The colonel mopped the back of his neck, leaned on his desk.
"I'll get right to the point, lad. I'm sending you back to England on leave."
Captain Parkin started.
"I presented the case to the Viceroy while I was in Shimla, and he concurs with me. There is a ship sailing tomorrow, and you'll be on it."
"But, sir – "
"Save your breath, Captain. I've sniffed out your carryings-on with that Indian girl. You don't seem to realise the consequences. To estrange, sever from her family a young girl of good family whose marriage was arranged five years ago . . . I cannot permit it. And you would sever yourself from your mates. You'll go home to England, find yourself a proper wife, bring her back here. She'll add life to headquarters."
The colonel stood.
"Your orders are to present yourself to the skipper at ten tonight. You'll bunk aboard ship, they'll make an early start tomorrow."
The captain saluted, left the office.
In his rooms, he sat for a moment by the window. He thought of Smita's wide almond eyes, her warm perfumed skin. He stood and packed one large bag and one small one.
Shortly before ten he walked through the compound and turned portward. Halfway there he glanced back, then ducked into the labyrinth of Bombay side streets. In a pile of detritus he buried the large bag. He re-shouldered the small bag and threaded through the maze and out of the city.
First published: February, 2012
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