AS GOOD AS DEAD
So cool was his utterance, so perfectly free from agitation his demeanour, that Olga wondered if she could have heard aright. Then she saw him go to the table and prepare to remove his coat, and she knew that there could be no mistake.
The frozen horror of the past few seconds fell from her, and strength came in its place—the strength born of emergency. “I shall help you better than Nick,” she said.
“If you don’t faint,” said Max.
She spoke a reassuring word to Cork and let him go. He moved away at once in uneasy search for his mistress, and she turned round to Max. Nick was already helping him out of his coat.
The storm had lulled somewhat, and the gloom had begun to lighten. As she drew near him she saw his right arm emerge from the coat. The shirt-sleeve was soaked with blood from shoulder to cuff.
“It’s the top of the shoulder,” said Max. “Only a flesh wound. Make a wet pad of one of those table-napkins and bind it up tight. I’ll go back to the cottage-hospital presently and get it dressed.”
With the utmost calmness he issued his directions, and Olga found herself obeying almost mechanically. Nick helped her to cut away the shirt and expose the wound. It was a deep one, and had been inflicted from the back.
“Quite a near shave,” said Max, with composure. “That flash of lightning came just in time. I saw the reflection in one of those oak panels.”
“Will this stop the bleeding?” asked Olga doubtfully.
“Yes, if you get the pressure on the right place. Pull it hard! That’s the way! Don’t mind me!” He was speaking through clenched teeth. “I daresay Nick knows all about first aid.”
Nick did; and under his supervision the injury was bandaged at length with success.
“First-rate!” said Max approvingly. “I congratulate the pair of you. Now I will have a brandy and soda, if you have no objection. Olga must have one too. I’m never anxious about Nick. He always comes out on top.”
He watched Olga pour him out a drink according to instructions. The storm was passing, and every instant the gloomy place grew lighter. Glancing at him, as she placed the tumbler before him, she saw his face fully for the first time, and noted how drawn and grey it was.
He smiled at her abruptly. “All right, Olga! You must drink the first quarter.”
“Oh, no!” said Olga quickly.
“Oh, yes!” he rejoined imperturbably. “Tell her to, Nick! I know your word is law.”
Nick had strolled across the hall to pick up something that lay upon the floor. As he returned, Olga was hastily gulping the prescribed dose.
Max turned towards him. “Yes. Take care of that!” he said. “It’s done enough damage.” He took the glass that Olga held out to him, and deliberately drained it. Then he rose, and took up his coat. “I must get into this if possible,” he said.