“Do propose soon then!” she said. “And let us get it over!”
He turned to the door. “Given a suitable opportunity,” he said, “if shall be done to-night.”
“To-night!” she echoed sharply.
She caught the mocking gleam of his eyes for an instant, and her heart misgave her.
“Really, Max!” she said, in a tone of protest.
“Yes, really,” said Max. “Good-bye!”
He was gone. She heard him stride away down the passage, and go downstairs. A little later she heard the banging of the surgery-door and the sound of his feet on the gravel. They passed under her window. They paused.
“Olga,” he called up to her, “do you mind if a pal of mine comes to lunch?”
Her heart gave a great jolt at the sound of his voice. She swallowed twice before she found her own.
“Who is it?” she called then.
“Someone very nice,” he assured her, and she caught a laugh in the words. “Someone you’ll like.”
“Anyone I know?” she asked.
She heard him strike a match to light a cigarette. He would not be looking upwards then. Impulse moved her. She left her bed and went to the window.
He was standing immediately below her, a thick-set, British figure of immense strength. A brisk breeze was blowing. She watched him nursing the flame between his hands, firm, powerful hands, full of confidence. The flame flickered and went out. Instantly he threw up his head and saw her. His cigarette was alight.
She drew back sharply as he waved her an airy salute.
“Adieu, fair lady!” called the mocking voice. “I conclude the aforementioned pal may come, then?”
He did not wait for her answer. She heard him whistling cheerily as he went in the direction of the coach-house, and the ting of his bicycle-bell a moment after as he rode away. When that reached her ears, Olga sat down very suddenly on the edge of her bed with the limpness of relaxed tension, and realized that she was feeling very weak.
Nick’s letter to his wife was written that morning while Olga lay on the study-sofa, comfortably lazy for once, and listened to the scratching of his pen.
The boys had been sent to church, Violet was again devouring a book and smoking Major Hunt-Goring’s cigarettes in the hammock, and all was very quiet.
“I suppose I had better write to Jim too,” Nick said, as he looked up at length from his completed epistle.
“I was just thinking I would,” said Olga.
“No. Writing is strictly prohibited by your medical adviser.” Nick grinned over his shoulder. “I’ll send him a line myself.”
“Don’t let him be worried about me,” said Olga. “I really don’t know why I’m being so lazy. I feel quite well.”
“And look—charming,” supplemented Nick.