“You can only help me by being patient—just at present,” he said.
“And not asking tiresome questions!” She smiled at him though her tears had overflowed. “But oh, you won’t take risks, will you? Not unnecessary risks? It is so terrible to think of you in danger—to think—to think of that horrible deformed creature who sent—Ralph—” She broke off shuddering and clinging to him. It was the first time she had ever spoken of her first husband by name to him.
He dried the tears upon her cheeks. “My own girl, you needn’t be afraid,” he said, and though his words were kind she wondered at the grimness of his voice. “I am not the sort of person to be disposed of in that way. Shall we talk of something less agitating? I can’t have you crying on our wedding-night.”
His tone was repressive. She was conscious of a chill. Yet it was a relief to turn from the subject, for she recognized that there was small satisfaction to be derived therefrom. The sun was setting moreover, and it was growing cold. She let him lead her back into the bungalow, and they presently sat down at the table that Peter had prepared with so much solicitude.
Later they lingered for awhile on the verandah, watching the blazing stars, till it came to Monck that his bride was nearly dropping with weariness and then he would not suffer her to remain any longer.
When she had gone within, he lit a pipe and wandered out alone into the starlight, following the deserted road that led to the Rajah’s summer palace.
He paced along slowly with bent head, deep in thought. At the great marble gateway that led into the palace-garden he paused and stood for a space in frowning contemplation. A small wind had sprung up and moaned among the cypress-trees that overlooked the high wall. He seemed to be listening to it. Or was it to the hoot of an owl that came up from the valley?
Finally he drew near and deliberately tapped the ashes from his half-smoked pipe upon the shining marble. The embers smouldered and went out. A black stain remained upon the dazzling white surface of the stone column. He looked at it for a moment or two, then turned and retraced his steps with grim precision.
When he reached the bungalow, he turned into the room in which they had dined; and sat down to write.
Time passed, but he took no note of it. It was past midnight ere he thrust his papers together at length and rose to go.
The main passage of the bungalow was bright with moonlight as he traversed it. A crouching figure rose up from a shadowed doorway at his approach. Peter the Great looked at him with reproach in his eyes.
Monck stopped short. He accosted the man in his own language, but Peter made answer in the careful English that was his pride.
“Even so, sahib, I watch over my mem-sahib until you come to her. I keep her safe by night as well as by day. I am her servant.”