At a flick of the reins, Suraj broke into a smart canter, willingly enough. What were sunsets or local devils to him compared with stables and gram?
And as they sped on, as trees on either side slid by like stealthy ghosts, the sunset splendour died, only to rise again in a volcanic afterglow, on which trunks and twigs and battlemented hills were printed in daguerreotype; and desert voices were drowned in the clamour of cicadas, grinding their knives in foolish ecstasy; and, at last, he swerved between the friendly gate-posts of the Residency—the richer for a spiritual adventure that could neither be imparted, nor repeated, nor forgotten while he lived.
[Footnote 10: Joy of my heart.]
“The deepest thing
in our nature is this dumb region of the heart,
where we dwell alone with our willingnesses and unwillingnesses,
our faiths and our fears.”—WILLIAM JAMES.
Not least among the joys of Aruna’s return to the freer life of the Residency was her very own verandah balcony. Here, secure from intrusion, she could devote the first and last hours of her day to meditation or prayer. Oxford studies had confused a little, but not killed, the faith of her fathers. The real trouble was that too often, nowadays, that exigent heart of hers would intrude upon her sacred devotions, transforming them into day-dreams, haloed with a hope the more frankly formulated because she was of the East.
For Thea had guessed aright. Roy was the key to her waverings, her refusals, her eager acceptance of the emergency plan:—welcome in itself; still more welcome because it permitted her simply to await his coming.
They had been very wonderful, those five years in England; in spite of anxieties and disappointed hopes. But when Dyan departed and Mesopotamia engulfed Roy, India had won the day.
How unforgettable that exalted moment of decision, one drenched and dismal winter evening; the sudden craving for sights and sounds and smells of her own land. How slow the swiftest steamer to the speed of her racing thoughts! How bitter, beyond belief, the—how first faint chill of disappointment; the pang of realising reluctantly—that, within herself, she belonged whole-heartedly to neither world.
She had returned qualified for medical work, by experience in a College hospital at Oxford; yet hampered by innate shrinking from the sick and maimed, who had been too much with her in those years of war. Not less innate was the urge of her whole being to fulfil her womanhood through marriage rather than through work. And in the light of that discovery, she saw her dilemma plain. Either she must hope to marry an Englishman and break with India, like Aunt Lilamani; or accept, at the hands of the matchmaker, an enlightened bridegroom, unseen, unknown, whose family would overlook—at a price—her advanced age and English adventures.