“We owe your brother a good deal,” he said.
“Do we?” said Bernard.
Sir Reginald’s smile became more pronounced. “I have been told that it is entirely owing to him—his forethought, secrecy, and intimate knowledge obtained at considerable personal risk—that this business was not of a far more serious nature. I was of course in constant communication with Colonel Mansfield. We knew exactly where the danger lay, and we were prepared for all emergencies.”
“Except the one which actually rose,” suggested Bernard.
“That?” said Sir Reginald. “That was a mere flash in the pan. But we were prepared even for that. My men were all in Markestan by daybreak, thanks to the promptitude of young Denvers.”
“If all our throats had been slit the previous night, that wouldn’t have helped us much,” Bernard pointed out.
Sir Reginald broke into a laugh. “Well, dash it, man! We did our best. And anyway they weren’t, so you haven’t much cause for complaint.”
“You see, I was one of the casualties,” explained Bernard. “That accounts for my being a bit critical. So you expected something worse than this?”
“I did.” Sir Reginald spoke soberly again. “If we hadn’t been prepared, the whole of Markestan would have been ablaze by now from end to end.”
“Instead of which, you have only permitted us a fizz, a few bangs, and a splutter-out, as Tommy describes it,” remarked Bernard. “And you haven’t even caught the Rajah.”
“I wasn’t out to catch him,” said Sir Reginald. “But I will tell you who I am out to catch, though I am afraid I am applying in the wrong quarter.”
Bernard’s eyes gleamed with a hint of malicious amusement. “I thought my health was not primarily responsible for the honour of your visit, sir,” he said.
“No,” said Sir Reginald, with simplicity. “I really came because I want to take you into my confidence, and to ask for your confidence in return.”
“I thought so,” said Bernard, and slowly shook his head. “I’m afraid it’s no go. I am sealed.”
“Ah! And that even though I give you my word it would be to your brother’s interest to break the seal?” questioned Sir Reginald.
Bernard’s eyes suddenly drooped under their red brows. “And betray my trust?” he said lazily.
“I beg your pardon,” said Sir Reginald.
He finished his drink with a speed that suggested embarrassment, but the next moment he smiled. “You had me there, padre. I withdraw the suggestion. I should not have made it if I could see the man himself. But he has disappeared, and even Barnes, who knows everything, can’t tell us where to look for him.”
“Neither can I,” said Bernard. “I am not in his confidence to that extent.”
“Why don’t you ask his wife?” a low voice said.
Both men started. Sir Reginald sprang to his feet. “Mrs. Monck!”
“Yes,” Stella said. She stood a moment framed in the French window, looking at him. Then she stepped forward with outstretched hand. The morning sunshine caught her as she moved. She was very pale and her eyes were deeply shadowed, but she was exceedingly beautiful.