He took out another cigarette with the words, flinging her a sidelong glance as he did it.
But Daisy was silent, looking straight before her.
“Surely,” said Hunt-Goring, through a cloud of aromatic smoke, “whether there is anything in the tale or not, the fewer that know of it—the better.”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Daisy spoke as if compelled. “No woman ought to be married blindfold. It is too great a risk.”
Hunt-Goring leaned back again in his chair. “If I were in your place, I should maintain a discreet silence,” he said.
“I don’t think you would,” said Daisy.
He inhaled a long breath of smoke. “If I didn’t, I should approach the girl herself—find out what she knows—and, with great discretion, put her on her guard. I don’t think you would gain much by opening up the matter in any other quarter.”
“You mean it would be no good to discuss it with Nick?” said Daisy.
Hunt-Goring looked at the end of his cigarette. “Perhaps I do mean that,” he said. “He would probably prevent it coming to Olga’s knowledge if he had set his heart on the match.”
“He couldn’t prevent my telling her,” said Daisy quickly.
“No?” Hunt-Goring gave utterance to his silky laugh. “Well,” he said, “my experience of Nick Ratcliffe is not a very extensive one; but I should certainly say that he knows how to get his own way in most things. Perhaps you have never come into collision with him?”
Daisy coloured suddenly, and was silent.
Hunt-Goring laughed again. “You see my point, I perceive,” he remarked. “Well, I leave the matter in your hands, but—if you really wish to warn the girl, I should not warn Nick Ratcliffe first.”
He spoke impressively, notwithstanding his laugh. And Daisy accepted his advice in silence.
Much as she loved Nick, she knew but too well how a struggle with him would end, and she shrank from risking a conflict. Besides, there was Olga to be thought of. She resumed her sewing with a puckered brow. Certainly Olga must be warned.
There might be no truth in the story, but then rumours of that description never started themselves. And Max Wyndham—well she had been prejudiced against him from the beginning in spite of the fact that Nick was all in his favour. He was ruthless and unscrupulous; she was sure of it. How he had ever managed to win Olga was a perpetual puzzle to her. Perhaps he really was magnetic, as Nick had said. But she believed it to be an evil magnetism. As a lover, he was the coolest she had ever seen.
“Altogether objectionable,” had been her verdict from the outset.
And now came this monstrous tale to confirm her previous opinion. Impulsively Daisy decided that Olga must not be left in ignorance. Marriage was too great a speculation for any risk of that kind to be justifiable. She felt she owed it to the girl to warn her—to save her from a possible life-long misery. These things had such a ghastly knack of turning up afterwards. And Olga was so young, so trusting—