Happiness ran like wine in her veins: and catching his mood she swept him a curtsey, English fashion.
“Fit for the Queen’s Drawing-room!” he applauded; and she smiled up at him under her straight lashes. “Why didn’t you appear at dinner? Is it a whim—hiding your light under a bushel? Or do you get headaches and heartaches working in the ward, and feel out of tune with our frivol?”
The solicitude in his tone was worth many headaches and heartaches to hear again. But with him she could not pretend.
“No—not that!” she said, treading the grass beside him, as if it were a moonlit cloud. “Only sometimes ... I am foolish—not inclined for so many faces; and all the lights and the talk.”
He nodded. “I know the feeling. The same strain in us, I suppose. But, look here, about Dyan. It suddenly struck me I’d have ten times better chance if I went as an Indian. I can talk the language to admiration. What d’you think?”
She caught her breath. A vision of him so transformed seemed to bring him surprisingly nearer. “How exciting! How bold!”
“Yes—but not impossible. And no end of a lark. If I could lodge with some one who knew, I believe I could pull it through. Grandfather might arrange that. It would give me a chance to get in among Dyan’s set and hear things. Don’t breathe a word to any one. I must talk it all over with Grandfather.”
“Oh! I would love to see you turned into a Rajput,” she breathed.
“You shall see me. I’ll come and make my salaams and ask your blessing on my venture.”
“And I will make prasad for your journey!” Her unveiled eyes met his frankly now. “A portion for Dyan too. It may speak to his heart clearer than words.”
“Prasad? What’s that?”
“Food prepared and consecrated by touch of mother or sister or—or nearest woman relation. And by absence of those others ... it is ... my privilege——”
“My privilege. I would not forgo it for a kingdom,” Roy interposed, such patent sincerity in the reverend quiet of his tone that she was speechless....
For less than half an hour they strolled on that moon-enchanted lawn. Nothing was said by either that the rest might not have heard. Yet it was a transfigured Aruna who approached the verandah, where Thea stood awaiting them; having come out to look for Roy and found the clue to his prolonged meditations.
“What have you been plotting, you two?” she asked lightly when they reached her. To Roy her eyes said: “D’you call this being discreet?” To Aruna her lips said: “Graceless one! I thought you were purdah nashin this evening!”
“So she was,” Roy answered for her. “I’m the culprit. I insisted. Some details about my Delhi trip, I wanted to talk over.”
Thea wrinkled her forehead. “Roy—you mustn’t. It’s a crazy plan——”
“Pardon me—an inspired plan!” He drew himself up half an inch the better to look down on her. “Nothing on earth can put me off it—except Grandfather. And I know he’ll back me up.”