“Oh, did you know him?” exclaimed Olga. “Why did you never tell me before? I shall never forget how miserable I was because he didn’t live to be reinstated in the French Army. But it’s years ago now, isn’t it?”
“Six years,” said Max.
“Yes, I remember. How I should like to have known him! But I was at school then. And you knew him well?”
“I was with him when he died,” he said.
“Oh!” said Olga, and then with a touch of shyness, “I’m sorry, Max.”
“No,” he said. “You needn’t be sorry. He was no shirker. His time was up.”
“But wasn’t it a pity?” she said.
He smiled a little. “I don’t think he thought so. He was happy enough—at the last.”
“But if he had only been vindicated first!” she said.
“Do you think that matters?” Max’s smile became cynical.
“Surely it would have made a difference to him?” she protested. “Surely he cared!”
He snapped his fingers in the air. “He cared just that.”
Violet looked up suddenly from her book. “And you—did you care—just that too?”
He seemed to Olga to contract at the question. “I?” he said. “I had other things to think about. Life is too short for grizzling in any case. And I chanced to have my sister to attend to at the same time.”
“You have a sister?” said Olga, swift to intervene once more.
He nodded. “Did I never tell you? She is married to Trevor Mordaunt the writer. Ever heard of him?”
“Why, yes! Nick knows him, I believe.”
“Very likely. He has an immense circle of friends. He’s quite a good sort,” said Max.
“And where do they live?” asked Olga, with interest.
“In Suffolk chiefly. Mordaunt bought our old home and gave it to Chris—my sister—when they married. My elder brother manages the estate for him.”
“How nice!” said Olga. “And what is your sister like?”
Max smiled. “She is my twin,” he said.
“Oh! Like you then?” Olga looked slightly disappointed.
Max laughed. “Not in the least. Can you imagine a woman like me? I can’t. She has red hair or something very near it. And there the resemblance stops. I’ll take you to see her some day—if you’ll come.”
“Thank you,” said Olga guardedly.
“Don’t mention it!” said Max. “There are two kiddies also—a boy and a girl. It’s quite a domestic establishment. I often go there when I want a rest. My brother-in-law is good enough to keep special rooms for the three of us.”
“Is there another of you then?” asked Olga.
“Yes, another brother—Noel. By the way, he won’t be going there again at present, for he sailed for Bombay to join his regiment a year ago. That’s the sum complete of us.” Max straightened himself with a faintly ironical smile. “We are a fairly respectable family nowadays,” he observed, “thanks to Mordaunt who has a reputation to think of. But we are boring Miss Campion to extinction. Can’t we talk of something more amusing?”