The awful words sank into breathless silence. Mrs. Raleigh was crying silently. She was powerless to cope with this. But Audrey shed no tears. It was beyond tears and beyond mourning—this terrible revelation that had come to her. By-andby, it might be, both would come to her, if she lived.
She rose suddenly at length with a sharp gasp, as of one seeking air.
“I am going,” she said, in a clear, strong voice, “to the colonel. He will help me to save my husband.”
And with that she turned to the veranda, and met the commanding-officer face to face. There was another man behind him, but she did not look at him. She instantly, without a second’s pause, addressed the colonel.
“I was coming to you,” she said through her white lips. “You will help me. You must help me. My husband is a prisoner, and I am going into the Hills to find him. You must follow with men and guns. He must be saved—whatever it costs.”
The colonel laid his hand on her shoulder, looking down at her very earnestly, very kindly.
“My dear Mrs. Tudor,” he said, “all that can be done shall be done, all that is humanly possible. I have already told Turner so. Did you know that he was safe?”
He drew her forward a step, and she saw that the man behind him was Phil Turner himself—Phil Turner, grave, strong, resolute, with all his manhood strung up to the moment’s emergency, all his boyhood submerged in a responsibility that overwhelmed the lesser part of him, leaving only that which was great.
He went straight up to Audrey and took the hands she stretched out to him. Neither of them felt the presence of onlookers.
“He saved my life, Mrs. Tudor!” he said simply. “He forced me to take it at his hands. But I’m going back with some men to find him. You stay here with Mrs. Raleigh till we come back. We shall be quicker alone.”
A great sob burst from Audrey. It was as if the few gallant words had loosened the awful constriction at her heart.
“Oh, Phil, Phil!” she cried brokenly. “You understand—what this is to me—how I love him—how I love him! Bring him back to me! Promise, Phil, promise!”
And Phil bent till his lips touched the hands he held.
“I will do it,” he said with reverence—“so help me, God!”
A WOMAN’S AGONY
All through the day and the night that followed Audrey watched and waited.
She spent the terrible hours at the Raleighs’ bungalow, scarcely conscious of her surroundings in her anguish of suspense. It possessed her like a raging fever, and she could not rest. At times it almost seemed to suffocate her, and then she would pace to and fro, to and fro, hardly knowing what she did.
Mrs. Raleigh never left her, caring for her with a maternal tenderness that never flagged. But for her Audrey would almost certainly have collapsed under the strain.