‘Of course,’ he said, in a reassuring tone, still keeping his face turned away, ’we will get married in Melbourne as soon as we arrive.’
‘Why can’t papa marry us,’ pouted Kitty, in an aggrieved tone.
‘My dear child,’ said the Frenchman, getting on his knees and coming close to her, ’in the first place, your father would not consent to the match, as I am poor and unknown, and not by any means the man he would choose for you; and in the second place, being a Catholic,’— here M. Vandeloup looked duly religious—’I must be married by one of my own priests.’
‘Then why not in Ballarat?’ objected Kitty, still unconvinced.
‘Because your father would never consent,’ he whispered, putting his arm round her waist; ’we must run away quietly, and when we are married can ask his pardon and,’ with a sardonic sneer, ’his blessing.’
A delicious thrill passed through Kitty when she heard this. A real elopement with a handsome lover—just like the heroines in the story books. It was delightfully romantic, and yet there seemed to be something wrong about it. She was like a timid bather, longing to plunge into the water, yet hesitating through a vague fear. With a quick catching of the breath she turned to Vandeloup, and saw him with his burning scintillating eyes fastened on her face.
‘Don’t look like that,’ she said, with a touch of virginal fear, pushing him away, ‘you frighten me.’
‘Frighten you, Bebe?’ he said, in a caressing tone; ’my heart’s idol, you are cruel to speak like that; you must come with me, for I cannot and will not leave you behind.’
‘When do you go?’ asked Kitty, who was now trembling violently.
‘Ah!’ M. Vandeloup was puzzled what to say, as he had no very decided plan of action. He had not sufficient money saved to justify him in leaving the Pactolus—still there were always possibilities, and Fortune was fond of playing wild pranks. At the same time there was nothing tangible in view likely to make him rich, so, as these thoughts rapidly passed through his mind, he resolved to temporize.
‘I can’t tell you, Bebe,’ he said, in a caressing tone, smoothing her curly hair. ’I want you to think over what I have said, and when I do go, perhaps in a month or so, you will be ready to come with me. No,’ he said, as Kitty was about to answer, ’I don’t want you to reply now, take time to consider, little one,’ and with a smile on his lips he bent over and kissed her tenderly.
They sat silently together for some time, each intent on their own thoughts, and then Vandeloup suddenly looked up.
‘Will Madame stay to dinner with you, Bebe?’ he asked.
‘She always does,’ she answered; ‘you will come too.’
Vandeloup shook his head.
’I am going down to Ballarat to the Wattle Tree Hotel to see my friend Pierre,’ he said, in a preoccupied manner, ’and will have something to eat there. Then I will come up again about eight o’clock, in time to see Madame off.’