‘I say,’ he said to a tall, fair young fellow who had just entered, ‘who is this Meddlechip the paper is full of?’
‘Don’t you know?’ said the other, in surprise; ’he’s one of our richest men, and very generous with his money.’
‘Oh, I see! buys popularity,’ replied Vandeloup, coolly; ’how is it I’ve never met him?’
‘He’s been to China or Chile—or—something commencing with a C,’ returned the young man, vaguely; ’he only came back to Melbourne last week; you are sure to meet him sooner or later.’
‘Thanks, I’m not very anxious,’ replied Vandeloup, with a yawn; ’money in my eyes does not compensate for being bored; where are you going to-night?’
‘"Mikado",’ answered the other, whose name was Bellthorp; ’Jarper asked me to go up there; he’s got a box.’
‘How does he manage to pay for all these things?’ asked Vandeloup, rising; ‘he’s only in a bank, and does not get much money.’
‘My dear fellow,’ said Bellthorp, putting his arm in that of Vandeloup’s, ’wherever he gets it, he always has it, so as long as he pays his way it’s none of our business; come and have a drink.’
Vandeloup assented with a laugh, and they went to the bar.
‘I’ve got a cab at the door,’ he said to Bellthorp, after they had finished their drinks, and were going downstairs; ’come with me, and I’ll go up to the Princess also; Jarper asked me and I refused, but men as well as women are entitled to change their minds.’
They got into the cab and drove up Collins Street to the Princess Theatre. After dismissing the cab, they went up stairs and found the first act was just over, and the bar was filled with a crowd of gentlemen, among whom Barty and his friends were conspicuous. On the one side the doors opened on to the wide stone balcony, where a number of ladies were seated, and on the other balcony a lot of men were smoking. Leaving Bellthorp with Jarper, Vandeloup ordered a brandy and soda and went out on the balcony to smoke.
The bell rang to indicate the curtain was going to rise on the second act, and the bar and balconies gradually emptied themselves into the theatre. M. Vandeloup, however, still sat smoking, and occasionally drinking his brandy and soda, while he thought over his difficulties, and wondered how he could get out of them. It was a wonderfully hot night, and not even the dark blue of the moonless sky, studded with stars, could give any sensation of coolness. Round the balcony were several windows belonging to the dressing-rooms of the theatre, and the lights within shone through the vivid red of the blinds with which they were covered. The door leading into the bar was wide open, and within everything seemed hot, even under the cool, white glare of the electric lights, which shone in large oval-shaped globes hanging from the brass supports in clusters like those grapes known as ladies’ fingers. In front stretched the high balustrade of the balcony, and as Vandeloup