He put his arms round her, as if to shield her from the memory of it all.
“I’ll see you to-morrow?” she asked.
“Of course. If I can square it. But we shall be snowed under with emergency orders. I’ll send a note in any case.”
“Take care of yourself—on my account,” she commanded softly; and they kissed.
But—whether fancy or fact—Roy had an under sense of mutual constraint. It was not the same thing at all as that last kiss at Shadara.
There they had come closer, in spirit, than ever yet. Now—not two hours later—the thin end of an unseen wedge seemed to be stealthily pressing them apart.
[Footnote 29: House.]
[Footnote 30: Alas, alas!]
[Footnote 31: First a blow, then a word.]
[Footnote 32: True talk. Shameful talk.]
[Footnote 33: Caste.]
“It has long been
a grave question whether any Government not too
strong for the liberties of the people, can be strong enough to
maintain its existence in great emergencies.”—ABRAHAM LINCOLN.
Back in Cantonments, Roy found strong detachments being rushed to all vital points, and Brigade Headquarters moving into Lahore.
It was late before Lance returned, tired and monosyllabic. He admitted they had mopped things up a bit—outside; and left a detachment, in support of the police, guarding the Mall. But—the city was in open rebellion. No white man could safely show his face there. The anti-British poison, instilled without let or hindrance, was taking violent effect. He’d seen enough of it for one day. He wanted things to eat and drink—especially drink. ‘Things’ were produced; and afterwards—alone with Roy in their bungalow—he talked more freely, in no optimistic vein, sworn foe of pessimism though he was.
“Sporadic trouble? Not a bit of it! Look at the way they’re going for lines of communication. And look at these choice fragments from one of their posters I pinched off a police inspector. ’The English are the worst lot and are like monkeys, whose deceit and cunning are obvious to high and low.... Do not lose courage, but try your utmost to turn these men away from your holy country.’ Pretty sentiments—eh? Fact is, we’re up against organised rebellion.”
Roy nodded. “I had that from Dyan, long ago. Paralysis of movement and Government is their game. We may have a job to regain control of the city.”
“Not if we declare Martial Law,” said the son of Theo Desmond with a kindling eye. “Of course, I’m only a soldier—and proud of it! But I’ve more than a nodding acquaintance with the Punjabi. He’s no word-monger; handier with his lathi than his tongue. If you stir him up, he hits out. And I don’t blame him. The voluble gentlemen from the South don’t realise the inflammable stuff they’re playing with——”