“That will do, Audrey,” he said. “There’s a doctor here. Leave it to him.”
At his words Audrey straightened herself, quivering all over; and then, unnerved by sheer horror, she put out her hands with an unconscious groping gesture, and fainted.
AN UNCONVENTIONAL CALL
Audrey had been an only girl at home, and had run wild all her life amongst a host of brothers. She had seen next to nothing of the world previous to her marriage, consequently her knowledge of its ways was extremely slender.
That she had grown up headstrong and extremely unconventional was scarcely to be wondered at.
It had been entirely by her own choice that she had married Eustace Tudor. She had just awakened to the fact that the family nest, like the family purse, was of exceedingly narrow dimensions; and a passion for exploring both mentally and physically was hers.
They had met only a couple of months before he was due to sail for India, and his proposal to her had been necessarily somewhat precipitate. She had admired him wholeheartedly for he was a soldier of no mean repute, and the glamour of marriage had done the rest. She had married him and had, for nearly six weeks, thereafter, been supremely happy. True, he had not made much love to her; it was not apparently his way, but he had been full of kindness and consideration. And Audrey had been content.
But, arrived in that Indian Frontier station where all the world was gay, she had become at once the centre of attraction, of admiration; and, responding to this with girlish zest, she had begun to find something lacking in her husband’s treatment.
It dawned upon her that, where others worshipped with open devotion, he did not so much as bend the knee. And, over and above this serious defect, he was critical of her actions and inclined to keep her in order.
This made her reckless at first, even defiant; but she found he could master her defiance, and that frightened her. It made her uncertain as to how far it was safe to resist him. And, being afraid of him, she shrank a little from too close or intimate a companionship with him.
She told herself that she valued her liberty too highly to part lightly with it; but the reason in her heart was not this, and with all her wilfulness, her childish self-sufficiency, she knew that it was not.
On the morning that followed the moonlight picnic she deliberately feigned sleep when he rose, lest he should think fit to prohibit her early ride. She had not slept well after her fright; but she had a project in her mind, and she fully meant to carry it out.
She lay chafing till his horse’s hoof-beats told her that he was leaving the house behind him; then she, too, rose and ordered her own horse.
Phil Turner, haggard and depressed after a night of considerable pain, was sitting up in bed with his arm in a sling, drinking tea, when a fellow-subaltern, who with two others shared the bungalow with him, entered, half-dressed and dishevelled, with the astounding news that Mrs. Tudor was waiting in the compound to know how he was.