“Yes, yes,” said Nina eagerly. Semyonov then explained that the thing that really was, it seemed to him, keeping them apart were Nicholas’s inventions. Of course Vera had long ago seen that these inventions were never going to come to anything, that they were simply wasting Nicholas’s time when he might, by taking an honest clerkship or something of the kind, be maintaining the whole household, and the very thought of him sitting in his workshop irritated her. The thing to do, Semyonov explained, was to laugh Nicholas out of his inventions, to show him that it was selfish nonsense his pursuing them, to persuade him to make an honest living.
“But I thought,” said Nina, “you approved of them. I heard you only the other day telling him that it was a good idea, and that he must go on—”
“Ah!” said Semyonov. “That was my weakness, I’m afraid. I couldn’t bear to disappoint him. But it was wrong of me—and I knew it at the time.”
Now Nina had always rather admired her brother-in-law’s inventions. She had thought it very clever of him to think of such things, and she had wondered why other people did not applaud him more.
Now suddenly she saw that it was very selfish of him to go on with these things when they never brought in a penny, and Vera had to do all the drudgery. She was suddenly indignant with him. In how clear a light her uncle placed things!
“One thing to do,” said Semyonov, “is to laugh at him about them. Not very much, not unkindly, but enough to make him see the folly of it.”
“I think he does see that already, poor Nicholas,” said Nina with wisdom beyond her years.
“To bring Nicholas and Vera together,” said Semyonov, “that’s what we have to do, you and I. And believe me, dear Nina, I on my side will do all I can to help you. We are friends, aren’t we?—not only uncle and niece.”
“Yes,” said Nina breathlessly. That was all that there was to the conversation, but it was quite enough to make Nina feel as though she had already won her heart’s desire. If any one as clever as her uncle believed in this, then it must be true. It had not been only her own silly imagination—Lawrence cared for her. Her uncle had seen it, otherwise he would never have encouraged her—Lawrence cared for her....
Suddenly, in the happy spontaneity of the moment she did what she very seldom did, bent forward and kissed him.
She told me afterwards that that kiss seemed to displease him.
He got up and walked away.