“I should have found it easier if I had known,” she said.
But Nick shook his head with the wisdom of an old man. “You weren’t strong enough to know,” he said.
She did not contest the point, reflecting that Nick, with all his shrewdness, was but a man, as he himself admitted.
She asked him presently, somewhat haltingly, if he would give her the details of her friend’s death. “Max was there, I know. But he never tells one anything. It was one of the reasons why I never got on with him.”
A hint of the old resentment was in her tone, and Nick smiled at it. “Poor old Max! You always were down on him, weren’t you? But there is really nothing to tell, dear. She just went to sleep, and her heart stopped. They said it was not altogether surprising, considering her state of health.”
“Who said?” questioned Olga.
“Sir Kersley Whitton and Max. Max sent for him, you know.”
“Oh, did he? Yes, I remember now. I saw him just for a moment.” Again her brow contracted. “Oh, I wish I could remember everything clearly, Nick!” she said.
“Never mind, my chicken! Don’t try too hard!” Cheery and reassuring came Nick’s response. “Don’t you think you have thought enough for one day? Shall we tell Kasur to order the horses, and go for a canter?”
She turned beside him. “Yes, I shall like that. But—why did you say I was always hard on Max?”
“The result of observations made,” he answered lightly.
She smiled with a hint of wistfulness, and said no more. The child Olga would have argued the point. The woman Olga held her peace.
Undoubtedly Nick had stepped off his pedestal that day. She loved him none the less for it, but she wondered a little.
And Nick, philosopher and wily tactician, grinned at his fallen laurels and let them lie. He had that day accomplished the most delicate task to which he had ever set his hand. Behind the mask of masculine clumsiness he had subtly worked his levers and achieved his end. And he was well satisfied with the result.
Let her pity his limitations after a woman’s immemorial fashion! How should she recognize the wisdom of the serpent which they veiled?
It was the strangest Christmas Day Olga had ever known, but she certainly had no time to be homesick.