On the day Lily returned to the country she rang up Paul and Indra and they arranged a meeting for the next day. Before it could take place, on the very evening of her return, she was visited by Mark. Lily at first had not wanted to receive him, but in the end she felt that old acquaintance demanded politeness. Besides, she was curious to find out exactly what sort of attitude the government would adopt.
In that respect, Mark proved more than satisfactory. Without quite saying so, he managed to convey the impression that his visit was in effect one of condolence on behalf of the government. This did not move Lily to forgive Tom, but it did make her realise that, in crushing the forces of anarchy within the government, she should not forget that her strongest allies might well prove to be members of the government too. Mark for one seemed absolutely shattered by what had occurred, and he made it clear how much he disapproved of those such as Luke who had taken the opportunity to advance grandiose plans for reconstruction which were primarily intended to enhance their own standing. There was such haste about it all, he remarked, that one might almost have thought the violence could not have come at a better time as far as those who still needed to make a name for themselves within the government were concerned.
It was thus with a very different perspective that Lily went to her meeting the next day. To her surprise, she found that Paul was quite convinced that it was Matthew who was at the bottom of everything, while Indra seemed to think that it was Mark who had to be most carefully guarded against, for he appeared to be the one most anxious to capitalize on the mayhem. After much discussion, they managed to agree on one thing only, and that was that though he was probably the least guilty John was the most vulnerable member of the cabinet. It was clear that his recent measures had upset all the traditional supporters of his former free and easy ways, whilst his own community was dubious about his association with the government, and leading members of all other communities were dubious because he was a Tamil. He had in short, forfeited the confidence of the entire nation.
Paul and Indra told Lily that, as a very senior member of his community, she had an obligation to point out to John the error of his ways and persuade him to resign. She objected. ‘I couldn’t possibly speak to him,’ she said. ‘I don’t even know who his father was. In Jaffna, he would not have been allowed to sit down in my father’s house.’
‘If you invited him to see you and kept him on your verandah, it might make his position clear to him,’ said Paul thoughtfully.
‘I’ve got a better idea. Go and see his daughter and his son-in-law—you needn’t worry about him, his family is nearly as established as yours,’ Indra added hastily, ‘and point out to him that he’ll lose caste if his father-in-law doesn’t mend his ways. That’s the best way of getting through to John. He only lives so that his daughters can marry well. And there’s one engaged—you might go to her fiancé too—and two who are still very young. John couldn’t resist that sort of attack.’
It was an idea that appealed to Lily, recalling as she did from her own history how tremendous were the pressures the higher echelons of the Tamil community could bring to bear with regard to questions of marriage. She went back home and promptly began ringing up friends, so as to increase the bulk of the pressure to be applied. However, the very first person she rang up told her that she was too late. John’s son-in-law had become a Muslim, and had divorced his wife in accordance with Muslim law and sent her home. Continue reading