Jack Higgins – The Iron Tiger

‘It will snow very heavily soon,’ the Abbot said.

A small wind lifted the hair on Dnimmond’s head as it skidded round tlie corner of the building. Gradually, the shadow moved across the night sky until there were no more stars to be seen and the wind howled mournfully as it sped down the valleys towards them.

‘It isn’t a night I’d like to be out in.’

The Abbot lifted a hand, motioning him to silence. Drummond strained his ears, but heard nothing. He was about to speak when quite suddenly, as the wind lifted, there was a faint jingling sound.

They are coming,’ the Abbot said simply.

‘Are you sure?’

The Abbot nodded. ‘Crossing the main plateau..

.I¯ there anywhere we could hide?’

The Abbot shook his head. This is a small place, not like some. As they are looking for you, they will search thoroughly.’

Drummond dropped his blanket, moved to the fireplace and shook the others awake quickly.

Hamid sat up at once. ‘What is it? Trouble?.

Drummond nodded. ‘We’re about to have company. We’ll have to get moving again, I’m afraid.’

‘I will have your horses made ready,’ the Abbot said and he hurried out

As Father Kerrigan and Janet got to their feet, Hamid and Drummond moved across to the shutters. Hamid opened one and peered out. He closed it, his face grim. ‘It’s snowing again. How long are we going to last in the open on a night like this?’

Drummond turned to Father Kerrigan and Janet, standing by the fire. ‘If we stay, Cheung will catch us, there’s no doubt of that He’ll take this place apart looking for a hiding place.’

That’s all right, Jack,’ Father Kerrigan said in a tired voice. ‘It isn’t your fault.

The door opened and the Abbot came in with one of the monks, bundles of sheepskins in their arms. ‘A sheepskin coat for each of you. Our shepherds find them very useful at this time of the year.’

As they pulled them on, Hamid said urgently, ‘Is there anywhere we can go, anywhere at all? We won’t last long on a night like this.’

‘I think I can help you,’ the Abbot said. Ill show you as you leave..

Kerim was still asleep. Janet lilted Mm gently in her arms and the Abbot led the way along the dark corridor to the courtyard at the rear.

A monk brought the horses forward and helped Father Kerrigan and Janet into the saddle. They all crossed to the gate and the Abbot moved outside with them.

He pointed to the valley beyond. ‘This is the best way, the only way. Eight miles and you’re through to the other side of the mountain. You’ll find a shepherd’s hut at the end with wood for a fire, a lantern, everything you need. From there into the valley is easy. Five miles from the mountain and you will come to an Indian border post.

Powdery snowflakes were already beginnut^ to stick to their sheepskins as the small cavalcade moved away, Hamid leading Janet’s horse, Father Kerrigan behind.

“Thanks for everything,’ Drummond said.

The wind lifted snow around his legs as he walked away and the Abbot called quietly, ‘Do not worry, my friend. You will reach India.’

The snow began to fall steadily till it filled the night and they were alone with it

As they advanced towards the end of the narrow valley, the going became heavier and Drummond’s feet sank ankle-deep into the snow. He walked with his head bowed against the wind, alone with his thoughts, and when a sharp stab of pain cut into his face, he winced and came to a halt.

To his surprise, he found that he was knee-deep in snow. When he wrenched off a mitten and touched his face, he felt caked snow and ice on his cheeks and his flesh had split in several places. He frowned and pulled on his mitten, and when he looked up saw that he was alone.

“The wind was whipping the snow into a frenzy and it spun around his head and sliced at his cheeks, until his face was so numb he could feel no pain.

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Categories: Higgins, Jack