They sat there patiently, watching with no visible emotion as Drummond and Haraid looked through what was left of the general equipment the truck had been carrying. They found quilted parkas similar to the one Ahmed was wearing and Drummond discarded his Hying boots, still saturated from their immersion in the river, and helped himself to a pair of heavy mountain warfare combat boots. He pulled on waterproof mittens and jumped to the ground.
Hamid was at the second truck with Sher DflL The colonel had discovered a case of sub-machine guns aad had broken it open.
These are very good,8 he said with a grin. ‘A gift from Moscow. One of the happier results of adopting a policy of strict neutrality.’
He prised open a box of ammunition and another of grenades and turned as Corporal Nadin approached. ‘Bring the others, I’m going to issue automatic Weapons..
Nadin called and a moment later, Ahmed and the third driver, a tall Bengali named Amal, hurried out of the mist
Tussuf and Rroo – where are they?.
The two men glanced at each other uncertainly and Nadin ran along the line of trucks. He was back in a moment. They have gone, Colonel.’
Sher Dil grabbed Ahmed by the front of Ms parka. ‘Did you see them go, you rogue?’
Ahmed raised his hands, palms outwards. ‘On my father’s grave, Colonel. They were here only five minutes ago. I was talking to them.’
They were very angry with the Colonel. They said that the Chinese would catch us all. That we would never reach India.’ He shrugged. They didn’t want to stay.’
Sher Dil cursed and Hamid shook his head..We’re better off without them. There’s no problem. We’ve enough drivers between us. I can take a truck myself..
Sher Dil nodded. ‘Very well. Til go first with Corporal Nadin. You follow in the supplies truck, Major. Father Kerrigan, Miss Tate and the young Khan can travel with you.’
‘What about me?. Drummond said.
“You can bring up the rear with Ahmed. Mr. Brack-enhurst can travel with Amal in the third truck with the refugees. As soon as everyone’s in, we’ll move out.
As they broke away, Drummond heard his name and saw Janet leaning over the tailboard of the second truck.
He climbed up beside her quickly. ‘Anything wrong?’
‘No, what’s been happening?’
‘A couple of drivers have deserted, but. there’s nothing to worry about. How’s Kerfm?.
‘Asleep at the moment We’ve made him as comfortable as possible.’
Boxes had been moved away from title far end creating an alcove in which the young Khan lay covered with blankets, his face very pale against the white bandage. Janet leaned down to straighten a blanket and when she stood up again, Drummond took her hands.
‘Are you worried?.
She shook her head. ‘Nothing’s really sunk in yet I can’t quite believe it’s happening..
His hands tightened, pulling her dose and he kissed her. “Not even this?.
She looked up at him, her eyes dark and serious, and then she smiled and touched his face gently. She didn’t speak, there was no need and they kissed again.
Til see you later,’ he said and left her there.
When he vaulted over the tailboard, Father Kerrigan was standing in the rain, a long cheroot jutting from his teeth beneath the shovel hat
‘And would it be all right if I got ia now?. he demanded.
Drummond grinned and gave him a push up over the tailboard. ‘Where did you get the smokes?’
‘See Ahmed. He’s been foraging amongst the supplies again.’
Drummond trudged through the mud to the rear truck. When he climbed up into the cab, he found Ahmed sitting behind the wheel wreathed in tobacco smoke.
The Afrldi grinned and took a carton from the dashboard. ‘Cheroots, sahib, very strong. Specially mads for Indian Army.’
The way I feel, I could smoke any damned thing,’ Drummond said.
He lit one, coughing as the smoke caught at the back of Ms throat, the door was pulled open and Slier Dil appeared.
The next village is Hasa which Is a good ninety miles further on.’
We haven’t a hope of getting that far before darkness in weather like this,’ Drummond said.