Stiffly and wearily she undressed. Tommy must surely have returned ages ago, though probably late, or he would have come to bid her good-night. Why did not Everard return?
At the last she extinguished her light and went to the window to gaze wistfully out across the verandah. That secret whispering—the stirring of a thousand unseen things—was abroad in the night. The air was soft and scented with a fragrance intangible but wholly sweet. India, stretched out beneath the glittering stars, stirred with half-opened eyes, and smiled. Stella thought she heard the flutter of her robe.
Then again the mystery of the night was rent by the cry of some beast of prey, and in a second the magic was gone. The shadows were full of evil. She drew back with swift, involuntary shrinking; and as she did so, she heard the dreadful answering cry of the prey that had been seized.
India again! India the ruthless! India the bloodthirsty! India the vampire!
For a few palpitating moments she leaned against the wall feeling physically sick. And as she leaned, there passed before her inner vision the memory of that figure which she had seen upon the verandah on that terrible night when Everard had been stricken with fever. The look in her husband’s eyes that day had brought it back to her, and now like a flashlight it leapt from point to point of her brain, revealing, illuminating.
That figure on the verandah and the unknown man of the bazaar were one. It was Rustam Karin whom she had seen that night—Rustam Karin, Everard’s trusted friend and ally—the Rajah’s tool also though Everard would never have it so—and (she was certain of it now with that certainty which is somehow all the greater because without proof) this was the man who had followed Ralph Dacre to Kashmir and lured him to his death. This was the beast of prey who when the time was ripe would destroy Everard Monck also.
THE FLAMING SWORD
The conviction which came upon Stella on that night of chequered starlight was one which no amount of sane reasoning could shake. She made no attempt to reopen the subject with Everard, recognizing fully the futility of such a course; for she had no shadow of proof to support it. But it hung upon her like a heavy chain. She took it with her wherever she went.
More than once she contemplated taking Tommy into her confidence. But again that lack of proof deterred her. She was certain that Tommy would give no credence to her theory. And his faith in Monck—his wariness, his discretion—was unbounded.
She did question Peter with regard to Rustam Karin, but she elicited scant satisfaction from him. Peter went but little to the native bazaar, and like herself had never seen the man. He appeared so seldom and then only by night. There was a rumour that he was leprous. This was all that Peter knew.