Dinner at Mr Marchurst’s house was not a particularly exhilarating affair. As a matter of fact, though dignified with the name of dinner, it was nothing more than one of those mixed meals known as high tea. Vandeloup knew this, and, having a strong aversion to the miscellaneous collection of victuals which appeared on Mr Marchurst’s table, he dined at Craig’s Hotel, where he had a nice little dinner, and drank a pint bottle of champagne in order to thoroughly enjoy himself. Madame Midas also had a dislike to tea-dinners, but, being a guest, of course had to take what was going; and she, Kitty, and Mr Marchurst, were the only people present at the festive board. At last Mr Marchurst finished and delivered a long address of thanks to Heaven for the good food they had enjoyed, which good food, being heavy and badly cooked, was warranted to give them all indigestion and turn their praying to cursing. In fact, what with strong tea, hurried meals, and no exercise, Mr Marchurst used to pass an awful time with the nightmare, and although he was accustomed to look upon nightmares as visions, they were due more to dyspepsia than inspiration.
After dinner Madame sat and talked with Marchurst, but Kitty went outside into the warm darkness of the summer night, and tried to pierce the gloom to see if her lover was coming. She was rewarded, for M. Vandeloup came up about half-past eight o’clock, having met Pierre as arranged. Pierre had found out Villiers in his hiding-place, and was watching him while Villiers watched the house. Being, therefore, quite easy in his mind that things were going smoothly, Vandeloup came up to the porch where Kitty was eagerly waiting for him, and taking her in his arms kissed her tenderly. Then, after assuring himself that Madame was safe with Marchurst, he put his arm round Kitty’s waist, and they walked up and down the path with the warm wind blowing in their faces, and the perfume of the wattle blossoms permeating the drowsy air. And yet while he was walking up and down, talking lover-like nonsense to the pretty girl by his side, Vandeloup knew that Villiers was watching the house far off, with evil eyes, and he also knew that Pierre was watching Villiers with all the insatiable desire of a wild beast for blood. The moon rose, a great shield of silver, and all the ground was strewn with the aerial shadows of the trees. The wind sighed through the branches of the wattles, and made their golden blossoms tremble in the moonlight, while hand in hand the lovers strolled down the path or over the short dry grass. Far away in the distance they heard a woman singing, and the high sweet voice floated softly towards them through the clear air.
Suddenly they heard the noise of a chair being pushed back inside the house, and knew that Madame was getting ready to go. They moved simultaneously towards the door, but in the porch Gaston paused for a moment, and caught Kitty by the arm.