But the day wore on, and no news came, so she asked Archie to go into Ballarar and see if the discovery had been made.
‘’Deed, mem,’ said Archie, in a consoling tone, ‘I’m thinkin’ there’s na word at all. Maybe ye only stapped his pranks for a wee bit, and he’s a’ richt.’
Madame shook her head.
‘I gave him such a terrible blow,’ she said, mournfully, ’and he fell like a stone over the embankment.’
‘He didna leave go the nugget, onyhow, ye ken,’ said Archie, dryly; ’so he couldna hae been verra far gone, but I’ll gang intil the toun and see what I can hear.’
There was no need for this, however, for just as McIntosh got to the door, Vandeloup, cool and complacent, sauntered in, but stopped short at the sight of Mrs Villiers sitting in the arm-chair looking so ill.
‘My dear Madame,’ he cried in dismay, going over to her, ’what is the matter with you?’
‘Matter enow,’ growled McIntosh, with his hand on the door handle; ‘that deil o’ a’ husband o’ her’s has robbed her o’ the nugget.’
‘Yes, and I killed him,’ said Madame between her clenched teeth.
‘The deuce you did,’ said Vandeloup, in surprise, taking a seat, ‘then he was the liveliest dead man I ever saw.’
‘What do you mean?’ asked Madame, leaning forward, with both hands gripping the arms of her chair; ‘is—is he alive?’
‘Of course he is,’ began Vandeloup; ‘I—’ but here he was stopped by a cry from Selina, for her mistress had fallen back in her chair in a dead faint.
Hastily waving for the men to go away, she applied remedies, and Madame soon revived. Vandeloup had gone outside with McIntosh, and was asking him about the robbery, and then told him in return about Villiers’ movements on that night. Selina called them in again, as Madame wanted to hear all about her husband, and Vandeloup was just entering when he turned to McIntosh.
‘Oh, by the way,’ he said, in a vexed tone, ’Pierre will not be at work today.’
‘What for no?’ asked McIntosh, sharply.
‘He’s drunk,’ replied Vandeloup, curtly, ’and he’s likely to keep the game up for a week.’
‘We’ll see about that,’ said Mr McIntosh, wrathfully; ’I tauld yon gowk o’ a Twexby to give the mon food and drink, but I didna tell him to mack the deil fu’.’
‘It wasn’t the landlord’s fault,’ said Vandeloup; ’I gave Pierre money—if I had known what he wanted it for I wouldn’t have done it--but it’s too late now.’
McIntosh was about to answer sharply as to the folly of giving the man money, when Madame’s voice was heard calling them impatiently, and they both had to go in at once.
Mrs Villiers was ghastly pale, but there was a look of determination about her which showed that she was anxious to hear all. Pointing to a seat near herself she said to Vandeloup—
’Tell me everything that happened from the time I left you last night.’