“Don’t be afraid of him, Mrs. Tudor,” he said kindly. “He is a friend, and he speaks English.”
But Audrey did not so much as glance at the native, who stood, silent and impassive, waiting to be questioned. The agony of the past thirty hours had reached its limit. She sank into a chair by the colonel’s table and hid her face in her shaking hands.
“I’ve nothing to ask him,” she said hopelessly. “Eustace is dead—dead—dead, without ever knowing how I loved him. Nothing matters now. There is nothing left that ever can matter.”
Dead silence succeeded her words, then a quiet movement, then silence again.
She did not look up or stir. Her passion of grief had burnt itself out. She was exhausted mentally and physically.
Minutes passed, but she did not move. What was there to rouse her? There was nothing left. She had no tears to shed. Tears were for small things. This grief of hers was too immense, too infinite for tears.
Only at last something, some inner prompting, stirred her, and as if at the touch of a hand that compelled, she raised her head.
She saw neither the colonel nor Phil, and a sharp prick of wonder pierced her lethargy of despair. She turned in her chair, obedient still to that inner force that compelled. Yes, they had gone. Only the native remained—an old, bent man, who humbly awaited her pleasure. His face was almost hidden in his chuddah.
Audrey looked at him.
“There is nothing to wait for,” she said at length. “You need not stay.”
He did not move. It was as if he had not heard. Her wonder grew into a sort of detached curiosity. What did the man want? She remembered that the colonel had told her that he understood English.
“Is there—something—you wish to say to me?” she asked, and the bare utterance of the words kindled a feeble spark of hope within her, almost in spite of herself.
He turned very slowly.
“Yes, one thing,” he said, paused an instant as she sprang to her feet with a great cry, then straightened himself, pushed the chuddah back from his face, and flung out his arms to her passionately.
“Audrey!” he said—“Audrey!”
By slow degrees Audrey learnt the story of her husband’s escape.
It was Phil’s doing in the main, he told her simply, and she understood that but for Phil he would not have taken the trouble. Something Phil had said to him that night had stuck in his mind, and it had finally decided him to make the attempt.
Circumstances had favoured him. Moreover it was by no means the first time that he had been among the Hill tribes in native guise. One sentinel alone had returned to guard the hut after Phil’s departure, and this man he had succeeded in overpowering without raising an alarm.