“No,” said Nap.
He found a paper spill on the mantelpiece and lighted it. As he held it to his cigarette he looked at Bertie with a smile.
“Remember that day I baited you? It must be about a year ago.”
Bertie looked uncomfortable. “I remember,” he said shortly.
Abruptly Nap thrust out his hand. “I’ve eaten your salt now,” he said. “I’ll never bait you again.”
Bertie gave his hand. “Is that what you wanted to dine for?”
“Partly.” Nap’s fingers gripped and held. “Also I wanted to persuade you that we are fighting for the same thing, only maybe with different weapons. You’ll bear it in mind, eh, friend Bertie?”
Bertie looked at him hard for an instant. “I will,” he said impulsively.
“Good!” said Nap laconically. “It isn’t going to be a walk over, but I guess we’ll pull it off between us.”
“Amen!” said Bertie fervently.
And Nap wrung his hand and departed. For the first time in their lives there was a friendly understanding between them. For the first time Bertie was aware of a human heart throbbing behind that impenetrable mask.
THE FINAL DEFEAT
It was growing late that night when Lucas opened his eyes after a prolonged and fruitless attempt to sleep, and found Nap standing at the foot of the bed watching him. A lamp was burning in the room, but it was turned very low. For a few seconds he lay wondering if the motionless figure he saw had been conjured there by some trick of the shadows. Then as he stirred he saw it move and at once he spoke.
“Hullo, dear fellow! You! I never heard you come in.”
Nap stepped noiselessly to his side. “Don’t talk!” he said. “Sleep!”
“I can’t sleep. It’s no use. I was only pretending.” Lucas stifled a sigh of weariness. “Sit down,” he said.
But Nap stood over him and laid steady hands upon his wrists. His hold was close and vital; it pressed upon the pulses as if to give them new life. “You can sleep if you try,” he said.
Lucas shook his head with a smile. “I’m not a good subject, Boney. Thanks all the same!”
“Try!” Nap said insistently.
But the blue eyes remained wide. “No, old chap. It’s too high a price to pay—even for sleep.”
“What do you mean?” There was a fierce note in the query, low as it was; it was almost a challenge.
Lucas answered it very quietly. “I mean that I’m afraid of you, Boney.”
“Skittles!” said Nap.
“Yes, it may seem so to you; but, you see, I know what you are trying to do.”
“What am I trying to do?” demanded Nap.
Lucas paused for a moment; he was looking straight up into the harsh face above his own. Then, “I know you,” he said. “I know that you’ll get the whip hand of me if you can, and you’ll clap blinkers on me and drive me according to your own judgment. I never had much faith in your judgment, Boney. And it is not my intention to be driven by you.”