He glanced over his shoulder toward the one-eyed Michel, who stood near-by, regarding the two with some alarm.
Captain Stewart looked up sharply at the mention of the will, and he wetted his dry lips with his tongue. But after a moment’s hesitation he sat down upon the tree-trunk, and he seemed to shrink a little together, when his limbs and shoulders had relaxed, so that he looked small and feeble, like a very tired old man. He remained silent for a few moments, but at last he spoke without raising his eyes. He said:
“And now that you—imagine yourself to know so very much, what do you expect to do about it?”
Ste. Marie laughed again.
“Ah, that would be telling!” he cried. “You see, in one way I have the advantage, though outwardly all the advantage seems to be with your side—I know all about your game. I may call it a game? Yes? But you don’t know mine. You don’t know what I—what we may do at any moment. That’s where we have the better of you.”
“It would seem to me,” said Captain Stewart, wearily, “that since you are a prisoner here and very unlikely to escape, we know with great accuracy what you will do—and what you will not.”
“Yes,” admitted Ste. Marie, “it would seem so. It certainly would seem so. But you never can tell, can you?”
And at that the elder man frowned and looked away. Thereafter another brief silence fell between the two, but at its end Ste. Marie spoke in a new tone, a very serious tone. He said:
“Stewart, listen a moment!”
And the other turned a sharp gaze upon him.
“You mustn’t forget,” said Ste. Marie, speaking slowly as if to choose his words with care—“you mustn’t forget that I am not alone in this matter. You mustn’t forget that there’s Richard Hartley—and that there are others, too. I’m a prisoner, yes. I’m helpless here for the present—perhaps, perhaps—but they are not, and they know, Stewart. They know.”
Captain Stewart’s face remained gray and still, but his hands twisted and shook upon his knees until he hid them.
“I know well enough what you’re waiting for,” continued Ste. Marie. “You’re waiting—you’ve got to wait—for Arthur Benham to come of age, or, better yet, for your father to die.” He paused and shook his head. “It’s no good. You can’t hold out as long as that—not by half. We shall have won the game long before. Listen to me! Do you know what would occur if your father should take a serious turn for the worse to-night—or at any time? Do you? Well, I’ll tell you. A piece of information would be given him that would make another change in that will just as quickly as a pen could write the words. That’s what would happen.”
“That is a lie!” said Captain Stewart, in a dry whisper. “A lie!”
And Ste. Marie contented himself with a slight smile by way of answer. He was by no means sure that what he had said was true, but he argued that since Hartley suspected, or perhaps by this time knew so much, he would certainly not allow old David to die without doing what he could do in an effort to save young Arthur’s fortune from a rascal. In any event, true or false, the words had had the desired effect. Captain Stewart was plainly frightened by them.