Bernard’s big hand closed upon his arm. “Poor old chap!” lie said. “You Indian fellows don’t have any such time of it, or your women folk either. How long is she a fixture at Bhulwana?”
“The baby is expected in two months’ time.” Everard spoke without emotion, his voice sounded almost cold. “After that, I don’t know what will happen. Nothing is settled. Tell me your plans now! No, wait! Let’s get in out of this damned rain first!”
They entered the bungalow and sat down for another smoke in the drawing-room.
Down by the river a native instrument thrummed monotonously, like the whirring of a giant mosquito in the darkness. Everard turned with a slight gesture of impatience and closed the window.
He established his brother in a long chair with a drink at his elbow, and sat down himself without any pretence at taking his ease.
“You don’t look particularly comfortable,” Bernard observed.
“Don’t mind me!” he made curt response. “I’ve got a touch of fever to-night. It’s nothing. I shall be all right in the morning.”
“Sure?” Bernard’s eyes suddenly ceased to be quizzical; they looked at him straight and hard.
Everard met the look, faintly smiling. “I don’t lie about—unimportant things,” he remarked cynically. “Light up, man, and fire away!”
He struck a match for his brother’s pipe and kindled his own cigarette thereat.
There fell a brief silence. Bernard did not look wholly satisfied. But after a few seconds he seemed to dismiss the matter and began to talk of himself.
“You want to know my plans, old chap. Well, as far as I know ’em myself, you are quite welcome. With your permission, I propose, for the present, to stay where I am.”
“I shouldn’t if I were you.” Everard spoke with brief decision. “You’d be far better off at Bhulwana till the end of the rains.”
Bernard puffed forth a great cloud of smoke and stared at the ceiling. “That is as may be, dear fellow,” he said, after a moment. “But I think—if you’ll put up with me—I’ll stay here for the present all the same.”
He spoke in that peculiarly gentle voice of his that yet held considerable resolution. Everard made no attempt to combat the decision. Perhaps he realized the uselessness of such a proceeding.
“Stay by all means!” he said, “but what’s the idea?”
Bernard took his pipe from his mouth. “I have a big fight before me, Everard boy,” he said, “a fight against the sort of prejudice that kicked me out of the Charthurst job. It’s got to be fought with the pen—since I am no street corner ranter. I have the solid outlines of the campaign in my head, and I have come out here to get right away from things and work it out.”
“Going to reform creation?” suggested Everard, with his grim smile.
Bernard shook his head, smiling in answer as though the cynicism had not reached him. “No, that’s not my job. I am only a man under authority—like yourself. I don’t see the result at all. I only see the work, and with God’s help, that will be exactly what He intended it should be when He gave it to me to do.”