She went on up to the house in sober mood. It had been left to the care of the servants since Nick’s departure. She found a French window standing open, and entered. It was the drawing-room, all swathed in brown holland. Its dim coolness was very different from the stony chill of the Priory. She looked around her with a restful feeling of being at home, despite the brown coverings. Many were the happy hours she had spent here both before and after Nick’s marriage. It had always been her palace of delight.
As she paused in the room, she remembered that there was a book Nick had said he wanted out of the library. This room was a somewhat recent addition to the house and shut away from the rest of the building by a long passage. She passed from the drawing-room, and made her way thither.
It surprised her a little to find the door standing open, but it was only a passing wonder. The light that came in through green sun-blinds made her liken it in her own mind to a chamber under the sea. She went to a book-shelf in a dark corner, and commenced her hunt.
“If you are looking for Farrow’s Treatise on Party Government,” remarked a casual voice behind her, “I’ve got it here.”
Olga started violently. Any voice would have given her a surprise at that moment, but the voice of Max Wyndham was an absolute shock that set every nerve on edge.
He laughed at her from the sofa, on which he sprawled at length. “My good child, your nerves are like fiddle-strings after a frost. Remind me to make you up a tonic when we get back! Did you bicycle over?”
Olga ignored the question. She was for the moment too angry to speak.
“Sit down,” he said. “You ought to know better than to scorch on a day like this. You deserve a sunstroke.”
“I didn’t scorch,” declared Olga, stung by this injustice. “I’m not such an idiot. You seem to think I haven’t any sense at all!”
“My thoughts are my own,” said Max. “Why didn’t you say you were coming? You could have motored over with me.”
“I didn’t so much as know you would be in this direction. How could I?” said Olga. “And even if I had known—” she, paused.
“You would have preferred sunstroke?” he suggested.
“That I can quite believe. Well, here is the book!” He swung his legs off the sofa. “I dropped in to fetch it myself, as your good uncle seemed to want it, and then became so absorbed in its pages that I couldn’t put it down. We seem to have a rotten Constitution altogether. Wonder whose fault it is.”
Olga took the book with a slight, contemptuous glance. That he had been interested in the subject for a single moment she did not believe. She wondered that he deemed it worth his while to feign interest.
“Are you taking a holiday to-day?” she enquired bluntly.
He smiled at that. “I cut off an old man’s toe at the cottage hospital this morning, vaccinated four babies, pulled out a tooth, and dressed a scald. What more would you have? I suppose you don’t want to be vaccinated by any chance?”