‘That or any book you like,’ said Vandeloup, with a glance of surprise; ’but I don’t see why you are so much taken up with that volume; it is not a work of genius.’
‘Well, no,’ answered Gollipeck, looking at him; ’still, it contains some excellent cases of modern poisoning.’
‘So I saw when I read it,’ returned Vandeloup, indifferently. ’Good-bye,’ holding out his hand, ‘or rather I should say au revoir.’
‘Wine?’ queried the Doctor, hospitably.
Vandeloup shook his head, and walked out of the room with a gay smile, humming a tune. He strolled slowly down Lydiard Street, turning over in his mind what the doctor had said to him.
‘He is suspicious,’ muttered the young man to himself, thoughtfully, ’although he has nothing to go on in connecting me with the case. Should I use the poison here I must be careful, for that man will be my worst enemy.’
He felt a hand on his shoulder, and turning round saw Barty Jarper before him. That fashionable young man was in evening dress, and represented such an extent of shirt front and white waistcoat,—not to mention a tall collar, on the top of which his little head was perched like a cocoanut on a stick,—that he was positively resplendent.
‘Where are you going to?’ asked the gorgeous Barty, smoothing his incipient moustache.
‘Well, I really don’t know,’ answered Vandeloup, lighting a cigarette. ’I am leaving for Melbourne to-morrow morning, but to-night I have nothing to do. You, I see, are engaged,’ with a glance at the evening dress.
‘Yes,’ returned Barty, in a bored voice; ’musical party on,—they want me to sing.’
Vandeloup had heard Barty’s vocal performance, and could not forbear a smile as he thought of the young man’s three songs with the same accompaniment to each. Suppressing, however, his inclination to laugh, he asked Barty to have a drink, which invitation was promptly accepted, and they walked in search of a hotel. On the way, they passed Slivers’ house, and here Vandeloup paused.
‘This was the first house I entered here,’ he said to Barty, ’and I must go in and say good-bye to my one-armed friend with the cockatoo.’
Mr Jarper, however, drew back.
‘I don’t like him,’ he said bluntly, ‘he’s an old devil.’
’Oh, it’s always as well to accustom oneself to the society of devils,’ retorted Vandeloup, coolly, ’we may have to live with them constantly some day.’
Barty laughed at this, and putting his arm in that of Vandeloup’s, they went in.
Slivers’ door stood ajar in its usual hospitable manner, but all within was dark.
‘He must be out,’ said Barty, as they stood in the dark passage.
‘No,’ replied Vandeloup, feeling for a match, ’someone is talking in the office.’
‘It’s that parrot,’ said Barty, with a laugh, as they heard Billy rapidly running over his vocabulary; ‘let’s go in.’