Madame Midas eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 309 pages of information about Madame Midas.
after half an hour’s hard work, they managed to get to the top, and threw themselves breathlessly on the short dry grass which fringed the rough cliff.  Lying there half fainting with fatigue and hunger, they could hear, as in a confused dream, the drowsy thunder of the waves below, and the discordant cries of the sea-gulls circling round their nests, to which they had not yet returned.  The rest did them good, and in a short time they were able to rise to their feet and survey the situation.  In front was the sea, and at the back the grassy undulating country, dotted here and there with clumps of trees now becoming faint and indistinct in the rapidly falling shadows of the night.  They could also see horses and cattle moving in the distant fields, which showed that there must be some human habitation near, and suddenly from a far distant house which they had not observed shone a bright light, which became to these weary waifs of the ocean a star of hope.

They looked at one another in silence, and then the young man turned towards the ocean again.

‘Behind,’ he said, pointing to the east, ’lies a French prison and two ruined lives—­yours and mine—­but in front,’ swinging round to the rich fields, ’there is fortune, food, and freedom.  Come, my friend, let us follow that light, which is our star of hope, and who knows what glory may await us.  The old life is dead, and we start our lives in this new world with all the bitter experiences of the old to teach us wisdom—­come!’ And without another word he walked slowly down the slope towards the inland, followed by the dumb man with his head still bent and his air of sullen resignation.

The sun disappeared behind the snowy ranges—­night drew a grey veil over the sky as the red light died out, and here and there the stars were shining.  The seabirds sought their nests again and ceased their discordant cries—­the boat which had brought the adventurers to shore drifted slowly out to sea, while the great black hand that rose from the eastward stretched out threateningly towards the two men tramping steadily onward through the dewy grass, as though it would have drawn them back again to the prison from whence they had so miraculously escaped.

CHAPTER I

THE PACTOLUS CLAIM

In the early days of Australia, when the gold fever was at its height, and the marvellous Melbourne of to-day was more like an enlarged camp than anything else, there was a man called Robert Curtis, who arrived in the new land of Ophir with many others to seek his fortune.  Mr Curtis was of good family, but having been expelled from Oxford for holding certain unorthodox opinions quite at variance with the accepted theological tenets of the University, he had added to his crime by marrying a pretty girl, whose face was her fortune, and who was born, as the story books say, of poor but honest parents.  Poverty and honesty, however, were not sufficient recommendations in the eyes of Mr Curtis, senior, to excuse such a match; so he promptly followed the precedent set by Oxford, and expelled his son from the family circle.  That young gentleman and his wife came out to Australia filled with ambitious dreams of acquiring a fortune, and then of returning to heap coals of fire on the heads of those who had turned them out.

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Madame Midas from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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