Yet to those who knew him best, his strength seemed to lie less in what he did than in what he left undone. His restraint was the secret of his power.
Perhaps his young wife felt this, for notwithstanding her utmost effort she knew herself to be at a disadvantage. She set down her glass of sherbet unfinished and turned to the door. It was an abrupt move, but he was ready for it. Before she reached it, he was waiting with the handle in his grasp.
“Going to bed, Audrey?” he asked gravely, “Good-night!”
His manner did not betray that he was aware of her displeasure, yet somehow she was quite convinced that he knew. She paused for a second, and then, with her head held high, she was about to pass him without an answering word or glance. But to her amazement he stopped her, his hand upon her arm.
“Good-night!” he said again.
She faced him then in a blaze of passion, with white cheeks and flaming eyes. But as she met his look her heart gave a sudden thump of fright, and in a second her resistance had crumbled away. He did not speak another word, but his look compelled. Undeniably he was master.
Mutely she raised her face for his kiss, and he kissed her.
“Sleep well,” he said.
And she went from him, subdued and humbled, to her room.
AMID THE RUINS
“Do let us get away somewhere and enjoy ourselves!”
Audrey spoke in a quick undertone to the man nearest to her. It was three weeks since her arrival at the Frontier station, and she had settled down to the life with the ease of a born Anglo-Indian. Her first vivid enjoyment of its gaieties was a thing of the past, but no one suspected the fact, her husband least of all. She had not, as a matter of fact, been much with him during those three weeks, for she had struck up a warm friendship with Mrs. Raleigh, and in common with all the younger spirits of the regiment she availed herself fully of the privileges of the latter’s hospitality.
On the present occasion, however—that of a picnic by moonlight at the crumbling shrine of some long-forgotten holy man—Mrs. Raleigh was absent, and Audrey was bored. She had arrived in her husband’s ralli-car, which he had driven himself, but she had speedily drifted away from his side.
There was an element of perversity in her which made her resent the feeling that he only accompanied her into society to watch over her, and, if necessary, to keep her in order. It was not a particularly worthy feeling, but certainly there was something about his attitude that fostered it.
She guessed, and rightly, that, but for her, he would not have troubled himself to attend these social gatherings, which he obviously enjoyed so little. So when, having deliberately and with mischievous intent given him the slip, she awoke suddenly to the fact that he had followed and was standing near her, Audrey became childishly exasperated and seized the first means of escape that offered.