“Who?” said Monck.
His voice was quiet, but it held insistence. She felt as if his eyes pierced her, compelling her reply.
“A horrible old native—a positive nightmare of a man—whom I shall always regard as in some way the cause of my husband’s death.”
In the pause that followed her words, Monck’s hand left hers. He lay still looking at her, but with that steely intentness that told her nothing. She could not have said whether he were vitally interested in the matter or not when he spoke again.
“You think that he was murdered then?”
A sharp shudder went through her. “I am very nearly convinced of it,” she said. “But I shall never know for certain now.”
“And you imagine that the murderer can have followed you here?” he pursued.
“No! Oh no!” Hastily she made answer. “It is ridiculous of course. He would never be such a fool as to do that. It was only my imagination. I saw the figure at the window and was reminded of him.”
“Are you sure the figure at the window was not imagination too?” said Monck. “Forgive my asking! Such things have happened.”
“Oh, I know,” Stella said. “It is a question I have been asking myself ever since. But, you know—” she smiled faintly—“I had no fever that night. Besides, I fancy you saw him too.”
His smile met hers. “I saw many things that night as they were not. And you also were overwrought and very tired. Perhaps you had had an exciting supper!”
She saw that he meant to turn the subject away from her husband’s death, and a little thrill of gratitude went through her. He had seen how reluctant she was to speak of it. She followed his lead with relief.
“Perhaps—perhaps,” she said. “We will say so anyhow. And now, do you know, I think you had better have your tea and rest. You have done a lot of talking, and you will be getting feverish again if I let you go on. I will send Peter in with it.”
He raised one eyebrow with a wry expression. “Must it be Peter?” he said.
She relented. “I will bring it myself if you will promise not to talk.”
“Ah!” he said. “And if I promise that—will you promise me one thing too?”
She paused. “What is that?”
His eyes met hers, direct but baffling. “Not. to run away from me,” he said.
The quick blood mounted again in her face. She stood silent.
He lifted an urgent hand. “Stella, in heaven’s name, don’t be afraid of me!”
She laid her hand again in his. She could not do otherwise. She wanted to beg him to say nothing further, to let her go in peace. But no words would come. She stood before him mute.
And—perhaps he knew what was in her mind—Monck was silent also after that single earnest appeal of his. He held her hand for a few seconds, and then very quietly let it go. She knew by his action that he would respect her wish for the time at least and say no more.