There was not a shade of ill-feeling in his voice. Tommy turned round upon him with a smile as involuntary as his exclamation had been.
“What a brute you are, Monck! You have such a beastly trick of putting a fellow in the wrong.”
“You are in the wrong,” asserted Monck. “I want to get you out of it if I can. What’s the grievance? What have I done?”
Tommy hesitated for a moment, then finally reached up and gripped the hand upon his shoulder. “Monck! I say, Monck!” he said boyishly. “I feel such a cur to say it. But—but—” he broke off abruptly. “I’m damned if I can say it!” he decided dejectedly.
Monck’s fingers suddenly twisted and closed upon his. “What a funny little ass you are, Tommy!” he said.
Tommy brightened a little. “It’s infernally difficult—taking you to task,” he explained blushing a still fierier red. “You’ll never speak to me again after this.”
Monck laughed. “Yes, I shall. I shall respect you for it. Get on with it, man! What’s the trouble?”
With immense effort Tommy made reply. “Well, it’s pretty beastly to have to ask any fellow what his intentions are with regard to his sister, but you pretty nearly told me yours.”
“Then what more do you want?” questioned Monck.
Tommy made a gesture of helplessness. “Damn it, man! Don’t you know she is making plans to go Home?”
“Well?” said Monck.
Tommy faced round. “I say, like a good chap,—you’ve practically forced this, you know—you’re not going to—to let her go?”
Monck’s eyes looked back straight and hard. He did not speak for a moment; then, “You want to know my intentions, Tommy,” he said. “You shall. Your sister and I are observing a truce for the present, but it won’t last for ever. I am making plans for a move myself. I am going to live at the Club.”
“Is that going to help?” demanded Tommy bluntly.
Monck looked sardonic. “We mustn’t offend the angels, you know, Tommy,” he said.
Tommy made a sound expressive of gross irreverence. “Oh, that’s it, is it? Now we know where we are. I’ve been feeling pretty rotten about it, I can tell you.”
“You always were an ass, weren’t you?” said Monck, getting up.
Tommy got up too, giving himself an impatient shake. He pushed an apologetic hand through Monck’s arm. “I can’t expect ever to get even with a swell like you,” he said humbly,
Monck looked at him. Something in the boy’s devotion seemed to move him, for his eyes were very kindly though his laugh was ironic. “You’ll have an almighty awakening one of these days, my son,” he said. “By the way, if we are going to be brothers, you had better call me by my Christian name.”
“By Jove, I will,” said Tommy eagerly. “And if there is anything I can do, old chap—anything under the sun—”
“I’ll let you know,” said Monck.