“Well—one lives and learns. I can make good use of my knowledge without turning myself into an imitation Englishman. An Indian wife might make equal difficulty. So—with all my zeal—I am between two grindstones. My father joined the Civil. He was keen. He did well. But—no promotion; and little friendliness, except from very few. I believe he was never happy. I believe—it killed him. I was cherishing a hope that, now, things might be better. But I am beginning to see—I may be wrong. Safer to see it in time——”
Roy looked genuinely distressed. “Poor old Dyan. Perhaps you’re right. I don’t know much about British India. But it does seem hard lines—and bad policy—to choke off men like you.”
“Yes. They might consider that more, if they heard some of our fire-eaters. One was at me last week. He gave the British ten years to survive. Said their lot could raise a revolution to-morrow if they had money—a trifle of five millions! He was swearing the Indian princes are not loyal, in spite of talk and subscriptions; that the Army will join whichever side gives best pay. We who are loyal need some encouragement—some recognition. We are only human——!”
“Rather. But you won’t go back on our little show, old chap. Just when I’m dead keen—laying my plans for India——”
He took hold of Dyan’s upper arm and gave it a friendly shake.
“No, I’ll stick to that. But are you sure you can work it—with your people? If you back out, I swear, by the sin of the sack of Chitor, I’ll join the beastly crowd who are learning to make bombs in Berlin.”
At that—the most solemn oath that can pass the lips of a Rajput—Roy looked startled. Then he laughed.
“‘Commem’ seems to have disagreed with you all round! But I won’t be intimidated. Likewise—I won’t back out. I intend opening diplomatic conversations with Jeffers to-night. Recherche dinner for two in my room. All his little weaknesses! He’d be a strong ally. Wish me luck.”
Dyan wished him luck in a rather perfunctory tone, considering his vehemence of a moment earlier. All the fire seemed suddenly to have gone out of him.
They had just entered the college gate; and a few yards ahead, they caught sight of Lady Despard and Tara—the girl’s hand linked through her mother’s arm.
“Oh, I clean forgot,” remarked Roy. “I said they could look in.”
[Footnote 1: Own country.]
“It is the spirit
of the quest which helps. I am the slave of this
spirit of the quest.”—KABIR.
Roy’s recherche little dinner proved an unqualified success. With sole and chicken saute, with trifle and savoury, he mutely pleaded his cause; feeling vaguely guilty, the while, of belittling his childhood’s idol, whom he increasingly admired and loved. But this India business was tremendously important, and the dear old boy would never suspect——