‘Why not?’ in surprise; ‘do you object?’
‘Object? my God!’ she ejaculated, in a low fierce tone; ’have you forgotten what we are to one another?’
‘Friends, I understand,’ he said, looking at his hands, admiringly.
‘And something more,’ she added, bitterly; ‘lovers!’
‘Don’t talk so loud, my dear,’ replied Vandeloup, coolly; ’it doesn’t do to let everyone know your private business.’
‘It’s private now,’ she said, in a voice of passion, ’but it will soon be public enough.’
‘Indeed! which paper do you advertise in?’
‘Listen to me, Gaston,’ she said, taking no notice of his sneer; ’you will never marry Madame Midas; sooner than that, I will reveal all and kill myself.’
‘You forget,’ he said, gently; ‘it is comedy, not tragedy, we play.’
‘That is as I choose,’ she retorted; ‘see!’ and with a sudden gesture she put her hand into the bosom of her dress and took out the bottle of poison with the red bands. ‘I have it still.’
‘So I perceive,’ he answered, smiling. ’Do you always carry it about with you, like a modern Lucrezia Borgia?’
‘Yes,’ she answered quietly; ‘it never leaves me, you see,’ with a sneer. ’As you said yourself, it’s always well to be prepared for emergencies.’
‘So it appears,’ observed Vandeloup, with a yawn, sitting up. ’I wouldn’t use that poison if I were you; it is risky.’
‘Oh, no, it’s not,’ answered Kitty; ’it is fatal in its results, and leaves no trace behind.’
‘There you are wrong,’ replied Gaston, coolly; ’it does leave traces behind, but makes it appear as if apoplexy was the cause of death. Give me the bottle?’ peremptorily.
‘No!’ she answered, defiantly, clenching it in her hand.
‘I say yes,’ he said, in an angry whisper; ’that poison is my secret, and I’m not going to have you play fast and loose with it; give it up,’ and he placed his hand on her wrist.
‘You hurt my wrist,’ she said.
‘I’ll break your wrist, my darling,’ he said, quietly, ’if you don’t give me that bottle.’
Kitty wrenched her hand away, and rose to her feet.
‘Sooner than that, I’ll throw it away,’ she said, and before he could stop her, she flung the bottle out on to the lawn, where it fell down near the trees.
‘Bah! I will find it,’ he said, springing to his feet, but Kitty was too quick for him.
‘M. Vandeloup,’ she said aloud, so that everyone could hear; ’kindly take me back to the ball-room, will you, to finish our valse.’
Vandeloup would have refused, but she had his arm, and as everyone was looking at him, he could not refuse without being guilty of marked discourtesy. Kitty had beaten him with his own weapons, so, with a half-admiring glance at her, he took her back to the ball-room, where the waltz was just ending.
‘At all events,’ he said in her ear, as they went smoothly gliding round the room, ’you won’t be able to do any mischief with it now to yourself or to anyone else.’