‘All the more reason to avoid a situation which could lead to possible military action.’
“We’ll see what Major Hamid has to say about this,’ Drammond said angrily and he moved to the door of the inner room.
‘Major Hamid is en officer of the Indian Army. He will do what I have to do – obey orders.’ Major Naru’s voice cracked suddenly. ‘Do you think I’m enjoying this, Mr. Drummond? If I had my way, I’d move over that border now with every man I’ve got.’ He pulled on his gloves. Tm going to get in touch with Headquarters by radio immediately. If they give me the word, Fli lead my men in myself, I promise you.’
‘How long will that take?’
To get a reply?’ Major Naru shrugged. ‘An hour, perhaps two. It is something they will have to consider carefully.’ He moved to the door and Singh opened it for him. ‘I am sorry, Mr. Drummond.’
The door closed behind them and Drummond went to the window. Major Naru walked across to the command post, Singh at his shoulder. The three mules he and his escort had used were tethered outside. Drummond looked at them for a moment, then made his decision.
The medical sergeant was standing by the stove, his face troubled, and Drummond moved past him and opened the door to the inner room. Hamid lay on his back on one of the bunks, breathing gently, the harsh lines smoothed from his handsome face.
When they had carried him in, someone had brought his rifle and it stood in the comer by the window. Drummond slung it over his back and looked down at Hamid for a moment.
‘Good luck, Ali,’ he said softly and returned to the other room.
He uncorked the brandy bottle, poured some into his mug and swallowed it quickly and the medical sergeant watched, a frown on his face.
‘Why the rifle, Mr. Drummond?.
Tra going for a little ride,. Drummond said. It might come in useful.’
He went to the door and opened it, the sergeant hurrying at his shoulder. ‘But this is madness.’
Drummond ignored him, went down the steps pulling on his mittens and crossed to the mules. As he unhitched them, the medical sergeant ran past him, mounted the steps to the command post and went inside.
Drummond took his time, lopped the reins of two of the mules to the pommel of the saddle of the third, mounted, and rode away.
He passed between the field guns, men standing up to stare at him, and then Major Kara and Lieutenant Singh emerged from the command post, the medical sergeant at their backs, and hurried after him.
As Drummond passed the last gun emplacement, they caught up with hup. and Major Naru reached for the bridle of the mule he was riding.
‘I can’t let you do this, Mr. Drummond..
“Then you’d better start shooting,’ Drummond said calmly. ‘It’s the only way you’re going to stop me..
He jerked the bridle from the major’s grasp, dug his heels into the mule’s flanks and moved forward. When he reached the crest of the small hill and looked back into the hollow, Major Naru was still standing there in front of the gun, but Lieutenant Singh was running back towards the command post
The clouds had dropped down towards the jagged peaks, heavy with snow, and as the mules moved out of the valley and started up the mountain, the first few flakes started to fall.
Drummond no longer felt tired, but there was a strange singing inside his head, perhaps the brandy talking, and he was alone in a great white silence, following the double track in the snow that he and Hamid had made on their way down.
He pushed the mules as much as he could,, moving up into the white stillness towards the peaks as the snow continued to fall. It was just under an hour after leaving the camp that he came out of a ravine on to the final slope and moved up towards the plateau.
From the rim of the plateau, sheltered by a group of jagged rocks, Sergeant Ng watched his progress from the moment he emerged from the ravine. As Drummond drew closer, he turned and hurried down to Colonel Cheung who stood beside the horses outside the hut in the hollow below.