that, being influenced in her decision by the old digger.
This man, by name Archibald McIntosh, was a shrewd,
hard-headed Scotchman, who had been in Ballarat when
the diggings were in the height of their fame, and
who knew all about the lie of the country and where
the richest leads had been in the old days. He
told Mrs Villiers that her father and himself had
worked together on a lead then known as the Devil’s
Lead, which was one of the richest ever discovered
in the district. It had been found by five men,
who had agreed with one another to keep silent as
to the richness of the lead, and were rapidly making
their fortunes when the troubles of the Eureka stockade
intervened, and, in the encounter between the miners
and the military, three of the company working the
lead were killed, and only two men were left who knew
the whereabouts of the claim and the value of it.
These were McIntosh and Curtis, who were the original
holders. Mr Curtis, went down to Melbourne, and,
as previously related, died of heart disease, so the
only man left of the five who had worked the lead
was Archibald McIntosh. He had been too poor to
work it himself, and, having failed to induce any speculator
to go in with him to acquire the land, he had kept
silent about it, only staying up at Ballarat and guarding
the claim lest someone else should chance on it.
Fortunately the place where it was situated had not
been renowned for gold in the early days, and it had
passed into the hands of a man who used it as pasture
land, quite ignorant of the wealth which lay beneath.
When Mrs Villiers came up to Ballarat, this man wanted
to sell the land, as he was going to Europe; so, acting
under the urgent advice of McIntosh, she sold out of
all the investments which she had and purchased the
whole tract of country where the old miner assured
her solemnly the Devil’s Lead was to be found.
Then she built a house near the mine, and taking her
old nurse, Selina Sprotts, and Archibald McIntosh
to live with her, sank a shaft in the place indicated
by the latter. She also engaged miners, and gave
McIntosh full control over the mine, while she herself
kept the books, paid the accounts, and proved herself
to be a first-class woman of business. She had
now been working the mine for two years, but as yet
had not been fortunate enough to strike the lead.
The gutter, however, proved remunerative enough to
keep the mine going, pay all the men, and support
Mrs Villiers herself, so she was quite content to
wait till fortune should smile on her, and the long-looked-for
Devil’s Lead turned up. People who had heard
of her taking the land were astonished at first, and
disposed to scoff, but they soon begun to admire the
plucky way in which she fought down her ill-luck for
the first year of her venture. All at once matters
changed; she made a lucky speculation in the share
market, and the Pactolus claim began to pay.
Mrs Villiers became mixed up in mining matters, and
bought and sold on ’Change with such foresight