The Rector leaned forward and tapped the bowl of his pipe reflectively on the fender-bars.
“You are the residuary legatee, I take it. Your brother was unmarried?”
“Oh dear, no! Lionel was married, and had three children—two girls and a boy: ‘has,’ I should say, for I imagine they’re all alive—the widow, too. I don’t know where they are. The lawyers merely speak of my five thousand as a legacy; they say nothing of the rest of the will.”
“That’s queer.” The Rector reached for his tobacco-jar.
“Eh? You mean my not knowing the whereabouts of the family? Between ourselves, I believe there was a screw loose in Lionel’s domestic affairs. I know nothing definite—positively. We corresponded now and then,” continued Parson Jack—“say twice a year—and of late years he dropped all mention of them, and I gathered that questions were not wanted. But the wife and children are provided for, you may depend; and there’s the pension.”
“You are not an executor even?”
“No; it seems there were two; but one died. The survivor, a Major Bromham, lives in Plymouth—retired, apparently, and I suppose an old friend of Lionel’s. It’s through his solicitors that I had the news.”
“And with it the first announcement of your brother’s death. It seems queer to me that this Major Bromham didn’t send you a line of his own. How do the lawyers put it?”
“Oh, the barest announcement. Here it is; you can read for yourself: ’On the instruction of our client, Major Bromham, late 16th Bengal Lancers, we have to inform you of the death, by syncope, at Calcutta, on the 5th of July last, of your brother, Lionel Flood, Esq., late of the Indian Civil Service, Assistant-Commissioner; and also that by the terms of his will, executed’—so-and-so—’of which our client is the surviving executor,’ etc.—all precious formal and cold-blooded. No doubt his death was telegraphed home to the newspapers, and they take it for granted that I heard or read of it.”
“Perhaps.” The Rector rose. “Shall we have a stroll through the stables? Afterwards you shall have a book or two to carry off.”
“But look here, Kendall; I came to you as a friend, you know. It seems to me all plain sailing enough. But you seem to imply—”
“Do I? Then I am doubtless an ass.”
“You think this Major Bromham should have written to me direct—I see that you do. Well, he lives no farther away than Plymouth. I might run up and call on him. Why, to be sure”—Parson Jack’s brow cleared—“and he can give me the address of the wife and children.”