There was great excitement over this, as such a large one had not been found for some time, and when Slivers heard of its discovery he cursed and swore most horribly; for with his long experience of gold mining, he knew that the long-looked for Devil’s Lead was near at hand. Billy, becoming excited with his master, began to swear also; and these two companions cursed Madame Midas and all that belonged to her most heartily. If Slivers could only have seen the interior of Madame Midas’s dining room, by some trick of necromancy, he would certainly not have been able to do the subject justice in the swearing line.
There were present Madame Midas, Selina, McIntosh, and Vandeloup, and they were all gathered round the table looking at the famous nugget. There it lay in the centre of the table, a virgin mass of gold, all water-worn and polished, hollowed out like a honeycomb, and dotted over with white pebbles like currants in a plum pudding.
‘I think I’ll send it to Melbourne for exhibition,’ said Mrs Villiers, touching the nugget very lightly with her fingers.
’’Deed, mum, and ‘tis worth it,’ replied McIntosh, whose severe face was relaxed in a grimly pleasant manner; ’but losh! ’tis naething tae what ‘ull come oot o’ the Deil’s Lead.’
‘Oh, come, now,’ said Vandeloup, with a disbelieving smile, ’the Devil’s Lead won’t consist of nuggets like that.’
‘Maybe no,’ returned the old Scotchman, dryly; ’but every mickle makes a muckle, and ye ken the Lead wull hae mony sma’ nuggets, which is mair paying, to my mind, than yin large ain.’
‘What’s the time?’ asked Madame, rather irrelevantly, turning to Archie.
Mr McIntosh drew out the large silver watch, which was part and parcel of himself, and answered gravely that it was two o’clock.
‘Then I’ll tell you what,’ said Mrs Villiers, rising; ’I’ll take it in with me to Ballarat and show it to Mr Marchurst.’
McIntosh drew down the corners of his mouth, for, as a rigid Presbyterian, he by no means approved of Marchurst’s heretical opinions, but of course said nothing as Madame wished it.
‘Can I come with you, Madame?’ said Vandeloup, eagerly, for he never lost an opportunity of seeing Kitty if he could help it.
‘Certainly,’ replied Madame, graciously; ‘we will start at once.’
Vandeloup was going away to get ready, when McIntosh stopped him.
‘That friend o’ yours is gangin’ awa’ t’ the toun the day,’ he said, touching Vandeloup lightly on the shoulder.
‘What for?’ asked the Frenchman, carelessly.
‘’Tis to see the play actors, I’m thinkin’,’ returned Archie, dryly. ‘He wants tae stap all nicht i’ the toun, so I’ve let him gae, an’ have tauld him to pit up at the Wattle Tree Hotel, the landlord o’ which is a freend o’ mine.’
‘Very kind of you, I’m sure,’ said Vandeloup, with a pleasant smile; ‘but may I ask what play actors you refer to?’