“Hear, hear!” Broome applauded him. “But I’m afraid, my dear boy, the Time Spirit is out to make tradesmen and politicians of us all. Thank God, the soul of a race lives in its books, its philosophy and art.”
“Very well then”—Roy was the speaker,—“the obvious remedy lies in getting the souls of both races into closer touch—philosophy, art, and all that—eh, Jeffers? That’s what we’re after—Dyan and I—on the lines of that society Dad belongs to.”
Broome looked thoughtfully from one to the other. “A tall order,” said he.
“A vision splendid!” said Lady Despard.
Roy leaned eagerly towards her. “You don’t sneer at dreams, Aunt Helen.”
“Nor do I, my son. Dreamers are our strictly unpaid torch-bearers. They light the path for us; and we murmur ‘Poor fools!’ with a kind of sneaking self-satisfaction, when they come a cropper.”
“’Which I ’ope it won’t ‘appen to me!’” quoted Roy, cheered by Lady Despard’s approval. “Anyway, we’re keen to speed up the better understanding move—on the principle that Art unites and politics divide.”
“Very pithy—and approximately true! May I be allowed to proffer a sound working maxim for youth on the war-path? ’Freedom and courage in thought—obedience in act.’ When I say obedience, I don’t mean slavish conformity. When I say freedom, I don’t mean licence. Only the bond are free.”
“Jeffers, you’re a Daniel! I’ll pinch that pearl of wisdom! But what about democracy—Cuthers’ pet panacea? Isn’t it making for disobedience in act—rebellion; and enslavement in thought—every man reared on the same catch-words, minted with the same hall-mark?”
That roused the much-enduring British Lion—in the person of Cuthbert Gordon.
“Confound you, Roy! This is a picnic, not a bally Union debate. You can’t argue for nuts; and when you start spouting you’re the limit. But two can play at that game!” He flourished a half-empty syphon of lemonade, threatening the handle with a very square thumb.
“Fire away, old bean.” Roy opened his mouth by way of invitation. Cuthbert promptly pressed the trigger—and missed his mark.
There was a small shriek from Tara and from the girls on the bank: then the opponents proceeded to deal with one another in earnest....
Dyan soon lost interest when India was not the theme; and, as the elders fell into an undercurrent of talk, his eyes sought Tara’s face. Her answering smile spurred him to a bold move; and he leaned towards her, over the edge of the boat. “Miss Despard,” he said under his breath, “won’t you come for a stroll in the field?—Do.”
She shook her head. “I’m too lazy! We’ve had enough exercise. And there’s the walk home.”
Her refusal jarred him; but desire overruled pride. “You couldn’t call it exercise. Do come.”
“Truly—I’m tired,” she insisted gently, looking away from him towards her mother.