“Captain Monck, you heard what I said, didn’t you? You will go straight to bed?”
Her voice held a hint of pleading, despite its insistence. He straightened himself in his chair. He was still looking at her with an odd wonder in his eyes—wonder that was mixed with a very unusual touch of reverence.
“I will do—whatever you wish,” he said.
“Thank you,” said Stella. “Then please let me find you in bed when I come back!”
She turned once more to go, went to the door and opened it. From the threshold she glanced back.
He was on his feet, gazing after her with the eyes of a man in a trance.
She lifted her hand. “Now remember!” she said, and with that passed quietly out, closing the door behind her.
Her brain was in a seething turmoil and her heart was leaping within her like a wild thing suddenly caged. But, very strangely, all fear had departed from her.
Only a brief interval before, she had found herself wishing that the decision of her life’s destiny had not rested entirely with herself. It seemed to her that a great revelation had been vouchsafed between the amazing present and those past moments of troubled meditation. And she knew now that it did not.
The news that Monck was down with the fever brought both the Colonel and Major Ralston early to the bungalow on the following morning.
They found Stella and the ever-faithful Peter in charge of both patients. Tommy was better though weak. Monck was in a high fever and delirious.
Stella was in the latter’s room, for he would not suffer her out of his sight. She alone seemed to have any power to control him, and Ralston noted the fact with astonishment.
“There’s some magic about you,” he observed in his blunt fashion. “Are you going to take on this job? It’s no light one but you’ll probably do it better than any one else.”
It was a tacit invitation, and Stella knowing how widespread was the sickness that infected the station, accepted it without demur.
“It rather looks as if it were my job, doesn’t it?” she said. “I am willing, anyway to do my best.”
Ralston looked at her with a gleam of approval, but the Colonel drew her aside to remonstrate.
“It’s not fit for you. You’ll be ill yourself. If Ralston weren’t nearly at his wit’s end he’d never dream of allowing it.”
But Stella heard the protest with a smile. “Believe me, I am only too glad to be able to do something useful for a change,” she assured him. “As to being ill myself, I will promise not to behave so badly as that.”
“You’re a brick, my dear,” said Colonel Mansfield. “I wish there were more like you. Mind you take plenty of quinine!” With which piece of fatherly advice he left her with the determination to keep an eye on her and see that Ralston did not work her too hard.