“It’s very good of you, but we can’t possibly come. We must be getting back. You are going to see Mrs. Briggs, you know, Violet. And we promised Nick we wouldn’t be late starting home from Redlands.”
Violet’s quick frown appeared like a sudden cloud. “My dear child, what nonsense! As if Mrs. Briggs mattered! And as for Nick, he won’t be ready for more than two hours. You heard him say so.”
But Olga stood her ground. “I don’t see how we can possibly go—anyhow without telling Nick first. In fact, I would rather not.”
Hunt-Goring was smiling—the smile of the man who has heard it all before. “Miss Olga is evidently afflicted with a tender conscience,” he observed. “But if you really have two hours to spare and really care to go on the water, I do not see how Nick can reasonably object. Of course I have no desire to persuade you. I only beg that you will follow your inclinations.”
“Of course!” said Violet quickly. “And we are coming—at least I am. Allegro, you can please yourself, but it will be very horrid of you if you won’t come too.”
Olga’s pale eyes sparkled. “That depends on one’s point of view,” she said, with a touch of warmth. “You know what I think about it. I told you the other day.”
“My dear, that is too ridiculous,” declared Violet. “I never heard such rubbish in my life. Besides, it’s only for a couple of hours. Major Hunt-Goring,” appealing suddenly, “do tell her how absurd she is! What possible objection could there be to our going out with you for a morning’s cruise?”
“None, I should say,” smiled Hunt-Goring. “But doubtless Miss Olga has made up her mind and discussion would be only a waste of time. Shall we start?”
“Yes, we will!” agreed Violet impetuously. “I am simply dying for a breath of sea air. Ah, do give me a cigarette! I finished my last this morning.”
And then Olga’s eyes were opened, and she knew the reason of this man’s ascendancy over her friend. The certainty went through her like the stab of a sword, and hard upon it came the realization that to desert Violet at that moment would be an act of treachery. So strong was the conviction that she did not dare to question it. It was as if a voice had spoken in her soul, and blindly she obeyed.
“I will come too,” she said.
Violet beamed upon her instantly. “Well done, Allegro! I thought you couldn’t be so unkind as to stay behind when I wanted you.”
“A woman’s second thoughts are always best,” observed Hunt-Goring.
She looked him straight in the eyes. “I am going for Miss Campion’s sake alone,” she said.
He smiled at her with covert insolence. “You are a true woman,” he said.
“Is that intended for a compliment or otherwise?” asked Violet.
“Otherwise, I think,” said Olga, in a very low voice.
“Acquit me at least of idle flattery!” said Hunt-Goring, with a laugh.