Kategoria: Obyczajowe i romanse Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1897

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Opinie o ebooku The Swampers - Hume Nisbet

Fragment ebooka The Swampers - Hume Nisbet

Chapter 1 - The Den of the Modern Wizard
Chapter 2 - A Confidential Conversation

About Nisbet:

James Hume Nisbet (August 8, 1849 - June 4, 1923) was a Scottish-Australian author and artist. Nisbet was born at Stirling, Scotland. At 16 years of age he came to Australia and stayed about seven years, during which he travelled widely. On returning to Scotland he was for eight years art master in the Watt College and the old school of arts. He travelled in Australia and New Guinea again during 1886, and paid another visit to Australia in 1895. He had studied painting under Sam Bough, R.S.A., but does not appear to have had any success; in a volume called Where Art Begins, published by him in 1892, he speaks with bitterness on the chances of success in painting. He gave most of his time to writing and published many volumes of verse, books on art and fiction. Several of his novels are coloured by his Australian experiences and appear to have had some success. Miller in his Australian Literature lists about 40 novels published between 1888 and 1905. During the next 10 years he published a few more books including Hathor and Other Poems, which appeared as the first volume of his poetic and dramatic works in 1905. There was another edition in 1908. Source: Wikipedia

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I HAVE to thank the following gentlemen for the prompt and hearty assistance which they have given me in books, maps, and personal information about West Australia and its Goldfields at the present hour. Having taken full advantage of such valuable information, I trust that the reader will find this romance correct in its local colouring and statistics. To Mr. Albert F. Calvert, M.E., F.R.G.S., &c., &c., Author of "The Exploration of Australia"; "Western Australia and its Goldfields"; Editor and Proprietor of The West Australian Review, for his magnificent and exhaustive works and maps. Also to those other friends, Messrs. Critchill; Ernest H. Gough; Graham Hill; Philip Mennell, F.R.G.S., &c., Author of "The Coming Colony," "Dictionary of Australian Biography," &c., &c., and Editor and Proprietor of The British Australasian; also to Mr. John Wilson, first Mayor of Kalgourlie. To all these gentlemen and others who have supplied me with information I beg to offer my most grateful thanks.

I must appeal to the good sense of my West Australian readers, and trust that they will not try to see real personages in my fictitious creations. Kalgourlie is as yet a small, if it is a rapidly-growing town, and each resident is known to his fellow-townsmen. The peculiarities of mankind are so mixed and generalized that it is not at all difficult for a reader to fix an original for my fancy study in any spot where men and women congregate. This habit, so unfair and crippling to an author's liberty of action, I must particularly warn you against indulging in. I built the "Chester Hotel" entirely at my own expense, and as my own speculation. The material was not Hessian, but a finer web of stuff which I spun from my own brain. Sarah Hall, Rosa Chester, Anthony Vandyke Jenkins, Bob Wallace, and my other characters, all came from the same source, and are as Mercutio says:

"The children of an idle brain, Begot of nothing but vain fantasy."

Therefore you must take them as such, and not localize or incarnate one of them. On this privileged ground I strictly take my stand.

Regarding any mild criticism that I may have written throughout these pages concerning the fair City of Sydney, I have no apology to make other than that perhaps my various visits may have been timed unfortunately when the inhabitants were suffering from some insensate epidemic. Perhaps they have lucid intervals between these public and social epidemics of folly and unreason, and that during these intervals they act like their neighbours, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia, but if so, I have not had the good fortune to land amongst them at such happy intervals; therefore I can only speak as I find people, and the natives of Sydney have not impressed me so favourably as their neighbour colonials of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide have done, either for their probity, generosity, or common sense. As for that worm "Puffadder," with his blasphemous, brutal, and poisonous organ, I do not think any self-respecting colonial will care how much a reptile like this is criticised or censured. He may spit out his venom, but he would do that under any circumstances, particularly when his victim's back is turned upon him. His unsexed contributors may also snarl and yelp, while his senile admirers, who have debauched the little brains which originally they may have possessed, with his absinthe doses, doubtless will gnash their gums and cry for gore, but as "Walker, London," remarks: "That is noth ink."

My story is before you, sympathetic or hostile readers, and I trust it may interest you with all its faults. The characters are purely imaginative, but some of the incidents are drawn from facts, and in the descriptions I have done my utmost to be exact and realistic.


Chapter 1 The Den of the Modern Wizard

PROFESSOR MORTIKALI sat in his inner sanctum waiting for customers.

It was a hot day, during the early portion of the month of March, 1896, and although the Professor had all his blinds drawn down, and occupied the coolest corner of the Arcade, still he could not shut out those intense waves of Sydney heat that swept in, between the crevices of the doors and windows, although he managed to shut out a good deal of the intense light.

Never had such a hot season been in the memory of the oldest colonist as this heat wave of 1896. From January 1st to the 24th it had ranged from 112 degrees to 129 degrees in the shade in New South Wales, and people had dropped dead wholesale throughout the colony. In many of the inland townships the people had been panic-stricken, and fish were killed in the creeks and lakes by tons upon tons. It had cooled off a little by March, yet there were days, and this was one of them, when the heat fury of January seemed to repeat itself.

The Professor liked shadow, for he was a modern wizard and his business did not require much light; indeed the less light that was thrown upon it, the better it was conducted; therefore, it was not often that the green venetian blinds were drawn up.

The Professor was at present resting on his oars, for it was the slack hour of the day, the hour when no one, unless absolutely forced to come out, would care to face the terrific sun-glare of mid-day.

The Professor was of that peculiar craft which flourished so much during the earlier centuries, and has more or less flourished ever since under various disguises. He belonged to the tribe of the witch of Endor, that profession of seers and fore-tellers whom King Saul tried to put down in his vigorous and virtuous years, and afterwards weakly consulted in his decline; the same craft which that modern Solomon, King James I. of England, so rigorously hunted to death, and which might have died naturally only for the efforts of the Pschychological Society, and that able editor of Border-land, the discoverer of the fourth dimension.

It is not a profitable profession in merry old England, where the police imitate the tactics of Kings Saul and James, and take as much delight in making raids, as lively terriers do in hunting out rabbits. But in progressive New South Wales, where convict laws still hold sway, and men are hanged for attempted murder, while judges dictate to jurymen, as the celebrated Jeffreys used to do, where even the judges themselves consult the witches; fortune-telling and witchcraft thrive wonderfully, even in the midst of the universal depression which of late has fallen upon the. colonies.

In the Sydney of to-day you may see, amongst other closed places of business, the shutters up of many public houses and bars; the reason of this is that they have been raided by the police, because the proprietors have been selling poison undiluted to their customers, and although the colonised stomach can stand a good deal in the way of vitriol, and blue-stone, yet when the landlord omits to give his customers even the flavour of brandy, rum or whisky, then his fate as a landlord is decided.

They are a proud and conservative race, the New South Welshmen; they cannot stand the slightest approach to a joke about their country. You may abuse England or London as much as you are disposed to an Englishman, and he will only laugh unctuously, but you must not take the same liberty with a New South Welshman. His harbour is the most beautiful harbour in the world. If you admit this, yet suggest that the buildings might be just a little more classic, he will grow pale with passion and cut you dead. If you venture to hint that morality in its aesthetic quality is not so strictly observed amongst the politicians and tradesmen as it might be, he will consider it time to regard you as a dangerous person and a fit subject for the martial law that hangs first and tries afterwards, and is still in such active force in that sun-laved colony.

They aim to be very high-toned in Sydney, and imitate as nearly as they can the manners of fashionable London; therefore if an accomplished swindler or thief comes amongst them and knows his business thoroughly, he is nearly sure to be successful, for the veneer being all that they aspire to themselves, so are they satisfied with it in their visitors. In Victoria and Queensland the inhabitants are less conservative and much more level-headed.

Professor Mortikali was a wonderful man in his way, and pursued various branches as a livelihood. On his brass plate was written: "Professor Mortikali, Psychometrist, Pneumatologist, Futurist and Magneto-Electric Healer." He called his establishment the Egyptian-Mystic Hall and Health Sanatorium, and had on his bills a wide range of subjects, from character delineating by Phrenology and Physiognomy, Fortune-telling by Cards, Palmistry or Astrology, with the art of healing all diseases by Hypnotic treatment.

There are hundreds in the same line of business throughout Sydney, and all apparently flourishing more or less, despite the dull times. In the Arcade were three rivals, while along the principal streets every fifth or sixth shop bears the sign of a Futurist, or an Astrologer, with all the paraphernalia exhibited in the windows which one expects to witness in the windows of a wizard.

In the newspapers also of this enlightened and conservative country, along with singular gems of poetry, in the form of memoriam verses, you may read every day, advertisements like the following: "Wanted, a loving, clairvoyant, test-lady, with means preferred, as life partner, by Magnetic Healer, etc.," and yet no one laughs either at the verses or the advertisements, they have become so accustomed to both. But they get terribly vicious if any stranger attempts to criticise their politicians, or their professionals.

Professor Mortikali had his front window artfully set out, a plaster cast of the hand of Deeming the murderer, with casts and photographs of actors, clergymen, and other distinct types were displayed. A phrenological head stood on a stucco pillar, and the complete skeleton of a baby dangled inside a glass case, specimens of snakes and tape worms were coiled in bottles, or dried and stuffed, and grouped about, while the invariable alligator, which Hogarth has accustomed us to in his pictures of the Quack, was likewise displayed.

A curtain, half-drawn back from the doorway, revealed the image of a gipsy holding out her hand to be crossed with silver, while at a little counter sat an attractive-looking girl, costumed in black velvet, scarlet facings, and glittering metallic discs, such as we were used to gaze on at "fairs" in our youthful days. There was no attempt at advancement, or dressing up to date in this establishment. The old-fashioned arrangements appeared to answer the purpose perfectly, the same amount of rouge and powder on the face of this attractive handmaid to the wizard, the generous display of snowy neck, and the usual surroundings of curtains, herbs and stuffed monstrosities, they were all there, while inside waited the Futurist and Faith-Healer.

At this precise hour of mid-day the Professor and his handmaid were both similarly occupied in discussing their lunch. Hers was a slight refection, as befitted a Sydney nymph of her light and powdery nature. A couple of tarts, and an ice-cream, which she had procured at the next door. The ice she had finished first, before it became quite liquid, and now she was leisurely discussing the fruit and pastry.

Inside the sanctum the Professor was having a heavier meal, as befitted the nerve wear and tear of his occupation; an underdone beef-steak with a chunk of bread and a tankard of colonial beer, vulgarly called "swanky."

The Professor was a man well advanced in years, of an ordinary height and inclined to run to stoutness. He wore his iron-grey tresses long, so that they fell over his back in a lank and straggly fashion, his beard and moustache also were grey and mangy, while his rubicund complexion, commonplace features, and very small eyes, reminded one somehow of a mendicant friar of the Middle Ages.

His small eyes were crow-like and rather vacant in their expression, and what linen he displayed was of the dirtiest and most rumpled description. His garments also, although at one date black, had evidently been purchased at a second-hand establishment, and were both frayed and rusty as well as badly fitting, and being originally of the dress-suit order, gave him the appearance of a broken-down waiter at a poor restaurant.

He was not a wholesome-looking object, while he wolfed his steak as a dog might devour its meal; the steak was badly cut and indifferently cooked, the intense heat of the atmosphere, the perspiration running from the Professor's forehead and cheeks in dirty rivulets, and his dirty hands helping the fork. Ignorant, low-bred, square-pointed fingers, unclipped nails in deepest mourning, and, added to this, that vacuous mouth, with the slobbering lips taking in the steak with such evident unction, and the solitary unwashed tooth emphasizing that moist unction, rendered this hypnotic disciple of "Border-land" rather gruesome than pleasant.

As he sat, he scratched his head sometimes with his dirty nails, sometimes with his greasy fork; he also fumbled suggestively about his half-opened waistcoat as one is used to see tramps do when they fancy themselves unobserved; altogether, this Sydney interpreter of "Border-land" lore gave one the decided impression of that drawing in Punch, by Harry Furness, of the man who wrote about Pears' Soap. "Two years ago I used your soap, since when I have used no other." Harry Furness's model was attentuated and unkempt, but fancy a professor of mystic lore, in a badly-fitting waiter's dress-suit; the knees baggy, and the vest over tight. The angry buttons threatening to sever. Burly as a friar of old and soft as a retired bantam boxer, with a vacuous countenance, and crow-like eyes, always on the goggle, and you have the Professor, or ancient wizard up to date.

Supplement this with the awful heat of a Sydney mid-summer day, an underdone steak cut in colonial fashion, and cooked ditto; the natural perspiration and fumes of an unwashable tramp, decked up in an old dress suit, and you may realise the picture of this High Priest of the temple of mystery without further description.

He had just finished his gorge and imbibed his last drop of colonial "swanky," when the hand-maid popped in her head, and shedding a tiny stream of pearl powder, which after all sweetened the apartment a little, announced in brassy tones: "Are ye done, Perfessor, for there's a laydy a-waiting ter consult yer?"

The Professor bundled his plates and beer-mug to a side table, where he covered them with an old newspaper, then dusting the crumbs aside with his hand, and wiping his hands again on the tails of his coat he produced a greasy pack of cards, and said with calm dignity: "Yes, Matilder, show the party in."

The party entered, a young woman of about twenty-five, fashionably dressed and according to the season, in virgin white, with a Donna-like bunch of snowy ostrich feathers in her hat, and a cloud or dust-veil about her face; she was slim-built and graceful in figure, and the Professor, who loved the fair sex, took notice that she had a wealth of golden-brown hair under the drooping feathers.

"Sit down, my dear," he said with a smirk on his sweaty and greasy red face, and the party sat and silently looked at him through her cloud. "Is it your fortune ye want to know? By the cards or by the hand?—or are you in any other trouble that a man of my experience can help you? Girls will be girls, you know, my dear, therefore you may safely give me your confidence, for it won't be abused."

He bared his lonely tooth and regarded her with a senile smile, while his crow-like, vacant gaze tried to get behind the cloud.

The visitor laughed softly yet enjoyably, then after a pause she replied, removing her white gloves at the same time:

"No, old man, I don't want any confidence business. I only want you to tell my fortune by my hands and by the cards."

"It's unlucky, they say, to do both at one sitting, yet, if you turn round and go to the door and cross back again, that will break the charm. Which will you have first?"

"My hand, Professor; tell me what I've done and what I'm going to do, and then I can ask you other questions when we come to the cards."

She held out her hands, palms upward, to him, while he took a magnifying glass, and after giving himself a preliminary hitch and scratch, he stooped over them to examine.

Shapely hands they were, with tapering long fingers and fleshy palms, which had hard and well-defined lines running across them. "You are married," the Professor said after a pause. "Well, what of that?"

"No more than you think of it yourself, my dear. You have had some troubles in the past, and have had some adventures; but your marriage has not been a happy one, there are no children, and you'd like to be free of your bond." "Yes, and shall I?" "I see a death here, and a little trouble, but your line of life is clear." "Shall I be married again?" "Yes, and have much prosperity in the future." "That'll do, when will it come off?" "How old are you?" "Twenty-six." "You'll be married again before you are twenty-eight." "Budgerrie for you, old man; now let's try the cards." She rose abruptly and went to the door, returning in a moment, while the Professor arranged his cards.

"There's an old fellow waiting for his fortune, at the door, Professor. Will you take him or me first?" she asked as she returned.

"Ladies first, of course," answered the Professor gallantly, again baring his solitary tooth. "Drive ahead then, for I am in a hurry," said the young woman curtly. "Shuffle and cut." After she had done so, he began to read:

"There is a dark man here close beside you, your husband, I should say, but you turn your back on him—you take hearts, do you not?" "Yes," replied the young woman. "There's a diamond man facing you, that is the one you fancy." "Go on."

"You'll get that diamond man, but the club man will cause you some trouble; there's a death here——" "To the club man?" eagerly. "I don't know yet. Shuffle again and I'll tell you."

Thrice did the cloud-veiled woman, with the strong white hands, shuffle the cards, and then he answered her curiosity and desires.

"Yes, the club man will pass from your path, and the diamond man is the winner." "Thank Heaven for that!" as she paid him his fee and went forth, brushing by the white-haired customer who was waiting his turn.

She did not look at the white-haired customer, and she was too closely veiled for any one to see her features, yet he glanced after her through his blue glasses in a curious way as she went out of the doorway, then he sought the Professor.

A tall and singularly powerful-looking man he was, this second visitor, dressed in thin grey serge, smooth faced, and with a shock of white hair that fell about his shoulders after the style of the ex-Premier of New South Wales—that leonine and doggerel verse writer, Sir Henry Parkes. Indeed for a moment the Professor thought that this much-married politician must have shaved, and mounted blue glasses as a sort of disguise, but he soon recovered himself, with the assurance gained from knowledge that this eminent man would never sink his personality, no matter what position he chose to take up, therefore he became composed and ready for his visitor. "I want my future read," said the stranger. "By the palm, or by the cards?" "The hand will do." He stretched a sinewy hand out to the Professor's magnifying glass. "You've experienced troubles in the past." "Yes."

"But you have a singularly open and confiding as well as a generous nature. I may say that you are a man who has been imposed upon by false friends, and may be again if you are not particularly careful. You——" "What a confounded old fraud you are to be sure, Jeremiah Judge."

The stranger, as he uttered these words, his left hand still lying under the Professor's magnifying glass, removed with his right hand the blue spectacles and snowy wig, and revealed a hard-faced but handsome young man, with short cropped black hair, and glittering black eyes. "Fancy me being sucked in by anyone!"

The Professor fell back on his chair, confounded, his crow-blue eyes almost starting out of his head as he uttered the feeble cry: "Jack Milton, by George!"

Chapter 2 A Confidential Conversation

"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 mouth.

"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, eh?"

"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 out."

"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, considering."

"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 chance."

"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 him accordingly.

"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 read."

"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 him."

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 instructions?"

"Yes, Milton, I have carried out your instructions to the letter, and, I need not tell you, at considerable risk to myself."

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 Rosa well?"

"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 amount."

"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 instructions?"

"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 time."

"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 comes off."

"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 do so.

"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 angel?"

The Professor broke in here upon the cogitations of the housebreaker, and instantly his careless mocking manner returned.

"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 the week."

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.