“You didn’t do it,” she said in the same level, tired voice. “You put me off. You refused to fill in the gap.”
“Well?” said Nick. His tone was abrupt; for the first time in all her knowledge of him it sounded stern.
But Olga remained unmoved. “Would you refuse if I asked you to do it now?” she said.
“Perhaps,” he answered.
She turned from him to Max. “You would refuse too?” she said, and this time there was a tremor of bitterness in her voice. “You always have refused.”
“It happens to be my rule never to discuss my cases with anyone outside my profession,” he said.
“And that was your only reason?” A sudden pale gleam shot up in Olga’s eyes; she stiffened a little as though an electric current ran through her as she faced him.
“It is the only one I have to offer you,” Max said.
He also sounded stern; and in a flash she grasped her position. They were ranged against her—the two she loved best in the world—leagued together to keep from her the truth. A quiver of indignation went through her. She turned abruptly from them both.
“You needn’t take this trouble any longer,” she said. “I—know!”
“What do you know?” It was Max’s voice, curt and imperative.
He took a step forward; his hand was on her shoulder. But she wheeled and flung it from her with an exclamation that was almost a cry of horror.
“Don’t touch me!” she said.
He stood confronting her, hard, pitiless, insistent. Of her gesture he took no notice whatever. “What do you know?” he repeated.
She answered him with breathless rapidity, as if compelled. “I know that you made her love you—that when you knew the truth about her you gave her up. I know that you ruined her first—and deserted her afterwards for me. I know that you terrified her into secrecy, and then, when—when her brain gave way and there was no way of escape for you—I know that you—that you—that you—”
Her lips stiffened. She could not say the word. For several seconds she strove with it inarticulately; then suddenly, wildly, she flung out her hands, urging him from her.
“Oh, go! Go! Go!” she cried. “Let me never see you again!”
He did not go. He stood absolutely still, watching her.
But she was scarcely aware of him any longer. For her strength had suddenly deserted her. She was sunk against the wall with her hands over her face, sobbing terrible, tearless sobs that shook her from head to foot.
Nick started towards her, but Max stretched out a powerful arm, and kept him back. “No, Nick,” he said firmly. “This is my concern. You go, like a good chap. I’ll come to you presently.”
“I will not!” said Nick flatly.
He gripped the opposing arm at the elbow so that it doubled abruptly. But Max wheeled upon him on the instant and held him fast.
“Look here,” he said, “I’m in earnest.”