Vinx would say it was none of her business. But Lance would be a help. She was counting on him to readjust the scales. Thank goodness for Lance—giving up the Lahore ‘week’ and the Polo Tournament to spend Christmas with her and Roy in the wilds of Rajputana. Just to have him about the place again—his music, his big laugh, his radiant certainty that, in any and every circumstance, it was a splendid thing to be alive—would banish worries and lift her spirits sky-high. After the still, deep waters of her beloved Vinx—whose strain of remoteness had not been quite dispelled by marriage—and the starlit mysteries of Aruna and the intriguing complexities of Roy, a breath of Lance would be tonic as a breeze from the Hills. He was so clear and sure; not in flashes and spurts, but continuously, like sunshine; because the clearness and sureness had his whole personality behind them. And he could be counted on to deal faithfully with Roy; perhaps lure him back to the Punjab. It would be sad losing him; but in the distracting circumstances, a clean cut seemed the only solution. She would just put in a word to that effect: a weakness she had rarely been known to resist, however complete her faith in the man of the moment.
She simply dared not think of Aruna, who trusted her. It seemed like betrayal—no less. And yet...?
“One made out of the better
part of earth,
A man born as at sunrise.”
It was all over—the strenuous joy of planning and preparing. Christmas itself was over. From the adjacent borders of British India, five lonely ones had been gathered in. There was Mr Mayne, Commissioner of Delhi, Vincent’s old friend of Kohat days, unmarried and alone in camp with a stray Settlement Officer, whose wife and children were at Home. There was Mr Bourne—in the Canals—large-boned and cadaverous, with a sardonic gleam in his eye. Rumour said there had once been a wife and a friend; now there remained only work and the whisky bottle; and he was overdoing both. To him Thea devoted herself and her fiddle with particular zest. The other two lonelies—a Mr and Mrs Nair—were medical missionaries, fighting the influenza scourge in the Delhi area; drastically disinfected—because of the babies; more than thankful for a brief respite from their daily diet of tragedy, and from labours Hercules’ self would not have disdained. For all that, they had needed a good deal of pressing. They had ‘no clothes.’ They were very shy. But Thea had insisted; so they came—clothed chiefly in shyness and gratitude, which made them shyer than ever.