As Roy knew precisely how much—or rather, how little—Aruna liked working in the wards, he suffered a pang at the pathos of her innocent guile. And if Dyan had his own suspicions, he kept them to himself. He also kept to himself the vitriolic outpouring which he had duly found awaiting him at Jaipur. It contained too many lurid allusions to ’that conceited, imperialistic half-caste cousin of yours’; and Roy might resent the implied stigma as much as Dyan resented it for him. So he tore up the effusion, intended for the eye of Roy, merely remarking that it had enraged him. It was beneath contempt.
Roy would like to have seen it, all the same; for he knew himself quicker than Dyan at reading between the lines. The beggar would not hit back straight. But given the chance, he might try it on some other way—witness the pistol-shot in the arcade; a side light—or a side flash—on the pleasant sort of devil he was!
Back in the Jaipur Residency, in the garden that was ‘almost England,’ back in his good familiar tweed coat and breeches, the whole Delhi interlude seemed strangely theatrical and unreal; more like a vivid dream than an experience in the flesh.
But there was Dyan to prove it no dream; and the perilous charm of Aruna, that must be resisted to the best of his power....
* * * * *
All this stir and ferment within; yet not a surface ripple disturbed the flow of those uneventful weeks between the return of Roy and the coming of Lance Desmond for Christmas leave.
It is thus that drama most often happens in life—a light under a bushel; set in the midst, yet unseen. Vincent, delving in ethnological depths, saw little or nothing outside his manuscript and maps. Floss Eden—engrossed in her own drawing-room comedy with Captain Martin—saw less than nothing, except that ‘Mr Sinclair’s other native cousin’ came too often to the house. For she turned up her assertive nose at ’native gentlemen’; and confided to Martin her private opinion that Aunt Thea went too far in that line. She bothered too much about other people all round—which was true.
She had bothered a good deal more about Floss Eden, in early days, than that young lady at all realised. And now—in the intervals of organising Christmas presents and Christmas guests—she was bothering a good deal over Roy, whose absence had obviously failed to clear the air.
Not that he was silent or aloof. But his gift of speech overlaid a reticence deeper than that of the merely silent man; the kind she had lived with and understood. Once you got past their defences, you were unmistakably inside:—Vinx, for instance. But with Roy she was aware of reserves within reserves, which made him the more interesting, but also the more distracting, when one felt entitled to know the lie of the land. For, Aruna apart, wasn’t he becoming too deeply immersed in his Indian relations—losing touch, perhaps,