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Those Who Wait
by [?]

“Well, old chap, it was worth waiting for, eh? And now, I suppose, you’ll be making a bee-line for home, you lucky beggar. I shan’t be long after you, that’s one comfort. Pity we can’t go together. I suppose you can’t wait till the winter.”

“No, my boy. I’m afraid I can’t.” Conyers spoke with a faint smile, his eyes still fixed upon the blue official paper that held his destiny. “I’m going home forthwith, and be damned to everything and everybody–except you. It’s an understood thing, you know, Palliser, that we are partners in this deal.”

“Oh, rot!” exclaimed Palliser impetuously. “I don’t agree to that. I did nothing but polish the thing up. You’d have done it yourself if I hadn’t.”

“In the course of a few more years,” put in Conyers drily.

“Rot!” said Palliser again. “Besides, I don’t want any pelf. I’ve quite as much as is good for me, more than I want. That’s why I’m going to get married. You’ll be going the same way yourself now, I suppose?”

“You have no reason whatever for thinking so,” responded Conyers.

Palliser laughed lightheartedly and sat down on the table. “Oh, haven’t I? What about that mysterious locked drawer of yours? Don’t be shy, I say! You had it open when I came in. Show her to me like a good chap! I won’t tell a soul.”

“That’s not where I keep my love-tokens,” said Conyers, with a grim twist of the mouth that was not a smile.

“What then?” asked Palliser eagerly. “Not another invention?”

“No.” Conyers inserted the key in the lock again, turned it, and pulled open the drawer. “See for yourself as you are so anxious.”

Palliser leaned across the table and looked. The next instant his glance flashed upwards, and their eyes met.

There was a sharply-defined pause. Then, “You’d never be fool enough for that, Jack!” ejaculated Palliser, with vehemence.

“I’m fool enough for anything,” said Conyers, with his cynical smile.

“But you wouldn’t,” the other protested almost incoherently. “A fellow like you–I don’t believe it!”

“It’s loaded,” observed Conyers quietly. “No, leave it alone, Hugh! It can remain so for the present. There is not the smallest danger of its going off–or I shouldn’t have shown it to you.”

He closed the drawer again, looking steadily into Hugh Palliser’s face.

“I’ve had it by me for years,” he said, “just in case the Fates should have one more trick in store for me. But apparently they haven’t, though it’s never safe to assume anything.”

“Oh, don’t talk like an idiot!” broke in Palliser heatedly. “I’ve no patience with that sort of thing. Do you expect me to believe that a fellow like you–a fellow who knows how to wait for his luck–would give way to a cowardly impulse and destroy himself all in a moment because things didn’t go quite straight? Man alive! I know you better than that; or if I don’t, I’ve never known you at all.”

“Ah! Perhaps not!” said Conyers.

Once more he turned the key and withdrew it. He pushed back his chair so that his face was in shadow.

“You don’t know everything, you know, Hugh,” he said.

“Have a smoke,” said Palliser, “and tell me what you are driving at.”

He threw himself into a bamboo chair by the open door, the light streaming full upon him, revealing in every line of him the arrogant splendour of his youth. He looked like a young Greek god with the world at his feet.

Conyers surveyed him with his faint, cynical smile. “No,” he said, “you certainly don’t know everything, my son. You never have come a cropper in your life.”

“Haven’t I, though?” Hugh sat up, eager to refute this criticism. “That’s all you know about it. I suppose you think you have had the monopoly of hard knocks. Most people do.”

“I am not like most people,” Conyers asserted deliberately. “But you needn’t tell me that you have ever been right under, my boy. For you never have.”