Sir Nevil offered Roy a cigarette, and they sat down in two of the six empty chairs near the beeches and smoked steadily without exchanging a remark.
But this time they were thinking of one woman. For at parting Tara had said again, “It’s all been her doing—first and last.” And Roy—with every faculty sensitised to catch ethereal vibrations above and below the human octave—divined that identical thought in his father’s silence. Her doing indeed! None of them—not even his father—knew it better than himself.
And now, while he sat there utterly still in the midst of stillness—no stir in the tree-tops, no movement anywhere but the restless glow of Broome’s cigar—the inexpressible sense of her stole in upon him, flooding his spirit like a distillation from the summer night. Moment by moment the impression deepened and glowed within him. Never, since that morning at Chitor, had it so uplifted and fulfilled him....
Surely, now, his father could feel it too? Deliberately he set himself to transmit, if might be, the thrill of her nearness—the intimacy, the intensity of it.
Then, craving certainty, he put out a hand and touched his father’s knee.
“Dad,” the word was a mere breath. “Can you feel...? She is here.”
His father’s hand closed sharply on his own.
For one measureless moment they sat so. Then the sense of her presence faded as a light dies out. The garden was empty. The restless red planet was moving towards them.
On a mutual impulse they rose. Once again, as in her shrine, they exchanged a steadfast look. And Roy had his answer.
He slipped a possessive hand through his father’s arm; and without a word, they walked back into the house....
Parkstone, February 1920.
Parkstone, March 27, 1921.