Violet’s malicious declaration regarding a professional man’s preference for a plain woman recurred to her at this point and made her feel a little cold. She did not know very much about men, and she had to admit to herself that it might quite easily be the truth. And then she thought of Hunt-Goring, reflecting with a shudder that that explanation would not account for his preference, if indeed what Max said were true and he actually did prefer her to Violet at whose feet he was so obviously worshipping.
She wondered if she ought to tell Max all about the man, and shuddered again at the bare thought. Not that there was much to tell, but even so, it was enough to set the blood racing in her veins and to make her hotly ashamed. She remembered with gratitude that he had not pressed her to be open on this point. He had left the matter almost at the first sigh of her reluctance to discuss it. She liked him for that. It furnished proof of a kindly consideration with which she had not otherwise credited him. It also furnished proof that he did not think very seriously of the matter. And for that also, lying awake in the moonlight, Olga secretly blessed her champion. Hard of head and cool of heart he might be, but he was undoubtedly a white man through and through.
From that she began to wonder if she really had met her fate, and if so, what life with him would be like, whether she would find it difficult, whether they would quarrel much, whether—whether they would ever fall in love. Of course there were plenty of people in the world who didn’t, excellent people to whom romance in that form came not. Olga had always been quite sure that she was not romantic. She had always loved cricket and hockey and all outdoor sports. She had even—quite privately—been a little scornful over such shreds of romance as had come beneath her notice, dismissing them as paltry and ridiculous. Possibly also Violet’s scoffing attitude towards her adorers had fostered her indifference.
No, on the whole she decided that it was verging upon foolish sentimentality to contemplate the possibility of falling in love. She was convinced Max would think so, even pictured to herself the one-sided smile that such nonsense would provoke. Doubtless he deemed her too sensible to waste time and thought over anything so absurd. He would even quite possibly be extremely annoyed if she ever ventured beyond the limits of rational friendship which he had marked out. Olga’s sense of humour vibrated a little over this thought. He was always so scathing about her worship of Nick. He would certainly find no use for such feminine trash himself.
And yet—and yet—through her mind, vague as a dream, intangible yet not wholly elusive, there floated once more the memory of a voice that had reassured, a hand that had lulled her to rest. Had he really spoken that word of tenderness? Had his lips really touched her hair? Or had it all been a trick of her fancy already strung to fantastic imaginings by that magic draught?