Aesop knew human nature very well when he wrote his fable of the old man and his ass, who tried to please everybody and ended up by pleasing nobody. Bearing this in mind, Madame Midas determined to please herself, and take no one’s advice but her own with regard to Vandeloup. She knew if she dismissed him from the mine it would give colour to her husband’s vile insinuations, so she thought the wisest plan would be to take no notice of her meeting with him, and let things remain as they were. It turned out to be the best thing she could have done, for though Villiers went about Ballarat accusing her of being the young Frenchman’s mistress, everyone was too well aware of existing circumstances to believe what he said. They knew that he had squandered his wife’s fortune, and that she had left him in disgust at his profligacy, so they declined to believe his accusations against a woman who had proved herself true steel in withstanding bad fortune. So Mr Villiers’ endeavours to ruin his wife only recoiled on his own head, for the Ballarat folk argued, and rightly, that whatever she did it was not his place to cast the first stone at her, seeing that the unsatisfactory position she was now in was mainly his own work. Villiers, therefore, gained nothing by his attempt to blacken his wife’s character except the contempt of everyone, and even the few friends he had gained turned their backs on him until no one would associate with him but Slivers, who did so in order to gain his own ends. The company had quarrelled over the unsuccessful result of Villiers’ visit to the Pactolus, and Slivers, as senior partner, assisted by Billy, called Villiers all the names he could lay his tongue to, which abuse Villiers accepted in silence, not even having the spirit to resent it. But though he was outwardly sulky and quiet, yet within he cherished a deep hatred against his wife for the contempt with which he was treated, and inwardly vowed to pay her out on the first feasible opportunity.
It was now nearly six months since Vandeloup had become clerk at the Pactolus, and he was getting tired of it, only watching his opportunity to make a little money and go to Melbourne, where he had not much doubt as to his success. With a certain sum of money to work on, M. Vandeloup thought that with his talents and experience of human nature he would soon be able to make a fortune, particularly as he was quite unfettered by any scruples, and as long as he made money he did not care how he gained it. With such an adaptable nature he could hardly help doing well, but in order to give him the start he required a little capital, so stayed on at the Pactolus and saved every penny he earned in the hope of soon accumulating enough to leave. Another thing that kept him there was his love for Kitty—not a very pure or elevating love certainly, still it was love for all that, and Vandeloup could not tear himself away from the place where she resided.
He had called on Kitty’s father, the Rev. Mark Marchurst, who lived at the top of Black Hill, near Ballarat, and did not like him. Mr Marchurst, a grave, quiet man, who was the pastor of a particular sect, calling themselves very modestly ‘The Elect’, was hardly the kind of individual to attract a brilliant young fellow like Vandeloup, and the wonder was that he ever had such a charming daughter.