This quite upset Slivers’ idea—as if Vandeloup had gone to bed at twelve, he certainly could not have murdered Villiers nearly a mile away at two o’clock in the morning. Slivers was puzzled, and then the light broke on him—perhaps it was the dumb man.
‘Did the other stay here all night also?’
Miss Twexby nodded. ‘Both in the same room,’ she answered.
‘What time did the dumb chap come in?’
Here was another facer for Slivers—as it could not have been Pierre.
‘Did he go to bed?’
‘And did not leave the house again?’
‘Of course not,’ retorted Miss Twexby, impatiently; ’do you think I’m a fool—no one goes either in or out of this house without my knowing it. The dumb devil went to bed at half-past nine, and Mr Vandeloup at half-past twelve, and they neither of them came out of their rooms till next morning.’
‘How do you know Vandeloup was in at twelve?’ asked Slivers, still unconvinced.
‘Drat the man, what’s he worryin’ about?’ rejoined Miss Twexby, snappishly; ‘I let him in myself.’
This clearly closed the subject, and Slivers arose to his feet in great disgust, upsetting Billy on to the floor.
‘Devil!’ shrieked Billy, as he dropped. ’Oh, my precious mother. Devil—devil—devil—you’re a liar—you’re a liar—Bendigo and Ballarat—Ballarat and Bendigo—Pickles!’
Having thus run through a portion of his vocabulary, he subsided into silence, and let Slivers pick him up in order to go home.
‘A nice pair you are,’ muttered Martha, grimly, looking at them. ’I wish I had the thrashing of you. Won’t you stay and see par?’ she called out as Slivers departed.
‘I’ll come to-morrow,’ answered Slivers, angrily, for he felt very much out of temper; then, in a lower voice, he observed to himself, ‘I’d like to put that jade in a teacup and crush her.’
He stumped home in silence, thinking all the time; and it was only when he arrived back in his office that he gave utterance to his thoughts.
‘It couldn’t have been either of the Frenchmen,’ he said, lighting his pipe. ‘She must have done it herself.’
MCINTOSH SPEAKS HIS MIND
It was some time before Mrs Villiers recovered from the shock caused by her encounter with her husband. The blow he had struck her on the side of the head turned out to be more serious than was at first anticipated, and Selina deemed it advisable that a doctor should be called in. So Archie went into Ballarat, and returned to the Pactolus with Dr Gollipeck, an eccentric medical practitioner, whose peculiarities were the talk of the city.