“Oh, not for a year or two,” said Nick. “I haven’t talked it over with my wife yet. There’s no knowing. She may object. Wives are sometimes hard to please, you know.” He flung a humorous glance at Max, and turned to leave them. “You will excuse me, I am sure, with the utmost pleasure. I am going to play spelicans with Kobad Shikan.”
He was gone, and Olga turned to Max, smiling somewhat uneasily. “I wish he wouldn’t,” she said.
“What? Play spelicans? I should think he might prove as great an adept at that as walking the tight rope,” said Max. “Ah, here comes your friend Mrs. Musgrave! She went home and told her husband this morning that I was the most objectionable young man she had ever met.”
Olga’s eyes widened with indignation. “Max, I’m sure she didn’t, and if she did it was entirely your own fault. I believe you wanted her to think so.”
“Some people have an antipathy to red hair,” observed Max. “You had yourself at one time, I believe. Hullo! Is that our gallant Noel in polo-kit? What a magnificent spectacle!”
It was Noel following Daisy, whose rickshaw he had just spied, and bearing the proud Peggy on his shoulder.
He came straight to Olga, smiling with supreme ease, lowered Peggy from her perch, and dropped into the vacant seat beside her. Daisy passed on with a smile to join the Bradlaws. Peggy remained, glued to her hero’s side.
“I say,” said Noel, “I hope you haven’t been thinking me beastly rude, Olga. I’ve been wishing you happiness with all my heart all the morning, but I simply couldn’t get round to tell you so.”
It was charmingly spoken. Her hand lay in his while he said it. He did not seem to observe his brother on her other side. But Peggy observed him and clung to Noel’s shoulder with wide, fascinated eyes fixed upon the stranger.
“Noel,” cut in the high, baby voice, “isn’t that an ugly man? Who’s that ugly man, Noel?”
Noel squeezed Olga’s hand and set it free to lift the small questioner to his knee.
“That handsome gentleman, Peggy, is my brother, and he is going to marry this pretty lady—whom you know. Any more questions?”
Peggy stared at Olga very seriously. “Do you want to marry him, Miss Ratcliffe?” she asked.
“Of course she does,” said Max. “Everyone wants to marry me. It’s a sort of disease that spreads like the plague.”
Peggy’s eyes returned to him and fixed him with grave attention.
“I don’t want to marry you,” she announced with absolute decision.
“You’d rather have the plague, eh?” suggested Noel.
“No,” said Peggy, and turned to him with her sweet, adoring smile. “But I’m goin’ to marry you; aren’t I, Noel?”
“Hear, hear!” said Noel with enthusiasm.
“Highly suitable,” said Max.
“I hope you will both be very happy,” said Olga, with a touch of earnestness that she emphasized with a secret pressure of Noel’s arm.