M. Vandeloup withdrew his face into the darkness, and smiled in a devilish manner to himself. How these women believed—was there any lie too big for the sex to swallow? Evidently not—at least, so he thought. But now that Kitty was disposed of, he had to attend to his own private affairs, and put his hand in his pocket for the letter.
‘I wanted to speak to you on business, Madame,’ he said, taking out the letter; ‘the long-expected has come at last.’
‘You have heard from Paris?’ asked Madame, in an eager voice.
‘I have,’ answered the Frenchman, calmly; ’I have now the letter in my hand, and as soon as Mlle Selina brings in the lights I will show it to you.’
At this moment, as if in answer to his request, Selina appeared with the lamp, which she had lighted in the kitchen and now brought in to place on the table. When she did so, and had retired again, Vandeloup placed his letter in Madame’s hand, and asked her to read it.
‘Oh, no, Monsieur,’ said Mrs Villiers, offering it back, ’I do not wish to read your private correspondence.’
Vandeloup had calculated on this, for, as a matter of fact, there was a good deal of private matter in the letter, particularly referring to his trip to New Caledonia, which he would not have allowed her to see. But he knew it would inspire her with confidence in him if he placed it wholly in her hands, and resolved to boldly venture to do so. The result was as he guessed; so, with a smile, he took it back again.
‘There is nothing private in it, Madame,’ he said, opening the letter; ’I wanted you to see that I had not misrepresented myself— it is from my family lawyer, and he has sent me out a remittance of money, also some letters of introduction to my consul in Melbourne and others; in fact,’ said M. Vandeloup, with a charming smile, putting the letter in his pocket, ’it places me in my rightful position, and I shall assume it as soon as I have your permission.’
‘But why my permission ?’ asked Madame, with a faint smile, already regretting bitterly that she was going to lose her pleasant companion.
‘Madame,’ said Vandeloup, impressively, bending forward, ’in the words of the Bible—when I was hungry you gave me food; when I was naked you gave me raiment. You took me on, Madame, an unknown waif, without money, friends, or a character; you believed in me when no one else did; you have been my guardian angel: and do you think that I can forget your goodness to me for the last six months? No! Madame,’ rising, ’I have a heart, and while I live that heart will ever remember you with gratitude and love;’ and bending forward he took her hand and kissed it gallantly.
‘You think too much of what I have done,’ said Madame, who was, nevertheless, pleased at this display of emotion, albeit, according to her English ideas, it seemed to savour too much of the footlights. ’I only did to you what I would do to all men. I am glad, in this instance, to find my confidence has not been misplaced; when do you think of leaving us?’