Max shrugged his shoulders with a glance at Olga’s tight lips. “I never expend my emotions in vain,” he said. “It’s a waste of time as well as energy, and I have other purposes for both.”
“Then you are never angry?” enquired Violet.
“Never, unless I can punish the offender,” smiled Max.
“How frightfully practical! Dear me! I shall have to be exceedingly careful not to offend you. I wonder what form your punishments usually take. Are they made to fit the crime?”
“Usually,” said Max, and again he glanced at Olga.
Her eyelids flickered as though she were aware of his look, but she did not raise them.
“You make me quite nervous,” declared Violet. “Do you know I have actually promised to come and help keep house for you and the redoubtable Captain Ratcliffe? I’m beginning to think I’ve been rather rash.”
“On the contrary,” said Max. “It was quite a wise move on your part, and it shall be mine to see that you do not regret it.”
Her gay laugh rang through the old hall. “Bruce is looking quite scandalized, and I don’t wonder. Will you and Adelaide be able to support life without me, Bruce? It’s a purely formal question, so you needn’t answer it if you don’t wish. Oh, do let us have some tea! I’m so thirsty. Please ring the bell, Dr. Wyndham! It’s close to you. Look at Olga cuddling that naughty book of mine! Don’t you think you ought to take it away from her? It’s not fit for an innocent maiden to handle even with gloves on.”
“What book is it?” It was Colonel Campion who spoke in the harsh tone of one issuing a command.
Olga coloured fierily. “I was taking it away with me to burn on the garden bonfire,” she said.
“Give it to me!” he said.
“No, don’t, Allegro! It isn’t yours to give. You may give it to Dr. Wyndham if you like, but not to Bruce.”
“I am not going to give it to anyone,” Olga said rather shortly.
“Pardon!” said Max, holding out his hand. “I should like to sample Miss Campion’s taste in literature.”
She drew back, but his hand remained outstretched. After a moment, reluctantly, she surrendered the book. He took it, and began to turn the pages.
“Nothing ever shocks a medical man,” observed Violet. “He is inured to the worst. Come along, dear! This place is like a vault. Let us get into the sunshine and leave him to wallow till tea appears.”
They went out together to Olga’s immense relief, and spent the next ten minutes in playing with the motor, in the driving of which Violet had lately developed a keen interest.