It was perhaps half an hour later that he became aware that Hamid was calling to him. He was standing on top of a small hill about fifty yards away. When Drummond joined him, he saw a herdsman’s hut in a small hollow below.
There was no sign of life and they moved cautiously down into the hollow. Drummond didn’t feel tired any more. He didn’t feel anything. He knew he was alive and that was about all.
It was a poor place of mud and wattle construction and a thin tracer of smoke lifted through a hole in the straw roof. Hamid opened the door and led the way in.
The fire on the stone hearth was banked with earth and smoke drifted in a heavy layer against the ceiling. It was filthy and it smelled and Drummond knew the place was very probably lousy with fleas as well, but it was warm and dry, and at the moment that was all that mattered.
He raked the soil from the fire and brought wood from a pile in one corner. Hamid rummaged amongst the sheepskins at the back and came up with a couple of stone jars.
He brought them to the fire with a grin. ‘Goafs mHk and cheese. Pretty rancid, but good for the constitution..
‘At the moment, I could face anything except going out there in these wet clothes again,’ Drummond said.
He built the fire into a great, roaring pyramid and Hamid gave the sheepskins a shake. ‘God alone knows what we’ll get from this lot.
But it didn’t matter, nothing mattered except that it was warm and the fire was hot on the skin. Drummond crouched there watching the steam rise from his clothes.suspended from the ridge pole, a sheepskia around his shoulders, and after a while he slept
He awakened slowly and stared through the dim grey light at his clothes hanging from the ridge pole of the hut, wondering where he was. After a while he remembered and sat up.
Hamid squatted on the other side of the fire. He was wearing his uniform again and grinned. ‘How do you feel?.
‘Bloody awful!’ Drummond stretched his arms and blood started to flow through cramped limbs. ‘How long have we been here?.
.A couple of hours, that’s aH. Must be about two o’clock. We’d better get moving. Your clothes are pretty dry by now. Better than they were, anyway.
Drummond started to dress and Hamid peered outside. ‘From the looks of it, this rain is never going to stop. I think it’ll turn to snow before it does.’
‘As if we haven’t got enough to worry about” 105
Hamid shrugged. The weather should help if anything. It makes things just as difficult for the Chinese.’
Drummond moved to the entrance, zipping up the front of Ms flying jacket and looked out The rain was lancing into the earth with steady force and a slight mist rising from the cold ground combined with it to reduce visibility to a few yards.
‘I think you’re right about the snow..
‘Which means we’ve got to move fast We can’t be more than seven or eight miles from the road. Anyone else who got across the river is bound to move in the same direction. They’ve no other choice.’
‘You’re thinking of Father Kerrigan and Janet?.
.Or Sher Dil, but the Chinese will follow the same route once they get across and we must keep ahead of them. If we can only reach the village Sher DH mentioned, Bandong, and get horses, we might stand a chance.’
He picked up a couple of sheepskins and tossed one to Drummond. ‘Better wear that over your shoulders. It’ll keep out some of the rain.’
In the same moment, he drew back from the entrance, a finger to his mouth and dropped to one knee.
They crouched side by side, soundless and waiting. At first there was only the savage drumming of the rain and then Drummond heard it A slipping, stumbling sound of feet trailing through the wet ground outside.
As the steps approached the hut and paused, Hamid launched himself through the entrance. There was a sudden splashing through the mud outside, the sound of a blow.