“There were certain Swamis,” he concluded, “trying to keep things peaceful. But they ought to know resistance cannot be passive or peaceful; and excitement without understanding is a fire difficult to quench. I believe this explosion was premature; but there is lots more gunpowder lying about, only waiting for the match. I am taking Aruna into the Hills for a pilgrimage. It is possible Grandfather may come too; we are hoping to start soon after the fifteenth, if things keep quiet. Write to me, Roy, telling all you know. Lahore is a hotbed for trouble; Amritsar, worse; but I hope your authorities are keeping well on their guard.”
From all Roy heard, there seemed good reason to believe they were;—in so far as a Home policy of Government by concession would permit. But well he knew that—in the East—if the ruling power discards action for argument, and uses the sceptre for a walking-stick—things happen to men and women and children on the spot. He also knew that, to England’s great good fortune, there were usually men on the spot who could be relied on, in an emergency, to think and act and dare in accordance with the high tradition of their race.
He hoped devoutly it might not come to that; but at the core of hope lurked a flicker of fear....
[Footnote 23: Abstention as sign of mourning.]
“Her best is bettered with a more delight.”—SHAKSPERE.
The great Gymkhana was almost over. The last event—bare-back feats of horsemanship—had been an exciting affair; a close contest between Lance and Roy and an Indian Cavalry officer. But it was Roy who had carried the day, by his daring and dexterity in the test of swooping down and snatching a handkerchief from the ground at full gallop. The ovation he received went to his head like champagne. But praise from Lance went to his heart; for Lance, like himself, had been ‘dead keen’ on this particular event. He had carried off a tent-pegging cup, however; and appropriately won the V.C. race. So Roy considered he had a right to his triumph; especially as the handkerchief in question had been proffered by Miss Arden. It was reposing in his breast pocket now; and he had a good mind not to part with it. He was feeling in the mood to dare, simply for the excitement of the thing. He and she had won the Gretna Green race—hands down. He further intended—for her honour and his own glory—to come off victor in the Cockade Tournament, in spite of the fact that fencing on horseback was one of Lance’s specialities. He had taught Roy in Mesopotamia, during those barren, plague-ridden stretches of time when the war seemed hung up indefinitely and it took every ounce of surplus optimism to keep going at all.
Roy’s hope was that some other man might knock Lance out; or—as teams would be decided by lot—that luck might cast them together. For the ache of compunction was rather pronounced this afternoon; perhaps because the good fellow’s aloofness from the grand shamianah was also rather pronounced, considering....