‘No, but you gave her the poison.’
‘Innocently I did, I confess.’
‘Bah! who will believe that?’ retorted M. Vandeloup, with a shrug; ‘but never mind this at present; let me hear what you intend to do.’
‘You know a secret,’ said Meddlechip, nervously, ’which is dangerous to me; you want to sell it; well, I will be the buyer—name your price.’
‘Five hundred pounds,’ said Vandeloup, quietly.
‘Is that all?’ asked the other, with a start of surprise; ’I was prepared for five thousand.’
‘I am not exorbitant in my demands,’ answered Vandeloup, smoothly; ’and as I told you, I have a scheme on hand by which I may make a lot of money-five hundred pounds is sufficient to do what I want. If the scheme succeeds, I will be rich enough to do without any more money from you.’
‘Yes; but if it fails?’ said Meddlechip, doubtfully.
‘If it fails, I will be obliged to draw on you again,’ returned Gaston, candidly; ’you can’t say, however, that I am behaving badly to you.’
‘No,’ answered Meddlechip, looking at him. ’I must say you are easier to deal with than I anticipated. Well, if I give you my cheque for five hundred—’
‘Say six hundred,’ observed Vandeloup, rising and going to a small table in the corner of the room on which were pens and ink. ’I want an extra hundred.’
‘Six hundred then be it,’ answered Meddlechip, quietly, rising and going to his overcoat, from whence he took his cheque book. ’For this amount you will be silent.’
M. Vandeloup bowed gracefully.
‘On my word of honour,’ he replied, gaily; ‘but, of course,’ with a sudden glance at Meddlechip, ’you will treat me as a friend—ask me to your house, and introduce me to Madame, your wife.’
‘I don’t see the necessity,’ returned Meddlechip, angrily, going over to the small table and sitting down.
‘Pardon me, I do’ answered the Frenchman, with a dangerous gleam in his eyes.
‘Well, well, I agree,’ said Meddlechip, testily, taking up a pen and opening his cheque book. ’You, of course, can dictate your own terms.’
‘I understand that perfectly,’ replied Vandeloup, delicately, lighting a cigarette, ’and have done so. You can’t say they are hard, as I said before.’
Meddlechip did not answer, but wrote out a cheque for six hundred pounds, and then handed it to Vandeloup, who received it with a bow and slipped it into his waistcoat pocket.
‘With this,’ he said, touching his pocket, ’I hope to make nearly ten thousand in a fortnight.’
Meddlechip stared at him.
‘I hope you will,’ he answered, gruffly, ’all the better for my purse if you do.’
‘That, of course, goes without saying,’ replied Vandeloup, lazily. ‘Have some more wine?’ touching the bell.
‘No more, thank you,’ said Meddlechip, putting on his overcoat. ‘It’s time I was off.’