“How easily a tiger could hide there!” she said.
Noel laughed aloud. “I daresay the brute’s a myth, but in any case they never come out in the day-time. Are you really nervous, or only pretending?”
She was not pretending, but she did not tell him so. The kutcha-grass was very thick, quite impenetrable. It stretched like a solid wall on each side of them for a considerable distance—a choked wilderness of coarse weed that grew higher than their heads.
“I say, what a charming spot!” said Noel. “Did Nick choose it for the scenery, do you think, or the excellence of the road?”
They were bumping in and out of dusty holes with a violence that threatened repeatedly to overturn them altogether.
Olga laughed rather hysterically. “I’m sure the champagne will be quite unmanageable after all this shaking up. And just look what a lather your horse is in!”
“It’s a case of the wicked uncle and the lost babes over again,” declared Noel. “It also smacks of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Old Bunyan would have made some good copy out of this. He’d have dubbed you Mistress Timorous and me Master Overbold.”
Olga laughed again more naturally. Noel could be very wholesome and reassuring when he liked.
“And this beastly jungle-grass,” he proceeded, “is the Wilderness of Nasty Possibilities. Hold up, Tinker, my lad, and get out of it as fast as you can!”
Tinker was obviously most anxious to comply. He bent all his sweating energies to the task. The road—if such it could be called—bent in a wide curve through the high grass. As they gradually rounded this, it became evident that that stage of the journey was nearly over. The thick walls opened out. They had a glimpse of wider country ahead dotted with mango-trees.
“Hooray!” sang out Noel. “We return to civilization!”
But it was not a very populous civilization which they were approaching. They came within view of a domed temple indeed, but it was a temple set among ruins. There was no sign of any inhabitant, near or far.
“There’s a well somewhere,” said Olga. “Nick said we were to camp there.”
“So be it!” said Noel. “It’s Nick’s funeral. Let us find his precious well!”
They emerged from the jungle-road with relief, and approached a group of mango-trees. These led in a somewhat broken grove to the temple which stood amidst stunted palms and cypresses. The mid-day sun was fierce, and the shade of the mangoes was welcome. For about a hundred yards they travelled over a road that was nearly choked by stones and grass, and then somewhat unexpectedly they discovered the well.
It was plainly very ancient, its round stone mouth crumbling with age. All about it and over its edges grew the coarse grass. It must have been many years since native women had foregathered there to discuss the affairs of forgotten Khantali. Above it, on rising ground, stood the temple, domed, mysterious, deserted.