Her tone was unconsciously piteous. Surely he must see that if they were to meet often, as inevitably they must, some sort of agreement between them was imperative. She must feel stable ground beneath her feet. Their intercourse could not be one perpetual passage of arms. Flesh and blood could never endure it.
But Nick did not apparently view the matter in the same light. “Pray don’t be sorry,” he airily begged her. “I quite understood. I never take offence where none is intended, and not always where it is. So dismiss the matter from your mind with all speed. There is not the smallest occasion for regret.”
He meant to elude her, she saw, and she turned from him without another word. There was to be no understanding then, no friendly feeling, no peace of mind. She had trusted to his generosity, and it was quite clear that he had no intention of being generous.
As they walked by a mossy pathway towards the house, they talked upon indifferent things. But the girl’s heart was very bitter within her. She would have given almost anything to have flung back his hospitality in his grinning, triumphant face, and have departed with her outraged pride to the farthest corner of the earth.
THE EAGLE HOVERS
Luncheon in the low, old-fashioned dining-room at Redlands with its windows facing the open sea, with Olga beaming at the head of the table, would have been a peaceful and pleasant meal, had Muriel’s state of mind allowed her to enjoy it. But Nick’s treatment of her overture had completely banished all enjoyment for her. She forced herself to eat and to appear unconcerned, but she was quivering inwardly with a burning sense of resentment. She was firmly determined that she would never be alone with him again. He had managed by those few scoffing words of his to arouse in her all the bitterness of which she was capable. If she had feared him before, she hated him now with the whole force of her nature.
He seemed to be blissfully unconscious of her hostility and played the part of host with complete ease of manner. Long before the meal was over, Grange had put aside his sullenness, and they were conversing together as comrades.
Nick had plenty to say. He spoke quite openly of his illness, and declared himself to have completely recovered from it. “Even Jim has ceased his gruesome threats,” he said cheerily. “There will be no more lopping of branches this season. Just as well, for I chance to have developed an affection for what is left.”
“You’re going back to the Regiment, I suppose?” Blake questioned.
“No, he isn’t,” thrust in Olga, and was instantly frowned upon by Nick.
“Speak when you’re spoken to, little girl! That’s a question you are not qualified to answer. I’m on half-pay at present, and I haven’t made up my mind.”
“I should quit in your place,” Grange remarked, with his eyes on the dazzling sea.