Nick said no more. He lay quite motionless, hardly seeming to breathe, and she realised that there was no repose in his attitude. He was not even trying to rest.
She wrung her hands together. It could not go on, this tension. Either she must yield to his unspoken desire, or he would sit up and cry off the bargain. And she knew that sleep was a necessity to him. Common-sense told her that he was totally unfit for further hardship without it.
She closed her eyes a moment, summoning all her strength for the greatest sacrifice she had ever made. And then in silence she sat down beside him, within reach of his hand.
He uttered a great sigh and suffered his whole body to relax. And she knew by the action, though he did not speak a word, that she had set his mind at rest.
Scarcely a minute later, his quiet breathing told her that he slept, but she sat on by his side without moving during the long empty hours of her vigil. He had trusted her without a question, and, as her father’s daughter, she would at whatever cost prove herself worthy of his trust.
THE COMING OF AN ARMY
Through a great part of the night that followed they tramped steadily southward. The stars were Nick’s guide, though as time passed he began to make his way with the confidence of one well-acquainted with his surroundings. The instinct of locality was a sixth sense with him. Hand in hand, over rocky ground, through deep ravines, by steep and difficult tracks, they made their desperate way. Sometimes in the distance dim figures moved mysteriously, revealed by starlight, but none questioned or molested them. They passed from rock to rock through the heart of the enemy’s country, unrecognised, unobserved. There were times when Nick grasped his revolver under his disguise, ready, ready at a moment’s notice, to keep his word to the girl’s father, should detection be their portion; but each time as the danger passed them by he tightened his hold upon her, drawing her forward with greater assurance.
They scarcely spoke throughout the long, long march. Muriel had moved at first with a certain elasticity, thankful to escape at last from the horrors of their resting-place. But very soon a great weariness came upon her. She was physically unfit for any prolonged exertion. The long strain of the siege had weakened her more than she knew.
Nevertheless, she kept on bravely, uttering no complaint, urged to utmost effort by the instinctive desire to escape. It was this one idea that occupied all her thoughts during that night. She shrank with a vivid horror from looking back. And she could not see into the dim blank future. It was mercifully screened from her sight.