‘Good night, Messrs Villiers and Jarper,’ said Vandeloup, going out of the door, ‘I will see you to-morrow.’
‘And we also, I hope,’ said Mr Wopples, ungrammatically. ’Come and see “The Cruet Stand” again. I’ll put your name on the free list.’
M. Vandeloup thanked the actor warmly for this kind offer, and took himself off; as he passed along the street he heard a burst of laughter from the Wopples family, no doubt caused by some witticism of the head of the clan.
He walked slowly home to the hotel, smoking a cigarette, and thinking deeply. When he arrived at the ‘Wattle Tree’ he saw a light still burning in the bar, and, on knocking at the door, was admitted by Miss Twexby, who had been making up accounts, and whose virgin head was adorned with curl-papers.
‘My!’ said this damsel, when she saw him, ’you are a nice young man coming home at this hour—twelve o’clock. See?’ and, as a proof of her assertion, she pointed to the clock.
‘Were you waiting up for me, dear?’ asked Vandeloup, audaciously.
‘Not I,’ retorted Miss Twexby, tossing her curl-papers; ’I’ve been attending to par’s business; but, oh, gracious!’ with a sudden recollection of her head-gear, ‘you’ve seen me in undress.’
‘And you look more charming than ever,’ finished Vandeloup, as he took his bedroom candle from her. ’I will see you in the morning. My friend still asleep, I suppose?’
‘I’m sure I don’t know. I haven’t seen him all the evening,’ replied Miss Twexby, tossing her head, ’now, go away. You’re a naughty, wicked, deceitful thing. I declare I’m quite afraid of you.’
‘There’s no need, I assure you,’ replied Vandeloup, in a slightly sarcastic voice, as he surveyed the plain-looking woman before him; ‘you are quite safe from me.’
He left the bar, whistling an air, while the fair Martha returned to her accounts, and wondered indignantly whether his last remark was a compliment or otherwise.
The conclusion she came to was that it was otherwise, and she retired to bed in a very wrathful frame of mind.
A MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE
Madame Midas, as may be easily guessed, did not pass a very pleasant night after the encounter with Villiers. Her head was very painful with the blow he had given her, and added to this she was certain she had killed him.
Though she hated the man who had ruined her life, and who had tried to rob her, still she did not care about becoming his murderess, and the thought was madness to her. Not that she was afraid of punishment, for she had only acted in self-defence, and Villiers, not she, was the aggressor.
Meanwhile she waited to hear if the body had been found, for ill news travels fast; and as everyone knew Villiers was her husband, she was satisfied that when the corpse was found she would be the first to be told about it.