“By Jove!” said Nick, sitting up.
“I know it’s great cheek of me to suggest it,” Olga hastened to say. “For of course I know I’d be a very poor substitute; but at least I could keep a motherly eye on you, and see that you were properly clothed and fed. And Muriel herself couldn’t possibly love you more.”
“By Jove!” Nick said again. Olga’s face flushed and eager was close to his. He bent suddenly forward and kissed it. “And what about you, my chicken?” he said.
“I, Nick? I should love it!” she said, with candid eyes raised to his. “You can’t imagine how much I should love it.”
“You’d be homesick,” said Nick.
“Nick! With you!”
He was looking at her with shrewd, flickering eyes. “Do you mean to say,” he said, “that there is no one here that you would mind leaving for so long?”
“There’s Dad of course,” she said. “But—don’t you think perhaps Muriel wouldn’t mind taking care of him for me if I took care of you for her?”
Nick broke into a laugh. “Excellent, my child! Most ingenious! Jim and Muriel are fast allies. But—Jim is not the only person you would leave behind. You ought to consider that before you get too obsessed by this enchanting idea. It’s pretty beastly, you know, to feel that half the world stretches between you and—someone you might at any moment develop a pressing desire to see.”
Olga frowned at him. “What are you driving at, Nick?”
“I’m only indicating the obvious,” said Nick.
“No, you’re not, dear. You’re hinting things.”
“In that case,” said Nick, “you are at liberty to treat me with the contempt I deserve. Look here! We won’t talk about this any more to-day. The subject is too indigestible. We’ll sleep on it, and see what we think of it to-morrow.”
“You’re not going to write to Muriel to-night?” asked Olga.
“Not to-night. They’ve given me a week to make up my mind.”
“And when would you have to go?”
“Some time towards the end of next month, or possibly the beginning of October. But as we’re not going,” said Nick, “I move that the discussion be postponed.”
He smiled into her eyes, a baffling, humorous smile, and rose.
“But it was a ripping idea of yours,” he said. “I’m quite grateful to you for mentioning it. There are some chocolates in the hall for you. Don’t give them all to Violet, charm she never so wisely.”
“Oh, Nick, you darling! Fancy your remembering me! Do let’s have some at once!”
They went indoors together with something of the air of conspirators, and in the close companionship of her hero Olga managed to forget that she had so recently been driven to another man for protection. In fact, the interview in the surgery, with the episode that had preceded it, was completely crowded out of her mind by this new and dazzling idea that had flashed so suddenly into her brain, and which seemed already to have altered the course of her life.