He went back to Redlands over the cliffs, entering his own grounds by a low wire fence, and thence turning inwards towards the garden. The sounds of gay voices reached him as he approached, and he speedily found himself caught in a lively ambush that consisted of Peggy, Reggie, and Noel. He naturally fled for his life, but was overtaken by the latter and held down while the two accomplices rifled his pockets. By the rules of the game all coppers found therein were confiscated, and this regulation having been duly observed, the prisoner was allowed to sit up and converse with his principal captor while the rest of the gang divided the spoils.
“Have a cigarette?” said Noel.
“Thanks! Mighty generous of you!” Nick righted his tumbled attire and accepted the proffered weed. “If it isn’t a rude question, what are you doing here?”
Noel’s eyes laughed across at him gaily through the blue spectacles. “I should have thought you might have guessed that I’m spending a night or two with the Musgraves, but I am under a solemn oath to return to Max by noon on Friday in order to have another dose of some infernal stuff with which he is peppering my eyes. He didn’t much want me to come away, as it meant postponing the torture for a few hours. But I managed to get on the soft side of him for once, though he is holding himself in preparation for an immediate summons in case my vision should take advantage of my absence from him to play any nasty tricks.”
“I see,” said Nick. “And how is the vision?”
“Oh, all right, so far as it goes. Gives me beans upon occasion, for which Max always swears at me as if it were my fault. I’m not allowed to see by artificial light at all, so after sunset I join the bats. Lucky for me the sun sits up late just now. By the way, I had a positively gushing epistle from old Badgers this morning. He seems almost hysterical at the thought of getting me back again; says that married or single, I’ve got to go.” Noel stopped to take in a long breath of smoke; then, very abruptly, “Where’s Olga?” he demanded.
Nick nodded in the direction whence he had come. “Down on the shore.”
Noel was on his feet in a second. “All right. You can be nurse for a bit now. See you later!”
He would have swung away with the words, but Nick had also risen, and with a swift word he detained him. “I say, Noel!”
Noel stopped. “Hullo!”
“Look here!” said Nick rapidly. “She isn’t wanting anyone just yet. We have just been to the Priory, she and I—in accordance with Sir Kersley’s advice, of which I told you. She is having a quiet think. Don’t disturb her!”
Noel stood still. He had stiffened somewhat at the words, but there was no dismay discernible about him. He faced that which had to be faced without flinching.
“You mean she knows?” he asked slowly.
“Yes,” said Nick. “But I didn’t tell her.”