But Olga hesitated to pursue this course, and finally collected her work and followed her two guests into the garden.
Max departed upon his rounds, and a very unpleasant sense of responsibility descended upon her.
She took up a central position under the lime-trees that bordered the tennis-court, but Major Hunt-Goring and Violet did not join her. They sauntered about the garden-paths just out of earshot, and several times it seemed to Olga that they were talking confidentially together. She wondered impatiently how Violet could endure the man at such close quarters. But then there were many things that Violet liked that she found quite unbearable.
Slowly the afternoon wore away. The young hostess still sat under the limes, severely darning, but Violet and her companion had disappeared unobtrusively into a more secluded part of the garden. For nearly half an hour she had heard no sound of voices. She wondered if she ought to go in search of them, but her pile of work was still somewhat formidable and she was both to leave it. She continued to darn therefore with unflagging energy, till suddenly a hand touched her shoulder and a man’s voice spoke softly in her ear.
“Hullo, little one! All alone? What has become of the fiery-headed assistant?”
She flung his hand away with a violent gesture. So engrossed had she been with getting through her work that she had not heard his step upon the grass.
“Are you just off?” she asked him frigidly. “Will you have anything before you go?”
Hunt-Goring laughed—a soft, unpleasant laugh. “Many thanks!” he said. “I was just asking myself that question. Generous of you to suggest it though. Perhaps you—like myself—are feeling bored.”
He lowered himself on to the grassy bank beside her chair, smiling up at her with easy insolence. Olga did not look at him. Handsome though he undoubtedly was, he was the one man of her acquaintance whose eyes she shrank from meeting. His very proximity sent a shiver of disgust through her. She made a covert movement to edge her chair away.
“Where is Miss Campion?” she said.
He laughed again, that hateful confidential laugh of his. “She has gone indoors to rest. The heat made her sleepy. I suggested the hammock, but she wouldn’t run the risk of being caught napping. I see that there is small danger of that with you.”
Olga stiffened. She was putting together her work with evident determination. “I will see you off,” she said.
“You seem in a mighty hurry to get rid of me,” he said, without moving.
She laid her mending upon the grass and rose. “I am busy—as you see,” she returned.
He looked at her for a moment, then very deliberately followed her example. He stood looking down at her from his great height, a speculative smile on his face.
“You’ve soon had enough of me, what?” he suggested.