“I am very much indebted to you, Mrs. Irwin, for your confidence, and should be only too willing to do what I could to relieve your anxiety and trouble. You are apprehensive of some unknown danger, and you are this night, in your husband’s absence, without any other protection but that of your Indian servants. Would you permit me to remain close by, until tomorrow daybreak?”
With a blush that made her heart beat faster, Edith Irwin shook her head.
“No! no! that is impossible; and I do not think that here, in the protection of my house and among my own servants, any mishap could befall me. Only in case that something should happen to me at another time and at another place, I would beg of you to acquaint Colonel Baird with the subject of our conversation this evening; people will then perhaps better understand the connexion of things.”
And now Heideck perfectly understood why she had chosen to make him, a stranger, her confidant; and he thought that he understood also that it was not so much of an attempt on the part of the Maharajah as of her own husband’s villainy that the unhappy young wife was afraid. But his delicate feelings restrained him from saying in outspoken language that he had comprehended what she wished to convey. It was after all enough that she knew she could rely upon him; and of this she must have been already sufficiently convinced, although it was only the fire of his eyes that told her so, and the long, warm kiss that his lips impressed upon the small, icy-cold hand which the poor young lady presented to him at parting.
“You will permit me to pay you another call tomorrow, will you not?”
“I will send you word when I expect you. I should not care for you to meet my husband; perhaps he has some idea that you are friendly inclined towards me; and that would be sufficient to fill him with suspicion and aversion towards you.”
She clapped her hands, and as the Indian handmaid entered the room to escort the visitor to the door, Heideck had to leave her last remark unanswered. But, as on the threshold he again turned to bow his farewell, his eyes met hers, and though their lips were dumb, they had perhaps told one another more in this single second than during the whole time of their long tete-a-tete.
When Heideck stepped into the garden he was scarcely able to find his way, but having taken a few steps his eyes had become accustomed to the gloom, and the pale light of the stars showed him his path.