She fully realized, however, that an appeal to Violet at this stage would be worse than futile. Violet was too set on her mischievous course to do other than laugh and pursue it with renewed zest for her capture. Of course there remained Nick, chosen adviser and confidant; but for some reason Olga shrank from discussing Max with him. She had an uneasy dread lest Nick’s intelligence should leap ahead of her and disclose to her with disconcerting suddenness facts and possibilities with which she was quite unprepared to reckon. She visualized his grin of amused comprehension over the means she had devised for her own deliverance and the unpleasant quandary in which it had placed her. Nick’s sense of humour was at times almost too keen. She smiled faintly to herself over this reflection. She could not deny that there were points in the situation which appealed even to her own.
Yet she was more ashamed than amused. The discovery that Max was human had somehow altered everything, and made her own conduct appear dastardly. She had acted maliciously albeit, in self-defence; but now that it seemed that her point might pierce his armour, she wanted to withdraw it. She shrank unspeakably from seeing him vanquished. It would have hurt her to find him at her own feet, but the bare thought of him at Violet’s—Violet who had no mercy upon old or young, who would trample him underfoot without a pang and pass gaily on—that thought was unbearable.
Of course she might be wrong. It was still possible that her original conception of him might be the correct one. He had a passion for his profession, she knew. It was quite possible that this had inspired his taking that awful risk the night before, quite possible also that a hopeless case did not appeal to him and that he had not therefore greatly cared how soon or in what manner Mrs. Stubbs had passed out through the prison-door which it was his work to guard. She realized vaguely that this form of callousness was not so hideous as she had at first deemed it. She also began to realize that for a man who had seen suffering and death in many forms and who found himself finally powerless to alleviate the one or avert the other, the inevitable end could not possess the tragic significance which it possessed for others.
Either point of view of his character was possible. She did not know him well enough to decide to her own satisfaction which was actually the true one. But the fact remained that she had delivered him to Violet to be tormented, and that before he had given any sign of suffering she had repented the rash act. He might be capable of suffering or he might not; but she had a passionate desire to know him safe before the fire had begun to kindle.
Violet’s return at length broke up her reflections. She awoke from her reverie with a start to exclaim upon the lateness of the hour. It was already close upon luncheon-time.
“We shall have to scorch,” laughed Violet.