She got up abruptly and went in the direction of the house, leaving Gillian to digest as best she might the hint that her interference was not likely to be either welcomed or effective.
Left to herself, Gillian sighed unhappily. Almost she wished they had never come to Stockleigh, only that it was pure joy to her to see Coppertop’s rather thin little cheeks filling out and growing sunburnt and rosy. He had not picked up strength very readily after his attack of croup, and subsequently the intense heat in London had tried him a good deal.
But she was gradually becoming apprehensive that disturbing consequences might accrue from Magda’s stay at Stockleigh Farm. A woman of her elusive charm, equipped with all the subtle lore that her environment had taught her, must almost inevitably hold for a man of Storran’s primitive way of life the fascination of something new and rather wonderful. To contrast his wife with her was to contrast a field-flower with some rare, exotic bloom, and Gillian was conscious of a sudden rush of sympathy for June’s unarmoured youth and inexperience.
Magda’s curiously uncertain moods of late, too, had worried her not a little. She was unlike herself—at times brooding and introspective, at other times strung up to a species of forced gaiety—a gaiety which had the cold sparkle of frost or diamonds. With all her faults Magda had ever been lovably devoid of bitterness, but now it seemed as though she were developing a certain new quality of hardness.
It puzzled Gillian, ignorant of that sudden discovery and immediate loss of the Garden of Eden. It might have been less of an enigma to old Lady Arabella, to whom the jigsaw puzzle of human motives and impulses was always a matter of absorbing interest, and who, as more or less an onlooker at life during the last thirty years, had become an adept in the art of fitting the pieces of the puzzle together.
Magda herself was only conscious of an intense restlessness and dissatisfaction with existence in general. She reflected bitterly that she had been a fool to let slip her hold of herself—as she had done the night of Lady Arabella’s reception—even for a moment.
It had been thoroughly drilled into her both by precept and example—her mother’s precept and her father’s example—that to let a man count for anything much in her life was the biggest mistake a woman could make, and Michael’s treatment of her had driven home the truth of all the warnings Diane had instilled.
He had hurt her as she had never been hurt before, and all that she craved now was change. Change and amusement to drug her mind so that she need not think. Whether anyone else got hurt in the process was a question that never presented itself to her.
She had not expected to find amusement at Stockleigh. She had been driven there by an overmastering desire to escape from London—for a few weeks, at least, to get right away from her accustomed life and from everyone who knew her. And at Stockleigh she had found Dan Storran.