Probably her recent severe illness had had a lasting effect upon her nerves, for she was never easy in his absence, though Daisy Musgrave did much to reassure her. She had taken Olga under her wing as naturally as though they had been related, and they were much together.
The old life had begun to seem very far away to Olga, her childhood as remote as a half-forgotten dream. The blank space in her memory remained as a patch of darkness through which her thread of life had run indeed but of which no record remained. She had ceased to attempt to read the riddle, half in dread and half in sheer helplessness. It did not seem to matter. Surely, as Max had once said to her, nothing mattered that was past.
She did not spare much thought for Max either just then, instinctively avoiding all mention of him. She had a vague consciousness that was more in the nature of a nightmare memory than an actual happening, that they had parted in anger. Sometimes there would rush over her soul the recollection of piercing green eyes that searched and searched and would not spare, and her heart would beat in a wild dismay and she would shrink in horror from the vision. But it was not often that this came to her now. She had learned to ward it off, to put away the past, to live in the present.
For nearly a month she had been established with Nick in the bungalow on the outskirts of the city, and the novelty of things had begun to wear off. She was not strong enough to go out very much, and beyond a few calls with Nick and a dinner or two at the cantonments she had not seen much of the social life of Sharapura.
That night, however, they were to attend a State dinner at the Palace, to which all the officers of the battalion and their wives had been bidden. Olga was relieved to know that the Musgraves were also going, for at present she was intimate with no one else, with the possible exception of Noel, who visited them in a fashion which he described as “entirely unofficial” almost every day. He seemed to entertain a vast admiration for Nick, and as Olga was wholly in sympathy with him on this great point, they did not find it difficult to agree upon smaller matters. She even bore with his bare-faced Irish compliments, mainly because she knew he did not mean them and she found it easier to be amused than offended.
The new life was undeniably one of considerable interest, and now and then, more particularly when she went for her morning ride with Nick—a function which Noel almost invariably attended when off duty, appearing with a brazen smile and not the faintest suggestion of an excuse—the old zest would awake within her, almost deluding her into the belief that her lost youth had returned.
She still had her hours of depression and strange heart-heaviness so alien to her nature, and even in her lighter moments she was far more restrained than of yore—shrewd still, quick of understanding still, but infinitely graver, more womanly, more reserved.