And at that, another thought pierced her keen as a dagger, rending its way through living tissues. The manner of the man’s appearing, the horror with which he had inspired her, the mystery of him, all combined to drive it home to her heart. What if a hand had indeed touched him? What if a treacherous blow had hurled him over that terrible edge?
She turned to look again upon the stranger, but he had withdrawn himself. She saw only the Indian servant, standing close beside her, his dark eyes following her every action with wistful vigilance.
Meeting her desperate gaze, he pressed a little nearer, like a faithful dog, protective and devoted. “Come away, my mem-sahib!” he entreated very earnestly. “It is the Gate of Death.”
That pierced her anew. Her desolation came upon her in an overwhelming wave. She turned with a great cry, and threw her arms wide to the risen sun, tottering blindly towards the emptiness that stretched beneath her feet. And as she went, she heard the roar of the torrent dashing down over its grim boulders to the great river up which they two had glided in their dream of enchantment aeons and aeons before....
She knew nothing of the sinewy arms that held her back from death though she fought them fiercely, desperately. She did not hear the piteous entreaties of poor harassed Peter as he forced her back, back, back, from those awful depths. She only knew a great turmoil that seemed to her unending—a fearful striving against ever-increasing odds—and at the last a swirling, unfathomable darkness descending like a wind-blown blanket upon her—enveloping her, annihilating her....
And British eyes, keen and grey and stern, looked on from afar, watching silently, as the Indian bore his senseless mem-sahib away.
THE MINISTERING ANGEL
“And what am I going to do?” demanded Mrs. Ermsted fretfully. She was lounging in the easiest chair in Mrs. Ralston’s drawing-room with a cigarette between her fingers. A very decided frown was drawing her delicate brows. “I had no idea you could be so fickle,” she said.
“My dear, I shall welcome you here just as heartily as I ever have,” Mrs. Ralston assured her, without lifting her eyes from the muslin frock at which she was busily stitching.
Mrs. Ermsted pouted. “That may be. But I shan’t come very often when she is here. I don’t like widows. They are either so melancholy that they give you the hump or so self-important that you want to slap them. I never did fancy this girl, as you know. Much too haughty and superior.”
“You never knew her, dear,” said Mrs. Ralston.
Mrs. Ermsted’s laugh had a touch of venom. “As I have tried more than once to make you realize,” she said, “there are at least two points of view to everybody. You, dear Mrs. Ralston, always wear rose-coloured spectacles, with the unfortunate result that your opinion is so unvaryingly favourable that nobody values it.”