Olga released as swiftly as she had captured her, and started for the stairs. Nick was close behind her. They ascended almost together, past the great window that looked upon the sea, and so on to the oak-panelled corridor that led to Violet’s room.
The great wolf-hound Cork came to meet them here, wagging a wistful tail and lifting questioning eyes. He made no attempt to hinder their advance, obviously regarding them as friends in need.
Olga’s hand caressed him as she passed, and he came and pressed against her as she stopped outside the closed door. Softly she turned the handle, only to discover that the door was locked. She bent her head to listen, and heard a broken sobbing that was like the crying of a child.
Her face quivered in sympathy. She stooped and put her lips to the key-hole. “Violet—Violet darling—let me in! Let me be with you!”
Instantly the sobbing ceased, but it was Mrs. Briggs’s voice that made answer. “You can’t come in, Miss Olga, only unless you’re by yourself. Miss Violet’s still very upset-like, and she ain’t wanting anyone but me.”
There was authority in the announcement. Mrs. Briggs was not without considerable strength of character, and she knew how to keep her head in an emergency.
Olga looked at Nick.
“I should wait if I were you,” he counselled. “She is sure to want you later on.”
She nodded silently, and bent over Cork. The strain of the past few hours was beginning to tell upon her. Her tears fell unrestrained upon the great dog’s head.
Nick strolled away to the head of the stairs, and stood there like a sentinel, searching the blurred expanse of sea through the open window with alert, restless eyes.
Several minutes passed; then there came the sound of the key turning in the lock. Olga stood up hastily, dashing away her tears. Mrs. Briggs’s head appeared in the aperture.
“Miss Olga,” she said in a strenuous whisper, “Miss Violet would like to speak to you if so be as you’re alone. But she won’t have anyone else.”
“There is only Captain Ratcliffe here,” said Olga.
“Then p’raps he’ll be good enough to wait outside,” said Mrs. Briggs, with the air of a general issuing his orders. “You can come in, Miss Olga, and for pity’s sake soothe the pore dear as much as you can. She’s well-nigh wore herself out.”
Olga glanced round for Nick, and found him at her side.
“Look here, Olga,” he said, speaking in a rapid whisper, “you are not to lock that door. Understand? I say it!”
She hesitated. “But if------”
“I won’t have it done,” he said. “You must pretend to lock it. Mind, if I find that door locked, I shall have it forced, and take you away.”
“But she may ask me, Nick,” Olga objected.
“If she does, you must lie to her,” he said inexorably.
Olga abandoned the discussion somewhat reluctantly, anticipating difficulties.