At a bend in the drive, where a sentry sprang to attention, he turned for a parting salute. Her answering gesture might or might not have been intended for him. She at least knew all about the need for being discreet. For, on leaving the tea-table, they had passed from the dream of ‘almost England’ into the dusty actuality of Jaipur.
[Footnote 6: Instantly.]
there are two blocks of people—East and
people who interfere and people who don’t interfere; ... East is a
fatalist, West is an idealist, of a clumsy sort.”—STACY AUMONIER.
A mile, or less, of tree-bordered road sloped gently from the Residency gate-posts to the walled City of Victory, backed by craggy, red-grey spurs of the Aravalli range, hidden almost in feathery heads of banyan, acacia, and neem—a dusty, well-ordered oasis, holding its own against the stealthy oncoming of the desert.
North and east ran the screen of low hills with their creeping lines of masonry; but from south and west the softly encroaching thing crept up to the city walls, in through the gates, powdering every twig and leaf and lattice with the fine white dust of death. Shadeless and colourless, to the limit of vision, it rose and fell in long billowing waves; as if some wizard, in the morning of the world, had smitten a living ocean to lifeless sand, where nothing flourished but the camel thorn and the ak plant and gaunt cactus bushes—their limbs petrified in weird gesticulation.
But on the road itself was a sufficiency of life and colour—parrokeets flashing from tree to tree, like emeralds made visible and vocable; village women swathed in red and yellow veils; prancing Rajput cavaliers, straight from the Middle Ages; ox-carts and camels—unlimited camels, with flapping lip and scornful eye; a sluggish stream of life, rising out of the landscape and flowing, from dawn to dusk, through the seven Gates of Jaipur. And there, on the low spurs, beyond the walls, he sighted the famous Tiger Fort, and the marble tomb of Jai Sing—he that built the rose-red City; challenging the desert, as Canute the sea; saying, in terms of stone and mortar, ’Here shall thy proud waves be stayed!’ Nearing the fortified gateway, Roy noted how every inch of flat surface was silkily powdered, every opening silted with sand. Would it rest with desert or city, he wondered, the ultimate victory of the last word...?
Close against the ramparts, sand and dust were blown into a deep drift; or was it a deserted pile of rags——? Suddenly, with a sick sensation, he saw the rags heave and stir. Arms emerged—if you could call them arms—belonging to pinched, shadowy faces. And from that human dust-heap came a quavering wail, “Maharaj! Maharaj!”
“What is it, Bishun Singh?” he asked sharply of the sais, trotting at his stirrup.