Meanwhile, M. Vandeloup slept the sleep of the just, and next morning, after making his inquiries after the health of Madame Midas—a thing he never neglected to do—he went into Ballarat in search of Pierre. On arriving at the Wattle Tree Hotel he was received by Miss Twexby in dignified silence, for that astute damsel was beginning to regard the fascinating Frenchman as a young man who talked a great deal and meant nothing.
He was audacious enough to win her virgin heart and then break it, so Miss Twexby thought the wisest thing would be to keep him at a distance. So Vandeloup’s bright smiles and merry jokes failed to call forth any response from the fair Martha, who sat silently in the bar, looking like a crabbed sphinx.
‘Is my friend Pierre in?’ asked Vandeloup, leaning across the counter, and looking lovingly at Miss Twexby.
That lady intimated coldly that he was in, and had been for the last two weeks; also that she was sick of him, and she’d thank M. Vandeloup to clear him out—all of which amused Vandeloup mightily, though he still continued to smile coolly on the sour-faced damsel before him.
‘Would you mind going and telling him I want to see him?’ he asked, lounging to the door.
‘Me!’ shrieked Martha, in a shrill voice, shooting up from behind the counter like an infuriated jack-in-the-box. ’No, I shan’t. Why, the last time I saw him he nearly cut me like a ham sandwich with that knife of his. I am not,’ pursued Miss Twexby, furiously, ’a loaf of bread to be cut, neither am I a pin-cushion to have things stuck into me; so if you want to be a corpse, you’d better go up yourself.’
‘I hardly think he’ll touch me,’ replied Vandeloup, coolly, going towards the door which led to Pierre’s bedroom. ’You’ve had a lot of trouble with him, I’m afraid; but he’s going down to Melbourne tonight, so it will be all right.’
‘And the bill?’ queried Miss Twexby, anxiously.
‘I will pay it,’ said Vandeloup, at which she was going to say he was very generous, but suppressed the compliment when he added, ’out of his own money.’
Gaston, however, failed to persuade Pierre to accompany him round to buy an outfit. For the dumb man lay on his bed, and obstinately refused to move out of the room. He, however, acquiesced sullenly when his friend told him he was going to Melbourne, so Vandeloup left the room, having first secured Pierre’s knife, and locked the door after him. He gave the knife to Miss Twexby, with injunctions to her to keep it safe, then sallied forth to buy his shipwrecked friend a box and some clothes.
He spent about ten pounds in buying an outfit for the dumb man, hired a cab to call at the ‘Wattle Tree’ Hotel at seven o’clock to take the box and its owner to the station. And then feeling he had done his duty and deserved some recompense, he had a nice little luncheon and a small bottle of wine for which he paid out of Pierre’s money. When he finished he bought a choice cigar, had a glass of Chartreuse, and after resting in the commercial room for a time he went out for a walk, intending to call on Slivers and Dr Gollipeck, and in fact do anything to kill time until it would be necessary for him to go to Pierre and take him to the railway station.