It was pleasant in the gardens under the golden light of the sunset, and the green arcades of trees looked delightfully cool after the glare of the dusty streets. Vandeloup, strolling along idly, felt a touch on his shoulder and wheeled round suddenly, for with his past life ever before him he always had a haunting dread of being recaptured.
The man, however, who had thus drawn his attention was none other than Pierre Lemaire, who stood in the centre of the broad asphalt path, dirty, ragged and disreputable-looking. He had not altered much since he left Ballarat, save that he looked more dilapidated-looking, but stood there in his usual sullen manner, with his hat drawn down over his eyes. Some stray wisps of grass showed that he had been camping out all the hot day on the green turf under the shadow of the trees, and it was easy to see from his appearance what a vagrant he was. Vandeloup was annoyed at the meeting and cast a rapid look around to see if he was observed. The few people, however, passing were too intent on their own business to give more than a passing glance at the dusty tramp and the young man in evening dress talking to him, so Vandeloup was reassured.
‘Well, my friend,’ he said, sharply, to the dumb man, ’what do you want?’
Pierre put his hand in his pocket.
‘Oh, of course,’ replied M. Vandeloup, mockingly, ’money, money, always money; do you think I’m a bank, always to be drawn on like this?’
The dumb man made no sign that he had heard, but stood sullenly rocking himself to and fro an’d chewing a wisp of the grass he had picked off his coat.
‘Here,’ said the young man, taking out a sovereign and giving it to Pierre; ‘take this just now and don’t bother me, or upon my word,’ with a disdainful look, ’I shall positively have to hand you over to the law.’
Pierre glanced up suddenly, and Vandeloup caught the gleam of his eyes under the shadow of the hat.
‘Oh! you think it will be dangerous for me,’ he said, in a gay tone; ’not at all, I assure you. I am a gentleman, and rich; you are a pauper, and disreputable. Who will believe your word against mine? My faith! your assurance is quite refreshing. Now, go away, and don’t trouble me again, or,’ with a sudden keen glance, ’I will do as I say.’
He nodded coolly to the dumb man, and strode gaily along under the shade of the heavily foliaged oaks, while Pierre looked at the sovereign, slipped it into his pocket, and slouched off in the opposite direction without even a glance at his patron.
At the top of the street Vandeloup stepped into a cab, and telling the man to drive to the St Kilda Station, in Elizabeth Street, went off into a brown study. Pierre annoyed him seriously, as he never seemed to get rid of him, and the dumb man kept turning up every now and then like the mummy at the Egyptian feast to remind him of unpleasant things.
‘Confound him!’ muttered Vandeloup, angrily, as he alighted at the station and paid the cabman, ’he’s more trouble than Bebe was; she did take the hint and go, but this man, my faith!’ shrugging his shoulders, ‘he’s the devil himself for sticking.’