She passed Max with a touch of the hand and a fleeting smile, and was gone.
Nick’s plaintive lament came to an abrupt conclusion two seconds later, and Max turned back into the room with his hands thrust deep in his pockets, and one side of his mouth cocked at an angle expressive of extreme satisfaction. He had dared a good deal that day, far more than Olga vaguely dreamed, and events had proved him more than justified.
A TALK IN THE OPEN
Noel dined with the Musgraves that night. His mood was hilarious throughout, but he seemed for some reason unwilling to discuss the adventure he had shared with Olga in the temple, and of their rescuer he scarcely spoke at all. He seemed in fact to have practically dismissed the whole matter from his mind, and when he bade them farewell at the end of the evening Daisy acknowledged to her husband that she was disappointed.
“I felt so sure he had begun to care for Olga,” she said. “He doesn’t often miss his opportunities, that boy.”
“Perhaps Olga doesn’t chance to care for him,” suggested Will, with his arm round his wife’s waist. “That does happen sometimes, you know.”
She smiled, her cheek against his shoulder. “I can’t imagine any girl resisting Noel’s charms if he were the first comer—as I fancy he must be,” she said.
“I wonder if he is,” said Will. “She told me the other night she had never been in love, but she seemed to know so much about the disease that I rather doubted her veracity.”
“Fancy your living to call it a disease!” said Daisy, with a faint sigh.
He stooped and kissed her. “Oh, I’m not a cynic, my dear,” he said. “Shall we call it an incurable affection of the heart instead?”
“That’s almost as bad,” she protested.
“I said incurable,” pleaded Will. “I ought to know, for I fell a victim to it long ago.”
She laughed softly against his shoulder. “Well, if you will have it so, it’s very infectious, you know. And I am a victim too.”
His arm tightened. “Mine was always a hopeless case, Daisy,” he murmured half wistfully.
She turned her lips up to his. “When it attacks old folks—like you and me, dear—it always is,” she said.
He kissed her again, lingeringly and in silence. There had been a time of which neither ever spoke when Will’s love for his wife had been to her a thing of little value. He had not been the first comer. That time had passed long since, and with it the last of their youth. But though for them romance was no more, they had become lovers in a sense more true. Their lives were bound up together and woven into one by the Loom of God.
Whatever opportunities Noel might have missed that day, he certainly did not permit the thought of them to depress him. With his customary jauntiness, he took his departure; but he did not return straight to his quarters at the cantonments. He turned his steps in the direction of the dak-bungalow, whistling in the starlight as he went.