She still regarded him with wonder. “Oh, my dear,” she said finally, “are you behind me, or a very, very long way in front?”
He smiled faintly, grimly. “Probably a thousand miles behind,” he said. “But I have been given long sight, that’s all.”
She rose to her feet with a sigh. “And I,” she said very sadly, “am blind.”
Down by the gate the blue jay laughed again, laughed and flew away.
THE BEAST OF PREY
In a darkened room Netta Ermsted lay, trembling and unnerved. As usual in cases of adversity, Mrs. Ralston had taken charge of her; but there was very little that she could do. It was more a matter for her husband’s skill than for hers, and he could only prescribe absolute quiet. For Netta was utterly broken. Since the fatal moment when she had returned from a call in her ’rickshaw to find Major Burton awaiting her with the news that Ermsted had been shot on the jungle-road while riding home from Khanmulla, she had been as one distraught. They had restrained her almost forcibly from rushing forth to fling herself upon his dead body, and now that it was all over, now that the man who had loved her and whom she had never loved was in his grave, she lay prostrate, refusing all comfort.
Tessa, wide-eyed and speculative, was in the care of Mrs. Burton, alternately quarrelling vigorously with little Cedric Burton whose intellectual leanings provoked her most ardent contempt, and teasing the luckless Scooter out of sheer boredom till all the animal’s ideas in life centred in a desperate desire to escape.
It was Tessa to whom Stella’s pitying attention was first drawn on the day after her return to The Green Bungalow. Tommy, finding her raging in the road like a little tiger-cat over some small contretemps with Mrs. Burton, had lifted her on to his shoulders and brought her back with him.
“Be good to the poor imp!” he muttered to his sister. “Nobody wants her.”
Certainly Mrs, Burton did not. She passed her on to Stella with her two-edged smile, and Tessa and Scooter forthwith cheerfully took up their abode at The Green Bungalow with whole-hearted satisfaction.
Stella experienced little difficulty in dealing with the child. She found herself the object of the most passionate admiration which went far towards simplifying the problem of managing her. Tessa adored her and followed her like her shadow whenever she was not similarly engrossed with her beloved Tommy. Of Monck she stood in considerable awe. He did not take much notice of her. It seemed to Stella that he had retired very deeply into his shell of reserve during those days. Even with herself he was reticent, monosyllabic, obviously absorbed in matters of which she had no knowledge.