Violet gazed at him wide-eyed. She was no longer sobbing, but she shivered from head to foot.
“Yes,” said Max at last, in the tone of one continuing an interrupted conversation. “Well, now you are going back to bed.”
Violet shrank against Olga. “Let me stay with you, Allegro!” she murmured piteously.
“Of course you shall, dear,” Olga made quick reply.
But in the same instant she saw Max elevate one eyebrow and knew that this suggestion did not meet with his approval.
“You will sleep better in your own room,” he said. “Come along! Let me help you.”
He put his arm about her and lifted her to her feet; but she clung fast to Olga still.
“I won’t go without you, Allegro,” she cried hysterically.
“My dear, of course not!” Olga answered. She caught up her dressing-gown and wrapped it round her friend. “You’re as cold as ice,” she said.
They helped her back to her own room between them, almost carrying her, for she seemed to have no strength left.
Max said nothing further of any sort till she was safely in bed, then somewhat brusquely he turned to Olga.
“Put on your dressing-gown and go down to the surgery! I want a bottle out of the cupboard there. It’s a poison bottle, labelled P.K.R.; you can’t mistake it. Third shelf, left-hand corner. The keys are in your father’s desk. You know where. Put on your slippers too, and take a candle! Mind you don’t tumble downstairs!” His eyes travelled to the doorway where Nick hovered. “Go with her, will you?” he said. “Bring back a medicine-glass too! There’s one on the surgery mantelpiece.”
He turned back to Violet again, stooping low over her, his hand upon her wrist.
Olga fled upon her errand with the speed of a hare, leaving Nick to follow with a candle. Even as she went she heard a cry behind her, but she sped on with a feeling that Max was compelling her.
When Nick joined her a few seconds later she had already found the keys and was fumbling in the dark for the cupboard-lock.
They found the medicine-bottle exactly where Max had said, and Olga snatched it out, seized the glass, and was gone. She was back again in Violet’s bedroom barely two minutes after she had left it, but the instant she entered she was conscious of a change. Violet was lying quite straight and stiff with glassy eyes upturned. Max was bending over her, tight-lipped, motionless, intent. He spoke without turning his head.
“Just a teaspoonful—not a drop more. The rest water.”
Olga poured out the dose, controlling her hands with difficulty.
“Not a drop more,” he reiterated. “There’s sudden death in that. Finished? Then give it to me!”
He raised Violet up in bed and took the glass from Olga. A curious perfume filled the room—a scent familiar but elusive. Olga stood breathing it, wondering what it brought to mind.