She smiled at him through tears. “No—no! You are both—so kind.”
He stooped with a very courtly gesture and carried her hand to his lips. “Everard Monck is a very lucky man,” he said, “but I think he is almost worthy of his luck. And now—I want you to tell me one thing more. Where can I find him?”
Her hand trembled a little in his. “I—am not sure he would wish me to tell you that.”
Sir Reginald’s grey moustache twitched whimsically. “If his desire for privacy is so great, it shall be respected. Will you take him a message from me?”
“Of course,” she said.
Sir Reginald patted her hand and released it. “Then please tell him,” he said, “that the Indian Empire cannot afford to lose the services of so valuable a servant as he has proved himself to be, and if he will accept a secretaryship with me I think there is small doubt that it will eventually lead to much greater things.”
Stella gave a great start. “Oh, do you mean that?” she said.
Sir Reginald smiled openly. “I really do, Mrs. Monck, and I shall think myself very fortunate to secure him. You will use your influence, I hope, to induce him to accept?”
“But of course,” she said.
“Poor Stella!” said Bernard. “And she hates India!”
She turned upon him almost in anger. “How dare you pity me? I love anywhere that I can be with him.”
“So like a woman!” commented Bernard. “Or is it something in the air? I’ll never bring Tessa out here when she’s grown up, or she’ll marry and be stuck here for the rest of her life.”
“You can do as you like with Tessa,” said Stella, and turned again to Sir Reginald. “Is that all you want of me now?”
“One thing more,” he answered gently. “I hope I may say it without giving offence.”
With a gesture all-unconsciously regal she gave him both her hands. “You may say—anything,” she said impulsively.
He bent again courteously. “Mrs. Monck, will you invite me to witness the ratification of the bond already existing between my friend Everard Monck, and the lady who is honouring him by becoming his lawful wife?”
She flushed deeply but not painfully. “I will,” she said. “Bernard, you will see to that, I know.”
“Yes; leave it to me, dear!” said Bernard.
“Thank you,” she said; and to Sir Reginald: “Good-bye! I am going to my husband now.”
“Good-bye, Mrs. Monck!” he said. “And many thanks for your graciousness to a stranger.”
“Oh no!” she answered quickly. “You are a friend—of us both.”
“I am proud to be called so,” he said.
As she passed back into the bungalow her heart fluttered within her like the wings of a bird mounting upwards in the dawning. The sun had risen upon the desert.
THE BLUE JAY