Stella, however, had no fears on her own account. She went to her task resolute and undismayed, feeling herself actually indispensable for almost the first time in her life. Her influence upon Monck was beyond dispute. She alone possessed the power to calm him in his wildest moments, and he never failed to recognize her or to control himself to a certain extent in her presence.
The attack was a sharp one, and for a while Ralston was more uneasy than he cared to admit. But Monck’s constitution was a good one, and after three days of acute illness the fever began to subside. Tommy was by that time making good progress, and Stella, who till then had snatched her rest when and how she could, gave her charge into Peter’s keeping and went to bed for the first time since her arrival at Kurrumpore.
Till she actually lay down she did not realize how utterly worn out she was, or how little the odd hours of sleep that she had been able to secure had sufficed her. But as she laid her head upon the pillow, slumber swept upon her on soundless wings. She slept almost before she had time to appreciate the exquisite comfort of complete repose.
That slumber of hers lasted for many hours. She had given Peter express injunctions to awake her in good time in the morning, and she rested secure in the confidence that he would obey her orders. But it was the light of advancing evening that filled the room when at last she opened her eyes.
There had come a break in the rain, and a bar of misty sunshine had penetrated a chink in the green blinds and lay golden across the Indian matting on the floor. She lay and gazed at it with a bewildered sense of uncertainty as to her whereabouts. She felt as if she had returned from a long journey, and for a time her mind dwelt hazily upon the Himalayan paradise from which she had been so summarily cast forth. Vague figures flitted to and fro through her brain till finally one in particular occupied the forefront of her thoughts. She found herself recalling every unpleasant detail of the old Kashmiri beggar who had lured Ralph Dacre from her side on that last fateful night. The old question arose within her and would not be stifled. Had the man murdered and robbed him ere flinging him down to the torrent that had swept his body away? The wonder tormented her as of old, but with renewed intensity. She had awaked with the conviction strong upon her that the man was not far away, that she had seen him recently, and that Everard Monck had seen him also.
That brought her thoughts very swiftly to the present, to Monck’s illness and dependence upon her, and in a flash to the realization that she had spent nearly the whole day as well as the night in sleep. In keen dismay she started from her bed and began a rapid toilet.
A quarter of an hour later she heard Peter’s low, discreet knock at the door, and bade him enter. He came in with a tea-tray, smiling upon her with such tender solicitude that she had it not in her heart to express any active annoyance with him.