He had been a fakir, past saving, could he have withstood her in that vein. Her nearness, her tenderness, revived the mood of sheer bewitchment, when he could think of nothing, desire nothing but her. She had a genius for inducing that mood in men; and Roy’s virginal passion, once roused, was stronger than he knew. With his arms round her, his heart against hers, it was humanly impossible to wish her other than she was—other than his own.
Words failed. He simply clung to her, in a kind of dumb desperation to which she had not the key.
“To-morrow,” he said at last, “I’ll tell you more—show you her picture.”
And, unlike Aruna, she had no inkling of all that those few words implied.
[Footnote 28: Early tea.]
of the British is as long as a summer’s day;
arm of the British is as long as a winter’s night.”—Pathan
They parted on the understanding that Roy would come in to tiffin on Sunday. Instead, to his shameless relief, he found the squadron detailed to bivouac all day in the Gol Bagh, and be available at short notice.
It gave him a curious thrill to open his camphor-drenched uniform case—left behind with Lance—and unearth the familiar khaki of Kohat and Mespot days; to ride out with his men in the cool of early morning to the gardens at the far end of Lahore. The familiar words of commands, the rhythmic clatter of hoofs, were music in his ears. A thousand pities he was not free to join the Indian Army. But, in any case, there was Rose. There would always be Rose now. And he had an inkling that their angle of vision was by no means identical....
The voice of Lance, shouting an order, dispelled his brown study; and Rose—beautiful, desirable, but profoundly disturbing—did not intrude again.
Arrived in the gardens, they picketed the horses, and disposed themselves under the trees to await events. The heat increased and the flies, and the eternal clamour of crows; and it was nearing noon before their ears caught a far-off sound—an unmistakable hum rising to a roar.
“Thought so,” said Lance, and flung a word of command to his men.
A clatter of hoofs heralded arrivals—Elton and the Superintendent of Police with orders for an immediate advance. A huge mob, headed by students, was pouring along the Circular Road. The police were powerless to hold them; and at all costs they must be prevented from debouching on to the Mall. It was brisk work; but the squadron reached the critical corner just in time.
A sight to catch the breath and quicken the pulses—that surging sea of black heads, uncovered in token of mourning; that forest of arms beating the air to a deafening chorus of orthodox lamentation; while a portrait of Ghandi, on a black banner, swayed uncertainly in the midst.