Various other mines had started in the vicinity, and had been floated on the Melbourne market, where they kept rising and falling in unison with the monthly yield of the Pactolus. The Devil’s Lead was rather unequal, as sometimes the ground would be rich, while another time it would turn out comparatively poor. People said it was patchy, and some day would run out altogether, but it did not show any signs of exhaustion, and even if it had, Madame Midas was now so wealthy that it mattered comparatively little. When the monthly yield was small, the mines round about would fall in the share market to a few shillings, but if it was large, they would rush up again to as many pounds, so that the brokers managed to do pretty well out of the fluctuations of the stock.
One thing astonished Madame Midas very much, and that was the continuous absence of her husband. She did not believe he was dead, and fully expected to see him turn up some time; but as the months passed on, and he did not appear, she became uneasy. The idea of his lurking round was a constant nightmare to her, and at last she placed the matter in the hands of the police, with instructions to try to ascertain what became of him.
The police did everything in their power to discover Villiers’ whereabouts, but without success. Unfortunately, Slivers, who might have helped them, being so well acquainted with the missing man’s habits, was dead; and, after trying for about three months to find some traces of Villiers, the police gave up the search in despair. Madame Midas, therefore, came to the conclusion that he was either dead or had left the colony, and though half doubtful, yet hoped that she had now seen the last of him.
She had invested her money largely in land, and thus being above the reach of poverty for the rest of her life, she determined to take up her abode in Melbourne for a few months, prior to going to England on a visit. With this resolution, she gave up her cottage to Archie, who was to live in it, and still manage the mine, and made preparations to come down to Melbourne with Selina Sprotts.
Vandeloup heard of this resolution, and secretly rejoiced at it, for he thought that seeing she liked him so much, now that her husband was to all appearances dead, she might marry him, and it was to this end he had kept up his acquaintance with her. He never thought of the girl he had betrayed, pining away in a dull lodging. No, M. Vandeloup, untroubled by the voice of conscience, serenely waited the coming of Madame Midas, and determined, if he could possibly arrange it, to marry her. He was the spider, and Madame Midas the fly; but as the spider knew the fly he had to inveigle into his web was a very crafty one, he determined to act with great caution; so, having ascertained when Madame Midas would be in Melbourne, he awaited her arrival before doing anything, and trusted in some way to get rid of Kitty before she came. It was a difficult game, for M. Vandeloup