He smiled also, with slight cynicism. “Yes, there were plenty of thrills for all of us,” he said. “Have you heard the latest?”
Daisy’s eyes travelled from him to Olga, who stretched out her left hand, bearing Max’s ring upon it, and said, very sweetly and impulsively: “Oh, Mrs. Musgrave, I was just going to tell you about it. Please don’t think me deceitful! It—it—it only happened last night.”
“My darling child!” Daisy said. She took the outstretched, trembling hand and folded it in a soft, warm clasp. Her eyes went back to Max, whose expression became more ironical than ever under her scrutiny. It was as if he observed and grimly ridiculed her jealousy on his brother’s behalf. And Daisy’s resentment turned to a decided sense of hostility. She discovered quite suddenly but also quite unmistakably that she was not going to like this young man.
She was sure the green eyes under their shaggy red brows saw and mocked her antipathy. There was even a touch of insolence about him as he said: “I’m afraid it’s taken your breath away, but it is not such a sudden arrangement as it appears. Strange to say all women don’t fall in love with me at first sight. Olga, for instance, did quite the reverse, didn’t you, Olga?”
His eyes mocked Olga now openly and complacently. Daisy told herself indignantly that she had never in her life witnessed anything so disgustingly cold-blooded. He positively revolted her. She saw him as a husband, selfish, supercilious, accepting with condescension his young wife’s eager devotion, and her congratulations died on her lips. For Daisy was a woman with whom a man’s homage counted for much. She had been accustomed to it all her life and its absence was an offence unpardonable. And then suddenly Olga overcame her shyness, and boldly came to the rescue.
“Max, don’t make Mrs. Musgrave think you a beast! It isn’t fair to me. He isn’t a bit like this really,” she added to Daisy. “It’s all affectation. Nick knows that.”
Daisy laughed. The girlish speech helped her, if it did not remove her doubts.
She gave her free hand to Max, saying, “I suppose we are none of us ourselves to strangers, but, since you are engaged to Olga, I hope you will not place me in that category. You are very, very lucky to have won her, and I wish you both every happiness.”
Max bowed, still with a hint of irony. “It’s nice of you not to condole with Olga,” he said. “I feel inclined to myself. Perhaps, if I am not wanted, I may be allowed to go and have a smoke on the verandah. I am expecting my traps to turn up directly,” he added to Olga.
“Oh, we must come and see about them,” she said. “The khit will show you your room. Max is going to put up with us now,” she told Daisy, with a smile that pleaded with her friend to be lenient.
Daisy’s hand still held hers. “That is nice, dear,” she said. “I must be getting back to Peggy. Is your fiance coming to the regimental dance to-night?”