“There is always to-morrow,” he said.
“No; but to-morrow won’t be the same. And the time goes so fast. Very soon you will be going too.”
“It will soon be Midsummer Day,” smiled Max.
She gave a sudden, sharp shiver. “Lots of things may happen before then.”
He held her closely to him for a moment, and in the thrilling pressure of his arms she felt his love for her vibrate; but he made no verbal answer to her words.
Slowly at length she released herself. “Well, I suppose I must say good-night. I hope you will be comfortable. You are sure you have all you want?”
“Quite sure,” he said.
“Then good-night!” She went back for a moment into his arms. “I wonder Nick isn’t here. Do you think he can have gone to bed?”
“Haven’t an idea,” said Max. “Anyhow I don’t want him. And it’s high time you went. Good-night, dear!”
Again closely he held her; again his lips pressed hers. Then, his arm about her, he led her to the door.
They parted outside, she glancing backward as she went, he standing motionless to watch her go. At the last she kissed her hand to him and was gone.
He turned back into the room with an odd, unsteady smile twitching the corner of his mouth.
The hand with which he helped himself to a drink shook slightly, and he looked at it with contemptuous attention. His favourite briar was lying in an ash-tray, where he had left it earlier in the day. He took it up, filled and lighted it. Then he sauntered out on to the verandah, drink in hand.
The night was dark and chill. He could barely discern the cypresses against the sky. He sat down in a hammock-chair in deep shadow and proceeded to smoke his pipe.
From far away, in the direction of the jungle, there came the haunting cry of a jackal, and a little nearer he heard the weird call of an owl. But close at hand there was no sound. He lay in absolute stillness, gazing along the verandah with eyes that looked into the future.
Minutes passed. His pipe went out, and his drink remained by his side forgotten. He wandered in the depths of reverie....
Suddenly from the compound immediately below him there came a faint rustle as of some living creature moving stealthily, and in a second Max was back in the present. He sat up noiselessly and peered downwards.
The faint rustle continued. His thoughts flashed to the tiger he had slain the day before at Khantali. Could this be another prowling in search of food? He scarcely thought so, yet the possibility gave him a sensation of bristling down the spine. He remained motionless in his chair, however, alert, listening.
Softly the intruder drew near. He heard the tamarisk bushes part and close again. But he heard no sound of feet. It was a cat-like advance, slow and wary.
He wondered if the creature could see him there in the dark, wondered if he were a fool to remain but decided to do so and take his chances. Max Wyndham’s belief in his own particular lucky star was profound.