“If he had only known! If he had only known!” she kept repeating. “But how could he know? for I never showed him. How could he even guess? And now he never can know. It’s too late, too late!”
Futile, bitter regret! All through the night it followed her, and when morning came the haggard misery it had wrought upon her face had robbed it of all its youth.
Mrs. Raleigh tried to comfort her with hopeful words, but she did not seem so much as to hear them. She was listening, listening intently, for every sound.
It was about noon that young Travers raced in, hot and breathless, but he stopped short in evident dismay when he saw Audrey. He would have withdrawn as precipitately as he had entered, but she sprang after him and caught him by the arms.
“You have news!” she cried wildly. “What is it? Oh, what is it? Tell me quickly!”
He hesitated and glanced nervously at Mrs. Raleigh.
“Yes, tell her,” the latter said. “It is better than suspense.”
And so briefly, jerkily, the boy blurted on his news:
“Phil’s back again; but they haven’t got the major. The fort was deserted, except for one old man, and they have brought him along. They are over at the colonel’s bungalow now.”
He paused, shocked by the awful look his tidings had
The next instant she had sprung past him to the open door and was gone, bareheaded and distraught, into the blazing sunshine.
How she covered the distance of the long, white road to the colonel’s bungalow, Audrey never remembered afterwards. Her agony of mind was too great for her brain to register any impression of physical stress. She only knew that she ran and ran as one runs in a nightmare, till suddenly she was on the veranda of the colonel’s bungalow, stumbling, breathless, crying hoarsely for “Phil! Phil!”
He came to her instantly.
“Where is he?” she cried, in high, strained tones. “Where is my husband? You promised to bring him back to me! You promised—you promised—”
Her voice failed. She felt choked, as if an iron hand were slowly, remorselessly, crushing the life out of her panting heart. Thick darkness hovered above her, but she fought it from her wildly, frantically.
“You promised—” She gasped again.
He took her gently by the arm, supporting her.
“Mrs. Tudor,” he said very earnestly, “I have done my best.”
He led her unresisting into a room close by. The colonel was there, and with him a man in flowing, native garments.
“Mrs. Tudor,” said Phil, his hand closing tightly upon her arm, “before you blame me, I want you to speak to this man. He can tell you more about your husband than I can.”
He spoke very quietly, very steadily, almost as if he were afraid she might not understand him.
Audrey made an effort to collect her reeling senses. The colonel bent towards her.