“What?” Monck stared in amazement. “Are you mad?” he inquired.
“No—no. It’s true! Go and see for yourself, man! They’re just getting here, slow and sure. He must be well stocked with patience. Come on! They’re stopping at the gate now.”
He dragged his brother-in-law to the steps. Monck went, half-suspicious of a hoax. But he had barely reached the path below when through the rain there came the sound of wheels and heavy jingling.
“Come on!” yelled Tommy. “It’s too good to miss!”
But ere they arrived at the gate it was blocked by a massive figure in a streaming black mackintosh, carrying a huge umbrella. “I say,” said a soft voice, “what a damn’ jolly part of the world to live in!”
“Bernard!” Monck’s voice sounded incredulous, yet he passed Tommy at a bound.
“Hullo, my boy, hullo!” Cheerily the newcomer made answer. “How do you open this beastly gate? Oh, I see! Swelled a bit from the rain. I must see to that for you presently. Hullo, Everard! I chanced to find myself in this direction so thought I would look up you and your wife. How are you, my boy?”
An immense hand came forth and grasped Monck’s. A merry red face beamed at him from under the great umbrella. Twinkling eyes with red lashes shone with the utmost good-will.
Monck gripped the hand as if he would never let it go. But “My good man, you’re mad to come here!” were the only words of welcome he found to utter.
“Think so?” A humorous chuckle accompanied the words. “Well, take me indoors and give me a drink! There are a few traps in the cart outside. Had we better collect ’em first?”
“I’ll see to them,” volunteered Tommy, whose sense of humour was still somewhat out of control. “Take him in out of the rain, Everard! Send the khit along!”
He was gone with the words, and Everard, with his brother’s hand pulled through his arm, piloted him up to the bungalow.
In the shelter of the verandah they faced each other, the one brother square and powerful, so broad as to make his height appear insignificant; the other, brown, lean, muscular, a soldier in every line, his dark, resolute face a strange contrast to the ruddy open countenance of the man who was the only near relation he possessed in the world.
“Well,—boy! I believe you’ve grown.” The elder brother, surveyed the younger with his shrewd, twinkling eyes. “By Jove, I’m sure you have! I used not to have to look up to you like this. Is it this devilish climate that does it? And what on earth do you live on? You look a positive skeleton.”
“Oh, that’s India, yes.” Everard brushed aside all personal comment as superfluous. “Come along in and refresh! What particular star have you fallen from? And why in thunder didn’t you say you were coming?”
The elder man laughed, slapping him on the shoulder with hearty force. His clean-shaven face was as free from care as a boy’s. He looked as if life had dealt kindly with him.