Max’s one-sided smile appeared. “I should just say, ’Thank you kindly, sir,’ if it were me. There’s nothing else left to say.”
“Oh, but there is!” she protested.
“There isn’t,” said Max. “He is coming over to congratulate us to-morrow.”
“Max!” She opened her eyes wide and lifted her head. “Max, you don’t mean——”
“Yes, I do,” said Max imperturbably. “Why do you suppose I came tearing down here to-night, leaving Kersley to kill all my patients as well as his own?”
“Not—surely—to see me?” said Olga, wonderingly.
He laughed grimly. “No. It was to see Noel. Odd how we both put him first, isn’t it? The young cub sent me a message that brought me down post-haste, expecting to find him in a state of collapse. Instead of which I found him gaily awaiting me at the station to tell me he had run himself out—or some bosh of the kind—and it was now my innings, and I was to go in and win. On my soul, Olga, he was enjoying himself up to the hilt.”
“But why didn’t you tell me this before?” said Olga quickly.
Max’s mouth went up a little higher. “Various reasons, fair lady.”
“Don’t be horrid!” she protested, giving him a shake. “And how did it happen? How did he come to know anything? I haven’t seen him to-day. It must have been Nick!”
“Yes. I’m going to throttle Nick presently. I’ve often wanted to. After which I shall turn him into a mummy and send him to India to be worshipped as the little god of intrigue. I daresay he’ll get on all right in that capacity. It ought to suit him down to the ground. He’s a born meddler.”
“How absurd you are!” Olga laughed in spite of herself. “Where is Nick? Don’t you think we had better go and find him?”
It was at this point that the handle of the door was turned ostentatiously the wrong way, struggled with, sworn at, and finally put right.
“May I come in?” said Nick, briskly opening the door. “Muriel and I have finished dinner. We knew you wouldn’t be wanting any.”
“Nick!” Olga exclaimed. “I’m sure you haven’t!”
“All right, we haven’t,” said Nick. “That is to say, we have saved you a little in case you were prosaic enough to want it. Max, my son, your presence here is an honour for which I have scarcely made fit preparation, but I am none the less proud to entertain you, and as your uncle-in-law elect I bid you welcome.”
He held out his hand which Max took with a dry, “Thanks! One can’t scrag a man under his own roof, I suppose, though it’s a sore temptation.”
“You will have ample opportunity in the future,” Nick assured him genially, “though, as I think I told you long ago, I’m the most well-meaning little cuss that ever walked the earth. I threatened once to put a spoke in your wheel, didn’t I? Well, I never did it. I’ve been pushing and straining to get it out of the bog ever since. And now I’ve done it, you want to scrag me. Olga, the man’s a blood-thirsty scoundrel. If you have the smallest regard for my feelings, you will kick him out of the house at once.”