‘Aren’t you going back with her?’ asked Kitty, in surprise, as they rose to their feet.
‘No,’ he replied, dusting his knees with his hand, ’I stay all night in Ballarat, with Madame’s kind permission, to see the theatre. Now, good-bye at present, Bebe,’ kissing her, ’I will be back at eight o’clock, so you can excuse me to Madame till then.’
He ran gaily down the hill waving his hat, and Kitty stood looking after him with pride in her heart. He was a lover any girl might have been proud of, but Kitty would not have been so satisfied with him had she known what his real thoughts were.
‘Marry!’ he said to himself, with a laugh, as he walked gaily along; ’hardly! When we get to Melbourne, my sweet Bebe, I will find some way to keep you off that idea—and when we grow tired of one another, we can separate without the trouble or expense of a divorce.’
And this heartless, cynical man of the world was the keeper into whose hands innocent Kitty was about to commit the whole of her future life.
After all, the fabled Sirens have their equivalent in the male sex, and Homer’s description symbolizes a cruel truth.
FRIENDS IN COUNCIL
The Wattle Tree Hotel, to which Mr McIntosh had directed Pierre, was a quiet little public-house in a quiet street. It was far away from the main thoroughfares of the city, and a stranger had to go up any number of quiet streets to get to it, and turn and twist round corners and down narrow lanes until it became a perfect miracle how he ever found the hotel at all.
To a casual spectator it would seem that a tavern so difficult of access would not be very good for business, but Simon Twexby, the landlord, knew better. It had its regular customers, who came there day after day, and sat in the little back parlour and talked and chatted over their drinks. The Wattle Tree was such a quiet haven of rest, and kept such good liquor, that once a man discovered it he always came back again; so Mr Twexby did a very comfortable trade.
Rumour said he had made a lot of money out of gold-mining, and that he kept the hotel more for amusement than anything else; but, however this might be, the trade of the Wattle Tree brought him in a very decent income, and Mr Twexby could afford to take things easy— which he certainly did.
Anyone going into the bar could see old Simon—a stolid, fat man, with a sleepy-looking face, always in his shirt sleeves, and wearing a white apron, sitting in a chair at the end, while his daughter, a sharp, red-nosed damsel, who was thirty-five years of age, and confessed to twenty-two, served out the drinks. Mrs Twexby had long ago departed this life, leaving behind her the sharp, red-nosed damsel to be her father’s comfort. As a matter of fact, she was just the opposite, and Simon often wished that his daughter had departed to a better world in company with her mother. Thin, tight-laced, with a shrill voice and an acidulated temper, Miss Twexby was still a spinster, and not even the fact of her being an heiress could tempt any of the Ballarat youth to lead her to the altar. Consequently Miss Twexby’s temper was not a golden one, and she ruled the hotel and its inmates—her father included—with a rod of iron.