She leaned her head against him, feeling his vitality as one feels the throb of an electric battery.
“Do you think God is angry with me, Nick?” she said. “She wanted to go—so dreadfully.”
“God is never angry with any of us,” he answered softly. “We are not big enough for that. There, drink it, sweetheart! It will do you good.”
She raised her two hands slowly, feeling as if they were weighted with iron fetters. With flickering eyes he watched her, in a fashion compelling though physically he could not help. She lifted the cup and drank.
The candlelight reeled and danced in her eyes. Her dazed senses began to awake. “Nick!” she exclaimed suddenly and sharply.
“Here, darling!” came his prompt reply.
She set down the empty cup, and clasped her hands tightly together. “Nick!” she said again, in a voice of rising distress.
His hand slid down and held hers. “What is it, kiddie?”
She turned to him impulsively. “Oh, Nick, I’ve made a great mistake—a great mistake! I ought not to have let her go alone. She will be frightened. I should have gone with her.”
“My child,” Nick said, “for God’s sake—don’t say any more! This isn’t the time.”
And even as she wondered at the unwonted vehemence of his speech, she knew that they were no longer alone.
Max came swiftly through the shadowy archway and moved straight towards her. A white sling dangled from his neck, but it was empty. She thought his hands were clenched.
Scarcely knowing what she did, she rose to meet him, forcing her rigid limbs into action. He came to her; he took her by the shoulders.
“Olga,” he said, “how did this happen?”
She faced him, but even as she did so she was conscious of an awful coldness overwhelming her, as though at his touch her whole body had turned to ice. His eyes looked straight into hers, searching her with intolerable minuteness, probing her through and through. And from those eyes she shrank in nameless terror; for they were the eyes of her dream, green, ruthless, terrible. He looked to her like a man whose will might compel the dead.
For a long, long space he held her so, silent but merciless. She did not attempt to resist him. She felt that he had already forced his way past her defences, that he was as it were dissecting and analyzing her very soul. She had not answered his question, but she knew that he would not repeat it. She knew that he did not need an answer.
And then the coldness that bound her became by slow degrees a numbness, paralyzing her faculties, extinguishing all her powers. There arose a great uproar in her brain, the swirl as of great waters engulfing her. She raised her head with a desperate gesture. She met the searching of his eyes, and goaded as it were to self-defence, with the last of her strength, she told him the simple truth.