For Olga had made a sudden, very curious gesture, almost as if she winced from a threatened blow. Her face was white and strained; she pressed her hands very tightly over her heart.
“What’s up?” he repeated, in surprise.
She gazed at him with the eyes of one coming out of a stupor. “I don’t know,” she said. “I had a queer feeling as if—as if—” She paused, seeming to wrestle with some inner, elusive vision. “There! It’s gone!” she said, after a moment, disappointment and relief curiously mingled in her voice. “What were we talking about? Oh, yes, the parrot! It’s very kind of you. I shall like to have it.”
“I’ve christened it Noel,” he remarked, with some complacence. “It’s a Christmas present, you see.”
“I see,” said Olga, beginning to smile. “And you are teaching it to talk?”
“I’m only going to teach it one sentence,” he said.
“Oh, what is it?”
He gave her a sidelong glance. “I don’t think I’d better tell you.”
“But why not?”
“It’ll make you cross.”
Olga laughed. Somehow she could not help feeling indulgent. Moreover, the interview was nearly at an end, for they were nearing the bungalow, and Nick’s white figure was visible on the verandah.
“In that case,” she said, “you had better not educate it any further.”
“Oh, it won’t make you cross on the bird’s lips,” Noel assured her.
“Has it got lips?” she asked. “What a curious specimen it must be!”
“I say, don’t laugh!” he besought her, with dancing eyes. “It’s not a joke, I assure you. I’ll tell you what I’m teaching it to say if you like. But I shall have to whisper it. Do you mind?”
Again she found him hard to resist, albeit she did
not want to yield.
“Well?” she said.
They were close to the bungalow now. Noel came very near. “Of course you can wring the little brute’s neck if it displeases you,” he said, “but it’s a corky youngster and I don’t much think you will. He’s learning to say, ‘I love you, Olga.’”
Olga looked up on the verge of protest, but before she could utter it Nick’s gay, cracked voice hailed them from above; and Noel, briskly answering, deprived her of the opportunity.
THE WILDERNESS OF NASTY POSSIBILITIES
When Nick heard of the mistake that had been made, he raised his eyebrows till he could raise them no further and then laughed, laughed immoderately till Olga was secretly a little exasperated.
They did not have much time for discussing the matter, and for some reason Nick did not seem anxious to do so. If he had his own private opinion, he did not impart it to Olga, and, since he seemed inclined to treat the whole affair with levity, she did not press him for it. For she herself was regarding matters very seriously.