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The Lamp of Fate by Margaret Pedler

Part 7 out of 7

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"Yes," she acknowledged quietly. "I'm going to Paris--to find

Lady Arabella, whose high spirits had wilted a little in the face of
the double disappointment regarding any answer from Quarrington,
beamed satisfaction.

"You blessed child!" she exclaimed. "I'd have gone myself, but my old
body is so stiff with rheumatism that I don't believe they'd get me on
board the boat except in an ambulance!"

"Well, I'm going," said Gillian. "Only the point is, Magda mustn't
know. If she thought I was going off in pursuit of Michael I believe
she'd lock me up in the cellar. She intends never to let him see her
again. Melrose will manage about the letters, and somehow you've got
to prevent Magda from coming to Friars' Holm and finding out that I'm
not there."

"I'll take her away with me," declared Lady Arabella. "Rheumatism--
Harrogate. It's quite simple."

Gillian heaved a sigh of relief.

"Yes. That would be a good plan," she agreed. "Then I'd let you know
when we should arrive--"


"Michael and I. I'm not coming back without him. And you could bring
Magda straight back to town with you."

Lady Arabella's keen old eyes searched her face.

"You sound very certain of success. Supposing you find Michael still
unforgiving--and he refuses to return with you?"

"I believe in Michael," replied Gillian steadily. "He's made mistakes.
People in love do. But when he knows all that Magda has endured--for
his sake, really--why, he'll come back. I'm sure of it."

"I don't know, my dear. /I/ was sure he would come back within six
months. But, you see, I was wrong. Men are kittle cattle--and often
very slow to arrive at the intrinsic value and significance of things.
A woman jumps to it while a man is crawling round on his hands and
knees in the dark, looking for it with a match."

Gillian laughed and got up to go, and Lady Arabella--whose rheumatism
was quite real at the moment--rose rather painfully and hobbled down
the room beside her, her thin, delicate old hand resting on the silver
knob of a tall, ebony walking-stick.

"Now, remember," urged Gillian. "Magda mustn't have the least
suspicion Michael may be coming back--or she'd be off into her slums
before you could stop her. /Whatever happens/, you've got to prevent
her rushing back to the Sisters of Penitence."

"Only over my dead body, my dear," Lady Arabella assured her
determinedly. "She shan't go any other way."

So Gillian returned to Friars' Holm bearing with her a note from Lady
Arabella in which she asked her god-daughter to pay her a visit. In
it, however, the wily old lady made no mention of her further idea of
going to Harrogate, lest it should militate against an acceptance of
the invitation. Magda demurred a little at first, but Gillian,
suddenly endowed with diplomacy worthy of a Machiavelli, pointed out
that if she really had any intention of ultimately withdrawing into a
community the least she could do was to give her godmother the
happiness of spending a few days with her.

"She will only urge me to give up the idea all the time," protested
Magda. "And I've quite made up my mind. The sooner I can get away from
--from everything"--looking round her with desperate, haunted eyes--
"the better it will be."

Gillian's impulse to combat her decision to rejoin the sisterhood died
on her lips stillborn. It was useless to argue the matter. There was
only one person in the world who could save Magda from herself, and
that was Michael. The main point was to concentrate on getting him
back to England, rather than waste her energies upon what she knew
beforehand must prove a fruitless argument.

"I'll go to Marraine for a couple of nights, anyway," said Magda at
last. "After that, I want to make arrangements for my reception into
the sisterhood."

Gillian returned no answer. She felt her heart contract at the quiet
decision in Magda's voice, but she pinned her faith on Lady Arabella's
ability to hold her, somehow, till she herself had accomplished her
errand to Paris.



Gillian, dashing headlong into Victoria Station, encountered Storran
sauntering leisurely out of it, a newspaper under his arm.

"Where are you off to?" he demanded, stopping abruptly. "You look as
if you were in a hurry."

"I am. Don't stop me. I'm catching the boat-train."

Storran pulled out his watch as he turned and fell into step beside

"Then you've got a good half-hour to spare. No hurry," he returned

Gillian glanced at the watch on her wrist.

"Are you sure?" she asked doubtfully. "If so, my watch must be
altogether wrong!"

"Unbeliever! Come and look at the clock. And, incidentally, give me
that suit-case."

She yielded up the case obediently and, having verified the time,
proceeded towards the platform at a more reasonable gait.

Storran, his long legs leisurely keeping pace with her shorter ones,
smiled down at her.

"And now, for the second time of asking, where are you off to?"

"I'm going to France--to fetch Michael."

He gave a quick exclamation--whether of surprise or disapproval she
was not quite sure.

"You haven't heard from him, then?"

"No. And unless something happens /quick/, it will be too late."

"But if he were at his studio he would surely have answered Lady
Arabella's letter."

"Yes, I suppose so," replied Gillian absently, her eyes following the
queue of passengers passing through the gate on the platform. By
mutual consent they had come to a standstill outside it.

"Then if he isn't there, what's the use of your rushing over to
Paris?" protested Storran. "It's absurd--an absolute wild-goose chase.
You can't go!"

Gillian's brown eyes came back to his face.

"But I'm going," she said calmly.

He frowned.

"If Michael's not at his studio he may be--anywhere!"

She nodded.

"I know. If so, I shall follow--anywhere."

Storran looked down at her and read the quiet determination in her

"Then let me come too," he said. "Sort of courier, you know. I'd just
be at hand in case of a tangle."

"Oh, no! I couldn't let you. There's not the least need. Good heavens,
I'm not a baby!"

There was a curious softness in Dan's blue eyes as they rested on her.

"No. I think you're--a very good friend," he said. "But I don't see
why you should have the monopoly! Let me show I know how to be a good
pal, too, if I want to."

"No--no." Gillian still protested, but her tone betrayed signs of

"We'll be as conventional as you like," urged Dan, twinkling. "I'd
stop at different hotels."

"Well, but--"

"Say 'yes'!" he insisted.

Gillian smiled.

"You obstinate person! Yes, then!"

"Thank you. Then I'll go along and buy a ticket."

He turned and went towards the booking-office, while Gillian, inwardly
much relieved, awaited his return. She could not but acknowledge that
in the "wild-goose chase" upon which she was embarking it would be an
enormous comfort to have Storran at hand in case of an emergency. As
to the proprieties--well, Gillian was far too honest and independent a
soul to worry about them in the circumstances. Her friend's happiness
was at stake. And whether people chose to talk because she and Dan
Storran travelled to Paris together--or to Timbuctoo, for the matter
of that, if Michael had chanced to depart thither--troubled her not at

When Storran rejoined her a much more practical consideration
presented itself to her mind.

"But, my dear man, you can't fly with me to Paris without even a
tooth-brush! I'd forgotten you'd no luggage!"

Her face fell as she spoke. But Storran dismissed the matter with a

"Oh, I can buy clean collars and shirts as I go along," he replied,
entirely unruffled. "The dickens was to get on to the train at all!
They assured me there wasn't a seat. However, I make a point of never
believing official statements--on principle."

And as a consequence of such well-directed incredulity, Storran
accompanied Gillian to Dover and thence to Calais.

They had a good crossing--sun up and blue sky. Looking back,
afterwards, it always seemed to Gillian as though the short time it
occupied had been a merciful breathing space--a tranquil interval,
specially vouchsafed, in which she was able to brace herself for the
coming race against time. Just so long as they were on board, nothing
she could do was of any importance whatever, either to help or hinder
the fulfilment of her errand. She could not quicken the speed of the
boat by a single throb of its engine. So, like a sensible woman, she
sat on deck with Dan and enjoyed herself amazingly.

Afterwards, in quick succession, came the stir and bustle of landing
and the journey to Paris. They arrived too late to make any inquiries
that night, but ten o'clock the following morning found them outside
the building where Michael had his apartment.

"Oh, Dan!"--Gillian was seized with sudden panic. "Supposing he is
here, after all, and has /deliberately/ not answered Lady Arabella's

"I shouldn't suppose anything so foolish. Michael may be many kinds of
a fool--artists very often are, I believe. It's part of the
temperament. But whatever he proposed to do regarding Magda, there's
no reason in the world to suppose he wouldn't answer Lady Arabella's

"No--no. Perhaps not," agreed Gillian hurriedly. But it was in rather
a shaky voice that she asked to see Mr. Quarrington when finally they
found themselves confronted by the concierge.

"Monsieur Quarrington?" Hands, shoulders, and eyebrows all seemed to
gesticulate at once as madame la concierge made answer. "But he has
been gone from here two--no, three months. Perhaps madame did not

"No," said Gillian. "I didn't know. But I thought he might possibly be
away, because I--I have had no answer to a letter I wrote him."

"What misfortune!"

The concierge regarded Gillian with a pair of shrewd, gimlet eyes
while a stream of inquiry and comment issued from her lips. Madame was
the sister of monsieur, perhaps? Truly, they resembled each other! One
could see at a glance. No, not a sister? Ah, a friend, then? And there
had been no answer to a letter! But monsieur had left an address. Oh,
yes. And all letters were forwarded. She herself saw to that.

At last Gillian managed to stem the torrent of garrulity and
interposed a question concerning the telegram she had sent.

A telegram! Now that was another affair altogether. Yes, the concierge
remembered the telegram. She had opened it to see if it were of life
or death importance, in which case she would have, of course,
telegraphed its contents to monsieur at his present address.

Gillian was nearly crying with impatience as the woman's voluble
tongue ran on complacently.

"Then you did send it on?" she managed to interpolate at last.

The letter--yes. Not, of course, the telegram. That would have been a
needless expense seeing that monsieur would already have had the
letter, since all the letters were sent on. /All!/ She, Madame Ribot,
could vouch for that.

At the end of half an hour Gillian succeeded in extracting Michael's
address from amid the plethora of words and, bidding the voluble
concierge /bon jour/, she and Storran beat a masterly retreat.

It appeared that Michael had been commissioned to paint the portrait
of some Italian society beauty and had gone to Rome. Gillian screwed
up her small face resolutely.

"I shall go to Rome!" she announced succinctly. There was a definite
defiance in her tone, and Storran concealed a smile.

"Of course you will," he replied composedly. "Just as well I came with
you, isn't it?" he added with great cheerfulness.

Her expression relaxed.

"You really are rather a nice person, Dan," she allowed graciously. "I
was horribly afraid you'd suggest wiring Michael again, or something
silly like that. I'm not going to trust to anything of that kind."

Accordingly, the only wire despatched was one to Lady Arabella,
informing her as to their movements, and a few hours later found Dan
and Gillian rushing across Europe as fast as the thunderous whirl of
the express could take them. They travelled day and night, and it was
a very weary Gillian who at last opened her eyes to the golden
sunshine of Italy.

At the hotel whither Madame Ribot had directed them, fresh
disappointment awaited them. The manager--when he found that the two
dusty and somewhat dishevelled-looking travellers who presented
themselves at the inquiry bureau were actually friends of Signor
Quarrington, the famous English artist who had stayed at his hotel--
was desolated, but the signor had departed a month ago! Had he the
address? But assuredly. He would write it down for the signora.

"He's in Normandy!" exclaimed Gillian in tones of bitter
disappointment. "At--what's the name of the place?--Armanches. Oh,
Dan! We've got to go right back to Paris again and then on to the

Her face was full of anxiety. This would mean at least a delay of
several days before they could possibly see Michael, and meanwhile it
was a moot question as to how much longer Lady Arabella could restrain
Magda from taking definite steps with regard to joining the

Storran nodded.

"Yes," he said quietly. "But all the same, you'll not start back till

"Oh, but I must!" interrupted Gillian. "We can't afford to waste a

He glanced down at her and shook his head. Her face was white and
drawn, and there were deep violet shadows underneath her eyes.
Suspense and her anxious impatience had told upon her, and she had
slept but little on the journey. And now, with the addition of this
last, totally unexpected disappointment, she looked as though she
could not stand much more.

"We can afford to waste a single day better than we can afford the
three or four which it would cost us if you collapsed en route," said

"I shan't collapse," she protested with white lips.

"So much the better. But all the same, you'll stay here till to-morrow
and get a good night's rest."

"I shouldn't sleep," she urged. "Let's go right on, Dan. Let's go----"

But the sentence was never finished. Quite suddenly she swayed,
stretching out her hands with a blind, groping movement. Dan was just
in time to catch her in his arms as she toppled over in a dead faint.

It was a week later when, in the early morning, a rather wan and
white-faced Gillian sprang up from her seat as the train ran into

"Thank goodness we're here at last!" she exclaimed.

Storran put out his hand to steady her as the train jolted to a

"Yes, we're here at last," he said. "Now to find a vehicle of some
description to take us out to Armanches."

As he had suggested it would, Gillian's collapse had delayed them some
time. Probably she had caught a slight chill while travelling, and
that, together with the fatigue from which she was suffering, combined
to keep her in bed at the hotel in Rome for a couple of days.

When the slight feverishness had abated, she slept the greater part of
the time, her weary body exacting the price for all those wakeful
hours she had passed on the train. But it was not until four days had
elapsed that Dan would agree to a resumption of the journey. Even
then, consent was only wrung from him by the fear that she would fret
herself ill over any further delay. He did not consider her by any
means fit to travel. But Gillian was game to the core, and they had
reached Bayeux without further /contretemps/.

"The thing that puzzles me," she said as they started on the long
drive from Bayeux to Armanches, "is why Michael didn't send his
Normandy address to Madame Ribot. We should have been saved all that
long journey to Rome if he had."

"Perhaps he intended to, and forgot," suggested Dan. "Artists are
proverbially absent-minded."

But Gillian shook her head with a dissatisfied air. Michael was not of
the absent-minded type.

Armanches was a tiny place on the Normandy coast, in reality not much
more than a fishing village, but its possession of a beautiful /plage/
--smooth, fine, golden sands--brought many visitors to the old-
fashioned hostelry it boasted.

The landlady, a smiling, rosy-cheeked woman, with a chubby little
brown-faced son hiding shy embarrassment behind her ample skirts,
greeted the travellers hospitably. But when they mentioned
Quarrington's name a look of sympathetic concern overspread her comely

Yes, he was there. And of course madame could not know, but he had
been ill, seriously ill with /la grippe/--taken ill the very day he
had arrived, nearly a month ago. He had a nurse. Oh, yes! One had come
from Bayeux. But this influenza! It was a veritable scourge. One was
here to-day and gone to-morrow. However, Michael Quarrington was
recovering, the saints be praised! Monsieur and madame wished to see
him? The good woman looked doubtful. She would inquire. What name?
Grey? But there was a telegram awaiting madame!

Gillian's face blanched as the landlady bustled away in search of the
wire. Had Magda already---- Oh, but that was impossible! Lady Arabella
was in charge at that end, and Gillian had a great belief in Lady
Arabella's capacity to deal with any crisis that might arise.
Nevertheless, they had wired her the Normandy address from Rome, in
case of necessity. The next moment Gillian had torn open the telegram
and she and Dan were reading it together.

"Magda insists we return to London on Wednesday. She has completed
preliminary arrangements to join sisterhood and goes there
Thursday. Impossible to dissuade her.--ARABELLA WINTER."

Gillian's mouth set itself in a straight line of determination as her
eyes raced along the score or so of pregnant words. She was silent a
moment. Then she met Storran's questioning glance.

"We can just do it," she said sternly. "To-day is Wednesday. By
crossing to Southampton to-night, we can make London to-morrow."

Without waiting for his reply she entered the inn and ran quickly up
the stairs which the landlady had already ascended.

"But, madame, I am not sure that monsieur will receive anyone,"
protested the astonished woman, turning round as Gillian caught up
with her.

"I must see him," asserted Gillian quietly.

Perhaps something in the tense young face touched a sympathetic chord
in the Frenchwoman's honest heart. She scented romance, and when she
emerged from the invalid's bedroom her face was wreathed in smiles.

"It is all arranged. Will madame please to enter?"

A moment later Gillian found herself standing in front of a tall,
gaunt figure of a man, whose coat hung loosely from his shoulders and
whose face was worn and haggard with something more than /la grippe/

"Oh, Michael!"

A little, stricken cry broke from her lips. What men and women make
each other suffer! She realised it as she met the stark, bitter misery
of the grey eyes that burned at her out of the thin face and
remembered the look on Magda's own face when she had last seen her.

She went straight to the point without a word of greeting or of
explanation. There was no time for explanations, except the only one
that mattered.

"Michael, why didn't you answer Lady Arabella's letter?"

He stared at her. Then he passed his hand wearily across his forehead.

"Letter? I don't remember any letter."

"She wrote to you about a month ago. I know the letter was forwarded
on to Rome. It must have followed you here."

"A month ago?" he repeated.

Then a light broke over his face. He turned and crossed the room to
where a small pile of letters lay on a table, dusty and forgotten.

"Perhaps it's here," he said. "I was taken ill directly I arrived. I
never even sent this address to the concierge at Paris. I believe I
was off my head part of the time--'flue plays the deuce with you. But
I remember now. The nurse told me there were some letters which had
come while I was ill. I--didn't bother about them."

While he spoke he was turning over the envelopes, one by one, in a
desultory fashion.

"Yes. This is Lady Arabella's writing." He paused and looked across at

"Will you read it, please?" she said. "And--oh, you ought to sit down!
You don't look very strong yet."

He smiled a little.

"I'm not quite such a crock as I look. But won't you sit down yourself
while I read this letter? Is it of importance?"

"Oh! Please read it!" exclaimed Gillian with sudden nervous

It seemed to her an eternity while he read the letter. But at last he
looked up from its perusal.

"Well?" she asked under her breath.

Very deliberately he refolded the sheet of notepaper and slipped it
back into its envelope.

"It would have made no difference if I had received it earlier," he
said composedly.

"No difference"

"None. Because, you see, this letter--asking me to go back to Magda--
is written under a misapprehension.

"How? What do you mean?"

"I mean--that Magda has--no further use for me."

Gillian leaned forward.

"You're wrong," she said tersely--"quite wrong."

"No." He shook his head. "I'm not blaming her. Looking back, I'm not
even very much surprised. But still, the fact remains, she has no
further use for me."

"Will you tell me what makes you think that?" With an effort Gillian
forced herself to speak quietly and composedly.

He was silent a moment, staring out of the window at the gay blue sea
beyond, sparkling in the morning sunlight. All at once he swung round
on her, his face wrung with a sudden agony.

"I /know/," he said in a roughened voice. "I know, because I wrote to
her--six months ago. I was hard, I know, brutally hard to her that
last day at Friars' Holm. But--God! I paid for it afterwards! And I
wrote to her--bared my very soul to her. . . . Wrote so that if she
had ever cared she must at least have answered me."

He stopped abruptly, his face working.

"And she didn't answer?"

A wry smile twisted his lips.

"I got my own letter back," he said quietly. "After all, that was an
answer--a conclusive one."

Gillian was thinking rapidly. Six months ago! A momentary flash of
recollection came to her. So Lady Arabella, that wise old citizen of
the world, had been quite right after all! She had given Michael six
months to find out his imperative need of Magda. And he had found it.
Only--something had gone wrong.

"Magda never had that letter," she said quietly at last.

She was gradually beginning to piece together the separate parts of
the puzzle. All letters that came for Magda had been forwarded on to
the sisterhood, and had she herself readdressed this of Michael's she
would have recognised the handwriting. But probably she had been away
from home, or had chanced to be out at post time, in which case
Melrose, or old Virginie, would have readdressed the envelope and
dropped it in the pillar box at the corner of the road.

Then--as was the case with any correspondence addressed to one of the
Sisters of Penitence--the letter would be read by the Mother Superior
and passed on to its destined recipient if she thought good. If

Gillian had learned a great deal about Catherine Vallincourt by now,
both from Lady Arabella and from Magda herself, who, before leaving
the community, had discovered the identity of its head. And she could
visualise the stern, fanatical woman, obsessed by her idea of
disciplining Magda and of counteracting the effects of her brother's
marriage with Diane Wielitzska, opening the letter and, after perusal,
calmly sealing it up in its envelope again and returning it to the

"Magda never had that letter, Michael," she repeated. "Listen!" And
then, without preamble, but with every word vibrant with pity for the
whole tragedy, she poured out the story of Magda's passionate
repentance and atonement, of her impetuous adoption of her father's
remorseless theory, mistaken though it might be, that pain is the
remedy for sin, and of the utter, hopeless despair which had
overwhelmed her now that she believed it had all proved unavailing.

"She has come to believe that you don't want her--never could want
her, Michael--because she has failed so much."

There was more than one reproach mingled with the story, but Michael
made no protest. It was only when she had finished that Gillian could
read in his tortured eyes all that her narrative had cost him.

"Yes," he said at last. "It's true. I wanted the impossible. I was
looking for a goddess--not a woman. . . . But now I want--just a
woman, Gillian."

"Then, if you want her, you must save her from herself. You've just
twenty-four hours to do it in. To-morrow she's still Magda. The next
day she'll be Sister Somebody. And you'll have lost her."

Half an hour later, when Michael's nurse returned, she found her
patient packing a suit-case with the assistance of a pretty, brown-
haired girl whose eyes shone with the unmistakable brightness of
recent tears.

"But you're not fit to travel!" she protested in horrified dismay.
"You mustn't think of it, Mr. Quarrington."

But Michael only laughed at her, defying her good-humouredly.

"If the man you loved were waiting for you in England, nurse, you know
you'd go--and you wouldn't care a hang whether you were fit to travel
or not!"

The nurse smiled in spite of herself.

"No," she admitted. "I suppose I shouldn't."

As the Havre-Southampton boat steamed through the moonlit night, Dan
and Gillian were pacing the deck together.

"I'm so glad Michael is going back to Magda without knowing--about
June," said Gillian, coming to a standstill beside the deck-rail.
"Going back just because his love is too big for anything else to
matter now."

"Haven't you told him?"--Storran's voice held surprise.

"No. I decided not to. I should like Magda to tell him that herself."

They were both silent for a little while. Gillian bent over the rail,
looking down at the phosphorescent water breaking away from the
steamer's bow. Suddenly a big hand covered hers.

"I think I'm--lonely," said Storran.

"Gillian," he went on, his voice deepening. "Gillian . . . dear. We're
two rather lonely people. We shall be lonelier still when Michael and
Magda are married. Couldn't we be lonely--in company?"

Gillian's hand moved a little beneath his, then stayed still.

"Why, Dan--Dan----" she stammered.

"Yes," went on the strong, tender voice. "I'm asking you to marry me,
Gillian, I'd never expect too much of you. We both know all that's in
the past of each of us. But we might help each other to be less lonely
--good comrades together, Gillian."

And suddenly Gillian realised how good it would be to rest once more
in the shelter of a man's affection and good comradeship--to have
someone to laugh with or to be sorry with. There's a tender magic in
the word "together." And she, too, had something to give in return--
sympathy, and understanding, and a warm friendship. . . . She would
not be going to him empty-handed.

"Is it yes, Gillian?"

She bent her head.

"Yes, Dan."



Magda paused outside the closed door of the room. She knew whom she
would see within. Lady Arabella had told her he was there waiting for

Her first impulse had been to refuse to meet him. Then the temptation
to see him again--just once more--before she passed out of his life
altogether, rushed over her like the surge of some resistless sea,
sweeping everything before it.

Very quietly she opened the door and went into the room.


She never knew whether he really uttered her name or whether it was
only the voiceless, clamorous cry of his whole consciousness--of a
man's passionate demand for the woman who is mate of his soul and

But she answered its appeal, her innermost being responding to the
claim of it. All recollection of self, of the dimming of her beauty,
even of the great gulf of months that lay between them, crowded with
mistakes and failure, was burned away in the white-hot flame of love
that blazed up within her.

She ran to him, and that white, searing flame found its expression in
the dear human tenderness of the little cry that broke from her as he
turned his gaunt face towards her.

"Oh, Saint Michel! Saint Michel! How dreadfully ill you look! Oh, my
dear--sit down! You're not fit to stand!"

But when that first instinctive cry had left her lips, memory came
flooding over her once more. She shrank back from him, covering her
face with her hands, agonisingly conscious of the change in herself--
of that shadowing of her beauty which the sensitiveness of a woman in
love had so piteously magnified.

Then, drawing her hands slowly down, she braced herself to say what
must be said.

"You are free of me, Michael." She spoke in a curious, still voice. "I
know Marraine and Gillian between them have brought you back. But you
are free of me. As you see--I shall never do any more harm. No other
man will come to grief for the sake of the Wielitzska. . . . I
determined that as I had made others pay, so I would pay. I think"--
suddenly moving towards the window and standing full in the brilliant
sunlight--"I think you'll agree I've settled the bill."

Michael came to her side.

"I want you for my wife," he said simply.

She held out her work-roughened hands, while the keen-edged sunlight
pitilessly revealed the hollowed line of cheek and throat, the
lustreless dark hair, the fine lines that Pain, the great Sculptor,
had graved about her mouth.

"You are an artist before everything, Michael," she said. "Look--look

He took the two work-worn hands in his and drew her nearer him.

"I'm your lover before everything," he answered. "When will you come
to me, Magda?"

"No, no," she said whisperingly. "I mustn't come. You'll never--never
quite forgive me. Some day the past would come between us again--
you'll never forget it all."

"No," he replied steadily. "Perhaps not. Consequences /cannot/ be
evaded. There are things that can't be forgotten. But one forgives.
And I love you--love you, Magda, so that I can't face life without
you." His voice vibrated. "The past must always lie like a shadow on
our love. But you're my woman--my soul! And if you've sinned, then it
must be my sin, too----"

She leaned away from him.

"Do you mean--June?" she asked.

He nodded with set lips.

"Then--then you don't know--you haven't heard?"

His expression answered her and her face changed--grew suddenly
radiant, transfigured. "Oh, Saint Michel--Saint Michel! Then there is
one thing I can do, one gift I have still left to give! Oh, my dear, I
can take away the shadow!" Her voice breathless and shaken, she told
him how June had died--all that Dan Storran had learned from the
doctor who had attended her.

"I know I hurt her--hurt her without thinking. But oh, Michael! Thank
God, it wasn't through me that she died!"

And Michael, as he folded his arms about her, knew that the shadow
which had lain between him and the woman he loved was there no longer.
They were free--freed from those "ropes of steel" which had held them
bound. Free to go together and find once more their Garden of Eden.

Presently, when those first perfect moments of reunion were past,
Magda gave utterance to the doubts and perplexities that still vexed
her soul.

"Pain may purify," she said slowly. "But it spoils, Michael, and
blots, and ruins. I think, after all, pain is meaningless."

Michael's grey, steady eyes met her troubled ones.

"I don't think pain--just as pain--purifies," he answered quickly.
"Pain is merely horrible. It is the /willingness to suffer/ that
shrives us--not the pain itself."

Later still, the essential woman in her came into its own again. "I
shall never be able to sit for you any more, Saint Michel," she said
regretfully. "I'm nobody's model--now!"

She could see only her lost beauty--the unthinking, radiant beauty of
mere youth. But Michael could see all that her voluntary renunciation
and atonement had bestowed in its stead of more enduring significance.

He took her by the hand and led her to the mirror.

"There," he said, a great content in his voice, "is the model for the
greatest picture I shall ever paint--the model for my 'Madonna.'"

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