“Indeed, it wasn’t! We went to the Priory before coming home.”
“Oh! What for?”
“Some things Violet wanted.”
“What things?” said Max.
She looked at him in surprise. “I’m sure I don’t know. I’m not so inquisitive as you are. You had better ask Violet.”
“Ask me what?” said Violet, detaching her attention from Major Hunt-Goring for a moment.
“Nothing,” said Max. “I was only wondering how many glasses of rhubarb wine you had at ‘The Ship.’”
Carelessly he rallied her on the subject, carelessly let it pass. And Olga was left with a newly-awakened doubt at her heart. What was the reason for the keen interest he took in her friend? Had he really told her the truth when repudiating the possibility of his falling in love with her? She fancied he had; and if so, why was he so anxious to inform himself of her most trivial doings? It was a puzzle to Olga—a puzzle that for some reason gave her considerable uneasiness. Against her will and very deep down within her, she was aware of a lurking distrust that made her afraid of Max Wyndham. She felt as if he were watching to catch her off her guard, ready at a moment’s notice to turn to his own purposes any rash confidence into which she might be betrayed. And she told herself with passionate self-reproach that she had already been guilty of disloyalty to her friend.
During the rest of luncheon she exerted herself to keep the conversation general, Max seconding her efforts as though unconscious of her desire to avoid him. In fact, he seemed wholly unaware of any change in her demeanour, and Olga noted the fact with relief, the while she determined to exclude him rigidly for the future from anything even remotely approaching to intimacy. Watch as they might, the shrewd green eyes should never again catch her off her guard.
THE ELASTIC BOND
Major Hunt-Goring was quite obviously in his element. To Olga’s dismay he showed no disposition to depart when they rose from the luncheon-table. Violet suggested a move to the garden, and he fell in with the proposal with a readiness that plainly showed that he had every intention of inflicting his company upon them for some time longer.
“It’s confoundedly lonely up at The Warren,” he remarked pathetically, as he lounged after her into the sunshine.
Violet laughed over her shoulder, an unlighted cigarette between her teeth. “You’re hardly ever there.”
“No. Well, it’s a fact. I can’t stand it. I’m a sociable sort of chap, you know. I like society.”
“Why don’t you marry?” laughed Violet.
“That’s a question to which I can find no answer,” he declared. “Why—why, indeed!”
“Hateful man!” murmured Olga, looking after them. “How I wish he would go!”
“Leave them alone for a spell,” advised Max. “Go and mend your stockings in peace! Miss Campion is quite equal to entertaining him unassisted.”