Violet threw back her head with a restless movement, but she did not meet his eyes. “I am accustomed to amusing myself,” she said.
He stooped to pick up a marker that had fallen from her book. “It is a useful accomplishment,” he observed, as he handed it to her, “for those who have time to cultivate it.”
She raised her arms with the careless, unstudied grace of a wild creature. Her eyes were veiled.
“I assure you it is far more satisfying than tilting at windmills,” she said.
Max straightened himself. There seemed to Olga something pitiless about him, a deadliness of purpose that made him cruel. And in that moment she became aware of a strong antagonism between these two that almost amounted to open hostility.
“A matter of opinion,” said Max. “I suppose we each of us have our patent method of killing time.”
Violet uttered an indolent laugh. “Yours is a very strenuous one,” she observed. “I believe you imagine yourself invincible in your own particular line, don’t you?”
“Not at present,” said Max, with his twisted smile.
She laughed again, mockingly. “Irresistible then, shall we say?”
He had turned to go, but he paused at the question and looked back at her, grimly ironical. Olga had a feeling that the green eyes comprehended her also.
“No,” he said, with extreme deliberation. “Not even that. But—since you ask me—the odds are certainly very greatly in my favour.”
And with that he turned on his heel, still smiling, and sauntered away.
As he went, Violet stooped towards Olga with a face gone suddenly white, and grasped her arm.
“Remember, Allegro!” she said. “Not a word about Hunt-Goring—to anyone! Not one single tiny suspicion of a hint!”
And Olga, looking into her eyes, read terror in her soul.
“It’s a difficult position,” said Nick.
“It’s a damnable position,” said Max. He stared across the white table-cloth with eyes that brooded under down-drawn brows. “I don’t anticipate any sudden development if I can keep her off that cursed opium. But—I’d give fifty pounds to have her people within reach.”
“Do you know where they are?” said Nick.
Max shrugged his shoulders. “They are cruising about the Atlantic to give Mrs. Bruce, who is neurotic, a rest-cure. Of course, when I undertook to keep an eye on the girl, I never anticipated this. Her brother was anxious about her, I thought somewhat unnecessarily. It was that blackguard Hunt-Goring who precipitated matters. I’ve given him a pretty straight warning, though Heaven alone knows what effect it will have.”
“What did you say to him?” questioned Nick.
“I said that I had just discovered that he had been giving her cigarettes that contained opium. I warned him that it was criminally unsafe, that her brain was peculiarly susceptible to drugs, and that he would probably cause her death if he persisted; also, that if he did I would see that he was held responsible. What more could I say?”