Nick’s eyebrows shot upwards with lightning rapidity; then drew into a frown. He was silent for a moment before he said very decidedly, “I’m not going to let you dance with Hunt-Goring, so you may as well pass his dances on to me. If he wants to know the reason, he can ask me—and I shall be delighted to tell him.”
He spoke in a fighting tone; there was fight in the grip of his hand. Olga noted it, and foresaw trouble.
“I’m afraid it’s too late now, Nick,” she said rather wearily. “I must keep my engagements.”
Nick turned and sent one of his keen glances over her. “You won’t keep this one,” he told her. “I am simply not going to allow it. Those supper-dances are mine, so make up your mind to that!”
He spoke with a finality that made protest seem futile. It seemed to Olga that the yellow face had never looked so grim. She made no further effort to withstand him, aware that to do so would entail a battle of wills which could only end in her defeat. Perhaps deep in the heart of her she was even thankful for this brief reprieve.
She said nothing therefore, and Sir Reginald considerately turned the subject by asking Nick what disguise he intended to assume.
“I?” said Nick. “I haven’t absolutely decided, sir. I’ve got a fool’s dress somewhere that might serve.”
He turned, releasing Olga’s hand, to take a screw of paper from a salver with which Kasur at that moment approached him.
He glanced at Sir Reginald as he did so, muttered a word of excuse, and deftly opened it. The next instant he crumpled it again in his hand, and spoke over his shoulder to the waiting native.
“Say I will see the moonstone before it is sent away!”
The man departed, and Nick rose. “Afraid I shall have to go to the Palace, sir. Olga, you must take care of Sir Reginald in my absence.”
“What! Now, Nick?” Olga looked up in swift surprise.
“Yes, now, my child. Good-bye!” He stooped and lightly kissed her. “I daresay I shan’t be late back. If I am, you must go to the Ball without me, and get Sir Reginald to take care of you. I shall turn up some time, you may be sure.”
“Important, is it?” asked Sir Reginald.
Nick nodded. “I ought to go, sir. Don’t wait for me. I shall follow on if I’m late. In any case,” he turned to Olga, “I shall be in time for those supper-dances.”
His look flashed over her with a species of quizzical tenderness. “And you are not to give any dances to Hunt-Goring, mind, whatever the bounder says.”
He was gone. Free, careless, upright, he strode humming along the verandah and swung round the corner out of sight.
A brief silence descended upon the two who were left. Olga glanced once or twice at Sir Reginald, whose brows were drawn in deep thought.
At length, with slight hesitation she spoke, voicing the anxiety that had been growing within her for many days. “Sir Reginald, do you think he is in any danger when he goes to the city?”