She didn’t hold out her hand. It was as if she was afraid to touch him, afraid of some elemental contact which, at this first moment, she might be unable to control.
And then he smiled, a smile of such devastating charm that the heart turned over inside her. He shook his head slowly. ‘You shouldn’t have come here, Miss Tate. It’s no place for a woman.’
That’s what the man at the hotel told me,. she said. “But they have girls here. I saw two as I came in.’
And then she realised and her eyes widened. Drum-mond helped himself to a cigarette from a sandalwood box on the desk. ‘What can I do for you?’
Tm trying to get to Sadar. I believe you might be able to help.’
He frowned his surprise. ‘Why on earth do you want to go to Sadar?’
Tm a nurse,’ she said. Tve been sent here by the Society of Friends to escort the Khan of Balpur’s young son to our Chicago hospital. He’s to undergo serious eye surgery there.’
And then Drummond remembered. Father Kerrigan had told him about it before leaving. But the old priest had said they were expecting a doctor.
‘So you’re a Quaker.’
That’s right,’ she said calmly.
Tirst visit to India..
She nodded. ‘I’ve just finished a two-year tour of service in Vietnam. I was on my way home on leave anyway, so the Society asked me to make a detour.’
.You can take me?.
Drummond nodded. ‘No difficulty there. I fly a Beaver, there’s plenty of room. Just one other passenger-Major Hamid, Indian Army adviser in Balpur, not that they have much of an army for him to advise.
Well take off about four-thirty, make an over-night stop at Juma and fly on through the mountains to Sadar in the morning. Much safer that way.’ He.crushed his cigarette into the Benares ashtray.-‘If you’ll hang on, I’ll go and dress.’
He started for the door and she said quickly, 1 was forgetting. I have & message for you from a Mr. Ferguson.’
When he turned, it was the face of a different man, cold, hard, wiped clean of all expression, the eyes like slate.
‘Ferguson? Where did you meet Ferguson?’
‘On the train from Calcutta. He was very kind to me. He wants you to call on him at the usual place before you leave.’ She smiled brightly. ‘It all sounds very mysterious.’
An invisible hand seemed to pass across his face and he smiled again. ‘A great one for a joke, old Ferguson. I shan’t be long.’
He left her there and hurried through the other room to the changing cubicles where he dressed quickly in a cream nylon shirt, knitted tie and single-breasted blue suit of tropical worsted.
When he returned to the office, Hamid was sitting on the edge of the desk, Janet in the chair beside him looking up, a smile, on her face.
Drummond was aware of a strange, irrational jealousy as he moved forward. ‘I see Ali’s managed to make his own introductions, as usual.’
‘If I must be formally introduced, then I must.. Hamid grinned down at Janet. ‘Jack was at one time a Commander in the Navy. He’s never got over it They’re very correct, you know.’
He jumped to his feet and stood there waiting for
Drummond to speak, a handsome, challenging figure in his military turban and expertly tailored khaki drill uniform, the medal ribbons a bright splash of colour above his left breast pocket.
Drummond sighed. Trapped, as usual. Miss Janet Tate, may I present Major Ali Mohammed Hamid, D.S.O., a British decoration, you’ll notice. Winchester, one of our better public schools, and Sandhurst Rather more class than West Point, don’t you think?’
Hamid took her left hand and raised it to his tips gallantly. ‘See how the British have left their brand on us, clear to the bone, Miss Tate?’
‘Don’t look at me,’ Drummond said. Tm a Scot.
The same thing,’ Hamid said airily. ‘Everyone knows it’s the Scots who rule Britain.’
He gave his arm to Janet and they moved out into the bright, hot sunshine. Across the square, there was a low wall and beyond it, the river, usually two miles wide at this point, but as always when winter approached, narrowing to half a mile or less, winding its way through endless sandbanks.