Violet was looking with frank curiosity into Sir Kersley’s face. “I’m sure I’ve met you somewhere,” she said. “I wonder where.”
He smiled slightly—a smile which to Olga’s watching eyes was infinitely sad.
“I don’t think you have,” he said. “You may have seen my portrait.”
“Ah, that’s it!” She regarded him with a new interest. “I have! I believe I’ve got it somewhere.”
“Do you collect the portraits of celebrities?” asked Max.
She shook her head. “Oh, no! It’s among my mother’s things. It must have been taken years ago. You were very handsome—in those days, weren’t you?”
“Was I?” said Sir Kersley.
“Yes. That’s why I kept you. There was a bit of your hair with it, but I burnt that.” Violet’s brows knitted suddenly. “My mother was handsome too,” she said. “I wonder why you jilted her!”
Sir Kersley made a slight movement, so slight that it seemed almost involuntary. “That, my child,” he said quietly, “is a very old story.”
She laughed her gay, winning laugh. “Oh, of course! I expect you have jilted dozens since then. It’s the way of the world, isn’t it?”
He looked into the exquisite face, still faintly smiling. “It’s not my way,” he said.
There fell a sudden silence, and Olga sent an appealing glance towards Max. He came forward instantly and clapped a practical hand upon his friend’s shoulder.
“Come and have a wash, Kersley!” he said, and with characteristic decision marched him away.
As they went, Violet broke once more into the low, sweet refrain of her Spanish love-song.
“How extraordinary men are!” Violet stretched her arms high above her head and let them fall. Her eyes were turned contemplatively towards the sinking sun. “This man for instance who might have been—who should have been—my father. He loved her, you know; he must have loved her, or he wouldn’t have remained single all these years. And she worshipped him. Yet on the very eve of marriage—he jilted her. Extraordinary!”
“How do you know she worshipped him?” Olga spoke with slight constraint; it seemed to her that the matter was too sacred for casual discussion.
“How do I know? My dear, it is written in black and white on the back of his photograph. ’The only being I have it in me to love—sovereign lord of my heart!’ Fancy writing that of any man! I couldn’t, could you?”
“I don’t know,” said Olga soberly.
Violet laughed. “You’re such a queer child! One day you come flying to me for protection, and almost the day after, you—”
“Please, Violet!” Olga broke in sharply. “You know I don’t like it!”
“Oh, very well, my dear, very well! The subject is closed. We will return to the renowned Sir Kersley. He was watching me all luncheon-time. Did you notice?”