“Dyan!” Roy could not repress his astonishment. He had almost forgotten that side of things. Right or wrong—a tribute to Tara indeed! It jerked him uncomfortably; almost annoyed him.
“Unfair on Grandfather,” he said with decision. “For every reason, you ought to marry—an enlightened wife. Think—of Aruna.”
“I do think of her. It is she who ought to marry.”
The emphasis was not lost on Roy:—and it hurt. Last night’s poignant scene was intimately with him still. “I’m afraid you won’t persuade her to,” he said in a contained voice.
“I am quite aware of that. And the reason—even a blind man could not fail to see.”
They looked straight at one another for a long moment. Roy did not swerve from the implied accusation.
“Well, it’s no fault of mine, Dyan,” he said, recalling Aruna’s confession that tacitly freed him from blame. “She understands—there’s a bigger thing between us than our mere selves. Whatever I’m free to do for her, I’ll gladly do—always. It was chiefly to ease her poor heart that I risked the Delhi adventure. I felt I had lost the link with you.”
“Not surprising.” Dyan smoked for a few minutes in silence. He was clearly moved by the fine frankness of Roy’s attitude. “All the same,” he said at last, “it was not quite broken. You have given me new life; and because you did it—for her, I swear to you, as long as she needs me, I will not fail her.” He held out his hand. Roy’s closed on it hard.
“Later in the morning I will come back and see her,” Dyan added, in a changed voice—and went out.
* * * * *
Later in the morning, Roy himself was allowed to see her. With the help of his stick he limped to her verandah balcony, where she lay in a long chair, with cushions and rugs, the poor arm in a sling. Thea was with her. She had heard as much of last night’s doings as any one would ever know. So she felt justified in letting the poor dears have half an hour together.
Her withdrawal was tactfully achieved; but there followed an awkward silence. For the space of several minutes it seemed that neither of the ‘poor dears’ knew quite what to make of their privilege, though they were appreciating it from their hearts.
Roy found himself too persistently aware of the arm that had been broken to save him; of the new bond between them, signed and sealed by that one unforgettable kiss.
As for Aruna—while pain anchored her body to earth, her unstable heart swayed disconcertingly from heights of rarefied content, to depths of shyness. Things she had said and done, on that far-away hillside, seemed unbelievable, remembered in her familiar balcony with a daylight mind: and fear lest he might be ‘thinking it that way too’ increased shyness tenfold. Yet it was she who spoke first, after all.
“Oh, it makes me angry ... to see you—like that,” she said, indicating his ankle with a faint movement of her hand.