” asked Quarrington, taking the hand Magda held out to him. “Or are you too tired to be bothered with an outsider?”
Magda looked up at him.
“I’ve very glad to see you,” she said quietly.
She appeared unwontedly sweet and girlish as she sat there, clad in a negligee of some soft silken stuff that clung about the lissom lines of her figure, and with her satiny hair coiled in a simple knot at the nape of her neck. There was little or nothing about her to remind one of the successful ballerina, and Michael found himself poignantly recalling the innocent, appealing charm of the Swan-Maiden. It was difficult to associate this woman with that other who had so unconsciously turned down his pal—the man who had loved her.
“Well? Did it go all right?”
Magda’s eyes sought Gillian’s eagerly as she put the question.
“Did it go?” Mrs. Grey’s voice held all the unqualified enthusiasm any artiste could desire.
“Oh, Magda! It was wonderful! The most wonderful, beautiful dance I’ve ever seen.”
“And you know it as well as we do,” interpolated Lady Arabella tartly, but smiling pridefully in spite of herself.
“Still, of course, she likes to hear us say it.” Gillian championed her friend stoutly.
“The whole world will be saying it to-morrow,” observed Quarrington quietly.
Here Virginie created a diversion by handing round cups of freshly brewed tea.
“You’ll get nerves—drinking tea at this hour of the night,” commented Lady Arabella, accepting a cup with alacrity, nevertheless.
“I take it very weak,” protested Magda, smiling faintly. “It’s the only thing I like after dancing.”
But Lady Arabella was already deep in conversation with Gillian and Virginie—a conversation which resolved itself chiefly into a laudatory chorus regarding the evening’s performance. In the background Magda’s maid moved quietly to and fro, carefully putting away her mistress’s dancing dresses. For the moment Michael and Magda were to all intents and purposes alone.