“My dear, if you show yourself so anxious to
be rid of him, he’ll stay,” protested
Violet. “Haven’t you discovered that
yet? You should display an elegant indifference,
e-that-I-want-you kind of attitude. There are not many men who can face that for long.” She broke off to yawn. “No, thanks. Nothing to eat. I’m too sleepy. Well, Nick, have you settled the affairs of the nation satisfactorily?”
“On the contrary. The nation is trying to settle mine,” said Nick.
“Oh, really! What more could anyone want you to do?”
“I’m specially qualified for many things, it seems,” said Nick modestly. “What has Hunt-Goring been here for?”
“Managed to break his thumb,” said Max.
“Yes, and stayed philandering all the afternoon,” chimed in Violet. “How did you manage to get rid of him, Allegro? He wouldn’t go for me.”
“Dr. Wyndham came back early and sent him home in the car,” said Olga, with a slight effort.
“I was bored to death with him,” declared Violet. “I simply deserted him at last because I couldn’t keep my eyes open. Give me my tea strong, please, or I shall fall asleep again under your eyes.”
“Do you mind if I smoke?” said Max.
“Not in the least; quite delighted.”
He offered her his cigarette-case. “P’raps you’ll join me.”
“No, thanks. I’ve been smoking all the afternoon.” She stretched up her arms behind her head; they were bare to the elbow, soft and white and rounded. Her eyelids began to droop a little more. She snuggled down into the chair, plainly on the verge of slumber.
And in that moment Olga looked at Max. He was intently watching the girl, so intently that he was oblivious of everything else; and into her mind, all-unbidden, there flashed again the memory of the green dragon-fly—the monster of the stream—darting upon the little scarlet moth. It sent a curious revulsion of feeling through her. For the moment she felt physically sick.
Then impetuously, desperately, she intervened, “Violet, dear, wake up and have your tea! It’s this horrid thundery weather that is affecting you. I’ve felt it myself. Max, you won’t get much of a rest if you don’t go soon.”
Instantly his eyes were turned upon her, and she was conscious of the sudden quickening of her heart; for she saw at a glance that he resented her interference.
“Go on, Max!” grinned Nick. “Why can’t you take a graceful hint, man? There may be another luckless little brat wanting you to-night.”
“One thing at a time,” said Max curtly.
He took out a cigarette and lighted it, a frown between his shaggy brows. He looked neither at Violet nor Olga but his attitude was one of stubborn determination.
“Are you waiting to see me drink my tea?” asked Violet, rousing herself in response to Olga’s hand on her arm.