“I wonder if you will be happy with me,” he said, after a moment.
“It is my only chance of happiness,” she made answer.
“How do you know?” There was curiosity in his voice: he made a movement of impatient impotence, putting a hand that trembled up to his bandaged head.
She took the hand, and drew it softly down. “I will tell you how I know,” she said. “I know because when I thought you were killed I felt—I felt as if the world had stopped. And since then—since I knew that you would live—I have been able to think of only you—only you.” Her voice broke upon a sound of tears. “That awful fear for you opened my eyes,” she whispered. “I haven’t been able to think of Major Hunt-Goring’s death or anything else at all. I’ve even deserted Nick.” Valiantly, through her tears, she smiled. “I never did such a thing as that before for anyone.”
He clasped her hands tightly as he lay. “Don’t cry, sweetheart!” he whispered. “You’re not crying—for me?”
“I can’t help it,” she whispered back. “I can’t bear to think of you suffering,—you, Noel, you!”
“Don’t cry!” he said again, and this time there was a hint of grimness in his voice. “I shall win through—somehow—for your sweet sake. Maloney told me I wasn’t blind just now. That, I know, was a lie. Or at least he didn’t believe it himself. Personally I feel as if my eyes have been blown clean out of my head. But—blind or otherwise—I’ll stick to it, I’ll stick to it, Olga. I’ll make you happy, so help me, God!”
“My dearest!” she murmured. “My dearest!”
“And you’re not to cry over me,” he said despotically. “You’re not to fret—ever. If you do, I—I shall be furious.” He uttered a quivering laugh. “We’ll play the game, dear, shall we, the big, big game of life? It won’t be easy, God knows; but He lightened my darkness—very first time of asking too. So perhaps He’ll give us a tip now and then as to the moves.”
He fell silent for a space, and she wondered if he were growing drowsy. Then as she sat motionless by his side, closely watching him, she saw the boyish lips part in their own sunny smile.
“Go and tell Mrs. Musgrave to hoist a flag!” he said. “Say it’s the luckiest day of my life!”
The lips quivered a little over the words, but they continued bravely to smile.
And Olga understood. The boy had shouldered his burden with all his soldier’s spirit, and nothing would daunt him now. He had begun to play the game.
She herself rose to the occasion with instant resolution, forcing back the tears he would not suffer, brave because he was brave.
“I shall tell her to hoist one for us both,” she said, “and to keep it flying as long as we are under her roof.”
MEMORIES THAT HURT
“Well, Max! You’re just off then?” Sir Kersley Whitton looked up with a smile to greet his partner as he entered.