“I am going upstairs,” she said, “just for a little while. Don’t come with me, Nick! Wait for me! Wait for me!”
She rose with the words, swayed a little, then recovered herself, and, with her hand on Cork’s head, moved slowly away down the great hall.
Dumbly Nick stood and watched the slim young figure with the wolf-hound pacing gravely beside it. At the end, immediately below the east window, she paused, and he saw her drawn face upraised to the dreadful picture above her; then, still slowly, she turned, and, with the dog, passed out of sight under the southern archway.
For a long, long space he waited in the utter stillness. He had faced a good many difficulties in his life and endured a good many adversities, but this thing stood by itself, unique in his experience, with a pain that was all its own. He would have given much to have gone with her, to have held her up while the storm raged round her, to have borne with her that which, it seemed, she could only bear alone. But, since this was denied him, he could only wait with set teeth while his little pal went through that fiery trial of hers, wait and picture her agonizing in solitude, wait till she should come back to him with all the gladness gone for ever from her eyes,—a woman who could never be young again.
Slowly the minutes dragged on till half an hour had passed. He fell to pacing up and down in a fever of anxiety. Would she never come back? She had begged him to wait for her, but he began to feel he could not wait any longer. The suspense was becoming intolerable.
Desperately he marked another quarter of an hour crawl by leaden-footed, moment by moment. And still she did not come. He went for the last time to the open door and looked forth restlessly. The warmth of the spring sunshine spread everywhere like a benediction. It was only within those walls of crumbling stone that it found no place. A sudden shiver went through him. He turned abruptly inwards. She should not stay alone in the vault-like solitude any longer. Surely anything—anything—must be better for her than that!
With quick strides he went down the old dim hall that once had been the chapel of the monks, turned sharply through the second archway, and approached the staircase beyond. And then very suddenly he stopped. For there above him at the open staircase-window that looked upon the sea stood Olga.
The afternoon sunshine streamed in upon her, and she seemed to be stretching out her hands to it, basking in the generous glow. Her face was upturned to the splendour. Her eyes were closed.
For a moment or two Nick stood narrowly watching her, then as suddenly as he had come he withdrew. For Olga’s lips were moving, and it seemed to him that she was no longer alone....
He went back to the porch and stood in the sunshine waiting with renewed patience.
Ten minutes later a moist nose nozzled its way into his hand. He looked down into Cork’s eyes of faithful friendliness. Then, hearing a light footfall, he turned. Olga had come back to him at last.