She was silent, her breathing short, spasmodic, difficult.
His cheek pressed her forehead. “Why not own it?” he said softly. “Is it—so hard?”
She lifted her face swiftly; her arms clasped his neck. “And if—if I do,—will you let me go?” she asked him tremulously.
The smile still hovered about his lips. “No,” he said.
“It is madness,” she pleaded desperately.
“It is—Kismet,” he made answer, and took her face between his hands looking deeply, steadily, into her eyes. “Your life is bound up with mine. You know it. Stella, you know it.”
She uttered a sob that yet was half laughter. “I have done my best,” she said. “Why are you so—so merciless?”
“You surrender?” he said.
She gave herself to the drawing of his hands. “Have I any choice?”
“Not if you are honest,” he said.
“Ah!” She coloured rather painfully. “I have at least been honest in trying to keep you from this—this big mistake. I know you will repent it. When this—fever is past, you will regret—oh, so bitterly.”
He set his jaw and all the grim strength of the man was suddenly apparent. “Shall I tell you the secret of success?” he said abruptly. “It is just never to look back. It is the secret of happiness also, if people only realized it. If you want to make the best of life, you’ve got to look ahead. I’m going to make you do that, Stella. You’ve been sitting mourning by the wayside long enough.”
She smiled almost in spite of herself, for the note of mastery in his voice was inexplicably sweet. “I’ve thought that myself,” she said. “But I’m not going to let you patch up my life with yours. If this must be—and you are sure—you are sure that it must?”
“I have spoken,” he said.
She faced him resolutely. “Then India shall have us both. Now I have spoken too.”
His face changed. The grimness became eagerness. “Stella, do you mean that?” he said. “It’s a big sacrifice—too big for you.”
Her eyes were shining as stars shine through a mist. She was drawing his head downwards that her lips might reach his. “Oh, my darling,” she said, and the thrill of love triumphant was in her words, “nothing would be—too big. It simply ceases to be a sacrifice—if it is done—for your dear sake.”
Her lips met his upon the words, and in that kiss she gave him all she had. It was the rich bestowal of a woman’s full treasury, than which it may be there is nought greater on earth.
Bhulwana in early spring! Bhulwana of the singing birds and darting squirrels! Bhulwana of the pines!
Stella stood in the green compound of the bungalow known as The Grand Stand, gazing down upon the green racecourse with eyes that dreamed.