I won't. If you want to know why, particularly, Burkett is married, and his wife's just had a kid, and she's up at Simla, in the cool, and Burkett has a very nice billet that takes him into Simla from Saturday to Monday. That little woman isn't at all well. If Burkett was transferred she'd try to follow him. If she left the baby behind she'd fret herself to death. If she came - and Burkett's one of those selfish little beasts who are always talking about a wife's place being with her ' husband - she'd die. It's murder to bring a woman here just now. Burkett hasn't the physique of a rat. If he came here he'd go out; and I know she hasn't any money, and I'm pretty sure she'd go out too. I'm salted in a sort of way, and I'm not married. Wait till the Rains, and then Burkett can get thin down here. It'll do him heaps of good.'
'Do you mean to say that you intend to face - what you have faced, till the Rains break?'
'Oh, it won't be so bad, now you've shown me a way out of it. I can always wire to you. Besides, now I've once got into the way of sleeping, it'll be all right. Anyhow, I shan't put in for leave. That's the long and the short of it.'
'My great Scott! I thought all that sort of thing was dead and done with.
'Bosh! You'd do the same yourself. I feel a new man, thanks to that cigarette-case. You're going over to camp now, aren't you?'
'Yes; but I'll try to look you up every other day, if I can.'
'I'm not bad enough for that. I don't want you to bother. Give the coolies gin and ketchup.'
'Then you feel all right?'
'Fit to fight for my life, but not to stand out in the sun talking to you. Go along, old man, and bless you!'
Hummil turned on his heel to face the echoing desolation of his bungalow, and the first thing he saw standing in the verandah was the figure of himself. He had met a similar apparition once before, when he was suffering from overwork and the strain of the hot weather.
'This is bad - already,' he said, rubbing his eyes. 'If the thing slides away from me all in one piece, like a ghost, I shall know it is only my eyes and stomach that are out of order. If it walks - my head is going.'
He approached the figure, which naturally kept at an unvarying distance from him, as is the use of all spectres that are born of overwork. It slid through the house and dissolved into swimming specks within the eyeball as soon as it reached the burning light of the garden. Hummil went about his business till even. When he came in to dinner he found himself sitting at the table. The vision rose and walked out hastily. Except that it cast no shadow it was in all respects real.
No living man knows what that week held for Hummil. An increase of the epidemic kept Spurstow in camp among the coolies, and all he could do was to telegraph to Mottram, bidding him go to the bungalow and sleep there. But Mottram was forty miles away from the nearest telegraph, and knew nothing of anything save the needs of the survey till he met, early on Sunday morning, Lowndes and Spurstow heading towards Hummil's for the weekly gathering.
'Hope the poor chap's in a better temper,' said the former, swinging himself off his horse at the door. 'I suppose he isn't up yet.'
'I'll just have a look at him,' said the doctor. 'If he's asleep there's no need to wake him.'
And an instant later, by the tone of Spurstow's voice calling upon them to enter, the men knew what had happened. There was no need to wake him.
The punkah was still being pulled over the bed, but Hummil had departed this life at least three hours.
The body lay on its back, hands clinched by the side, as Spurstow had seen it lying seven nights previously. In the staring eyes was written terror beyond the expression of any pen.
Mottram, who had entered behind Lowndes, bent over the dead and touched the forehead lightly with his lips. 'Oh, you lucky, lucky devil!' he whispered.
But Lowndes had seen the eyes, and withdrew shuddering to the other side of the room.
'Poor chap! poor old chap! Arid the last time I met him I was angry. Spurstow, we should have watched him. Has he----?'
Deftly Spurstow continued his investigations, ending by a search round the room.
'No, he hasn't,' he snapped. 'There's no trace of anything. Call the servants.'
They came, eight or ten of them, whispering and peering over each other's shoulders.
'When did your Sahib go to bed?' said Spurstow.
'At eleven or ten, we think,' said Hummil's personal servant.
'He was well then? But how should you know?'
'He was not ill, as far as our comprehension extended. But he had slept very little for three nights. This I know, because I saw him walking much, and specially in the heart of the night.'