Alicia caught at the stall table and clung to it, as Lindsay made his stride forward. She saw him twist his hand in the beard of Mecca and fling the man into the road; she was aware of a vague thankfulness that it ended there, as if she expected bloodshed. More plainly she saw the manner of Duff’s coming back to the girl and the way in which, with a look of half-frightened satisfaction, Laura gave herself up to him. He was hurrying her away without a word. Her surrender was as absolute and final as if she had been one of those desirable things he said he wanted to buy. Alicia intercepted, as it were, the indignity of being forgotten, stepping up to them. “Take her home in the carriage,” she said to Duff, “and send it back for me. I shall be here a long time still—quite a long time.” She stared at Captain Filbert as she spoke, but made no answer to the “Good-morning! God bless you!” with which the girl perfunctorily addressed her. When they left her she looked down at the long-stemmed rose, the perfect one, and drove a thorn of it deep into her palm, as other creatures will sometimes hurt themselves more to suffer less. It was not in the least fantastic of her, for she was not aware that she still held it, but that was the only rose she brought away.
Hilda left the road, with a trace of its red dust on the hem of her skirt, and struck out into the Maidan. It spread before her, green where the slanting sun searched through the short blades, brown and yellow in the distance, where the light lay on the top of the withered grass. It was like a great English park, with something of the village common, only the trees, for the most part, made avenues over it, running an arbitrary half-mile this way or that, with here and there a group dotted about in the open; and the brimming tank-pots were of India, and of nowhere else in the world. The sun was dipping behind the masts that showed where the straight border of the river ran, and the shadows of the pipals and the banyans were richly purple over the roads. The light struck on the stuccoed upper verandahs of the houses in Chowringhee which made behind their gardens the other border, and seemed to push them back, to underline their scattered insignificance, hinting that the Maidan at its pleasure might surge over them altogether. Calcutta, the teeming capital, lived in the streets and gullies behind that chaste frontage, and quarrelled over drainage schemes; but out here cattle grazed in quiet companies, and squirrels played on the boles of the trees. Calcutta the capital indeed was superimposed; one felt that always at this time, when the glow came and stood in the air among the tamarinds, and there was nothing anywhere but luminous space and indolent stillness, and the wrangling and winging of crows. What persisted then under the span of the sky, was the old India of rich tradition, and a bullock beneath the yoke, jogging through the evening to his own place where the blue haze hid the little huts on the rim of the city, the real India, and the rest was fiction and fabrication.