“Since yesterday she is this officer’s widow. He fell in the battle of Lahore, and she herself is among the prisoners interned in Anar Kali.”
“Then I must endeavour to find her, for she has a claim, for her father’s sake, upon my assistance. But, certainly, for the moment,” he observed, with a somewhat melancholy smile, “I am myself in the greatest need of protection.”
“I believe you may be perfectly easy in your mind as to this lady. My friend, Prince Tchajawadse, has just now ridden over to Anar Kali in order, at my request, to look after the lady.”
He had not concluded the sentence when the tall form of the Prince made its appearance at the entrance of the tent. His downcast face presaged no good news. He advanced to Heideck and shook his hand.
“I am not, unfortunately, the bearer of any good news, comrade. I have not discovered the lady whose guardian you are.”
“What! Has she left? And you could not learn whither she is gone?”
“All that I have been able to elicit is that she was driven off in an elegant carriage, in the company of several Indians. An English lady who saw the occurrence told me this.”
A fearful dread overcame Heideck.
“In the company of Indians? And does nobody know whither she was taken? Did she leave no message for me or anyone else?”
“The lady had no opportunity of speaking to her. She saw the departure at a distance.”
“But she must have noticed whether Mrs. Irwin left the mausoleum of her own free will or under compulsion?”
The Prince shrugged his shoulders.
“I cannot, unfortunately, say anything about that. My inquiries were without result. Neither any one of the English prisoners or of the Russian sentries was able to give me further information.”
A meeting of the Cabinet Council was being held at the Foreign Office in London. With gloomy faces the Ministers were all assembled. The foreboding of a catastrophe brooded over England like a black cloud; all manner of rumours of disaster were current in the land, and coming events were awaited with sickening dread.
“A telegram from the general in command,” said the Prime Minister, opening the paper he held in his hand. A deadly silence fell upon the room:
“With painful emotion, I communicate to His Majesty’s Government the news of a great reverse I suffered the day before yesterday at Lahore. I have only to-day reached Delhi with the remnant of my army, which has been pursued by the Russian advance guard. We had taken up a very favourable position on the left bank of the Ravi and were on the point of preventing the Russian army from crossing the river, when unexpectedly a violent onslaught made upon our left wing at Shah Dara compelled us to send reinforcements to this wing and thus to weaken the centre. Under