Lindsay stopped. He had to. Captain Filbert was murmuring the cadences of a hymn. She went through two stanzas, and—covered her eyes for a moment with her hand. When she spoke it was in a quiet, level, almost mechanical way. “Yes,” she said. “The Cross and the Crown, the Crown and the Cross. Father in Heaven, I do not forget Thy will and Thy purpose, that I should bring the word of Thy love to the poor and the lowly, the outcast and those despised. And what I say to this man, who offers me the gifts and the gladness of a world that had none for Thee, is the answer Thou hast put in my heart—that the work is Thine and that I am Thine, and he has no part or lot in me, nor can ever have. Here is Crooked lane. Good-night, Mr. Lindsay.”
She had slipped into the devious darkness of the place before he could find any reply, before he quite realised, indeed, that they had reached her lodging. He could only utter a vague “Good-night” after her, formulating more definite statements to himself a few minutes later in Bentinck street.
Miss Howe was walking in the business quarter of Calcutta. It was the business quarter, and yet the air was gay with the dimpling of piano notes, and looking up one saw the bright sunlight fall on yellow stuccoed flats above the shops and the offices. There the pleasant north wind blew banners of muslin curtains out of wide windows, and little gardens of palms in pots showed behind the balustrades of the flat roofs whenever a story ran short. Everywhere was a subtle contagion of momentary well-being, a sense of lifted burden. The stucco streets were too slovenly to be purely joyous, but a warm satisfaction brooded in them, the pariahs blinked at one genially, there was a note of cheer even in the cheeling of the kites where they sat huddled on the roof-cornices or circled against the high blue sky. It was enjoyable to be abroad, in the brushing fellowship of the pavements, in touch with brown humility, half-clad and going afoot, since even brown humility seemed well affected toward the world, alert and content. The air was full of the comfortable flavour of food-stuffs and spiced luxuries and the incense of wayside trees; it was as if the sun laid a bland compelling hand upon the city, bidding strange flowers bloom and strange fruits increase. Brokers’ gharries rattled past, each holding a pale young man preoccupied with a note-book; where the bullock-carts gathered themselves together and blocked the road the pale young men put excited heads out of the gharry windows and used remarkable imprecations. One of them, as Hilda turned into the compound of the Calcutta Chronicle, leaned out to take off his hat, and sent her up to the office of that journal in the pleasant reflection of his infinite interest in life. “Upon my word,” she said to herself, as she ascended the stairs behind the lean legs of a Mussulman servant in a dirty shirt and an embroidered cap, “he’s so light-hearted, so general, that one doubts the very tremendous effect even of a failure like the one he contemplates.”