For the third time Nick looked at his watch. It was nearly one. He jumped to his feet with a grimace.
“What on earth are those girls up to?”
Rapidly he locked drawer after drawer of his writing-table, gathered up a sheaf of papers, and turned to go.
The library at Redlands overlooked a wide lawn that led through shrubberies to the edge of the cliff, up the face of which had been cut a winding path. He paused a moment considering this. Would they return from the shore by that way? If so, he would miss them if he went in search of them by the drive.
Impatiently he turned back towards the window, and in that moment he caught sight of a flying figure crossing the lawn,—Olga, with a white, strained face, hatless, dishevelled, gasping.
Nick’s one arm fought with the heavy window and flung it up. In another second he had leaped out to meet her. She ran to him, stumbled ere she reached him, fell against him, helpless, sobbing, exhausted.
He held her up. “What is it? Violet? Is she drowned?” he questioned rapidly.
“No—no!” She gasped the words as she lay against his shoulder.
“All right then! Take your time! Come and sit down!” said Nick.
He supported her to the low window-sill, and she sank down upon it, still clinging to him with agonized gasping, voiceless and utterly spent.
He stood beside her, strongly grasping her hand. “Keep quite quiet!” he said. “It’s the quickest in the end.”
She obeyed him, as was her custom, leaning her head against him till gradually her breath came back to her and speech became possible.
“Oh, Nick!” she whispered then. “That any man—could be—so vile!”
“What man?” said Nick sharply.
He stooped swiftly and looked into her face. “What has he been doing?”
“I’ll tell you!” she said. “I’ll tell you!”
And then, arrested possibly by something in that flashing regard, she raised herself and looked straight up at him.
“I can only tell you everything,” she said, “if you will promise me not to go and quarrel with him—in fact, not to go near him. Will you promise, Nick?”
“I will not,” said Nick.
“You must!” she said. “You must!”
“I will not,” he said again.
She held his hand imploringly. “Not if I ask you—not if I beg you—”
“Not in any case,” he said. “Now tell me the truth as quickly as you can.”
She shook her head. “Nick, I can’t. He is quite unscrupulous. He might kill you!”
“So he might,” said Nick grimly. “He’s crazy enough for anything. What has he been doing?”
“Is he crazy?” she said, catching at the word.
“He’s drug-ridden,” said Nick, “and devil-ridden too upon occasion. Now tell me!”
She began to cry with her head against his arm. “Nick,—I’m frightened! I can’t!”