I saw then that the figure coming towards me was Nina.
As she came nearer I saw that she was intensely preoccupied. She was looking straight in front of her but seeing nothing. It was only when she was quite close to me that I saw that she was crying. She was making no sound. Her mouth was closed; the tears were slowly, helplessly, rolling down her cheeks.
She was very near to me indeed before she saw me; then she looked at me closely before she recognised me. When she saw that it was I, she stopped, fumbled for her handkerchief, which she found, wiped her eyes, then turned away from me and looked out over the river.
“Nina, dear,” I said, “what’s the matter?”
She didn’t answer; at length she turned round and said:
“You’ve been ill again, haven’t you?”
One cheek had a dirty tear-stain on it, which made her inexpressibly young and pathetic and helpless.
“Yes,” I said, “I have.”
She caught her breath, put out her hand, and touched my arm.
“Oh, you do look ill!... Vera went to ask, and there was a rough-looking man there who said that no one could see you, but that you were all right.... One of us ought to have forced a way in—M. Bohun wanted to—but we’ve all been thinking of ourselves.”
“What’s the matter, Nina?” I asked. “You’ve been crying.”
“Nothing’s the matter. I’m all right.”
“No, you’re not. You ought to tell me. You trusted me once.”
“I don’t trust any one,” she answered fiercely. “Especially not Englishmen.”
“What’s the matter?” I asked again.
“Nothing.... We’re just as we were. Except,” she suddenly looked up at me, “Uncle Alexei’s living with us now.”
“Semyonov!” I cried out sharply, “living with you!”
“Yes,” she went on, “in the room where Nicholas had his inventions is Uncle Alexei’s bedroom.”
“Why, in Heaven’s name?” I cried.
“Uncle Alexei wanted it. He said he was lonely, and then he just came. I don’t know whether Nicholas likes it or not. Vera hates it, but she agreed at once.”