Mr. Falconer looked round sharply as Stafford stood at his elbow.
“Eh? Whiskey? Oh, yes, thanks, I have some,” he said.
As Stafford returned to the billiard-room, Falconer nodded after him.
“Is the son in this?” he asked, sharply.
“Oh, no,” replied the baron, with a smile. “He knows nothing; he ees too young, too—vat do you say?—too vashionable, frivolous. No, Sir Stephen doesn’t bring him in at all. You understand? He is ze ornamental, shleeping’ pardner, eh?” And he chuckled.
Falconer nodded, and leaning forward, continued the conversation in a low voice. The men went off to bed one by one, and presently only Sir Stephen, Stafford and Falconer remained; and as the latter rose as if to retire, Sir Stephen laid a hand on his shoulder.
“Don’t go yet! I should like to have a little chat with you—about old times.”
Falconer sank into his seat again and took a fresh cigar, and Stafford left them.
Sir Stephen closed the door after him, then went back to the smoking-room and stood looking down at Falconer, who leant back in his chair with his cigar in his mouth and eyed Sir Stephen under half-closed lids with an expression which had something of mastery and power in it.
Sir Stephen bit at the end of his moustache, his thick black brows lowered, as if he scarcely knew how to begin the “chat,” and Falconer waited without any offer of assistance. At last Sir Stephen said:
“You asked me outside just now, Falconer, if it was to be ’friend or foe?’ I’m thinking the question ought to have come from me.”
“Yes,” assented Falconer, his eyes growing still narrower. “Yes, I suppose it ought.”
“Would your answer have been the same as mine—’friends’?” asked Sir Stephen in a low voice.
Falconer was silent for a moment, then he said:
“It oughtn’t to have been. If ever a man had cause to regard another as an enemy, I’ve had cause to regard you as one, Orme!”
Sir Stephen flushed, then went pale again.
“There is no use in raking up the past,” he muttered.
“Oh, I’ve no need to rake it up; it’s here right enough, without raking,” retorted Falconer, and he touched his breast with his thick forefinger. “I’m not likely to forget the trick you played me; not likely to forget the man who turned on me and robbed me—”
“Robbed!” echoed Sir Stephen, with a dark frown.
Falconer turned his cigar in his mouth and bit at it.
“Yes, robbed. You seem to have forgotten: my memory is a better one than yours, and I’m not likely to forget the day I tramped back to the claim in that God-forsaken Australian hole to find that you’d discovered the gold while I’d been on the trail to raise food and money—discovered it and sold out—and cleared out!”
His eyes flashed redly and his mouth twitched as his teeth almost met in the choice Havana.