“A woman who can dance like that ought to be preceded through life by a red flag. She positively stirs my old blood—that’s been at a comfortably tepid temperature for the last thirty years!”
“Some day,” said Gillian, “she’ll fall in love. And then—”
“Then there’ll be fireworks.”
Lady Arabella completed the sentence briskly just as the car pulled up in front of her house. She skipped nimbly out on to the pavement.
“Fireworks, my dear,” she repeated emphatically. “And a very fine display, too! Good-night.”
The car slid away north with Gillian inside it reflecting rather ruefully upon the very great amount of probability contained in Lady Arabella’s parting comment.
THE GARDEN OF EDEN
Lady Arabella’s big rooms were filling rapidly. The dinner to which only a few of the elect had been bidden was over, and now those who had been invited to the less exclusive reception which was to follow were eagerly wending their way towards Park Lane.
The programme for the evening promised to be an attractive one. A solo from Antoine Davilof, Lady Arabella’s pet lion-cub of the moment; a song from the leading operatic tenor; and afterwards a single dance by the Wielitzska—who could never be persuaded to perform at any other private houses than those of her godmother and the Duchess of Lichbrooke—the former’s half sister. So, in this respect, Lady Arabella enjoyed almost a monopoly, and such occasions as the present were enthusiastically sought after by her friends and acquaintances. Later, when the artistes had concluded their programme, there was to be a dance. The ballroom, the further end of which boasted a fair-sized stage, had been temporarily arranged with chairs to accommodate an audience, and in one of the anterooms Virginie, with loving, skilful fingers, was putting the finishing touches to Magda’s toilette.
Magda submitted passively to her ministrations. She was thinking of Michael Quarrington, the man who had come into her life by such strange chance and who had so deliberately gone out of it again. By the very manner of his going he had succeeded in impressing himself on her mind as no other man had ever done. Other men did not shun her like the plague, she reflected bitterly!
But from the very beginning he had shown her that he disapproved of her fundamentally. She was the “type of woman he hated!” Night and day that curt little phrase had bitten into her thoughts, stinging her with its quiet contempt.
She felt irritated that she should care anything about his opinion. But if she were candid with herself she had to admit that she did care, intensely. More than that, his departure from England had left her conscious of an insistent and unaccountable little ache. The knowledge that there could be no more chance meetings, that he had gone right out of her ken, seemed like the sudden closing of a door which had just been opening to her. It had somehow taken the zest out of things.