It was indeed something altogether apart from any sympathy for June which had prompted Magda to leave Storran before he uttered words that he might regret, but which no power on earth could ever recall. Still beneath the resentment and wounded pride which Michael’s going had caused her flickered the spark of an ideal utterly at variance with the whole tenor of the teaching of poor Diane’s last embittered days—the ideal of womanhood which had been Michael’s. And the impulse which had bade her leave Storran so abruptly was born of the one-time resolution she had made to become the sort of woman Michael would wish his wife to be.
She felt oddly perturbed when at last she reached the seclusion of her chintzy bedroom underneath the sloping roof. A vague sense of shame assailed her. The game, as between herself and Dan, was hardly a fair one, after all, and she could well picture the cold contempt in Michael’s eyes had he been looking on at it.
Though he had no right to disapprove of her now! He had forfeited that right—if he had ever had it—when he went away without a word of farewell—without giving her even the chance to appeal against the judgment which, by his very going, he had silently pronounced against her.
For months, now, she had been a prey to a conflicting jumble of emotions—the pain and hurt pride which Michael’s departure had occasioned her, the craving for anything that might serve to distract her thoughts and keep them from straying back to those few vibrant meetings with him, and deep down within her an aching, restless wonder as to whether she would ever see him again.
With an effort she dismissed the fresh tangle of thought provoked by the morning’s brief scene with Dan Storran, and, dressing quickly, went downstairs to the mid-day dinner which was the order of things at Stockleigh.
At first the solid repast, with its plentitude of good farmhouse fare partaken of during the hottest hour of the day, had somewhat appalled Magda. But now she had grown quite accustomed to the appearance of a roast joint or of a smoking, home-cured ham, attended by a variety of country vegetables and followed by fruit tart and clotted cream.
Although she herself, as befitted a woman whose “figure was her fortune” according to Lady Arabella, partook extremely sparingly of this hospitable meal, it somehow pleased her to see big Dan Storran come in from his work in the fields and do full justice to the substantial fare. To Magda, ultra-modern and over-civilised as she was, there was something refreshing in the simple and primitive usages of Stockleigh Farm and its master—this man who toiled, and satisfied his hunger, and rested from toil, just as his fathers had done before him, literally fulfilling the law: In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.
And perhaps if Magda had never crossed his path Dan Storran might have gone his way contentedly, toiling from sun-up to sun-down till all his days were finished.