Next moment his arms were round her; trembling, yet vehement; crushing her against him almost roughly. No mistaking the response of her lips; yet she never stirred; only the fingers of her right hand closed sharply on his arm. Having hold of her at last, after all that inner tumult and resistance, he could hardly let her go. Yet—strangely—even in the white heat of fervour, some detached fragment, at the core of him, seemed to be hating the whole thing, hating himself—and her——
Instantly he released her ... looked at her ... realised.... In those few tempestuous moments he had burnt his boats indeed ...
She met his eyes now, found them too eloquent, and veiled her own.
“No. You are not altogether—a fakir,” she said softly.
“I’d no business. I’m sorry ...” he began, answering his own swift compunction, not her remark.
“I’m not—unless you really mean—you are?” Faint raillery gleamed in her eyes. “You did rather overwhelmingly take things for granted. But still ... after that....”
“Yes—after that ... if you really mean it?”
“Well ... what do you think?”
“I simply can’t think,” he confessed, with transparent honesty. “I hardly know if I’m on my head or my heels. I only know you’ve bewitched me. I’m infatuated—intoxicated with you. But ... if you do care enough ... to marry me——”
“My dear—Roy—can you doubt it?”
He had never heard her voice so charged with emotion. For all answer, he held her close—with less assurance now—and kissed her again....
* * * * *
In course of time they remembered that a pause only lasts five minutes; that there were other partners.
“If we’re not to be too flagrant, even for India,” she said, rising with unperturbed deliberation, “I suggest we go in. Goodness knows where they’ve got to by now!”
He stood up also. “It matters a good deal more ... where we’ve got to. I’ll come over to-morrow and see ... your people....”
“No. You’ll come over—and see me! We’ll descend from the dream ... to the business; and have everything clear to our own satisfaction before we let in all the others. I always vowed I wouldn’t accept a proposal after supper! If you’re ... intoxicated, you might wake sober—disillusioned!”
“But I—I’ve kissed you,” he stammered, suddenly overcome with shyness.
“So you have—a few times! I’m afraid we didn’t keep count! I’m not really doubting either of us—Roy. But still.... Shall we say tea and a ride?”
He hesitated. “Sorry—I’m booked. I promised Lance——”
“Very well—dinner? Mother has some bridge people. Only one table. We can escape into the garden. Now—come along.”
He drew a deep breath. More and more the detached part of him was realising....
They walked back rather briskly, not speaking; nor did he touch her again.