Magda looked up suddenly from stirring her tea.
“I think you’ve made a mistake, Davilof,” she said curtly. “You’re not likely to enjoy a holiday in Devonshire.”
June, innocently unaware of any double entente in Magda’s speech, glanced across at her in astonishment.
“Oh, but why not, Miss Vallincourt? Devon is a lovely county; most people like it so much. But perhaps you don’t care for the country, Mr.—Mr. Davilof?” She stumbled a little over the foreign name.
“I think it would depend upon who my neighbours were—whether I liked it or nor,” he returned, meeting Magda’s glance challengingly over the top of June’s head, bent above the teacups. “I feel sure I should like it here. And there is a charming little inn at Ashencombe where one might stop.”
Gillian divined that a veiled passage of arms between Magda and the musician underlay the light discussion. Moreover—though she had no clue to the cause—she was sensitively conscious that the former was not quite herself. She had seen that white, set look on her face before. Something had distressed her, and Gillian felt apprehensive lest Davilof had been the bearer of unwelcome tidings. It was either that, or else he must have succeeded in frictioning Magda in some way himself, since, beyond flinging an occasional double-edged sentence in his direction, she seemed absent and disinclined to take part in the conversation.
It was almost a relief to Gillian when Dan Storran appeared, although the recollection of the strained atmosphere which had attended the previous meal did not hold out much promise of better things to come. His face was still clouded and he glowered at the tea-table under the elms with dissatisfied eyes.
“What on earth’s the meaning of this?” he demanded ungraciously of his wife. “Is it some newfangled notion that’s got you?”
June coloured up nervously, and was about to falter an explanation of the innovation when Magda suddenly took the matter out of her hands.
“There’s nothing newfangled about tea out-of-doors, on a glorious day like this,” she said. “It’s the only sensible thing to do. You don’t really mind, do you?”
She smiled up at him provocatively and his sombre face lightened.
“Not if you like it,” he replied shortly.
“Well, I do. So sit down and be pleased—instead of looking like a thundercloud, please.” The softness in her voice robbed the speech of its sharpness. “I have a friend here—and we’re having tea outside in his honour.”
She introduced the two men, who exchanged a few commonplace words—each, meanwhile, taking the measure of the other through eyes that were frankly hostile. They were of such dissimilar type that there was practically no common ground upon which they could meet, and with the swift, unerring intuition of the lover each had recognised the other as standing in some relationship to Magda which premised a just cause for jealousy. Both men endeavoured to secure her undivided attention and, failing lamentably, their mutual antagonism deepened, smouldering visibly beneath the stiff platitudes they exchanged with one another.