For a moment she was too overcome to tell him. Then: “Oh, Nick,” she said, “I saw that butterfly the last time I was here. It was fluttering along just like that. And then—all of a sudden—a dreadful green dragon-fly flashed out on it, and—and—I didn’t see it any more.”
“Cheer up!” said Nick. “Evidently it escaped.”
“Oh, I wonder!” she said, in a voice of puzzled distress. “I do wonder!”
His shrewd glance returned to the moth quivering like a flower petal in the breeze. “Well, there it is!” he said cheerily. “Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt.”
Her face did not wholly clear. “I wish I knew,” she said. “Do you really think it can be the same, Nick?”
“I’ve never seen more than one,” said Nick, “so it would appear to be a more artful dodger than you took it for. I don’t see friend dragon-fly anywhere about.”
She shuddered suddenly and convulsively. “No, and I hope he isn’t here. Do you know what he made me think of? Max; so strong, so merciless, and so horribly clever.”
“I’m clever too,” said Nick modestly.
“Oh, but in a different way,” protested Olga.
Again his quick eyes flashed over her. “I think you are rather hard on Max myself,” he said unexpectedly.
“I?” said Olga.
“Yes, you, my dear. You’ve no right to regard him in that unwholesome light. He doesn’t deserve it. He is quite a decent sort; a little too managing perhaps, but that’s just his way. You might go further and fare much worse.”
He paused, but Olga said no word. She only palpitated against his arm.
He continued after a moment with the quick decision characteristic of him. “I’m not going to pursue the subject, but just this once—in justice to the man—I must have my say. You asked me once if I liked him, and I was not in a position to tell you. I will tell you now. I like him thoroughly. He’s a man after my own heart, straight and clean and staunch. If you ever want someone to trust—trust him! He’d stand by you to perdition.”
“Oh, do you think that of him, Nick?” she said, as one incredulous.
“Yes, dear, I do,” said Nick. “Well, that’s all I have to say. Suppose we begin to crawl back!”
But Olga waited a moment, watching with fascinated eyes the speck of scarlet that still trembled in the sunshine. It fluttered from sight at last, and with a sigh she turned.
“I wonder if it got away!” she murmured again, as if to herself. “I do wonder!”
But to Max, in spite of Nick’s spirited eulogy, she made no further reference.
Nick dined at his brother’s house at Weir that evening, alone with Max Wyndham. The boys had gone back to school, and the house was almost painfully quiet. Even Nick seemed to feel a certain depression in the atmosphere, for his cheerful chatter was decidedly fitful, and when he and Max were seated opposite to one another smoking it ceased altogether.