“St. George and the Cross!” he ejaculated. “If I were thus would they know me?” he asked. “There would be danger, but the Sahib knowing of this, could take more care in the way of deceit. But Bootea will know—the eyes will not be hidden.”
Then he thought of Hunsa, and asked, “But aren’t you afraid to go with that beast, Hunsa?”
The girl laughed. “The decoits have orders from the Dewan to kill him if I complain of him; but if they do not he is promised the torture when he comes back if I make complaint. If the Sahib will but wait a few days before the journey so that Bootea has made friends with Amir Kami before he comes, it will be better. We will start in two days.”
“I’ll see, Gulab,” he answered evasively. “You are going now?”
“Yes, Sahib—it has been said.”
“I’ll send the doorman with you.”
“No, Bootea will be better alone,” she touched the knife in her sash; “it must not be known that Bootea came to the Sahib.”
Barlow took her arm leading her through the bathroom to the back door; he opened it, and listened intently for a few seconds. Then he took her oval face in his palms and kissed her, passionately, saying, “Good-bye, little girl; God be with you. You are sweet.”
“The Sahib is like a god to Bootea,” she whispered.
As the girl slipped away between the bushes, like something floating out of a dream, Barlow stood at the open door, a resurge of abasement flooding his soul. In the combat between his mentality and his heart the heart was making him a weakling, a dishonourable weakling, so it seemed. He pulled the door shut, and went back to his bed and finally fell asleep, a thing of tortured unrest.
Barlow was up early next morning, wakened by that universal alarm clock of India, the grey-necked, small-bodied city crow whose tribe is called the Seven Sisters—noisy, impudent, clamorous, sharp-eyed thieves that throng the compounds like sparrows, that hop in through the open window and steal a slice of toast from beside the cup of tea at the bedside.
He mounted the waiting Cabuli pony and rode to the Residency. He had much to talk over with Hodson in the light of all that had transpired in the last two days, and, also, he had a hope that Elizabeth would be possessed of an after-the-storm calm, would greet him, and somehow give him a moral sustaining against his lapse in heart loyalty. Mentally he didn’t label his feeling toward Elizabeth love. Toward her it had been largely a matter of drifting, undoubted giving in to suasion, more of association than what was said. She had class; she was intellectual; there was no doubt about her wit—it was like a well-cut diamond, sparkling, brilliant—no warmth. When Barlow reflected, jogging along on the Cabuli, that he probably did not love Elizabeth, picturing the passion as typified by Romeo and Juliet