END OF PHASE III.
DUST OF THE ACTUAL
use trying to keep out of things. The moment they
put you in—you’re in. The moment you’re born, you’re done
The middle of March found Roy back in the Punjab, sharing a ramshackle bungalow with Lance and two of his brother officers; good fellows, both, in their diametrically opposite fashions; but superfluous—from Roy’s point of view. When he wanted a quiet ‘confab’ with Lance, one or both were sure to come strolling in and hang round, jerking out aimless remarks. When he wanted a still quieter ‘confab’ with his maturing novel, their voices and footsteps echoed too clearly in the verandahs and the scantily furnished rooms. But did he venture to grumble at these minor drawbacks, Lance would declare he was demoralised by floating loose in an Earthly Paradise and becoming a mere appendage to a pencil.
There was a measure of truth in the last. As a matter of fact, after two months of uninterrupted work at Udaipur, Roy had unwarily hinted at a risk of becoming embedded in his too congenial surroundings;—and that careless admission had sealed his fate.
Lance Desmond, with his pointed phrase, had virtually dug him out of his chosen retreat; had written temptingly of the ‘last of the polo,’ of prime pig-sticking at Kapurthala, of the big Gymkhana that was to wind up the season:—a rare chance for Roy to exhibit his horsemanship. And again, in more serious mood, he had written of increasing anxiety over his Sikhs with that ‘infernal agitation business’ on the increase, and an unbridled native press shouting sedition from the house-tops. A nice state of chaos India was coming to! He hoped to goodness they wouldn’t be swindled out of their leave; but Roy had better ‘roll up’ soon, so as to be on the spot, in case of ructions; not packed away in cotton-wool down there.
A few letters in this vein had effectually rent the veil of illusion that shielded Roy from aggressive actualities. In Udaipur there had been no hysterical press; no sedition flaunting on the house-tops. One hadn’t arrived at the twentieth century, even. Except for a flourishing hospital, a few hideous modern interiors, and a Resident—who was very good friends with Vinx—one stepped straight back into the leisurely, colourful, frankly brutal life of the middle ages. And Roy had fallen a willing victim to the charms of Udaipur:—her white palaces, white temples, and white landing-stages, flanked with marble elephants, embosomed in wooded hills, and reflected in the blue untroubled depths of the Pichola Lake. Immersed in his novel, he had not known a dull or lonely hour in that enchanted backwater of Rajasthan.