His eyes met and held them instantly. He looked at her with a species of stern kindness that seemed to thrust away all painful memories.
“Even if it isn’t a success,” he said, “I won’t let him die, I promise you. Now, will you follow my advice for once?”
“Yes,” she murmured, wondering at her own docility.
He smiled upon her with instant approval, and her heart gave a wild leap that almost made her gasp. “That’s wise of you,” he said in that voice of cool encouragement that she remembered so well—so well! “Then get Nick to take you for a walk that’ll last for an hour and a half. Go and look at the frogs in the Serpentine! Awfully interesting things—frogs! And have a glass of milk before you start! Good-bye!”
Strong and steady, his hand closed upon hers, gave it a slight admonitory shake and set it free.
The next moment he had turned and was striding back along the corridor. Olga stood and watched him out of sight, but he did not turn his head.
* * * * *
The search for frogs in the Serpentine was scarcely as engrossing a pastime as Nick could have desired for the amusement of his charge on that sunny April morning, but he did his valiant best to keep her thoughts on the move. He compelled her to talk when she yearned to be silent, and again in a vague, disjointed fashion Olga wondered at his lack of penetration. Yet, since he was actually obtuse enough to misunderstand her preoccupation and to be even mildly hurt thereby, she exerted herself for his sake to respond intelligently to his remarks. So, with cheery indifference on his part and aching suspense on hers, they passed that dreadful interval of waiting.
On the return journey Olga’s knees shook so much that they would scarcely support her; and then it was that Nick seemed suddenly to awake to the situation. He gave her a swift glance, and abruptly offered his arm.
“There, kiddie, there!” he said softly. “Keep a stiff upper lip! It’s nearly over.”
She accepted his help in silence, and in silence they pursued their way. Nick looked at her no more, nor spoke. His lips were twitching a little, but he showed no other sign of feeling.
So they came at last to the tall building behind its iron railings that hid so many troubles from the world.
The door opened to them, and they went within.
Silence and a curious, clinging perfume met them as they entered.
Olga stood still. She was white to the lips. “Nick,” she said, in a voiceless whisper, “Nick, that is—the pain-killer!”
And then, very quietly from a room close by, Max came to them. He glanced at Nick and nodded. There was an odd, exultant look in the green eyes. He took Olga’s hands very firmly into his own.
“It’s all right,” he said.
She stared at him, trying to make her white lips form a question.