After tea it was too hot to light the lamp, and even Selina let the fire go out, while all the windows and doors were open to let the cool night wind blow in. Vandeloup sat on the verandah with McIntosh smoking cigarettes and listening to Madame, who was playing Mendelssohn’s ‘In a Gondola’, that dreamy melody full of the swing and rhythmic movement of the waves. Then to please old Archie she played ’Auld Lang Syne’—that tender caressing air which is one of the most pathetic and heart-stirring melodies in the world. Archie leaned forward with bowed head as the sad melody floated on the air, and his thoughts went back to the heather-clad Scottish hills. And what was this Madame was now playing, with its piercing sorrow and sad refrain? Surely ‘Farewell to Lochaber’, that bitter lament of the exile leaving bonny Scotland far behind. Vandeloup, who was not attending to the music, but thinking of Kitty, saw two big tears steal down McIntosh’s severe face, and marvelled at such a sign of weakness.
‘Sentiment from him?’ he muttered, in a cynical tone; ’why, I should have as soon expected blood from a stone.’
Suddenly the sad air ceased, and after a few chords, Kitty commenced to sing to Madame’s accompaniment. Gaston arose to his feet, and leaned up against the door, for she was singing Gounod’s charming valse from ‘Mirella’, the bird-like melody of which suited her high clear voice to perfection. Vandeloup was rather astonished at hearing this innocent little maiden execute the difficult valse with such ease, and her shake was as rapid and true as if she had been trained in the best schools of Europe. He did not know that Kitty had naturally a very flexible voice, and that Madame had trained her for nearly a year. When the song was ended Gaston entered the room to express his thanks and astonishment, both of which Kitty received with bursts of laughter.
‘You have a fortune in your throat, mademoiselle,’ he said, with a bow, ’and I assure you I have heard all the great singers of to-day from Patti downwards.’
‘I have only been able to teach her very little,’ said Madame, looking affectionately at Miss Marchurst, who now stood by the table, blushing at Vandeloup’s praises, ’but when we find the Devil’s Lead I am going to send her home to Italy to study singing.’
‘For the stage?’ asked Vandeloup.
‘That is as it may be,’ replied Madame, enigmatically, ’but now, M. Vandeloup, you must sing us something.’
‘Oh, does he sing?’ said Kitty, joyously.
‘Yes, and play too,’ answered Madame, as she vacated her seat at the piano and put her arm round Kitty, ’sing us something from the “Grand Duchess”, Monsieur.’
He shook his head.
‘Too gay for such an hour,’ he said, running his fingers lightly over the keys; ‘I will give you something from “Faust".’
He had a pleasant tenor voice, not very strong, but singularly pure and penetrating, and he sang ‘Salve Dinora’, the exquisite melody of which touched the heart of Madame Midas with a vague longing for love and affection, while in Kitty’s breast there was a feeling she had never felt before. Her joyousness departed, her eyes glanced at the singer in a half-frightened manner, and she clung closer to Madame Midas as if she were afraid, as indeed she was.