“Because,” she said, speaking rather quickly, “I think you a cad.”
“Not really!” said Max, smiling openly. “Now I wonder why! Sit down, won’t you, and tell me?”
The colour was fading from her face again. She had made a mistake in thus assailing him, and already she knew it. He only laughed at her puny efforts to hurt him, laughed and goaded her afresh.
“Why am I not a gentleman?” he asked, and drew in a mouthful of smoke which he puffed at the ceiling. “Because I said I should like to give you a whipping? But you would like to tar and feather me, I gather. Isn’t that even more barbarous?” He watched the smoke ascend, with eyes screwed up, then, as she did not speak, looked down at her again.
She no longer stood in the sunlight, and the passing of the splendour seemed to have left her cold. She looked rather small and pinched—there was even a hint of forlornness about her. But she had learned her lesson.
As he looked at her, she clenched her hands, drew a deep breath, and spoke. “Dr. Wyndham, I beg your pardon for hurting you, and for being rude to you. I can’t help my thoughts, of course, but I was wrong to put them into words. Please forget—all I’ve said!”
“Oh, I say!” said Max, opening his eyes, “that’s the cruellest thing you’ve done yet. You’ve taken all the wind out of my sails, and left me stranded. What is one expected to say to an apology of that sort? It’s outside my experience entirely.”
Olga had turned to the door, but at his words she paused, looking back. A glimmer of resentment still shone in her eyes.
“If I were in your place,” she said, “I should apologize too.”
“Oh, no, you wouldn’t,” said Max. “Not if you wished to achieve the desired effect. You see, I’ve nothing to apologize for.”
“How like a man!” exclaimed Olga.
“Yes, isn’t it? Thanks for the compliment! Strange to say, I am much more like a man than anything else under the sun. I say, are you really going? Well, I forgive you for being naughty, if that’s what you want. And I’m sorry I can’t grovel to you, but I don’t feel justified in so doing, and it would be very bad for you in any case. By the way—er—Miss Ratcliffe, I think you will be interested to learn that my visit to the Campions was of a social and not of a professional character. That was all you wanted to know, I think?”
Olga, holding the door open, looked across at him with surprise that turned almost instantly to half-scornful enlightenment.
“Oh, that’s it, is it?” she said.
“That’s it,” said Max. “Quite sure you don’t want to know anything else?”
Again he puffed the smoke upwards and watched it ascend.
“Why on earth couldn’t you have said so before?” said Olga.
He turned at that and surveyed her quite seriously. “Oh, that was entirely for your sake,” he said.
“For my sake!” said Olga. Sheer curiosity impelled her to remain and probe this mystery.