To-night—after reading both letters—that sense of nearness seemed stronger than ever. Could it be that the magnetism of India was in the nature of an intimation from her that for the present his work lay here? By the hidden forces that mould men’s lives, he had been drawn to the land of heart’s desire; and at home, neither his family nor his country seemed to have any particular need of him. Whether or no India had need of him, he assuredly had need of her. And it was the very strength of that feeling which had given him pause.
But now, at last, he knew beyond cavil that, for all his mind—or was it his conscience?—might haver and split straws, he had been drawn to Rajputana, as irresistibly as if that vast desert region were the moon and he a wavelet on the tidal shore.
With a great sigh he rose, yawned cavernously and shivered. Better get to bed and to sleep:—a bed that didn’t clank and jolt and batter your brains to a pulp. Things would look amazingly different in the morning.
[Footnote 4: Tripod table.]
[Footnote 5: Joy of my Heart.]
“Darkness and solitude shine
For life’s fair outward part, are rife
The silver noises: let them be.
It is the very soul of life
Listens for thee, listens for thee.”
The depressingly bare, whitewashed bedroom owned a French bedstead, with brass rails;—a welcome ‘find’ in a dak bungalow, especially after three very broken nights in an Indian train. Tired to the point of stupefaction, Roy promised himself he would sleep the clock round; eat a three-decker Anglo-Indian breakfast, and thereafter be his own man again. In that faith he laid his head on the least lumpy portion of the pillow—and in less than five minutes found himself quite intolerably wide awake.
Though the bedstead neither repudiated him, nor took liberties with his person, ghostly clankings and vibrations still jarred his nerves and played devil’s tunes in his brain. Though he kept his eyelids severely closed, sleep—the coveted anodyne—seemed to hover on the misty edge of things, always just out of reach. His body was over-tired, his brain abnormally alert. Each change of position, that was to be positively the last, lost its virtue in the space of three minutes, till the sheet—that was too narrow for the mattress—became ruckled into hills and valleys and made things worse than ever. Having started like this, he knew himself capable of keeping it up gaily till the small hours; and to-night, of all nights——!