The Coming Conquest of England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about The Coming Conquest of England.

XV

THE COURT-MARTIAL

The mausoleum of Anar Kali, a great octagonal building in the gardens to the south of the town, was the place whither the Russian prisoners were taken.  Heideck and Edith Irwin were not the first that had found quarters there; for, besides about a hundred officers, there were already there numberless English ladies and children whose saviours had appeared in time to rescue them from the horrible fate of Mrs. Baird and her children.  At the open door of the apartments reserved for the women Heideck and Edith Irwin had to part.  They were not allowed a long time to take leave.  But even if they had been altogether alone they would at this moment have been scarcely able to find much to say; for after all the exertions and excitements of the terrible day just ended such heavy fatigue and exhaustion had overcome them that they could only mechanically make use of their limbs; and so, instead of the passions, hopes, and fears, with which they had been moved but a short time previously, there was now only a dull void in their brains as in their hearts.

“Au revoir, to-morrow.”  That was all that passed between them.  Then, as soon as they had conducted him into the room assigned to him, Heideck threw himself down, as he was, upon the tiles of the floor, and fell instantaneously into a deep, dreamless sleep.

The glorious Indian sun, which shone through the round opening in the ceiling down upon his face, woke him the next morning.

His limbs were stiff from his uncomfortable couch, but the short sleep had invigorated him, and his nerves had completely regained their old freshness and vigour.

His room-mates must have been taken away early to some other place, for he found himself quite alone in the lofty room which was only lighted by the window in the ceiling.  The rays of the sun fell opposite to him upon a tomb of the purest, whitest, marble quite covered with illegible hieroglyphics.  Whilst he was still engaged in looking at the apparently ancient memorial tablet, he heard suddenly behind him the light rustling of a woman’s dress, and when he turned round he gazed with pleasurable surprise into Edith Irwin’s pale, fair face.

“How delighted I am to find you still here,” she said with a happy expression.  “I was afraid that you had been taken away with the other prisoners.”

“As it seems, it was out of consideration for my well-deserved slumber,” he replied, with a slight trace of humour.  But then, remembering the terrible seriousness of the situation, he continued in altered and hearty tones—­

“How have you passed the night, Mrs. Irwin?  It appears to me as if all that I have gone through since my return to Lahore has only been a dream.”

With a painful quiver of the lips she shook her head.

“Unfortunately, there is no room for doubt that it has been hideous reality.  Poor, poor Mrs. Baird!  One must almost consider it a happy dispensation of Providence that her husband did not live to see the terrible fate of his family.”

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The Coming Conquest of England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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