On the Thursday there is a great deal of movement. Phyllis descends from the hills in her Range Rover, not as dramatically as she will later on when our story is galloping to its close, but with equal determination. John, though sick at heart, will be driven together with Lily in her Lagonda to Tom’s, and thence to the temple in a blaze of publicity, and will also cross the road as evening falls in pursuit of his destiny. Three shamefaced youths will trundle along from Negombo in a ramshackle Morris to a point near enough to Paul’s house, and then make their way there singly, as unobtrusively as possible. Paul himself will visit Indra three times in the course pf the day, early in the morning and at noon and late at night. Even Harry will advance the date of his arrival in Ceylon, and will buy himself an airline ticket. Only Tom will stay put, at the presidential mansion, the still centre of these whirling storms, but a great many of our acquaintance will of course visit him.
Let us begin with Paul since, though Phyllis left before dawn, he arrived at his destination, or to be more accurate the first station en route, before anyone else. Once again he is with Indra in the garden beneath the jacaranda tree. The scent of jasmine is stronger in the fresh morning air and Indra is calmer than on the previous days. Paul knows he must not be precipitate about shattering this calm. At first they talk just about Lily’s project, and Phyllis’ visit, and the part Indra’s newspapers are performing. Then Paul says that he thinks Radha should agree to the Black Shadow’s suggestion.
Indra knows there must be more, but Paul stays silent. ‘You don’t actually mean,’ Indra says at last, ‘that she should allow herself to be—whatever you call it?’
‘That of course is not the point of the exercise.’ Paul’s tone is matter of fact. He has been anxious that Indra should not be upset at the very start, and he thinks now that all is going as satisfactorily as it possibly could. ‘But to be entirely honest, I don’t think that matters very much in itself.’
Indra plucks a jasmine blossom, this time with a whole sprig attached, and sniffs it slowly. ‘What then is the point of the exercise?’
‘I intend to break in myself, to bear witness to the whole business.’ Paul pauses very briefly before going on. ‘I would hope to get there before anything has actually been done, but I can’t guarantee that.’
Indra throws the sprig of jasmine away. ‘You must be mad, if you think you can get away with that.’
‘I don’t intend to be alone. I shall have the security guards of various embassies with me.’ Paul allows himself to smile. ‘They have a sort of informal association, and can be relied upon to act together. Some of them are very well trained.’
‘But you can’t just break into a minister’s house.’ Continue reading