He licked his dry lips and went on:
“Let us go! Let us go from here! I am parched. I want liquor. I want women.”
And they returned to a night of revolting debauchery in the house that was honoured by being the temporary residence of His Highness the Rajah of Lalpuri, wearer of an order bestowed upon him by the Viceroy and ruler of the fate of millions of people by the grace and under the benign auspices of the Government of India.
THE TANGLED SKEIN OF LOVE
The Lieutenant-Governor’s ball was for Noreen but the beginning of a long series of social entertainments, of afternoon and evening dances, receptions, dinner and supper parties, concerts, and amateur theatrical performances that filled every date on the calendar of the Darjeeling Season. Only in winter sport resorts like St. Moritz and Muerren had she ever seen its like. But in Switzerland the visitors come from many lands and are generally strangers to each other, whereas in the Hills in India the summer residents of the villas and the guests at the big hotels are of the same race and class, come from the same stations in the Plains or know of each other by repute. For, with the exception of the comparatively few lawyers, planters, merchants, or railway folk, the names of all are set forth in the two Golden Books of the land, the Army List and the Civil Service List; and hostesses fly with relief to the blessed “Table of Precedence” contained in them, which tells whether the wife of Colonel This should go in to dinner before or after the spouse of Mr. That. The great god Snob is the supreme deity of Anglo-India.
Many hill-stations are the Hot Weather headquarters of some important Government official, such as the Governor of the Presidency or the Lieutenant-Governor or Chief Commissioner of the Province. These are great personages indeed in India. They have military guards before their doors. The Union Jack waves by command above their august heads. They have Indian Cavalry soldiers to trot before their wives’ carriages when these good ladies drive down to bargain in the native bazaar. But to the hill visitors their chief reason for existing is that their position demands the giving of official entertainments to which all of the proper class (who duly inscribe their names in the red-bound, gold-lettered book in the hall of Government House) have a prescriptive right to be invited.
Noreen revelled in the gaieties. Her frank-hearted enjoyment was like a child’s, and made every man who knew her anxious to add to it. She could not possibly ride all the ponies offered to her nor accept half the invitations that she got. Even among the women she was popular, for none but a match-making mother or a jealous spinster could resist her.