“Roy—I’ve got something to tell you—to show you ... if you can detach your mind for an hour——?”
“Why, of course. What is it—where?”
He looked round the room. Instinctively, he knew it concerned his mother.
“Not here. Upstairs—in her House of Gods.” He saw Roy flinch. “If I can bear it, old boy, you can. And there’s a reason—you’ll understand.”
The little room above the studio had been sacred to Lilamani ever since her home-coming as a bride of eighteen; sacred to her prayers and meditations; to the sandalwood casket that held her ‘private god’; for the Indian wife has always one god chosen for special worship—not to be named to any one, even her husband. And although a Christian Lilamani had discontinued that form of devotion, the tiny blue image of the Baby-god, Krishna, had been a sacred treasure always, shown, on rare occasions only, to Roy. To enter that room was to enter her soul. And Roy, shrinking apart, felt himself unworthy—because of Rose.
On the threshold there met him the faint scent of sandalwood that pervaded her. For there, in an alcove, stood Krishna’s casket. In larger boxes, lined with sandalwood, her many-tinted silks and saris lay lovingly folded. Another casket held her jewels, and arranged on a row of shelves stood her dainty array of shoes—gold and silver and pale brocades: an intimate touch that pierced his heart.
Near the Krishna alcove, hung a portrait he had not seen: a thing of fragile, almost unearthly beauty, painted when her husband came home—and realised....
An aching lump in Roy’s throat cut like a knife; but his father’s remark put him on his mettle. And, the next instant, he saw....
“Dad!” he breathed, in awed amazement.
For there, on the small round table stood a model in dull red clay: unmistakably, unbelievably—the rock fortress of Chitor: the walls scarped and bastioned; Khumba Rana’s tower; and the City itself—no ruin, but a miniature presentment of Chitor, as she might have been in her day of ancient glory, as Roy had been dimly aware of her in the course of his own amazing ride. Temples, palaces, huddled houses—not detailed, but skilfully suggested—stirred the old thrill in his veins, the old certainty that he knew....
“Well——?” asked Sir Nevil, whose eyes had not left his face.
“Well!” echoed Roy, emerging from his trance of wonder. “I’m dumfounded. A few mistakes, here and there; but—as a whole ... Dad—how in the world ... could you know?”
“I don’t know. I hoped you would. I ... saw it clearly, just like that——”
“How? In a dream?”