“You can walk to ‘The Ship’ from there,” he said to Olga. “It’s only half a mile, and after that you can run about the shore and amuse yourselves till I am ready to go back.”
“Don’t get up to mischief!” said Max briefly.
Violet gave him a quick look from under her lashes, but said no word.
It was a hot morning with a hint of thunder in the atmosphere. With Olga at the wheel, they set off soon after breakfast, leaving Max pumping his bicycle at the surgery-door with grim energy. He was going to the cottage-hospital that morning, a fact which left the motor at liberty till the afternoon.
Mile after mile of dusty road slid by, and Olga, with her heart in the future, sang softly to herself for sheer lightness of heart. She had ceased to trouble about Max, since he, quite obviously, had no intention of obtruding himself upon her. The problem—if problem there were—was evidently one that would keep until her return from India, and Olga was child enough to feel that that event was far too remote to trouble her now.
So, with a gay spirit, she piloted her two friends on that summer morning. No presentiment of evil touched her, no cloud was in her sky. Gaily she sped along the sunny road, little dreaming that that same sun that so gladdened her was to set upon the last of her youth.
The car was in a good mood also, and they hummed merrily past the little stone church of Brethaven and up to the great iron gate of Redlands just as the clock in the tower struck ten.
“Good business!” commented Nick, as he descended to open the gate. “That gives me two hours and a half. Don’t be later than twelve-thirty, Olga mia, for starting back.”
Olga promised, as she dexterously turned the car and ran in up the drive. He sprang upon the step, and so she brought him to his own door.
“Good-bye, Nick!” she said then, lifting her bright face.
He bent and lightly kissed her. “Good-bye! Don’t go and get drowned, either of you, for my sake! Yes, you can leave the car here. It won’t rain at present.”
He stood on his own step and watched them go, with a motherly smile on his wrinkled face.
“Bless their hearts!” he murmured, as he finally turned away. “I’ll swear it’s all a mistake. She looks like a queen this morning; and as for Olga, if she has really given her heart to that ugly doctor chap I have never yet seen a woman in love.”
He entered the house with the words, and straightway dismissed them from his mind.
“We will go to the shore first,” Violet decreed. “Mrs. Briggs won’t be expecting us so early. I hear that some more of the Priory land has been slipping into the sea. We must go and see it.”
So to the shore they went. The slip was not a serious one. They made their way to the spot over loose sand and rocks, and dropped down in a sandy hollow to rest.
“Poor old Priory!” said Violet. “It’s sure to be swallowed up like the rest some day. I wonder if I shall live to see it.”