Pierre looked steadily at the young man, and then slipping his hand behind his back he drew forth from the waistband of his trousers a long, sharp, cruel-looking knife, which for safety had a leather sheath. Drawing this off, the dumb man ran his thumb along the keen edge, and held the knife out towards Vandeloup, who refused it with a cynical smile.
‘You don’t believe in this, I can see,’ he said, touching the dainty bunch of flowers as Pierre put the knife in its sheath again and returned it to its hiding-place. ’I’m afraid your ideas are still crude—you believe in the good old-fashioned style of blood-letting. Quite a mistake, I assure you; poison is much more artistic and neat in its work, and to my mind involves less risk. You see, my Pierre,’ he continued, lazily watching the blue wreaths of smoke from his cigarette curl round his head, ’crime must improve with civilization; and since the Cain and Abel epoch we have refined the art of murder in a most wonderful manner—decidedly we are becoming more civilized; and now, my friend,’ in a kind tone, laying his slender white hand on the shoulder of the dumb man, ’you must really take a little rest, for I have no doubt but what you will need all your strength tonight should M. Villiers prove obstinate. Of course,’ with a shrug, ’if he does not succeed in getting the nugget, our time will be simply wasted, and then,’ with a gay smile, touching the flowers, ’I will see what I can do in the artistic line.’
Pierre lay down again on the bed, and turning his face to the wall fell fast asleep, while M. Vandeloup, humming a merry tune, walked gaily out of the room to the bar, and asked Miss Twexby for another drink.
‘Brandy and soda this time, please,’ he said, lazily lighting another cigarette; ’this heat is so enervating, and I’m going to walk up to Black Hill. By the way, Mademoiselle,’ he went on, as she opened the soda water, ’as I see there are two beds in my friend’s room I will stay here all night.’
‘You shall have the best room,’ said Martha, decisively, as she handed him the brandy and soda.
‘You are too kind,’ replied M. Vandeloup, coolly, as he took the drink from her, ’but I prefer to stay with my silent friend. He was one of the sailors in the ship when I was wrecked, as you have no doubt heard, and looks upon me as a sort of fetish.’
Miss Twexby knew all about the wreck, and thought it was beautiful that he should condescend to be so friendly with a common sailor. Vandeloup received all her speeches with a polite smile, then set down his empty glass and prepared to leave.
‘Mademoiselle,’ he said, touching the flowers, ’you see I still have them—they will remind me of you,’ and raising his hat he strolled idly out of the hotel, and went off in the direction of the Black Hill.
Miss Twexby ran to the door, and shading her eyes with her hands from the blinding glare of the sun, she watched him lounging along the street, tall, slender, and handsome.