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  ― 96 ―

Chapter X. An Unpleasant Dream.

“WELL, Chester, you reckon I'd take in my mother, supposing I had one, with this disguise?”

“Yes, Milton. Your make-up is perfect and you are a born actor.”

“Ah, yes, I am a man of many parts I allow. I fancy I'll be able to dodge the traps; now let us come to some personal business before we say adieu. Rosa is your cousin. You know her, I daresay, better than I do—you mean to act square with her, now don't you?”

Arthur Chester did not answer at once, perhaps he was too ashamed. It is an awkward business to arrange with a husband, who is about to relinquish wife and fortune together—a kind of death-bed arrangement without the corpse.

Jack Milton sat before him, dressed in corduroy pants, top boots, red flannel shirt and riding jacket. To an outsider, he was a rough bushman with matted grey beard and straggling tresses. As he opened his mouth to speak, two gaps showed where the front teeth were absent. He had knocked these out that afternoon, which makes a wonderful alteration in a man. He was no longer the youthful and trim swell, but a sun-tanned and full-bearded bushman of fifty.




  ― 97 ―

“You mean I shall marry her, and share your money with her?” said Chester. “Yes, I reckon we can say that is settled.”

“I'm a romantic cove, Chester, you will say. Yet I wouldn't like Rosa to drift too far down for her mistake. You are low enough for any revengeful fellow's desires.”

Chester winced at this, but said nothing.

“I reverenced that girl once, as men who know the world sometimes make saints of women. I think all men are Roman Catholics or heathens when they are in love, and afterwards, even when they wake up, they don't like their images to be battered—therefore keep Rosa as straight as you can. I'd like to think she died in what the world calls the odour of respectability.”

“She is my cousin, you need not be afraid of her future, Jack Milton.”

“No, you accursed scoundrel, I can trust you as far as I see you. You marry Rosa and treat her square, and I'll ask no more than those three hundred quid you have given me. I'm going away, but I won't lose sight of you for all that. Leave her in the lurch, and, by Saul! I'll make you wish you were dead every day of your life for five years before I kill you, as John Chinaman promises his pet criminals.”

“You seem mighty anxious about Rosa's future,” said Chester with a slight sneer; “she hasn't treated you so well.”

“Chester, I loved your cousin, and had she been grit would have laid down my life for her. She


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wasn't grit to me. Perhaps I got her from you because I had the spondulux at the time and you hadn't; yet I don't want her to know the world as I have found it. You have the chink now; make her life easy and I'll forgive you all you have done to me.”

“Don't be afraid, my cousin is all right.”

Jack Milton touched the pendant on the watch-guard of Arthur Chester.

“On the square, Chester?”

“Yes, on the square.”

“Enough, and now good-bye. I hope you'll hear no more of Jack Milton.”

Mr. Chester accompanied him to the door and saw him ride away in the starlight. He had done his part, and for the first time felt relieved. The world was now before him, so long as that incubus could get out of the ken of man in safety.

They had made no arrangements for communicating with each other. If Jack got clear of the colony, the lawyer would not likely hear from him again, that is, unless he was very hard pressed for money. If he was caught en route, then the papers would soon inform Chester of the disaster, for a disaster it would be to him, since he could no longer depend upon the silence of the refugee.

Jack Milton need not have been at all fearful concerning the future of Rosa, for that young person was quite able to paddle her own canoe. Some men have a habit of regarding the female sex as timid and harmless idiots, where ways and means are concerned; as poor, soft, supersensitive


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innocents, who are victims of man's brutality and selfishness unless hedged about and protected. Jack Milton was one of this kind, and even although he had so recently an experience of his wife's capability of looking after her own interests, still he could not divest himself of the idea that she might starve, or drift to the bad, if not provided for; as if either man or woman could possibly sink lower than this young woman had already sunk. When a page is blotted past writing upon or reading, what does it matter how soiled it becomes before it is sent to the pulp-house?

If Cousin Chester felt disposed to play her false, as was but natural with such a shifty cornstalk, she very soon showed him how futile would be his efforts, for Jack had hardly gallopped out of hearing before she made her appearance and brought her recreant lover to his senses. A speedy divorce and marriage were the only means of securing his safety. The divorce proceedings she placed in his hands to push on for her with all expedition, so that, whatever he had intended to do, he discovered that it was much easier to drop into an intrigue than to slip out of it, once in the toils. Rosa was mistress of the position, now that all necessity for concealment was past, as far as her husband was concerned, also with that other secret still at her discretion.

Double harness was the only safe mode of making life's journey now, therefore the lawyer accepted his destiny.

A week went past and no word of Jack,


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although the papers, particularly the Sunday Verity and the Guillotine, rubbed it in warmly for the detectives. Puffadder, the editor of the Guillotine, was always rubbing it in venomously somewhere or other, for this was how he showed his sense of humour and wit.

“Give them cayenne-pepper all round,” was his war-cry, and his contributors obeyed the order with zest, and spared no one whom they thought their poisoned blow-pipe needles could prick on the raw; this being the sort of new-humour that the readers of the Guillotine best understood; subtlety or playful satire would have been lost upon them.

Singular to say, however, this same Puffadder, although such a callous and malign beast with respect to other people's feelings, was one of the most super-sensitive and easily wounded of reptiles where his own feelings were concerned. At one time a respectable paper had so far forgotten its dignity as to criticise his shameless, vicious, and asinine tramplings, which just, if too lenient, remarks so wounded his vanity that he immediately fixed upon a well-known contributor, who chanced to have been in the colony at the time, as the author of the criticism.

To suspect the man was enough for Puffadder, and to make him lose all the little mental balance he possessed. He writhed and brayed out his rage and distress, making a laughing-stock of himself. He drank himself into delirium, and besides airing his grievance to all his acquaintances, he took to writing the most scurrilous and senseless letters to


  ― 101 ―
this suspected critic at the rate of three or four per day, which he first read to his friends and then posted on to the unconscious journalist, and although years had passed, that wound to his vanity still remained open and as raw as when first inflicted, while the mere mention of the critic's name would send this editorial humourist into a fit. This was the kind of philosophic censor who controlled and directed the popular and mirthful Guillotine. A worm, that the heel of an infant could torture and crush, was permitted to fling his venom broadcast and make good and strong men tremble, all because to outsiders he appeared to be triple-armoured.

While the police were at fault and the Guillotine was showing them how their work ought to have been done, the divorce case was carried through the court, and Rosa Milton made a free woman, amidst the general approval of all right-minded people. She had only done her duty as a good citizeness to repudiate such a villain, and Judge Jeffreys wept over the wrongs of one so fair and young, he being one of those sentimental holders of the scales of Justice who had done much to render divorces fashionable in the Colony of New South Wales.

After this signal triumph of virtue, the fair Rosa went home, to receive the congratulations of her friends, and prepare for her coming wedding with her cousin.

The police, seeing her act so promptly, relinquished any trace of suspicion they might have


  ― 102 ―
had of her as being an accomplice of the escaped criminal.

Judge Jeffreys also went home in a virtuous mood.

He had endured a trying day in the divorce court, for where women were concerned he was the most sentimental of men, and would weep almost as copiously as the wronged wives, while he listened to their evidence and summed up the case, pointing out to the jury their clear duty, and making the unfaithful male monster squirm under his scorching remarks. The wronged wives adored Judge Jeffreys as much as the shivering husbands feared him. He would roughly interrupt all evidence in favour of these male desecrators of the domestic hearth, and in spite of weakness of proofs, would shake his fore-finger in the direction of the culprit, and tell him that he was as positive of his guilt, as if he had accompanied him all through the shameful affair. He would blow his nose and wipe his lachrymose eyes as he turned towards the fair victim, to bestow upon her and the jury the flowing tide of his sympathy, then after the verdict had been found, he gave thumping damages, regretting it was not in his power to transport the scoundrels as well.

He liked to transport male criminals when he could not sentence them to death—he always sent men to the gallows when he could possibly stretch his power, and according to the penal laws of this favoured land, it required a very slight offence for a man to be hanged, for the implied intention


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was punished with equal severity as the actual deed.

Judge Jeffreys was not an eloquent speaker; he drawled out his words with painful effort, and connected each word with a long-drawn “Ah—hum” but these ominous “Ah—hums,” although laughed at by the uninterested audience, created small mirth in the heart of the trembling culprit, for he knew well that, innocent or guilty, once he was before this merciless judge, he had no prospect of justice or escape. Also, as this judge possessed the prescience of infidelity, so likewise had he the gift of being present at the commission of crime, with the infallible power to read the intentions of the frustrated criminal. When he summed up and delivered his address to the jury, he would tell them that the evidence which they had listened to was nothing, but that from his own knowledge they must return a verdict of guilty, for he was as positive of the guilt of the prisoner as if he had seen him commit the deed. With this assurance, these enlightened thirteen citizens found “guilty” with hardly a pause, and the victim was led out to his doom.

The secret of this prescience, which controlled justice and biassed the minds of the thirteen good and true men, was an open one. Judge Jeffreys was a firm believer in Spiritualism, and had for his guides in all matters relating to law and the discovery of vice and crime, the spirits of two ladies, who had long since freed themselves from the bondage of earth. “Katie,” the daughter of


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the grim old pirate, Morgan, and “Clara,” who had in her day been known as Mrs. Manning, the murderess. With such experienced familiars in the intricate ways of crime at his beck and call, when he required advice in obscure cases, Judge Jeffreys considered himself superior to the evidence likely to be got out of such perjured witnesses as this head centre of military laws could produce.

On this day, he had dismissed the suits of three husbands who had sought liberty at his hands from their maligned and angelic spouses—declining, according to his usual arbitrary custom, to hear the witnesses who were ready to give evidence against the sweet innocents. He had liberated six other tearful innocents from the hateful bondage of matrimony, with withering condemnation on the husbands for their vileness and brutality. He had granted separation, with handsome maintenance, to a number of other female applicants, committing the wretches who could not pay the demands to prison, until they could, and through the day's hard work, he had wept almost enough to have watered some of the most arid districts of this sun-dried land; therefore it was no wonder that he found his usual allowance of sherry, claret and port insufficient to quench his thirst, and was forced to take a few extra glasses of whisky and water, after dinner, the night being a hot one.

In the prison a criminal lay waiting his execution whom this righteous judge had sentenced to death, for resisting a policeman, who had taken him in charge for sleeping in an empty house;


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unfortunately for the homeless “dosser” a revolver had been found in his pocket, and the policeman (the only witness) swore he had been threatened with it.

Three boys had been strung up together the previous day for being concerned in an outrage, although the evidence was so contradictory and flimsy against them that even Judge Jeffreys might have paused, had he not been privately convinced by those infallible criminal investigators, “Katie” and “Clara.”

He lay back in his comfortable arm-chair, wearied as well as thirsty after his fatigue and tears, and as he puffed his fragrant cigar, felt his eyes fill again with moisture as he thought upon those martyred women whom he had made happy that morning.

He felt intensely emotional and full of sentiment. A feeling was upon him that Katie and Clara were close at hand and about to communicate with him. Knockings began to sound over the room, while curious twitchings ran through his joints, all unmistakable spiritual signs.

“Is that you, friend Katie?” he murmured from his chair.

“No,” sounded a single knock from the back.

“Clara?”

“Yes.”

Three knocks now sounded from the table. The late Mrs. Manning was his visitor.

“Can you manifest yourself to-night, Clara?”

“Yes.”




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“Then do so, like a dear,” said the sentimental judge drowsily.

Instantly the lamp began to grow dim, and burn blue, until the apartment was almost in darkness; then about a couple of yards in front of him a pale star-like spot loomed up. This luminous spot became enlarged, rapidly taking on, first, the shape of a smoky pillar, and next human proportions; then, as he watched, the dim cloud grow brighter, and all at once there stood revealed a fearful-looking Chinaman with an ugly gash on his forehead.

“Who are you?” cried the judge wildly.

“One of your victims unavenged,” replied the ghost sombrely.

“I haven't hanged a Chinaman yet,” muttered the watcher.

“No, but you set my murderers at liberty.”

“You surely don't expect a colonial judge to condemn a citizen for merely killing a Chinaman, do you?—why, that would be downright murder.”

The Chinese ghost grinned horribly, and stood aside to let a crowd of other ghosts come forward. They were of all ages, the three boys just hanged gibbered at him while they kicked up their heels in a strange fashion, others denounced him as their remorseless murderer, while the worst was, that he knew them all and remembered the words he had used when he sentenced them to be hanged. He was a dogged old man, yet he did not like these ghostly reminders of his justice.




  ― 107 ―

“Get out with you—you gang of criminals, or I'll sentence you all over again,” he cried wrathfully, his patience at last worn completely threadbare.

“You can't; we defy you, Judge Jeffreys,” the ghosts yelled in a chorus, “and as for hanging, it's your turn now.”

“Bah!” replied he scornfully, “you are only—ah—hum—spirits—and they can't hurt, ah—hum—a strong man like me.”

“That's all you know about your religion; wait and we'll show you what materialized spirits can do.”

The three murdered boys leapt on him as they yelled the words and pinned him to his chair in an instant; then the Chinaman, who had been busily materializing a rope, vaulted upon the table and unshipping the heavy lamp from the hook in the ceiling, slid the rope through that, and there it was, noose and all complete, and ready for him.

“Where is Clara?” cried the judge, thoroughly frightened at last by these adroit preparations.

“Here, my sweet judge,” answered that lady promptly, at his elbow.

“Save me, dear Clara.”

“Nonsense, Jeffreys, hanging is nothing, when you have a good drop. I wonder at your bad taste, refusing to join such loving friends as Katie and me, after all your professions of affection, particularly since you are so lavish in ordering the rope for other people. Up with him quick, lads, and I'll draw the table from under him, then it will be


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over in no time, and we'll be all so happy in the spirit world.”

It was useless to struggle in the hands of that materialized crowd. In a moment they had him on the table and the noose round his neck, then, with an exultant shout from his executioners, he had dropped the four-feet-six and dislocated his neck.

“Did you call for coffee, sir?”

“Eh?”

Judge Jeffreys sprang up from his seat and regarded the servant with a maniacal glare; then, feeling the back of his neck ruefully and tenderly, he answered shortly:

“Yes, Jane, you had better bring in the coffee.”

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