The morning sunlight slanted up the maidan and struck, yellow as goldleaf, against the white face of the bungalow. Four black-purple crows swooped down and perched on the veranda rail, waiting their chance to dart in and steal the bread and butter that Ko S’la had set down beside Flory’s bed. Flory crawled through the mosquito net, shouted to Ko S’la to bring him some gin, and then went into the bathroom and sat for a while in a zinc tub of water that was supposed to be cold. Feeling better after the gin, he shaved himself. As a rule he put off shaving until the evening, for his beard was black and grew quickly.
While Flory was sitting morosely in his bath, Mr Macgregor, in shorts and singlet on the bamboo mat laid for the purpose in his bedroom, was struggling with Numbers 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 of Nordenflycht’s ‘Physical Jerks for the Sedentary’. Mr Macgregor never, or hardly ever, missed his morning exercises. Number 8 (flat on the back, raise legs to the perpendicular without bending knees) was downright painful for a man of forty-three; Number 9 (flat on the back, rise to a sitting posture and touch toes with tips of fingers) was even worse. No matter, one must keep fit! As Mr Macgregor lunged painfully in the direction of his toes, a brick-red shade flowed upwards from his neck and congested his face with a threat of apoplexy. The sweat gleamed on his large, tallowy breasts. Stick it out, stick it out! At all costs one must keep fit. Mohammed Ali, the bearer, with Mr Macgregor’s clean clothes across his arm, watched through the half-open door. His narrow, yellow, Arabian face expressed neither comprehension nor curiosity. He had watched these contortions — a sacrifice, he dimly imagined, to some mysterious and exacting god — every morning for five years.
At the same time, too, Westfield, who had gone out early, was leaning against the notched and ink-stained table of the police station, while the fat Sub-inspector interrogated a suspect whom two constables were guarding. The suspect was a man of forty, with a grey, timorous face, dressed only in a ragged longyi kilted to the knee, beneath which his lank, curved shins were speckled with tick-bites.
‘Who is this fellow?’ said Westfield.
‘Thief, sir. We catch him in possession of this ring with two emeralds very-dear. No explanation. How could he — poor coolie — own a emerald ring? He have stole it.’
He turned ferociously upon the suspect, advanced his face tomcat-fashion till it was almost touching the other’s, and roared in an enormous voice:
‘You stole the ring!’
‘You are an old offender!’
‘You have been in prison!’
‘Turn round!’ bellowed the Sub-inspector on an inspiration. ‘Bend over!’
The suspect turned his grey face in agony towards Westfield, who looked away. The two constables seized him, twisted him round and bent him over; the Sub-inspector tore off his longyi, exposing his buttocks.
‘Look at this, sir!’ He pointed to some scars. ‘He have been flogged with bamboos. He is an old offender. THEREFORE he stole the ring!’
‘All right, put him in the clink,’ said Westfield moodily, as he lounged away from the table with his hands in his pockets. At the bottom of his heart he loathed running in these poor devils of common thieves. Dacoits, rebels — yes; but not these poor cringing rats! ‘How many have you got in the clink now, Maung Ba?’ he said.
The lock-up was upstairs, a cage surrounded by six-inch wooden bars, guarded by a constable armed with a carbine. It was very dark, stifling hot, and quite unfurnished, except for an earth latrine that stank to heaven. Two prisoners were squatting at the bars, keeping their distance from a third, an Indian coolie, who was covered from head to foot with ringworm like a coat of mail. A stout Burmese woman, wife of a constable, was kneeling outside the cage ladling rice and watery dahl into tin pannikins.
‘Is the food good?’ said Westfield.
‘It is good, most holy one,’ chorused the prisoners.
The Government provided for the prisoners’ food at the rate of two annas and a half per meal per man, out of which the constable’s wife looked to make a profit of one anna.
Flory went outside and loitered down the compound, poking weeds into the ground with his stick. At that hour there were beautiful faint colours in everything — tender green of leaves, pinkish brown of earth and tree-trunks — like aquarelle washes that would vanish in the later glare. Down on the maidan flights of small, low-flying brown doves chased one another to and fro, and bee-eaters, emerald-green, curvetted like slow swallows. A file of sweepers, each with his load half hidden beneath his garment, were marching to some dreadful dumping-hole that existed on the edge of the jungle. Starveling wretches, with stick-like limbs and knees too feeble to be straightened, draped in earth-coloured rags, they were like a procession of shrouded skeletons walking.
The mali was breaking ground for a new flower-bed, down by the pigeon-cote that stood near the gate. He was a lymphatic, half-witted Hindu youth, who lived his life in almost complete silence, because he spoke some Manipur dialect which nobody else understood, not even his Zerbadi wife. His tongue was also a size too large for his mouth. He salaamed low to Flory, covering his face with his hand, then swung his mamootie aloft again and hacked at the dry ground with heavy, clumsy strokes, his tender back-muscles quivering.
A sharp grating scream that sounded like ‘Kwaaa!’ came from the servants quarters. Ko S’la’s wives had begun their morning quarrel. The tame fighting cock, called Nero, strutted zigzag down the path, nervous of Flo, and Ba Pe came out with a bowl of paddy and they fed Nero and the pigeons. There were more yells from the servants’ quarters, and the gruffer voices of men trying to stop the quarrel. Ko S’la suffered a great deal from his wives. Ma Pu, the first wife, was a gaunt hard-faced woman, stringy from much child-bearing, and Ma Yi, the ‘little wife’, was a fat, lazy cat some years younger. The two women fought incessantly when Flory was in headquarters and they were together. Once when Ma Pu was chasing Ko S’la with a bamboo, he had dodged behind Flory for protection, and Flory had received a nasty blow on the leg.
Mr Macgregor was coming up the road, striding briskly and swinging a thick walking-stick. He was dressed in khaki pagri-cloth shirt, drill shorts and a pigsticker topi. Besides his exercises, he took a brisk two-mile walk every morning when he could spare the time.
‘Top o’ the mornin’ to ye!’ he called to Flory in a hearty matutinal voice, putting on an Irish accent. He cultivated a brisk, invigorating, cold-bath demeanour at this hour of the morning. Moreover, the libellous article in the Burmese Patriot, which he had read overnight, had hurt him, and he was affecting a special cheeriness to conceal this.
‘Morning!’ Flory called back as heartily as he could manage.
Nasty old bladder of lard! he thought, watching Mr Macgregor up the road. How his bottom did stick out in those tight khaki shorts. Like one of those beastly middle-aged scoutmasters, homosexuals almost to a man, that you see photographs of in the illustrated papers. Dressing himself up in those ridiculous clothes and exposing his pudgy, dimpled knees, because it is the pukka sahib thing to take exercise before breakfast — disgusting!
A Burman came up the hill, a splash of white and magenta. It was Flory’s clerk, coming from the tiny office, which was not far from the church. Reaching the gate, he shikoed and presented a grimy envelope, stamped Burmese-fashion on the point of the flap.
‘Good morning, sir.’
‘Good morning. What’s this thing?’
‘Local letter, your honour. Come this morning’s post. Anonymous letter, I think, sir.’
‘Oh bother. All right, I’ll be down to the office about eleven.’
Flory opened the letter. It was written on a sheet of foolscap, and it ran:
MR JOHN FLORY,
SIR, — I the undersigned beg to suggest and WARN to your honour certain useful pieces of information whereby your honour will be much profited, sir.
Sir, it has been remarked in Kyauktada your honour’s great friendship and intimacy with Dr Veraswami, the Civil Surgeon, frequenting with him, inviting him to your house, etc. Sir, we beg to inform you that the said Dr Veraswami is NOT A GOOD MAN and in no ways a worthy friend of European gentlemen. The doctor is eminently dishonest, disloyal and corrupt public servant. Coloured water is he providing to patients at the hospital and selling drugs for own profit, besides many bribes, extortions, etc. Two prisoners has he flogged with bamboos, afterwards rubbing chilis into the place if relatives do not send money. Besides this he is implicated with the Nationalist Party and lately provided material for a very evil article which appeared in the Burmese Patriot attacking Mr Macgregor, the honoured Deputy Commissioner.
He is also sleeping by force with female patients at the hospital.
Wherefore we are much hoping that your honour will ESCHEW same Dr Veraswami and not consort with persons who can bring nothing but evil upon your honour.
And shall ever pray for your honour’s long health and prosperity.
(Signed) A FRIEND.
The letter was written in the shaky round hand of the bazaar letter-writer, which resembled a copybook exercise written by a drunkard. The letter-writer, however, would never have risen to such a word as ‘eschew’. The letter must have been dictated by a clerk, and no doubt it came ultimately from U Po Kyin. From ‘the crocodile’, Flory reflected.
He did not like the tone of the letter. Under its appearance of servility it was obviously a covert threat. ‘Drop the doctor or we will make it hot for you’, was what it said in effect. Not that that mattered greatly; no Englishman ever feels himself in real danger from an Oriental.
Flory hesitated with the letter in his hands. There are two things one can do with an anonymous letter. One can say nothing about it, or one can show it to the person whom it concerns. The obvious, the decent course was to give the letter to Dr Veraswami and let him take what action he chose.
And yet — it was safer to keep out of this business altogether. It is so important (perhaps the most important of all the Ten Precepts of the pukka sahib) not to entangle oneself in ‘native’ quarrels. With Indians there must be no loyalty, no real friendship. Affection, even love — yes. Englishmen do often love Indians — native officers, forest rangers, hunters, clerks, servants. Sepoys will weep like children when their colonel retires. Even intimacy is allowable, at the right moments. But alliance, partisanship, never! Even to know the rights and wrongs of a ‘native’ quarrel is a loss of prestige.
If he published the letter there would be a row and an official inquiry, and, in effect, he would have thrown in his lot with the doctor against U Po Kyin. U Po Kyin did not matter, but there were the Europeans; if he, Flory, were too conspicuously the doctor’s partisan, there might be hell to pay. Much better to pretend that the letter had never reached him. The doctor was a good fellow, but as to championing him against the full fury of pukka sahibdom — ah, no, no! What shall it profit a man if he save his own soul and lose the whole world? Flory began to tear the letter across. The danger of making it public was very slight, very nebulous. But one must beware of the nebulous dangers in India. Prestige, the breath of life, is itself nebulous. He carefully tore the letter into small pieces and threw them over the gate.
At this moment there was a terrified scream, quite different from the voices of Ko S’la’s wives. The mali lowered his mamootie and gaped in the direction of the sound, and Ko S’la, who had also heard it, came running bareheaded from the servants’ quarters, while Flo sprang to her feet and yapped sharply. The scream was repeated. It came from the jungle behind the house, and it was an English voice, a woman’s, crying out in terror.
There was no way out of the compound by the back. Flory scrambled over the gate and came down with his knee bleeding from a splinter. He ran round the compound fence and into the jungle, Flo following. Just behind the house, beyond the first fringe of bushes, there was a small hollow, which, as there was a pool of stagnant water in it, was frequented by buffaloes from Nyaunglebin. Flory pushed his way through the bushes. In the hollow an English girl, chalk-faced, was cowering against a bush, while a huge buffalo menaced her with its crescent-shaped horns. A hairy calf, no doubt the cause of the trouble, stood behind. Another buffalo, neck-deep in the slime of the pool, looked on with mild prehistoric face, wondering what was the matter.
The girl turned an agonized face to Flory as he appeared. ‘Oh, do be quick!’ she cried, in the angry, urgent tone of people who are frightened. ‘Please! Help me! Help me!’
Flory was too astonished to ask any questions. He hastened towards her, and, in default of a stick, smacked the buffalo sharply on the nose. With a timid, loutish movement the great beast turned aside, then lumbered off followed by the calf. The other buffalo also extricated itself from the slime and lolloped away. The girl threw herself against Flory, almost into his arms, quite overcome by her fright.
‘Oh, thank you, thank you! Oh, those dreadful things! What ARE they? I thought they were going to kill me. What horrible creatures! What ARE they?’
They’re only water-buffaloes. They come from the village up there.’
‘Not wild buffaloes — bison, we call those. They’re just a kind of cattle the Burmans keep. I say, they’ve given you a nasty shock. I’m sorry.’
She was still clinging closely to his arm, and he could feel her shaking. He looked down, but he could not see her face, only the top of her head, hatless, with yellow hair as short as a boy’s. And he could see one of the hands on his arm. It was long, slender, youthful, with the mottled wrist of a schoolgirl. It was several years since he had seen such a hand. He became conscious of the soft, youthful body pressed against his own, and the warmth breathing out of it; whereat something seemed to thaw and grow warm within him.
‘It’s all right, they’re gone,’ he said. ‘There’s nothing to be frightened of.’
The girl was recovering from her fright, and she stood a little away from him, with one hand still on his arm. ‘I’m all right,’ she said. ‘It’s nothing. I’m not hurt. They didn’t touch me. It was only their looking so awful.’
‘They’re quite harmless really. Their horns are set so far back that they can’t gore you. They’re very stupid brutes. They only pretend to show fight when they’ve got calves.’
They had stood apart now, and a slight embarrassment came over them both immediately. Flory had already turned himself sidelong to keep his birthmarked cheek away from her. He said:
‘I say, this is a queer sort of introduction! I haven’t asked yet how you got here. Wherever did you come from — if it’s not rude to ask?’
‘I just came out of my uncle’s garden. It seemed such a nice morning, I thought I’d go for a walk. And then those dreadful things came after me. I’m quite new to this country, you see.’
‘Your uncle? Oh, of course! You’re Mr Lackersteen’s niece. We heard you were coming. I say, shall we get out on to the maidan? There’ll be a path somewhere. What a start for your first morning in Kyauktada! This’ll give you rather a bad impression of Burma, I’m afraid.’
‘Oh no; only it’s all rather strange. How thick these bushes grow! All kind of twisted together and foreign-looking. You could get lost here in a moment. Is that what they call jungle?’
‘Scrub jungle. Burma’s mostly jungle — a green, unpleasant land, I call it. I wouldn’t walk through that grass if I were you. The seeds get into your stockings and work their way into your skin.’
He let the girl walk ahead of him, feeling easier when she could not see his face. She was tallish for a girl, slender, and wearing a lilac-coloured cotton frock. From the way she moved her limbs he did not think she could be much past twenty. He had not noticed her face yet, except to see that she wore round tortoise-shell spectacles, and that her hair was as short as his own. He had never seen a woman with cropped hair before, except in the illustrated papers.
As they emerged on to the maidan he stepped level with her, and she turned to face him. Her face was oval, with delicate, regular features; not beautiful, perhaps, but it seemed so there, in Burma, where all Englishwomen are yellow and thin. He turned his head sharply aside, though the birthmark was away from her. He could not bear her to see his worn face too closely. He seemed to feel the withered skin round his eyes as though it had been a wound. But he remembered that he had shaved that morning, and it gave him courage. He said:
‘I say, you must be a bit shaken up after this business. Would you like to come into my place and rest a few minutes before you go home? It’s rather late to be out of doors without a hat, too.’
‘Oh, thank you, I would,’ the girl said. She could not, he thought, know anything about Indian notions of propriety. ‘Is this your house here?’
‘Yes. We must go round the front way. I’ll have the servants get a sunshade for you. This sun’s dangerous for you, with your short hair.’
They walked up the garden path. Flo was frisking round them and trying to draw attention to herself. She always barked at strange Orientals, but she liked the smell of a European. The sun was growing stronger. A wave of blackcurrant scent flowed from the petunias beside the path, and one of the pigeons fluttered to the earth, to spring immediately into the air again as Flo made a grab at it. Flory and the girl stopped with one consent, to look at the flowers. A pang of unreasonable happiness had gone through them both.
‘You really mustn’t go out in this sun without a hat on,’ he repeated, and somehow there was an intimacy in saying it. He could not help referring to her short hair somehow, it seemed to him so beautiful. To speak of it was like touching it with his hand.
‘Look, your knee’s bleeding,’ the girl said. ‘Did you do that when you were coming to help me?’
There was a slight trickle of blood, which was drying, purple, on his khaki stocking. ‘It’s nothing,’ he said, but neither of them felt at that moment that it was nothing. They began chattering with extraordinary eagerness about the flowers. The girl ‘adored’ flowers, she said. And Flory led her up the path, talking garrulously about one plant and another.
‘Look how these phloxes grow. They go on blooming for six months in this country. They can’t get too much sun. I think those yellow ones must be almost the colour of primroses. I haven’t seen a primrose for fifteen years, nor a wallflower, either. Those zinnias are fine, aren’t they? — like painted flowers, with those wonderful dead colours. These are African marigolds. They’re coarse things, weeds almost, but you can’t help liking them, they’re so vivid and strong. Indians have an extraordinary affection for them; wherever Indians have been you find marigolds growing, even years afterwards when the jungle has buried every other trace of them. But I wish you’d come into the veranda and see the orchids. I’ve some I must show that are just like bells of gold — but literally like gold. And they smell of honey, almost overpoweringly. That’s about the only merit of this beastly country, it’s good for flowers. I hope you’re fond of gardening? It’s our greatest consolation, in this country.’
‘Oh, I simply adore gardening,’ the girl said.
They went into the veranda. Ko S’la had hurriedly put on his ingyi and his best pink silk gaungbaung, and he appeared from within the house with a tray on which were a decanter of gin, glasses and a box of cigarettes. He laid them on the table, and, eyeing the girl half apprehensively, put his hands flat together and shikoed.
‘I expect it’s no use offering you a drink at this hour of the morning?’ Flory said. ‘I can never get it into my servant’s head that SOME people can exist without gin before breakfast.’
He added himself to the number by waving away the drink Ko S’la offered him. The girl had sat down in the wicker chair that Ko S’la had set out for her at the end of the veranda. The dark-leaved orchids hung behind her head, with gold trusses of blossom, breathing out warm honey-scent. Flory was standing against the veranda rail, half facing the girl, but keeping his birthmarked cheek hidden.
‘What a perfectly divine view you have from here,’ she said as she looked down the hillside.
‘Yes, isn’t it? Splendid, in this yellow light, before the sun gets going. I love that sombre yellow colour the maidan has, and those gold mohur trees, like blobs of crimson. And those hills at the horizon, almost black. My camp is on the other side of those hills,’ he added.
The girl, who was long-sighted, took off her spectacles to look into the distance. He noticed that her eyes were very clear pale blue, paler than a harebell. And he noticed the smoothness of the skin round her eyes, like a petal, almost. It reminded him of his age and his haggard face again, so that he turned a little more away from her. But he said on impulse:
‘I say, what a bit of luck you coming to Kyauktada! You can’t imagine the difference it makes to us to see a new face in these places. After months of our own miserable society, and an occasional official on his rounds and American globe-trotters skipping up the Irrawaddy with cameras. I suppose you’ve come straight from England?’
‘Well, not England exactly. I was living in Paris before I came out here. My mother was an artist, you see.’
‘Paris! Have you really lived in Paris? By Jove, just fancy coming from Paris to Kyauktada! Do you know, it’s positively difficult, in a hole like this, to believe that there ARE such places as Paris.’
‘Do you like Paris?’ she said.
‘I’ve never even seen it. But, good Lord, how I’ve imagined it! Paris — it’s all a kind of jumble of pictures in my mind; cafes and boulevards and artists’ studios and Villon and Baudelaire and Maupassant all mixed up together. You don’t know how the names of those European towns sound to us, out here. And did you really live in Paris? Sitting in cafes with foreign art students, drinking white wine and talking about Marcel Proust?’
‘Oh, that kind of thing, I suppose,’ said the girl, laughing.
‘What differences you’ll find here! It’s not white wine and Marcel Proust here. Whisky and Edgar Wallace more likely. But if you ever want books, you might find something you liked among mine. There’s nothing but tripe in the Club library. But of course I’m hopelessly behind the times with my books. I expect you’ll have read everything under the sun.’
‘Oh no. But of course I simply adore reading,’ the girl said.
‘What it means to meet somebody who cares for books! I mean books worth reading, not that garbage in the Club libraries. I do hope you’ll forgive me if I overwhelm you with talk. When I meet somebody who’s heard that books exist, I’m afraid I go off like a bottle of warm beer. It’s a fault you have to pardon in these countries.’
‘Oh, but I love talking about books. I think reading is so wonderful. I mean, what would life be without it? It’s such a — such a — ’
‘Such a private Alsatia. Yes — ’
They plunged into an enormous and eager conversation, first about books, then about shooting, in which the girl seemed to have an interest and about which she persuaded Flory to talk. She was quite thrilled when he described the murder of an elephant which he had perpetrated some years earlier. Flory scarcely noticed, and perhaps the girl did not either, that it was he who did all the talking. He could not stop himself, the joy of chattering was so great. And the girl was in a mood to listen. After all, he had saved her from the buffalo, and she did not yet believe that those monstrous brutes could be harmless; for the moment he was almost a hero in her eyes. When one does get any credit in this life, it is usually for something that one has not done. It was one of those times when the conversation flows so easily, so naturally, that one could go on talking forever. But suddenly, their pleasure evaporated, they started and fell silent. They had noticed that they were no longer alone.
At the other end of the veranda, between the rails, a coal-black moustachioed face was peeping with enormous curiosity. It belonged to old Sammy, the ‘Mug’ cook. Behind him stood Ma Pu, Ma Yi, Ko S’la’s four eldest children, an unclaimed naked child, and two old women who had come down from the village upon the news that an ‘Ingaleikma’ was on view. Like carved teak statues with footlong cigars stuck in their wooden faces, the two old creatures gazed at the ‘Ingaleikma’ as English yokels might gaze at a Zulu warrior in full regalia.
‘Those people . . .’ the girl said uncomfortably, looking towards them.
Sammy, seeing himself detected, looked very guilty and pretended to be rearranging his pagri. The rest of the audience were a little abashed, except for the two wooden-faced old women.
‘Dash their cheek!’ Flory said. A cold pang of disappointment went through him. After all, it would not do for the girl to stay on his veranda any longer. Simultaneously both he and she had remembered that they were total strangers. Her face had turned a little pink. She began putting on her spectacles.
‘I’m afraid an English girl is rather a novelty to these people,’ he said. ‘They don’t mean any harm. Go away!’ he added angrily, waving his hand at the audience, whereupon they vanished.
‘Do you know, if you don’t mind, I think I ought to be going,’ the girl said. She had stood up. ‘I’ve been out quite a long time. They may be wondering where I’ve got to.’
‘Must you really? It’s quite early. I’ll see that you don’t have to go home bareheaded in the sun.’
‘I ought really — ’ she began again.
She stopped, looking at the doorway. Ma Hla May was emerging on to the veranda.
Ma Hla May came forward with her hand on her hip. She had come from within the house, with a calm air that asserted her right to be there. The two girls stood face to face, less than six feet apart.
No contrast could have been stranger; the one faintly coloured as an apple-blossom, the other dark and garish, with a gleam almost metallic on her cylinder of ebony hair and the salmon-pink silk of her longyi. Flory thought he had never noticed before how dark Ma Hla May’s face was, and how outlandish her tiny, stiff body, straight as a soldier’s, with not a curve in it except the vase-like curve of her hips. He stood against the veranda rail and watched the two girls, quite disregarded. For the best part of a minute neither of them could take her eyes from the other; but which found the spectacle more grotesque, more incredible, there is no saying.
Ma Hla May turned her face round to Flory, with her black brows, thin as pencil lines, drawn together. ‘Who is this woman?’ she demanded sullenly.
He answered casually, as though giving an order to a servant:
‘Go away this instant. If you make any trouble I will afterwards take a bamboo and beat you till not one of your ribs is whole.’
Ma Hla May hesitated, shrugged her small shoulders and disappeared. And the other, gazing after her, said curiously:
‘Was that a man or a woman?’
‘A woman,’ he said. ‘One of the servants’ wives, I believe. She came to ask about the laundry, that was all.’
‘Oh, is THAT what Burmese women are like? They ARE queer little creatures! I saw a lot of them on my way up here in the train, but do you know, I thought they were all boys. They’re just like a kind of Dutch doll, aren’t they?’
She had begun to move towards the veranda steps, having lost interest in Ma Hla May now that she had disappeared. He did not stop her, for he thought Ma Hla May quite capable of coming back and making a scene. Not that it mattered much, for neither girl knew a word of the other’s language. He called to Ko S’la, and Ko S’la came running with a big oiled-silk umbrella with bamboo ribs. He opened it respectfully at the foot of the steps and held it over the girl’s head as she came down. Flory went with them as far as the gate. They stopped to shake hands, he turning a little sideways in the strong sunlight, hiding his birthmark.
‘My fellow here will see you home. It was ever so kind of you to come in. I can’t tell you how glad I am to have met you. You’ll make such a difference to us here in Kyauktada.’
‘Good-bye, Mr — oh, how funny! I don’t even know your name.’
‘Flory, John Flory. And yours — Miss Lackersteen, is it?’
‘Yes. Elizabeth. Good-bye, Mr Flory. And thank you EVER so much. That awful buffalo. You quite saved my life.’
‘It was nothing. I hope I shall see you at the Club this evening? I expect your uncle and aunt will be coming down. Good-bye for the time being, then.’
He stood at the gate, watching them as they went. Elizabeth — lovely name, too rare nowadays. He hoped she spelt it with a Z. Ko S’la trotted after her at a queer uncomfortable gait, reaching the umbrella over her head and keeping his body as far away from her as possible. A cool breath of wind blew up the hill. It was one of those momentary winds that blow sometimes in the cold weather in Burma, coming from nowhere, filling one with thirst and with nostalgia for cold sea-pools, embraces of mermaids, waterfalls, caves of ice. It rustled through the wide domes of the gold mohur trees, and fluttered the fragments of the anonymous letter that Flory had thrown over the gate half an hour earlier.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58