Barty was on his way to a lawn tennis party, and was arrayed in a flannel suit of many colours, with his small, white face nearly hidden under a large straw hat. Being of a social turn of mind, he did not refuse Slivers’ invitation, but walked into the dusty office and assisted himself liberally to the whisky.
‘Here’s fun, old cock!’ he said, in a free and easy manner, raising his glass to his lips; ‘may your shadow never be less.’
Slivers hoped devoutly that his shadow never would be less, as that would involve the loss of several other limbs, which he could ill spare; so he honoured Mr Jarper’s toast with a rasping little laugh, and prepared to talk.
‘It’s very kind of you to come and talk to an old chap like me,’ said Slivers, in as amiable a tone as he could command, which was not much. ‘You’re such a gay young fellow!’
Mr Jarper acknowledged modestly that he was gay, but that he owed certain duties to society, and had to be mildly social.
‘And so handsome!’ croaked Slivers, winking with his one eye at Billy, who sat on the table. ‘Oh, he’s all there, ain’t he, Billy?’
Billy, however, did not agree to this, and merely observed ‘Pickles,’ in a disbelieving manner.
Mr Jarper felt rather overcome by this praise, and blushed in a modest way, but felt that he could not return the compliment with any degree of truth, as Slivers was not handsome, neither was he all there.
He, however, decided that Slivers was an unusually discerning person, and worthy to talk to, so prepared to make himself agreeable.
Slivers, who had thus gained the goodwill of the young man by flattery, plunged into the subject of Villiers’ disappearance.
‘I wonder what’s become of Villiers,’ he said, artfully pushing the whisky bottle toward Barty.
‘I’m sure I don’t know,’ said Barty in a languid, used-up sort of voice, pouring himself out some more whisky, ’I haven’t seen him since last Monday week.’
‘Where did you leave him on that night?’ asked Slivers.
‘At the corner of Sturt and Lydiard Streets.’
‘Early in the morning, I suppose?’
‘Yes—pretty early—about two o’clock, I think.’
‘And you never saw him after that?’
‘Not a sight of him,’ replied Barty; ’but, I say, why all this thusness?’
‘I’ll tell you after you have answered my questions,’ retorted Slivers, rudely, ’but I’m not asking out of curiosity—its business.’
Barty thought that Slivers was very peculiar, but determined to humour him, and to take his leave as early as possible.
‘Well, go on,’ he said, drinking his whisky, ‘I’ll answer.’
‘Who else was with you and Villiers on that night?’ asked Slivers in a magisterial kind of manner.
‘A French fellow called Vandeloup.’
‘Vandeloup!’ echoed Slivers in surprise; ’oh, indeed! what the devil was he doing?’