‘I dinna ken anythin’ about sic folk,’ retorted Mr McIntosh, piously, ’the deil’s ain bairns, wha wull gang into the pit of Tophet.’
‘Aren’t you rather hard on them, Archie?’ said Madame Midas, smiling quietly. ‘I’m very fond of the theatre myself.’
‘It’s no for me to give ma opeenion about ma betters,’ replied Archie, ungraciously, as he went out to see after the horse and trap; ‘but I dinna care aboot sitting in the seat of the scornfu’, or walking in the ways of the unrighteous,’ and with this parting shot at Vandeloup he went away.
That young man shrugged his shoulders, and looked at Madame Midas in such a comical manner that she could not help smiling.
‘You must forgive Archie,’ she said, pausing at the door of her bedroom for a moment. ’He has been brought up severely, and it is hard to rid oneself of the traditions of youth.’
‘Very traditional in this case, I’m afraid,’ answered Gaston, referring to McIntosh’s age.
‘If you like,’ said Madame, in a kindly tone, ’you can stay in to-night yourself, and go to the theatre.’
‘Thank you, Madame,’ replied Gaston, gravely. ’I will avail myself of your kind permission.’
’I’m afraid you will find an Australian provincial company rather a change after the Parisian theatres,’ said Mrs Villiers, as she vanished into her room.
Vandeloup smiled, and turned to Selina, who was busy about her household work.
‘Mademoiselle Selina,’ he said, gaily, ’I am in want of a proverb to answer Madame; if I can’t get the best I must be content with what I can get. Now what piece of wisdom applies?’
Selina, flattered at being applied to, thought a moment, then raised her head triumphantly—
‘"Half a loaf is better than none,"’ she announced, with a sour smile.
‘Mademoiselle,’ said Vandeloup, gravely regarding her as he stood at the door, ’your wisdom is only equalled by your charming appearance,’ and with an ironical bow he went out.
Selina paused a moment in her occupation of polishing spoons, and looked after him, doubtful as to whether he was in jest or earnest. Being unable to decide, she resumed her work with a stifled chuckle, and consoled herself with a proverb.
‘To be good is better than to be beautiful,’ which saying, as everyone knows, is most consoling to plain-looking people.
The great nugget was carefully packed in a stout wooden box by Archie, and placed in the trap by him with such caution that Madame, who was already seated in it, asked him if he was afraid she would be robbed.
‘It’s always best to be on the richt side, mem,’ said Archie, handing her the reins; ‘we dinna ken what may happen.’
‘Why, no one knows I am taking this to Ballarat to-day,’ said Madame, drawing on her gloves.
‘Don’t they?’ thought M. Vandeloup, as he took his seat beside her. ‘She doesn’t know that I’ve told Pierre.’