‘Going up,’ said Polglaze, as he handed the scrip to Vandeloup and got a cheque in exchange.
‘Oh, indeed!’ said Vandeloup, with a smile. ’I suppose my two friends have begun their little game already,’ he thought, as he slipped the scrip into his breast pocket.
‘Information?’ asked Polglaze, as Vandeloup was going.
‘Oh! you’d like to know where I got it,’ said M. Vandeloup, amiably. ’Very sorry I can’t tell you; but you see, my dear sir, I am not a woman, and can keep a secret.’
Vandeloup walked out, and Polglaze looked after him with a puzzled look, then summed up his opinion in one word, sharp, incisive, and to the point—
‘Clever!’ said Polglaze, and put the cheque in his safe.
Vandeloup strolled along the street thinking.
‘Bebe is out of my way,’ he thought, with a smile; ’I have a small fortune in my pocket, and,’ he continued, thoughtfully, ’Madame Midas is in Melbourne. I think now,’ said M. Vandeloup, with another smile, ‘that I have conquered the blind goddess.’
THE OPULENCE OF MADAME MIDAS
A wealthy man does not know the meaning of the word friendship. He is not competent to judge, for his wealth precludes him giving a proper opinion. Smug-faced philanthropists can preach comfortable doctrines in pleasant rooms with well-spread tables and good clothing; they can talk about human nature being unjustly accused, and of the kindly impulses and good thoughts in everyone’s breasts. Pshaw! anyone can preach thus from an altitude of a few thousands a year, but let these same self-complacent kind-hearted gentlemen descend in the social scale—let them look twice at a penny before spending it—let them face persistent landladies, exorbitant landlords, or the bitter poverty of the streets, and they will not talk so glibly of human nature and its inherent kindness. No; human nature is a sort of fetish which is credited with a great many amiable qualities it never possesses, and though there are exceptions to the general rule, Balzac’s aphorism on mankind that ‘Nature works by self-interest,’ still holds good today.
Madame Midas, however, had experienced poverty and the coldness of friends, so was completely disillusionised as to the disinterested motives of the people who now came flocking around her. She was very wealthy, and determined to stop in Melbourne for a year, and then go home to Europe, so to this end she took a house at St Kilda, which had been formerly occupied by Mark Frettlby, the millionaire, who had been mixed up in the famous hansom cab murder nearly eighteen months before. His daughter, Mrs Fitzgerald, was in Ireland with her husband, and had given instructions to her agents to let the house furnished as it stood, but such a large rent was demanded, that no one felt inclined to give it till Mrs Villiers appeared on the scene. The house suited her, as she did not want