He laughed his soft, hateful laugh. “Well, scarcely, since you, yourself, informed me of the approaching event some months before it took place.”
Noel made a slight gesture of surprise, and the colour rose in a hot wave to Olga’s face; but she looked steadily at Hunt-Goring and said nothing.
He went on, smoothly satirical. “I used to think the odds were in favour of Miss Campion, you know. You will pardon me for saying that I don’t think there are many girls who could have cut her out.”
Olga’s face froze to a marble immobility. “There was no question of that,” she said.
“No?” Hunt-Goring’s urbanity scarcely covered his incredulity. “I fancied she took the opposite view. Well, well, the poor girl is dead and out of the running. I consider Max Wyndham is a very lucky man.”
He spoke with significance and Noel’s eyes, jealously watching Olga’s face, saw her flinch ever so slightly. A hot wave of anger rose within him; his hands clenched. He turned upon Hunt-Goring.
“If you have anything offensive to say,” he said, in a furious undertone, “say it to me, you damned coward!”
Hunt-Goring looked at him at last. “I beg your pardon?” he said.
Noel was on the verge of repeating his remark when, quick as a flash, Olga turned and caught his arm.
“Noel, please, please!” she gasped breathlessly. “Not here! Not now!”
He attempted to resist her, but she would not be resisted. With all her strength she pulled him away, her hands tightly clasped upon his arm. And it was thus that they came face to face with Max, sauntering in ahead of his host.
He glanced at them both, but showed no surprise, though both Olga’s agitation and Noel’s anger were very apparent.
“Look here, you two,” he said, “Nick and I can’t be kept waiting any longer. We value our beauty-sleep if you don’t. And Mr. Musgrave is longing to see the last of us.”
“Not at all,” said Will courteously. “But Nick has suddenly developed a violent hurry to be gone. My wife is trying to pacify him, but she won’t hold him in for long.”
“Let us go!” said Olga. She took her hand from Noel’s arm, but looked at him appealingly.
“All right,” he said gruffly. “I suppose I had better go too.”
“High time, I should say,” observed his brother. “Good-night!”
Noel did not look at him or respond. He turned aside without a word, and left the room.
Max made no further comment of any sort, but Olga was aware of his green eyes studying her closely. Like Noel she avoided them. She shook hands hurriedly with Will, and went out to Nick and Daisy.
As Max turned to follow her, she heard Hunt-Goring’s smiling voice behind him. “Good-bye, Dr. Wyndham! Delighted to have met you again—you and your fiancee. I have just been congratulating Miss Olga on her conquest.”
Max went out as though the sneering words had not reached him, but his face was so grim when he said good-bye to Daisy that she felt almost too guilty to look at him. She held Olga to her very closely at the last, and saw her go with a passionate regret. Whether she had acted rightly or wrongly she did not know; but she felt that she had wrecked the girl’s happiness, and the spontaneity of Olga’s answering embrace did not reassure her.