And suddenly there sprang a dilemma. How could Roy make himself repeat to Uncle Nevil the rude remarks of that abominable boy? And if not—how was he going to properly explain——?
“What a great
day came and passed;
Unknown then, but known at last.”
That very problem was puzzling Roy as he lay on his bed, with Prince’s head against his shoulder, aching a a good deal, exulting at thought of his new-born knighthood, wondering how long he was to be treated like a sinner,—and, through it all, simply longing for his mother....
It was the conscious craving for her sympathy, her applause, that awakened him to his dilemma.
He had championed her with all his might against that lumpy Boy-of-ten,—who kicked in the meanest way; and he couldn’t explain why, so she couldn’t know ever. The memory of those insulting words hurt him so that he shrank from repeating them to anyone—least of all to her. Yet how could he see her and feel her and not tell her everything? She would surely ask—she would want to know—and then—when he tried to think beyond that point he felt simply lost.
It was an impasse none the less tragic because he was only nine. To tell her every little thing was as simple a necessity of life as eating or sleeping; and—till this bewildering moment—as much a matter of course. For Lilamani Sinclair, with her Eastern mother-genius, had forged between herself and her first-born a link woven of the tenderest, most subtle fibres of heart and spirit; a link so vital, yet so unassertive, that it bid fair to stand the strain of absence, the test of time. So close a link with any human heart, while it makes for beauty, makes also for pain and perplexity,—as Roy was just realising to his dismay.
At the sound of footsteps he sat up, suddenly very much aware of his unheroic dishevelment. He tugged at the fallen stocking and made hasty dabs at his hair. But it was only Esther the housemaid with an envelope on a tray. Envelopes, however, were always mysterious and exciting.
His name was scribbled on this one in Tara’s hand; and as Esther retreated he opened it, wondering....
It contained a half-sheet of note-paper, and between the folds lay a circle of narrow blue ribbon plaited in three strands. But only two of the strands were ribbon; the third was a tress of her gleaming hair. Roy gazed at it a moment, lost in admiration, still wondering; then he glanced at Tara’s letter—not scrawled, but written with laboured neatness and precision.
“DEAR ROY,—It was splendid. You are Prithvi Raj. I am sending you the bangel like Aunt Lila told us. It can’t be gold or jewels. But I pulled the ribbin out of my petticote and put in sum of my hair to make it spangly. So now you are Braselet Bound Brother. Don’t forget. From TARA.”
“I hope you aren’t
hurting much. Do splain to Uncle Nevil properly
and come down soon. I am hear playing with Chris. TARA.”