Nick groaned melancholy acquiescence. “But can’t you forgive him, sweetheart? Most women can forgive anything. And you never used to be vindictive.”
“I’m not vindictive,” she made swift reply. “It isn’t that I want to punish him. Oh, don’t you understand? He may have acted up to his lights. And even if—if he had been anything but a doctor, I think it would have been a little different. But he—he knew so exactly what he was doing. And oh, Nick, I couldn’t possibly marry a man who had done—that. I should never forget it. It would prey on me so, just as if—as if—I had been a party to it!” A violent shiver went through her. She clung closer to him. The horror had frozen in her eyes to a wide and glassy terror.
“Easy, easy!” said Nick gently. “We won’t get hysterical. But isn’t it a pity to do anything in a hurry? You won’t feel so badly in a week or a fortnight. Don’t do anything final yet! Put him off for a bit. He’ll understand.”
But Olga would not listen to this suggestion. “I must be free, Nick!” she said feverishly. “I can’t be bound to him any longer. Oh, Nick, do help me to get free!”
“My dear child, you are free,” Nick assured her. “But take my advice; don’t shake him off completely. Give him just a chance, poor chap! Wait six months before you quite make up your mind to have done with him. You’ll be sure to want him back if you don’t.”
But still Olga would not listen. “Oh, Nick, please stop!” she implored him. “I’ve been through it all a hundred times already, and indeed I know my own mind. If it were to drag on over six months, I don’t think I could possibly bear it. No, no! It must be final now. Nick—dear, don’t you understand?”
He nodded. “Yes, I do understand, Olga mia; but I think you are making a big mistake. The horror of the thing has blinded you temporarily. You are incapable of forming a clear judgment at present. By and by you will begin to see better. That’s why I want you to wait.”
“But I can’t wait,” she said. “It—it is like a dreadful wound, Nick. I want to bind it up quick—quick, before it gets any worse,—to hide it,—to try and forget it’s there. I can’t—I daren’t—keep it open. I think it would kill me.”
There was actual agony in her voice, and Nick saw that he had made his last stand in vain. Yet not instantly did he abandon it. Once more he thrust past her defences, though she sought so desperately to keep him out.
“It’s not for us to judge each other, is it?” he said. “Be merciful, Olga! Don’t you think there may have been—extenuating circumstances?”
She looked at him with quivering lips, and dumbly shook her head.
“Listen!” he said. “When Muriel and I were flying from Wara, I killed a man with my hands under her eyes. It was a ghastly business. I did it to save her life and my own. But—like you—she didn’t look at the motive—only at the deed. And in consequence I became a thing abhorrent in her sight. She didn’t get over it for a long time. But she forgave me at last. Can’t you be equally generous? Or don’t you love him well enough?”