“The fourth is that I should like to dig up that orchid and get a share of the £20,000.”
Brother John became intensely interested.
“Ah!” he said, “now we are getting to the point. I have been wondering how long it would take you to see it, Allan, but if you are slow, you are sure.”
“The fifth is,” I went on, “that such an expedition to succeed would need a great deal of money, more than you or I could find. Partners would be wanted, active or sleeping, but partners with cash.”
Brother John looked towards the window of the room in which Charlie Scroope was in bed, for being still weak he went to rest early.
“No,” I said, “he’s had enough of Africa, and you told me yourself that it will be two years before he is really strong again. Also there’s a lady in this case. Now listen. I have taken it on myself to write to that lady, whose address I found out while he didn’t know what he was saying. I have said that he was dying, but that I hoped he might live. Meanwhile, I added, I thought she would like to know that he did nothing but rave of her; also that he was a hero, with a big H twice underlined. My word! I did lay it on about the hero business with a spoon, a real hotel gravy spoon. If Charlie Scroope knows himself again when he sees my description of him, well, I’m a Dutchman, that’s all. The letter caught the last mail and will, I hope, reach the lady in due course. Now listen again. Scroope wants me to go to England with him to look after him on the voyage—that’s what he says. What he means is that he hopes I might put in a word for him with the lady, if I should chance to be introduced to her. He offers to pay all my expenses and to give me something for my loss of time. So, as I haven’t seen England since I was three years old, I think I’ll take the chance.”
Brother John’s face fell. “Then how about the expedition, Allan?” he asked.
“This is the first of November,” I answered, “and the wet season in those parts begins about now and lasts till April. So it would be no use trying to visit your Pongo friends till then, which gives me plenty of time to go to England and come out again. If you’ll trust that flower to me I’ll take it with me. Perhaps I might be able to find someone who would be willing to put down money on the chance of getting the plant on which it grew. Meanwhile, you are welcome to this house if you care to stay here.”
“Thank you, Allan, but I can’t sit still for so many months. I’ll go somewhere and come back.” He paused and a dreamy look came into his dark eyes, then went on, “You see, Brother, it is laid on me to wander and wander through all this great land until—I know.”
“Until you know what?” I asked, sharply.
He pulled himself together with a jerk, as it were, and answered with a kind of forced carelessness.
“Until I know every inch of it, of course. There are lots of tribes I have not yet visited.”