All this she had confided to him when, at last, they were safe on the great ship, with miles of turbulent water between them and the ruthless dominion of dastur. That confession—with its unconscious revealing of the Rajput spirit hidden in her laughter-loving heart—had drawn them into closest union and filled Dyan with self-reproach. Small wonder if Oxford seemed to both a paradise of knowledge and of friendly freedom. Small wonder if they believed that, in one bold leap, they had bridged the gulf between East and West.
At Bramleigh Beeches, Lilamani—who knew all without telling—had welcomed them with open arms: and Lady Despard no less. It was here that Dyan met Tara, who had ‘no use’ for colleges—and, in the course of a few vacation visits, the damage had been done.
At first he had felt startled, even a little dismayed. English education and delayed marriage had involved no dream of a possible English wife. With the Indian Civil in view, he had hoped to meet some girl student of his own race, sufficiently advanced to remain outside purdah and to realise that a modern Indian husband might crave companionship from his wife no less than motherhood, worship, and service.
And now ... this——!
Striding across the field, in the glimmer of a moon just beginning to take colour, he alternately raged at her light rebuff, and applauded her maidenly hesitation. As a Hindu and a man of breeding, his natural instinct had been to approach her parents; but he knew enough of modern youth, by now, to realise that English parents were a side issue in these little affairs. For himself, the primitive lover flamed in him. He wanted to kneel and worship her. In the same breath, he wanted simply to possess her, would she or no....
And in saner moods, uncertainty racked him. What did they amount to, her smiles and flashes of sympathy, her kind, cousinly ways? What did Roy’s cousinly kindness amount to, with Aruna? If in India they suffered from too much restriction, it dawned on him that in England trouble might arise from too much freedom. Always, by some cause, there would be suffering. The gods would see to it. But not through loss of her—he mutely implored them. Any way but that!
Everything hung on the walk home. Those two must have finished their sparring match by now....
They had. Roy was on the bank, helping Aruna pack the basket; and Cuthbert in possession of Tara—not for long.
He was called upon to punt back; and at the boat-house, where a taxi removed the elders and the picnic impedimenta, he essayed a futile manoeuvre to recapture Tara and saddle Dyan with the solid Emily. Failing, he consoled himself by keeping in touch with Aruna and Roy.
Dyan patently delayed starting, patently lagged behind. Unskilled and desperately in earnest, he could not lead up to his moment. He was laboriously framing the essential words when Tara scattered them with a light remark, rallying him on his snail’s pace.