Roy started. “What—Aruna?”
“She didn’t mention the name. Only ructions—and Thea to the rescue!”
“Poor Aruna!—She stayed in England a goodish time, because of the War—and Dyan. I’ve not heard of Dyan for an age; and I don’t believe they have either. He was knocked out in 1915. Lost his left arm. Said he was going to study art in Calcutta.—I wonder——?” Desmond—who had chiefly been talking to divert the current of his thoughts—noted, with satisfaction, how his simple tactics had taken effect.
“We’ll write to-morrow—eh?” said he. “Better still—happy thought!—I’ll bear down on Jaipur myself, for Christmas leave. Rare fine pig-sticking in those parts.”
The happy thought proved a masterstroke. In the discussion of plans and projects Roy became almost his radiant self again: forgot, for one merciful hour, that he was dead, damned, and done for—the wraith of a ‘Might-Have-Been.’
[Footnote 3: Punjab Irregular Frontier Force.]
“Oh, not more
subtly silence strays
Amongst the winds, between the voices...
Than thou art present in my days.
My silence, life
returns to thee
In all the pauses of her breath.
And thou, wake ever, wake for me!”
Some five weeks later, Roy sat alone—very completely and desolately alone—in a whitewashed, unhomely room that everywhere bore the stamp of dak bungalow; from the wobbly teapoy at his elbow to the board of printed rules that adorned the empty mantelpiece. The only cheering thing in the room was the log fire that made companionable noises and danced shadow-dances on the dingy white walls. But the optimism of the fire was discounted by the pessimism of the lamp that seemed specially constructed to produce a minimum of light with a maximum of smell—and rank kerosene at that.
Dak bungalows had seemed good fun in the days of his leave, when he and Lance made merry over their well-worn failings. But it was quite another affair to smoke the pipe of compulsory solitude, on the outskirts of Chitor, hundreds of miles away from Kohat and the Regiment; to feel oneself the only living being in a succession of empty rooms—for the servants were housed in their own little colony apart. Solitude, in the right mood and the right place, was