There was a chill wind blowing from the bush, bringing with it a faint aromatic odour, and on glancing downwards he saw that the grass was wet with dew. The dawn was burning redly in the east, and the vivid crimson of the sky put him in mind of that sunset under which he had landed with his companion on the Queensland coast. Suddenly a broad shaft of yellow light broke into the pale pink of the sky, and with a burst of splendour the sun rose slowly into sight from behind the dark bush, and all the delicate workings of the dawn disappeared in the flood of golden light which poured over the landscape.
Vandeloup looked idly at all this beauty with an unobservant eye, being too much occupied with his thoughts to take notice of anything; and it was only when two magpies near him broke into a joyous duet, in which each strove to emulate the other’s mellow notes, that he awoke from his brown study, and began to walk back again to the mine.
‘I must let nothing stand in my way to acquire money,’ he said, musingly; ’with it one can rule the world; without it—but how trite and bald these well-worn maxims seem! Why do I repeat them, parrot-like, when I see what I have to do so clearly before me? That woman, for instance—I must begin by making her my friend. Bah! she is that already; I saw it in her eyes, which she can’t control as she does her face. Yes, I must make her my friend; my very dear friend—and then—well, to my mind, the world-pivot is a woman. I will spare no one in order to attain my ends—I will make myself my own God, and consider no one but myself, and those who stand in my path must get out of it or run the chance of being crushed. This,’ with a cynical smile, ’is what some would call the devil’s philosophy; at all events, it is good enough for me.’
He was near the mine by this time, and hearing someone calling to him he looked up, and saw McIntosh walking towards him. There was a stir in the men’s quarters now, and he could see the door was open and several figures were moving briskly about, while a number of others were crossing the fields. The regular beat of the machinery still continued, and the smoke was pouring out thick and black from the tall red chimney, while the wheels were spinning round in the poppet-heads as the mine slowly disgorged the men who had been working all night.
McIntosh came slowly along with his hands in his pockets and a puzzled look on his severe face. He could not make up his mind whether to like or dislike this young man, but Madame Midas had seemed so impressed that he had half made up his mind to dislike him out of a spirit of contradiction.
‘Weemen are sae easy pleased, puir feckless bodies,’ he said to himself, ‘a bonny face is a’ they fash their heads aboot, though the same may be already in the grip of auld Nickyben. Weel, weel, if Madam does fancy the lad—an’ he’s no bad lookin’, I’ll say that— she may just hae her ain way, and I’ll keep my e’e on baith.’