Would his brother despise him, too? And would his brother like him?
And presently the brother appeared, under Flora's escort; and, standing afar off beside the doorway, eyed the hero of this tale.
'So this is you?' he said, at length.
'Yes, Alick, it's me - it's John,' replied the elder brother, feebly.
'And how did you get in here?' inquired the younger.
'Oh, I had my pass-key,' says John.
'The deuce you had!' said Alexander. 'Ah, you lived in a better world! There are no pass-keys going now.'
'Well, father was always averse to them,' sighed John. And the conversation then broke down, and the brothers looked askance at one another in silence.
'Well, and what the devil are we to do?' said Alexander. 'I suppose if the authorities got wind of you, you would be taken up?'
'It depends on whether they've found the body or not,' returned John. 'And then there's that cabman, to be sure!'
'Oh, bother the body!' said Alexander. 'I mean about the other thing. That's serious.'
'Is that what my father spoke about?' asked John. 'I don't even know what it is.'
'About your robbing your bank in California, of course,' replied Alexander.
It was plain, from Flora's face, that this was the first she had heard of it; it was plainer still, from John's, that he was innocent.
'I!' he exclaimed. 'I rob my bank! My God! Flora, this is too much; even you must allow that.'
'Meaning you didn't?' asked Alexander.
'I never robbed a soul in all my days,' cried John: 'except my father, if you call that robbery; and I brought him back the money in this room, and he wouldn't even take it!'
'Look here, John,' said his brother, 'let us have no misunderstanding upon this. Macewen saw my father; he told him a bank you had worked for in San Francisco was wiring over the habitable globe to have you collared - that it was supposed you had nailed thousands; and it was dead certain you had nailed three hundred. So Macewen said, and I wish you would be careful how you answer. I may tell you also, that your father paid the three hundred on the spot.'
'Three hundred?' repeated John. 'Three hundred pounds, you mean? That's fifteen hundred dollars. Why, then, it's Kirkman!' he broke out. 'Thank Heaven! I can explain all that. I gave them to Kirkman to pay for me the night before I left - fifteen hundred dollars, and a letter to the manager. What do they suppose I would steal fifteen hundred dollars for? I'm rich; I struck it rich in stocks. It's the silliest stuff I ever heard of. All that's needful is to cable to the manager: Kirkman has the fifteen hundred - find Kirkman. He was a fellow-clerk of mine, and a hard case; but to do him justice, I didn't think he was as hard as this.'
'And what do you say to that, Alick?' asked Flora.
'I say the cablegram shall go to-night!' cried Alexander, with energy. 'Answer prepaid, too. If this can be cleared away - and upon my word I do believe it can - we shall all be able to hold up our heads again. Here, you John, you stick down the address of your bank manager. You, Flora, you can pack John into my bed, for which I have no further use to- night. As for me, I am off to the post-office, and thence to the High Street about the dead body. The police ought to know, you see, and they ought to know through John; and I can tell them some rigmarole about my brother being a man of highly nervous organisation, and the rest of it. And then, I'll tell you what, John - did you notice the name upon the cab?'
John gave the name of the driver, which, as I have not been able to command the vehicle, I here suppress.
'Well,' resumed Alexander, 'I'll call round at their place before I come back, and pay your shot for you. In that way, before breakfast-time, you'll be as good as new.'
John murmured inarticulate thanks. To see his brother thus energetic in his service moved him beyond expression; if he could not utter what he felt, he showed it legibly in his face; and Alexander read it there, and liked it the better in that dumb delivery.