She turned away half-mechanically, met his smile of cheery effrontery, and suddenly flashed him a smile in return.
“What a gross flatterer you are!” she said “Allegro, aren’t you jealous? Which piece of toast do you fancy, Nick? Can I cut up some ham for you as well?”
The tension was over and Olga breathed again. Max continued his breakfast with an inscrutable countenance, finished it, and departed to the surgery.
Violet did not so much as glance up at his departure. She was wrangling with Nick over the best means of attacking a boiled egg with one hand.
There was no longer the faintest hint of tragedy in her demeanour. Yet Olga went about her own duties with a heart like lead. She was beginning to understand Max’s attitude at last; and it filled her with misgiving.
The rest of that day was passed in so ordinary a fashion that Olga found herself wondering now and then if she could by any chance have dreamed the events of the night.
During the whole of the morning she was occupied with her jam-making, while Violet lazed in the garden. Nick had planned a motor-ride in the afternoon, and they went for miles, returning barely in time for dinner. Violet was in excellent spirits throughout, and seemed unconscious of fatigue, though Olga was so weary that she nearly fell asleep in the drawing-room after the meal. Max was in one of his preoccupied moods, and scarcely addressed a word to anyone. Only when he bade her good-night she had a curious feeling that his hand-grip was intended to convey something more than mere convention demanded. She withdrew her own hand very quickly. For some reason she was feeling a little afraid of Max.
Yet on the following morning, so casual was his greeting that she felt oddly vexed with him as well as with herself, and was even glad when Violet sauntered down late as usual and claimed his attention. Violet, it seemed, had decided to ignore his decidedly arbitrary treatment of her. She had also apparently given up smoking, for she made no further reference to her vanished cigarettes, a piece of docility over which Olga, who had known her intimately for some years, marvelled much.
She was obliged to leave her that afternoon to go to tea with an old patient of her father’s who lived at the other end of the parish, Violet firmly refusing at the last moment to accompany her thither. Nick had promised to coach the boys at cricket practice that day, and Olga departed with a slight feeling of uneasiness and a determination to return as early as possible.
It was not, however, easy to curtail her visit. The patient was a garrulous old woman, and Olga was kept standing on the point of departure for a full half-hour. In the end she almost wrenched herself free and hurried home at a pace that brought her finally to her own door so hot and breathless that she was obliged to sit down and gasp in the hall before she could summon the strength to investigate any further.