Once she had tentatively approached the subject, but Magda had clearly indicated that she had no intention of discussing it.
Not even to Gillian, whom she had gradually come to look upon as her closest friend, could Magda unveil the wound to her pride. No one, no one in the whole world, should know that she had been ready to give her love—and that the offering had been silently, but none the less decisively, rejected.
Diane’s warning now found its echo in her own heart: “Never give your heart to any man. If you do he will only break it for you—break it into little pieces like the glass scent-bottle which you dropped yesterday.”
“She was right,” Magda told herself bitterly. “A thousand times right!”
THE BACK OF BEYOND
The season was drawing to its close. London lay sweltering under a heat-wave which had robbed the trees in the Park of their fresh June greenness and converted the progress of foot-passengers along its sultry pavements into something which called to mind the mediaeval ordeal of walking over hot ploughshares.
Even the garden at Friars’ Holm, usually a coolly green oasis in the midst of the surrounding streets, seemed as airless as any back court or alley, and Coppertop, who had been romping ever more and more flaggingly with a fox-terrier puppy he had recently acquired, finally gave up the effort and flung himself down, red-faced and panting, on the lawn where his mother and Magda were sitting.
“Isn’t it nearly time for us to go to the seaside, mummie?” he inquired plaintively.
Magda smiled down at the small wistful face.
“How would you like to go to the country instead, Topkins?” she asked. “To a farm where they have pigs and horses and cows, and heaps of cream—”
“And strawberries?” interpolated Coppertop pertinently.
“Oh, of course. Or, no—they’ll be over by the time we get there. But there’ll be raspberries. That’s just as good, isn’t it?”
Gillian looked up, smiling a little.
“It’s settled we’re going ‘there,’ then—wherever it is?” she said.
“Do you think you’d like it, Gillyflower?” asked Magda. “It’s a farm I’ve heard of in Devonshire, where they want to take paying-guests for the summer.”
Gillian, guessing from Magda’s manner that the whole matter was practically arranged, nodded acquiescence.
“I’m sure I should. But will you?”—whimsically. She glanced at the sophisticated simplicity of Magda’s white gown, at the narrow suede shoes and filmy stockings—every detail of her dress and person breathing the expensiveness and luxury and highly specialised civilisation of the city. “Somehow I can’t imagine you—on a farm in the depths of the country! I believe you’ll hate it.”
“I shall like it.” Magda got up restlessly. “I’m sick of society and the theatre and the eternal gossip that goes on in London. I—I want to get away from it all!”