A whimsical light gleamed for an instant in the grey eyes.
“I sometimes wonder if I am,” he returned.
“There’s only one cord I know of that can’t be either unknotted—or cut. And that’s lack of money. That’s not your complaint”—significantly.
“So you’ll come?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Magda has promised to dance for me,” proceeded Lady Arabella, entirely disregarding his quietly uttered negative. “They’re not giving The Swan-Maiden that night at the Imperial. She can’t dine, of course, poor dear. Really, dancers have a lot to put up with—or rather, to put up without! Magda never dares to enjoy a good square meal. Afraid of getting fat, of course! After all, a dancer’s figure’s her fortune.”
Like a low, insistent undertone beneath the rattle of Lady Arabella’s volubility Michael could hear again the murmur of a soft, dragging voice: “I’m sorry you’re going away, Saint Michel.”
It seemed almost as though Lady Arabella, with that uncanny shrewdness of hers, divined it.
“You’ll come, then?” She smiled at him over her shoulder, moving forward as the crush in the vestibule lessened a little.
And Michael, with an odd expression in his eyes, answered suddenly:
“Yes, I’ll come.”
Later, as Lady Arabella and Gillian drove home together, the former laughed quietly. There was an element of pride and triumph in the laughter. Probably the hen who has reared a duckling and sees it sail off into the water experiences, alongside her natural apprehension and astonishment, a somewhat similar pride in the startling proclivities evinced by her nurseling.
“That nice artist-man is in love with Magda,” crowed Lady Arabella contentedly.
“Do you think so?”
“I do. Only it’s very much against his will, for some reason or other. Crossing from Dover to-morrow, forsooth!”—with a broad smile. “Not he! He’ll be at my party—and asking Magda to marry him before the week’s out, bar accidents! . . . After all, it’s not surprising that the men are falling over each other to marry her. She’s really rather wonderful. Where do you think she gets it all from, Gillian, my dear? Not from the Vallincourts, I’ll swear!”—chuckling.
Mrs. Grey shook her head.
“I don’t know. But I think Magda is a standing argument in favour of the doctrine of reincarnation! She always seems to me to be a kind of modern embodiment of Helen of Troy or Cleopatra.”
“Only without the capacity for falling in love! She’s as chilly as an iceberg and yet somehow gives you the idea she’s all fire and passion. No wonder the men get misled, poor lambs!”
“She’s not cold, really,” asserted Gillian positively. “Of that I’m sure. No one could dance as she does—and be an iceberg.”
Lady Arabella chuckled again, wickedly.