“And suppose—” it was Olga’s voice very low and quivering—“suppose the operation doesn’t succeed,—shall you—shall you refuse to marry me then?”
“Not much,” said Noel cheerily. “If I’m alive and kicking, I shall want you all the more. No!” He caught himself up sharply. “I don’t mean that! I couldn’t want you more. Ill or well, I should want you just the same. I only meant—” his voice grew subtly softer, he spoke with great tenderness, his lips moving against her forehead—“I only meant that ‘the desert were a paradise, if thou wert there, if thou wert there.’”
She raised her head quickly. There were tears in her eyes. “Noel, how strange that you should say that!”
“Say what, dear?”
“That old song,” she said rather incoherently. “It—it has memories for me—memories that hurt.”
“What memories?” he asked.
But she could not tell him, and he passed the matter by.
The man in the conservatory drew back with his hands deep in his pockets, and went back by the way he had come.
A FOOL’S ERRAND
Dr. Jim’s expectations, so far as Olga was concerned, were fulfilled. When he went back to Weir, she remained in town with Nick and Muriel. But he did not go back alone. Will, Daisy, and Peggy went with him. Daisy’s love for Dr. Jim was almost as great as her love for Nick, and Will had spent his boyhood under his care.
There was a cottage close to the doctor’s house which Daisy had tenanted seven or eight years before when she had been obliged to come Home for her health and Will had been left behind in India. Dr. Jim had managed to secure this cottage a second time, and here they were soon installed with all the joy of exiles in an English spring.
“But we are not going to forego the honeymoon,” Will said on their first evening, as he and Daisy stood together in the ivy-covered porch.
She laughed—that little laugh of hers half-gay, half-sad, that seemed like a reminiscence of more mirthful days. “Isn’t this romantic enough for you?”
He slipped his arm about her waist. “I’m not altogether sure that I did right to let you come here,” he said.
“Oh, nonsense!” She leaned her head against him with a very loving gesture. “I am not so morbid as that. I love to be here, and close to dear old Jim. He hasn’t altered a bit. He is just as rugged—and as sweet—as ever.”
Will laughed. “How you women, do love a masterful man!”
“Oh, not always,” said Daisy. “There are certain forms of mastery in a man which to my mind are quite intolerable. Max Wyndham for instance!”
“What! You’ve still got your knife into him? I’m sorry for the man myself,” said Will. “It must be—well, difficult, to say the least of it, to see his brother come home in possession of his girl and to keep smiling.”