“And what are you going to do?”
“Henri count head and tail. This side here,” he took a coin and held it up in the latern light. “With three figures on it yang… or head. Head equal three. Other side yin.. or tail. Tail equal two. At end add up, write lines. Create hexagram. Find hexagram in here… Ryan have new way look at world.”
Henri was animated in a way Ryan had never seen him before. Even though he had no intention of believing anything which came from Henri’s book he considered it was harmless and perhaps a bit of entertainment.
“Ryan think question for coin. Think hard.”
Ryan felt his body swim in and out, like the time he’d gone in the sea for the first time, being pulled in this direction and the other, between sleep and wakefulness. Wanting to ask about Eliza, but wanting to ask about the Hutchinsons.
“What question you ask?”
Ryan was silent a while longer and finally said, “What will make me happy?”
“You no happy Ryan.”
“I’m not unhappy?”
“You no unhappy but no happy? Henri no surprised. Work for bad boss. Pine for missie Eliza.”
“I never said that Henri.”
“Ryan also talk around what he no like to share. So,” he passed the demonstration coin back. “You ask wisdom on how be happy.”
“Not how to be happy, what will make me happy.”
“You no know what make happy… you worse than Henri think.”
“You think I should ask how to be happy?”
“No Henri question. Ryan question.”
“OK… how will I be happy?”
Henri smiled and the coins went up, hitting the lantern light so there were three brief flashes.
Henri scribbled something on a piece of paper and gestured for him to throw again. Ryan shook the coins between his hand and had a strange feeling of… premonition. As if this was what had originally bought him to Henri’s door… not the need to find canvas and rope to set up home. He looked up at Henri who was straring at hime intently.
“Come Ryan,” he said in an even, almost seductive voice. “No fear.”
Ryan shook the coins one last time and then threw them up in the air, the coins hitting the table top one after another. And four more time he did it… until he felt detatching from himself, as though Ryan was sitting in the corner watching on as a different part of him threw the coins and Henri scribed in long and broken lines as though he were transcribing his future in morse code. But he knew he was not telling his future. At no stage had Henri told him he was telling his future… he was giving him a new perspective… perhaps looking at the broader context of everything. Maybe he had been thinking too narrowly about everything.
“Sprouting,” Henri said, after leafing through his book and reading for a long time. “But, hmmm,” he read on. “Cloud and thunder.”
“A storm makes sense Henri. Nothing grows without rain.”
“How you be happy… see this… you at beginning of your happiness. Break the surface and this painful. Lots hard work. Difficulties now. But there success. Henri thought you lucky man. Now he know Ryan lucky man.”
“So I’ll be happy by working. And you thought this wisdom would show Mr Hutchinson up to be the bad boss he is.”
“Henri see Mr Hutchinson necessary evil… only for now. It no time to ask Missie Eliza to marry… or to leave bad boss. It is time… find helpers. You no work bad boss forever. You no alone forever. Just for now. Ryan be happy keeping strong… no giving self to bad boss. You understand.”
“Henri make simple. This just beginning Ryan… understand just beginning. You be happy. More come. Just no yet.”
The next day, with sleep aching in his bones, Ryan smiled. He would be his own boss one day and he would one day kneel down before Eliza and ask her to marry him. But not now, he understood. He was starting out… he’d only been in Ballarat six months. He could not ask Eliza to marry him if she did not even know who he was. And he’d never be able to introduce himself as a lackey craftsman for the Hutchinsons. He wanted to be master of his own workshop before he made her acquaintance. And to do that he had to finish paying off his tools. And find investors. And to woo investors he had to understand something about business. Time was all he had and he intended to use it wisely. He would no longer let the Hutchinsons walk all over him. And he’d enjoy Eliza from afar.