Nevil was home too, for that wonderful Christmas; and Tara, changed also, in her own vivid way; frank and friendly with Roy; though the grown-up veil between them was seldom lifted now. For the War held them both in its unrelaxing grip; satisfied, in terrible and tremendous fashion, the hidden desire—not uncommon in young things, though concealed like a vice—to suffer for others. Everything else, for the time being, seemed a side issue. Personal affairs could wait....
When it came to letting Nevil and Roy go again, after their brief, beautiful interlude together, Lilamani discovered how those fifteen months of ceaseless anxiety and ceaseless service had shaken her nerve. Gladness of giving could now scarce hold its own against dread of losing; till she felt as if her heart must break under the strain. It did not break, however. It endured—as the hearts of a million mothers and wives have endured in all ages—to breaking-point ... and beyond. The immensity of the whole world’s anguish at once crushed and upheld her, making her individual pain seem almost a little thing——
They left her. And the War went on—disastrously, gloriously, stubbornly, inconclusively; would go on, it seemed, to the end of Time. One came to feel as if life free from the shadow of War had never been. As if it would never be again——
“No receipt openeth
the heart, but a true friend.”—FRANCIS
As early as 1819 there had been a Desmond in India; a soldier-administrator of mark, in his day. During the Sikh Wars there had been a Desmond in the Punjab; and at the time of the Great Mutiny there was a Punjab Cavalry Desmond at Kohat; a notable fighter, with a flowing beard and an easy-going uniform that would not commend itself to the modern military eye. In the year of the second Afghan War, there was yet another Desmond at Kohat; one that earned the cross ‘For Valour,’ married the daughter of Sir John Meredith, and rose to high distinction. Later still, in the year of grace 1918, his two sons were stationed there, in the self-same Punjab Cavalry Regiment. There was also by now, a certain bungalow in Kohat known as ‘Desmond’s bungalow,’ occupied at present by Colonel Paul Desmond, now in Command.
That is no uncommon story in India. She has laid her spell on certain families; and they have followed one another through the generations, as homing birds follow in line across the sunset sky. And their name becomes a legend that passes from father to son; because India does not forget. There is perhaps nothing quite like it in the tale of any other land. It makes for continuity; for a fine tradition of service and devotion; a tradition that will not be broken till agitators and theorists make an end of Britain in India. But that day is not yet; and the best elements of both races still believe it will never be.