"YES, you genial old humbug, I've come back once more to do some
business in Sydney."
As he spoke, Jack Milton, as he had just been called, leaned
back in his chair and regarded the pneumatologist with a
benevolent, yet contemptuous air of patronage.
"Still trying your best in your small way to do the public, I
see, Jeremiah, and doing it shabbily at that, per usual."
The psychometrist got upon his ambling legs, with a gushing air
of welcome illuminating his steaming face, and parting his vacuous
"My dear, dear boy, who'd have expected to see you here? I
thought your time wasn't up for another twelve months; how have you
done it?" "Ah! I behaved myself and kidded the sky-clerk, therefore
got my ticket." "What was the little item?"
"A mere trifle in the past, something I did in Melbourne long
ago, and which I had forgotten, or I should not have gone there
quite so openly, but the 'Tecks'remembered me and laid me up by the
heels for a spell; however, it wasn't an unmixed evil, for being in
lavender gave me the repose that I required, and put the Sydney
scenters quite off my track."
"Good—very good," chuckled the Professor, rubbing his hands
together and gazing admiringly on the powerful figure before him.
"You'll find hosts of friends who are glad to see Jack Milton
amongst them again, and none more so than your 'umble servant."
While the old humbug was speaking, the young man carefully
replaced his white wig and blue spectacles, and became once more a
kind of benevolent replica of a clean-shaved Sir Henry Parkes.
"I have made an appointment with my lawyer to meet me here,
Jeremiah—or as you call yourself now, Professor Mortikali. I
thought it safer than at his own office." "Much safer, and more
secluded." "So I thought." "But how did you find me out, Jack,
"Well you are not exactly the kind of coon to give an
'agent'much trouble, if he wanted to get on your tracks; I knew
you'd be up to some business of this kind where spirits or
mesmerism had a share in it——" "Call it hypnotism, Jack, or
psychometry." "Yes, that's exactly how I spotted you, old boy. I
looked out all the sign-boards, as I came along, for the most
jaw-cracking words. I knew your weakness for that sort of thing.
Palmist or Futurist wouldn't be good enough for you, therefore when
I came to Professor Mortikali, Psychometrist, Pneumatologist,
&c., I felt sure I had run my fox to his hole, and I wasn't far
"No, Jack, you'd make a first-rate detective, if you wasn't
better than that, a first-class——"
"Crib-cracker, eh? It takes a thief to catch a thief, but I
don't belong to that race who can utilize their experience to snare
their own kind. I have always been and always shall be grit to my
pals. Is this much of a trade?"
He looked about him with a little disgust, and at the shabby
Professor with a humorous air of pity.
"Fairly," observed the pyschometrist. "I hold my own; this is
the slack time of the day, but at night they come up wonderful,
"You haven't got a fashionable class of customers I can see, or
you'd be better togged up. Never mind! I'll put you up to something
good before many days are over our heads."
"No, Jack, no, I'd rather not!" cried the Professor nervously.
"I don't mind helping you when the game is safe, but you are so
reckless, my dear boy, and don't at all consider personal safety.
Now you see, I'm doing small things, and the police don't touch me
at 'em, but one never knows where he'd land, if this business
spread out into many more new branches."
"Bah! The business I'm going to set you up is strictly in your
own line, Psychometry and the other P. H.'s. You're too cramped
here. You want bigger and more fashionable premises, and to get
yourself togged up more like an orthodox medical Professor, and
less like a broken-down waiter, and I've spotted the shop that'll
suit you to a nicety. Do you know that place where 'Brisco'the
jeweller used to be, in George Street?" "With the bank on one side,
and the pawn-broker on the other?"
"Exactly. Would those diggings suit you to open a branch
establishment of the Faith Healing and Fortune-telling fake?"
"What d'ye mean, Jack Milton? D'ye know them 'ere premises will
cost in rent and taxes near to a thousand a year?" "Well!"
"And the fixing of them up properly, with furniture, carpets and
sofas, &c., &c., will come to nigh five hundred quid."
"You've hit it pretty nearly, I should say, to do it properly,"
replied Jack calmly. "You'll want some attractive-looking girls,
with a little more style than this one here, and some respectable
toggery for yourself Yes, you'll need all that money, and more
perhaps, till business comes in." "Yes, and who's a-going to pay
for all this outlay."
"I will, my sage psychometrist. I think there are vast
possibilities in this business of yours if properly worked in this
city, and as I happen to have the sponduloux, or will have if my
lawyer, who'll be here presently, isn't a fool as well as a rogue,
I'll set you up and be your sleeping partner. I'm going to make a
boom in the prediction business. We'll take in the national
'sports'and give the 'juggins'tips from spirit land; we'll pitch
our placards and bills about like snow-flakes and make the
press-men our serfs by advertising; but, you must try to acquire
the art of washing yourself and changing your linen at least three
times a week while the hot weather lasts, or it'll be all bunkum.
Do you savy, my odoriferous psychometrist—don't you see what I
mean? Plenty of water, Pears' soap, fresh linen, and a trifle of
Jockey Club or Cherry Blossom for the sake of business, also a nail
brush and a little attention to the nails, at present in deepest
mourning for your rubbishy sins, which ain't worth so much respect;
lemons are first-class articles for cleaning the hands and nails;
and the Sydney waterworks are lavish with their supply."
"I ain't at all averse to washing in the warm weather," observed
the Professor with an injured air. "I likewise like a frequent
change of shirts and collars, and feel kindly drawn to clerical
neck-cloths, if I had the articles to work on."
"You'll have them. Meantime, I want you to keep out your
customers, or read their fortunes at your outside counter, this
afternoon while my man of business is engaged with me, and we'll
arrange all that afterwards. By Jove! you'd be a great man,
Professor, if you had a fair chance, and I'm going to give you that
"Will you have anything to drink now?" said the Professor
respectfully, for Jack Milton had spoken to him in the lordly
manner of one who has means at command, and the panderer reverenced
"Not at present, I have a lawyer to talk to and I bet he won't
imbibe until he has finished this interview, and neither shall I. I
say, do you know anything about my wife?" "I don't know exactly
where she lives, of course, but I have seen her." "Lately?" "Yes,
just recently, I may say." "Yes—yes; and is she looking well—my
Rosa, my darling?"
A wonderful change took place in the disguised housebreaker as
he asked these questions; he was no longer cynical nor
supercilious, but eager and boyish, while by contrast the Professor
seemed to become ill at ease and constrained. "You are proud of her
yet, I see, Jack." "Of course, why should I not be?—my wife, the
woman I love and have always kept as well as I could. She doesn't
know what I have had to do for a living and to keep her
comfortable, unless my lawyer has proved a traitor; which I hope he
hasn't for his own sake—tell me, what do you know about her?" "Did
you see the young lady in white who went out of here as you
entered?" "Yes." "That was your wife."
"I thought there was something familiar in her figure and walk,
but what was she doing here?" "She came to have her fortune
"I know, the little stupid, she wanted to learn when her husband
would be home again, eh?"
The Professor looked at the eager face before him as if he were
making up his mind to say something difficult, and then he replied:
"Yes, that was what she wanted to know."
"Of course, and you gave the little jade a lot of idle promises
and sent her away happy?"
"Yes, in the usual fashion. I promised her a lot according to
her desires, and sent her away fairly well pleased." "Good! I'll
make you a true prophet this time, you old scoundrel, ha, ha, ha!"
At this moment the hand-maid put in her head, and said: "There's a
gent outside as have called by appointment."
"That's my man," cried Jack cheerily. "Show him in, Molly, my
darling, and you," to the Professor, "clear out till I'm done with
As he spoke, there entered a well set-up man of about
thirty-three, with a blonde moustache and close-cropped fair hair,
blue eyes a trifle closely set together, and a vulture-like nose.
He was a keen-looking, business-like man, well dressed and well
groomed, and one who would not be likely to let scruples stand in
the way of personal advantage.
At his watch chain he carried, as an appendage, a pair of
compasses and square, his neck-tie pin was also adorned with the
same quaint design, while on the fourth finger of his left hand he
wore a plain gold signet-ring with the same device; evidently
showing to all the world that he was not at all ashamed of the
society to which he belonged.
As he entered, he looked at the white wig and blue spectacles,
with an air of perplexity for an instant, until the wearer of these
gave him a quick sign, then he advanced smilingly, and said: "How
do you do, Mr. Milton?" "All right, my friend, sit down." The
Professor had cleared out of the sanctum by this time, dropping the
heavy curtain behind him, and leaving the lawyer and his client
together. "Well, Mr. Chester, have you carried out my
"Yes, Milton, I have carried out your instructions to the
letter, and, I need not tell you, at considerable risk to
The lawyer, now that they were alone, spoke in a severe tone of
voice, as one might use to a criminal whose case is in hand, but
who has placed himself beyond the reach of ordinary courtesy, while
the ticket-of-leave man listened meekly and without appearing to
observe the curtness.
"I have invested your money, as you desired, in my own name. I
do not ask you how it was made, I have no desire to know, and I am
happy to say it is yielding fair returns, even in these depressed
times. Your wife is under the impression that you are still in the
South Seas, treasure-seeking, and I have delivered regularly to her
the letters you forwarded to me." "You have been a true friend to
me, Chester. Where is my wife now living?" "With her parents; they
have removed lately to the Glebe; this is her address." He handed
an envelope over as he spoke, and waited further enquiries. "Is—is
"Yes; last time I saw my cousin, she was very well indeed. Do
you intend to visit her at once? For candidly, I don't think it
would be advisable if you desire to keep your past a secret from
the poor girl."
"No; I have some business to do before I can see her, or let her
know I am in Sydney. When I am ready I should like you still to act
as my friend and break the tidings of my arrival to her gently, as
I don't want to agitate her. We have been so long separated that it
mightn't do to jump in on her all of a sudden."
The lawyer looked at the blue spectacles demurely for a moment,
and then he said:
"That is only a right resolve on your part, and I will do all I
can to help you, not to startle Rosa."
"I am dying to see the darling, but when I next come to her I
hope to be beyond the necessity of leaving her any more. I have a
little speculation on hand which, if it comes off successfully,
will enable me to retire and live comfortably. Meantime——"
"I require some ready money to enable me to carry out this
speculation." "How much do you require?"
"Fifteen hundred pounds for a few weeks only, and with it I hope
to clear fifty times that amount." "It is a large sum to get hold
of at so short a notice, for your property is all tied up at
present; still, if you can assure me that it is only for a few
weeks and the return is sure, I think it might be managed."
"Within a fortnight from the time I get this advance I shall be
able to place in your keeping perhaps a hundred times the
"Very well; to-morrow night, I'll give you an open cheque, and
an introduction to the bank. Have you any choice of banks?" "Yes, I
should like to open an account at the 'Fiji Limited,'George
Street." "Very good, I'll see to that—what name shall I make the
cheque payable to?" "John Williams." "Any further
"No—only, if you are near the Glebe at any time, you may say to
Rosa that you expect me back soon."
"I shall make it a point to call upon my uncle and aunt
to-night, and will deliver your message to my cousin at the same
"You are a good fellow, Chester, to befriend me, like this after
what I've done, and believe me, whatever happens to me I trust to
be able to keep the knowledge of it from your cousin."
"I hope so—indeed I expect so much from you, for that is only
your duty towards your innocent wife and her relations."
"Don't fear for me, I'll be secretive and game enough, Does—does
Rosa speak much about me?"
"Of course the poor child misses you dreadfully, but as I have
paid her income regularly, she is comfortable enough and not under
the same anxiety regarding ways and means as are some wives here.
She looks forward to your return as a wealthy man, and she is
anticipating a good time in England and the Continent, when that
"She'll have it too, the angel, whoever suffers, by George! That
puts new blood into me, and my next diving operation will be a big
success, you bet."
"Good-bye for the present," said the lawyer with a smile, as he
rose briskly. "I'll come here with the cheque to-morrow night about
nine o'clock—you'll be here?" "Yes—Good-bye."
Mr. Chester took up his slate tinted kid gloves with his stick
and hat, and quitted his companion with a quick step, without
shaking hands with him or looking back, while the disguised man
watched his retreat with eyes that showed a little moisture behind
his darkened spectacles.
"He is a fine fellow, if a bit cold and stiff with me; many a
one in his position would have plundered me wholesale, with all
that money at his discretion, while I'd only have had to grin and
bear it; but Arthur Chester wouldn't do that. I expect he thinks
one thief is enough in the family; besides, he is too fond of Rosa
to do her a wrong."
His strong and resolute head drooped for a moment on his hand,
as he thought on the Sydney girl, whose love he had won under false
pretences, and away from this same cousin. True, the family had
been poor enough when he first came amongst them as a man with an
assured income, a fiction he had managed to keep up, with the aid
of Arthur Chester, ever since. Arthur Chester, who had only been a
subordinate until, with those ill-gotten gains, he was able to
begin business for himself, for Jack Milton had been a daring and
successful disciple of the late Charles Peace, except for that
slight mistake of his in Victoria. He had been prudent enough to
work alone as much as possible and confide a few of his secrets and
what money he stole to this cousin of his wife, only when forced to
"I wonder if it is principle that makes Chester so stand-offish
with me; he was glad enough to borrow my money when he was a clerk,
and the receiver isn't much better, if any, than the thief; I
hadn't been in jail then though, at least he didn't know it if I
had, and he pretends, rarely, not to know where my money comes
from. Perhaps he is jealous of me with Rosa, and I cannot blame him
if he is, for who could help being in love with that little
The Professor broke in here upon the cogitations of the
housebreaker, and instantly his careless mocking manner
"Well, you old scarecrow, I've settled matters with my lawyer
and we are to have the supplies needful for taking those premises,
so now I am off to arrange with the landlord about terms and
occupation. You keep out of it for the present until I can make you
look respectable, if that is possible, and brace up your tottering
mind to be in possession and a fashionable soothsayer by the end of
With these bantering remarks, he put on his soft hat and
sauntered out to the blazing sunshine leaving the foolish
psychometrist in a rapture of admiration and rosy visions.