Nick smiled and rose. “I shouldn’t be too hard on him, kiddie. Doubtless he has his reasons.”
“I should like to know what they are,” said Olga.
He stooped for a final kiss. “I daresay—if you were to ask him prettily—he would tell you.”
“Oh, no, he wouldn’t,” she said. “He never tells me anything, even if I beg him.” She slipped her arms round his neck and held him closely for a moment. “Nick darling, you will work that lovely scheme of ours if you possibly can—promise me!—in spite of anything Max may say or do!”
“You don’t mind hurting his feelings?” asked Nick.
“Oh, well,”—she hesitated—“he couldn’t care all that. It’s only his love of interference.”
“Or his love of you? I wonder which!” whispered Nick.
“Nick! Nick!” Wonder, dismay, incredulity, mingled in the cry.
But Nick had already slipped free from the clinging of her arms, and he did not pause in answer.
“Good-night, Olga mia!” he called back to her softly from the door. “Don’t forget to knock on the wall if you feel squeamish!”
And with that he was gone. The latch clicked behind him, and she was alone.
Could it be true? Sleeping and waking, sleeping and waking, all through the night Olga asked herself the question; and when morning came she was still unconvinced. Nothing in Max’s manner had ever given her cause to imagine for an instant that he cared for her. Never for an instant had she seriously imagined that he could care. Till quite recently she had believed that a very decided antipathy had existed between them. True, it had not thriven greatly since the writing of her note; but that had been an event of only two days before. She was sure he had not cared for her before that. He could not have begun to care since! And if he had, how in wonder could Nick have come to know?
Certainly he knew most things. His uncanny shrewdness had moved her many a time before to amazement and admiration. This quickness of intellect was hers also, but in a far smaller degree. She could leap to conclusions herself and often find them correct. But Nick—Nick literally swooped upon the truth with unerring precision. She had never known him to miss his mark. But this time—could he be right this time? It was such a monstrous notion. Its very contemplation bewildered her, carried her off her feet, made her giddy. She began to be a little frightened, to cast back her thoughts over all her intercourse with Max to ascertain if she had ever given him the smallest reason for loving her. Most emphatically she had never felt drawn towards him. In fact, she had often been repelled. In all their skirmishes she had invariably had the worst of it. He had simply despised her resistance, treating it as a thing of nought. And yet—there