“But you haven’t told me what has happened yet,” cried Audrey, in a fever of impatience.
He answered her, still running by her side “The Waris have got him; rushed his camp at night and bagged everything. The coolies were in the know, no doubt. Only his shikari got away. He has just come in wounded with the news. I’m on my way to tell the Chief, though I don’t see what good he can do.”
“You mean you think he is murdered?” gasped Audrey, through white lips.
“Afraid so, poor beggar! Well, so long, Mrs. Tudor! We must hope for the best as long as we can.”
He put his hand to his cap, and ran on, while Audrey, with a set, white face, was borne to her bungalow.
Her husband was sitting on the veranda. He rose as she alighted and gave her his hand up the short flight of steps to his side.
“You are rather late,” he said in his grave way. “I am afraid you will have to hurry.”
They were dining out that night, but Audrey had forgotten it. She stared at him as if dazed.
“What is it?” he asked. “Nothing wrong?”
She gasped hysterically.
“Oh, Eustace, an awful thing—an awful thing!” she cried. “Mr. Devereux has just told me—”
Her voice broke, and her lips formed soundless words. She groped vaguely for support with one hand.
Tudor put his arm round her and led her, tottering, indoors.
“All right; tell me presently,” he said quietly. “Sit down and keep still for a little.”
He put her into an arm-chair and left her there. In a few seconds he returned with some brandy and water, which he held to her lips in silence. Then, setting down the glass, he began to rub her nerveless hands.
Audrey submitted passively at first to his ministrations, but presently as her strength returned she sat up.
“You haven’t heard?” she asked him shakily.
“I have heard nothing,” he answered. “Can you tell me now?”
“Yes—yes!” She paused a moment to steady her voice. Then—“It’s Phil!” she faltered. “He has been taken prisoner—murdered perhaps—by those dreadful hill men! Oh Eustace”—lifting her face appealingly—“do you think they would kill him? Do you? Do you?”
But Tudor said nothing. He made no attempt to comfort her, and she turned from him in bitter disappointment. His lack of sympathy at such a moment was almost more than she could bear.
“How did Devereux know?” he asked, after a pause.
She shook her head.
“He said something about a shikari. He was going to tell the colonel; but he didn’t think it would be any use. He said—he said—”
She broke off, quivering with agitation. Her husband took the glass from the table again and made her drink a little. She tried to refuse, but he insisted.
“You have had a shock. It will do you good,” he said, in his level, unmoved voice.