Marchurst, leaving the dead ashes cold and grey in the dark fireplace, went to his writing table, and falling on his knees he passed the rest of the night in prayer.
Meanwhile, the man who was the primary cause of all this trouble was working in the office of the Pactolus claim with a light heart and cool head. Gaston had really managed to get Kitty away in a very clever manner, inasmuch as he never appeared publicly to be concerned in it, but directed the whole business secretly. He had given Kitty sufficient money to keep her for some months in Melbourne, as he was in doubt when he could leave the Pactolus without being suspected of being concerned in her disappearance. He also told her what day to leave, and all that day stayed at the mine working at his accounts, and afterwards spent the evening very pleasantly with Madame Midas. Next day McIntosh went into Ballarat on business, and on returning from the city, where he had heard all about it—rumour, of course, magnifying the whole affair greatly—he saw Vandeloup come out of the office, and drew up in the trap beside the young man.
‘Aha, Monsieur,’ said Vandeloup, gaily, rolling a cigarette in his slender fingers, and shooting a keen glance at Archie; ’you have had a pleasant day.’
‘Maybe yes, maybe no,’ returned McIntosh, cautiously, fumbling in the bag; ’there’s naething muckle in the toun, but—deil tack the bag,’ he continued, tetchily shaking it. ’I’ve gotten a letter or so fra’ France.’
‘For me?’ cried Vandeloup, eagerly, holding out his hands.
‘An’ for who else would it be?’ grumbled Archie, giving the letter to him—a thin, foreign looking envelope with the Parisian post mark on it; ‘did ye think it was for that black-avised freend o’ yours?’
‘Hardly!’ returned Vandeloup, glancing at the letter with satisfaction, and putting it in his pocket. ’Pierre couldn’t write himself, and I doubt very much if he had any friends who could—not that I knew his friends,’ he said, hastily catching sight of McIntosh’s severe face bent inquiringly on him, ’but like always draws to like.’
Archie’s only answer to this was a grunt.
‘Are ye no gangin’ tae read yon?’ he asked sourly.
‘Not at present,’ replied Vandeloup, blowing a thin wreath of blue smoke, ’by-and-bye will do. Scandal and oysters should both be fresh to be enjoyable, but letters—ah, bah,’ with a shrug, ’they can wait. Come, tell me the news; anything going on?’
‘Weel,’ said McIntosh, with great gusto, deliberately flicking a fly off the horse’s back with a whip, ’she’s ta’en the bit intil her mouth and gane wrang, as I said she would.’
‘To what special “she” are you alluding to?’ asked Vandeloup, lazily smoothing his moustache; ’so many of them go wrong, you see, one likes to be particular. The lady’s name is—?’
‘Katherine Marchurst, no less,’ burst forth Archie, in triumph; ‘she’s rin awa’ to be a play-actor.’