Vandeloup rose coolly from his chair, and, picking up his book and hat, turned to the doctor.
‘My dear Monsieur,’ he said, leaning up against the wall in a graceful manner, ’I left France to see the world, so until I have seen it I don’t think it would be worthwhile to return.’
‘Never go back when you have once put your hand to the plough,’ observed Selina, opportunely, upon which Vandeloup bowed to her.
‘Mademoiselle,’ he said, quietly, with a charming smile, ’has put the matter into the shell of a nut; Australia is my plough, and I do not take my hand away until I have finished with it.’
‘But that deil o’ a Peter,’ said Archie, impatiently.
‘If you will permit me, Madame,’ said Vandeloup, ’I will write out a cheque for the amount of money due to him, and you will sign it. I will go into Ballarat to-morrow, and get him away to Melbourne. I propose to buy him a box and some clothes, as he certainly is not capable of getting them himself.’
‘You have a kind heart, M. Vandeloup,’ said Madame, as she assented with a nod.
A stifled laugh came from the Doctor, but as he was such an extremely eccentric individual no one minded him.
‘Come, Monsieur,’ said Vandeloup, going to the door, ’let us be off to the office and see how much is due to my friend,’ and with a bow to Madame, he went out.
‘A braw sort o’ freend,’ muttered Archie, as he followed.
‘Quite good enough for him,’ retorted Dr Gollipeck, who overheard him.
Archie looked at him approvingly, nodded his head, and went out after the Frenchman, but Madame, being a woman and curious, asked the doctor what he meant.
His reply was peculiar.
‘Our friend,’ he said, putting his handkerchief in his pocket and seizing his greasy old hat, ’our friend believes in the greatest number.’
‘And what is the greatest number?’ asked Madame, innocently.
‘Number one,’ retorted the Doctor, and took his leave abruptly, leaving two buttons and several pins on the floor as traces of his visit.
THE BEST OF FRIENDS MUST PART
Union is strength, and if Dr Gollipeck had only met Slivers and revealed his true opinion of Vandeloup to him, no doubt that clever young man would have found himself somewhat embarrassed, as a great deal of a man’s past history can be found out by the simple plan of putting two and two together. Fortunately, however, for Gaston, these two gentlemen never met, and Gollipeck came to the conclusion that he could see nothing to blame in Vandeloup’s conduct, though he certainly mistrusted him, and determined mentally to keep an eye on his movements. What led him to be suspicious was the curious resemblance the appearance of this young man had to that of a criminal described in the ‘Les Empoisonneurs d’Aujourd’hui’ as having been transported to New Caledonia for the crime of poisoning his mistress. Everything, however, was vague and uncertain; so Dr Gollipeck, when he arrived home, came to the above-named conclusion that he would watch Vandeloup, and then, dismissing him from his mind, went to work on his favourite subject.